If you’re listening to music right now the chances are you’re streaming it from an online subscription service or playing an MP3 file, am I right? If you are then you’re not doing the recording you’re listening to justice. It takes a lot of time, money and talent to produce great music. First you need to find a skilled group of musicians to write and perform the songs. Then you need a talented engineer to record their performances, who does so using a range of expensive sound equipment.
To get the very best out of a band and the sound engineer, you also need a dynamic and driven producer to ensure that this happens. Finally, you need the golden ears of a mastering engineer to fine-tune the nuances of the recording before it’s released. Then, after all that time, effort and money spent on producing a fine piece of sound recording, you’re now streaming a tinny, compressed file, over the internet, on a pair of free headphones that came in the box with your phone. Hardly doing all that hard work justice, right?
Great music deserves great treatment and the same can be said for beer, so while you’re digging out that old turntable and browsing for a nice new set of speakers, consider the following. Beer goes through a lengthy and costly process undertaken by highly skilled individuals before it ends up in your glass, and the entire process can be ruined by poor storage and lacklustre dispense. This is where The Tapster comes in to ensure the beer in your glass does all of the hard work that precedes it justice. In the Czech Republic, the Tapster is king.
“In the Czech Republic if there’s no Tapster in the pub then it means that no good beer is served here,” says Jan Stanik, Pilsner Urquell’s Head Tapster. Jan is responsible for overseeing and nurturing the progress of newly trained Tapsters. Once they’ve received their training at the brewery in Pilsen and have returned back to their bar in the UK, Jan is there to ensure that the utmost care and attention is put into pouring every single glass of Pilsner. If you’ve ever seen any of Pilsner Urquell’s videos explaining what the role of the Tapster is, then you may well already recognise Jan, with his signature beard and sharp haircut.
"Czech consumers would never accept badly poured beer." Pilsner Urquell Head Tapster, Jan Stanik
The Tapster is responsible for making sure that each glass of Pilsner is poured to perfection, every single time. In the Czech Republic this means learning the variety of different pours that can be achieved with only the ‘wet’ foam that well cared for Pilsner Urquell is renowned for. First, there’s Hladinka, the classic Czech pour with a smooth, creamy head. This is the most well known pour and is what you would automatically receive if you didn’t specify your preference in a Czech bar. Na Dvakrat is poured with less head to maximise the beers crisp carbonation, this is how the beer is usually served in the UK, but Jan would rather see us Brits drinking Pilsner with a more generous serving of foam. He jokes that in the Czech Republic the Na Dvakrat pour is more popular with tourists than Czech’s, who prefer a proper head on their beer.
A Snyt, is a small pour with lots of extra foam. This is the workers beer and is what a good tapster pours before the start of a shift, to ensure that the beer is in perfect condition. Finally there is my favourite pour, Mliko, which is almost entirely composed of foam and has the effect of intensifying the bitter, herbal flavours imparted by the oils from the Saaz hops used in the beer. It’s also Jan’s favourite pour, “I love Mliko and I like to drink it in one shot, I love the taste of the Pilsner Urquell foam!”
But the Tapster’s duties don’t end there. The Tapster is also responsible for the care and maintenance of the draught equipment, from the taps right through to the tanks that hold fresh, unpasteurized Pilsner Urquell. Jan is passionate about why the role of the Tapster needs to be brought to the UK. “As a Czech I always demand my beer to be showcased at its best. I don’t understand why in the UK many people are satisfied with the low quality of pouring and serving. Czech consumers would never accept badly poured beer.”
As well as training staff at the brewery in Pilsen, Jan can often be found behind the bar in one of the UK’s many Tankovna pubs such as The Duck & Rice in Soho, London. This way Jan can ensure that his teachings are being put into practise. In the Czech Republic only the Tapster is allowed to pour beer, but in a busy UK bar this is not always practical so Jan’s presence ensures that everyone pouring Pilsner Urquell is doing so properly, and that the customer gets the perfect pint of Pilsner they deserve.
“I believe we can improve this situation in London with our tank bars,” says Jan. “The beer from the tank is the same quality as we serve at the brewery in Pilsen – we just need passionate staff and great trained tapsters to make the beer great!”
Thanks for reading The Pilsner People over the last seven weeks, it’s given me great pleasure bringing you these stories. Sadly, like every glass of Pilsner all good things must eventually come to an end, but you can always head to the bar and order another – and you can read each chapter from the beginning below. Huge thanks once again to Pilsner Urquell for giving me the opportunity to bring you the stories of these fascinating individuals and the wonderful brewery that they work for.