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The “Full Mliko” – thanks to Pilsner Urquell

Many beer appreciators are already aware of the “Milk Tube” or the “Mlíko beer pour” – which originated in the Czech beer culture some 120 years ago. I confess that I was not so aware, not until I saw it at Philadelphia’s popular brewery “Human Robot” in Kensington last year – and witnessed the joyous crowd chugging down frothy foam bombs together. What was that? That couldn’t be right – foam is for the top, not the entire glass?

Turns out this has been going on for more than a century and is one of the three “proper ways” to drink Czech lagers (or so says Pilsner Urquell):
– Mlíko (Yes, it means “milk” in Czech) is almost entirely wet foam with a small amount of clear beer at the bottom
– Snyt – is about 50/50 Beer and Foam – with a slight advantage to the foam
– Hladinka is considered a normal pour, though you might think it still more foamy than you would expect.

The original guide to Czech pours

I was fortunate enough to be in the city of Pils in the Czech Republic a few years ago, and when I was visiting the iconic Urquell brewery there I took a picture of a curious sign that showed these three classic pours, but I confess I didn’t get it then. I took that picture because I didn’t understand. Now I do, and I wish I had then! 

But fortunately enough for US beer appreciators, the slow “side pour” using the uniquely designed Czech “LUKR faucet” can now be found at a number of beer bars and breweries – enabling you to try the “milk tube” and amuse your friends, your palate and all beer sensibilities with this creamy beer treat.

No, it’s not like a glass of foam that you sometimes get at the end of a keg or from a can of unpasteurized beer that got warm. Thanks to the very slow pour from the self aerating LUKR, you can create some very wet foam, which is more like a beer-slurpy than overflowing glass of beer bubbles. You have to drink it quickly – like drinking a shot, and you end up having about half of a normal beer pour, but it’s an oddly satisfying drink. The malt proteins in the carbonated beer drive the foam – hitchhiking on to the bubbles to create an unexpected creamy mouthfeel and sweetish malty taste.

Romancing the Foam

Why did the Czech’s do this? There are a number of theories – some explanations like “it was for ladies to drink who didn’t like beer” or “it was treated like a dessert” are usually debunked. More likely it was “the final beer” or “a beer to have with lunch” as it was half as alcoholic as a normal full pour – but still delivered the taste and aroma of a great lager beer – and quickly.

The Side Pour (from above)

Recently I have seen the “side pour” or “slow pour” drafts on systems at lager-forward breweries like Human Robot and Atlantic City’s “The Seed”. Thornton’s “Bier Haul” has one as well. I confess that I did like it, though largely prefer a full glass of beer for normal occasions. But Mliko is surprisingly refreshing. Is it a novelty, a tourist show or a legitimate beer experience? What do you think?

Well, I think it’s a worthy experience for any beer appreciator, something to share with friends and to challenge your notions about beer itself – that works for me.  Is it just Pilner Urquell marketing? “Na zdraví!”