This blog documents my attempt to drink a beer from every country in the world and every state in the United States.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Country #15: Slovakia

Beer: Golden Pheasant

Brewery: Hurbanovo Brewery, Hurbanovo, Slovakia

ABV: 5.0%

Golden Pheasant, golden foil, golden beer, golden-rimmed fancy glass. I feel rich.
Slovakia is a bit misunderstood by most Americans. By the time we finally figured out how to spell Czechoslovakia it wasn’t a real country anymore, having splintered into Slovakia and the awkwardly named Czech Republic. The name sounds uber-Slavic yet still familiar, and as a result I think a lot of people might think of it first when they think of Eastern Europe, and when they think of Eastern Europe they still think of backwardness and Communism. Simply refer to 2004’s cinematic masterpiece Eurotrip, and its depiction of the capital, Bratislava, as a semi-abandoned shitscape of Soviet-style housing blocks and sad anachronisms.

The reality is much different, of course. However, it’s not surprising to learn that when Slovakia’s renowned Zlatý Bažant beer came to America, the marketing gurus decided to sell it under its translated name, Golden Pheasant. After all, if our ignorant image of Slovakia includes babushkas, breadlines, and mullets, then we’d be right to assume that their beer might not be of the highest quality.

Scotty doesn't know that Slovakia is portrayed unfairly in this movie.
So here’s how wrongheaded all that is:

1) Slovakia joined the European Union in 2004. Now, the EU might be in shambles at the moment, but ascending to member status is still a major milestone for most post-Communist states, and Slovakia got there fairly quickly (along with a bunch of others in the major EU expansion of 2004).

2) While Bratislava certainly has its share of ugly utilitarian architecture on its fringes, so does Paris. Central Bratislava looks beautiful.

3) Slovakia is not some isolated backwater on the eastern fringes of civilization. It has an advanced and stable economy (for now), and Bratislava itself is less than an hour’s drive from Vienna, what with it’s classical music, stunning art and architecture, and delicious cuisine.

4) Lest we forget, though it’s culture and language are distinct from the Czech Republic’s, the part of Europe in which Slovakia lies is very friendly to hops and barley. The Czechs invented the pilsner, and the Slovaks haven’t forgotten how to make it.

Because clearly proper soil management, adequate rainfall, irrigation, and pest control are irrelevant. If this pretty little guy shows up, the barley crop will be bumper.
So it was no surprise that Golden Pheasant, or Zlatý Bažant, or whatever you call it was incredibly good for a pilsner. It’s made by the Hurbanovo Brewery in bustling Hurbanovo (population 8,000), which Wikipedia helpfully informs us has “a public library, a DVD rental store, and a cinema.” I bet half the population works at the brewery, and their product is quite nice. I don’t need to describe it for you. You’ve had pilsners, you’ve had good ones, and you’ve had bad ones. This is a good one. Try it. And, if your travels take you to Europe, try Slovakia too.

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