Firstly, I must apologise for the lack of recent updates! I’ve been busy, I’ve been forgetful, and I haven’t really known what to write about. While life is certainly different here than back in the U.K., Japan was so different that I was never short of topics. Here, life plods along, I teach and hang out with friends and take short train rides to other pretty towns, but it’s been a while since anything has really stirred me enough to start typing.
But as I sit here, sipping on a Primator (24 degrees), a delicious – and very strong – beer, I realise that something I haven’t really mentioned is how good the beer is here in Prague. Now, if you find yourself thinking “I don’t like beer”, you should know that that was my reaction, too. I never liked beer. I still don’t, usually – it generally tastes horrible to me – too crisp, too bitter, hard to swallow. Call me a typical girl but cocktails are far more my thing – something that tastes sweet and juicy and not like alcohol. Although regular cocktail consumption can break the bank, before I moved to the Czech Republic I would only drink beer as a last resort.
Considering that the Czech Republic has the highest consumption of beer per capita in the world – as well as the cheapest prices and the best reputation – I was pretty curious when I landed. After just moving from a country where a glass of unpleasant beer costs £5 or so (Japan) – I did find myself feeling a little suspicious when half-litre glasses of beer only came to £1 or so (30Kc), but these suspicions were alleviated when I actually started drinking them.
Most bars or restaurants here have at least one of the more common beers (Pilsner, Gambrinus, Krušovice, Stáropramen) on draft for anything between 20 and 70Kc, although anything above 40Kc would probably only be found in tourist traps near Old Town Square. If those are your thing, then you’ll love the Czech Republic. If you’re a little sceptical about beer, like I was, I implore you to keep trying for a while. There are a few microbreweries in Prague who make their own brews, and a handful of places that serve around 20 different beers of draft, with a further 200 or so in bottles. You might find that you appreciate beers with strong fruit flavours (strawberry or cherry beer, anyone?), strong, dark beers with hints of coffee or chocolate, or light, delicious wheat beers.
If you want a little recommendation, some things I’d look out for are Master Half-dark (a delicious semi-dark, smooth and velvety beer), Merlin (dark, coffee hints, creamy), Černá Hora’s wheat beer, Krakanoš (kind of nutty and honey-like) or Démon (hard to explain but almost fruity, honey-like and amazing). There are a lot of amazing beers out there, the best of which leave you with a delightful honey taste in your mouth (look for anything with honey/med in the name).
A couple of months ago we caught a bus (from Roztyly, on the red (C) metro line) to Tábor, home of an annual beer festival which is home to the widest selection of beers in the Czech Republic. It is a small town about 90 minutes from Prague, and in the beginning of February we were able to sample a large range of amazing beers. I would recommend staying in the one youth hostel – Hostel Bernarda Bolzana – a 10 minute walk from the festival. Just ask for a room upstairs, as our curtains barely concealed the windows, and be warned that the reception staff won’t always be there when you want to check in. There’s a delicious Indian curry restaurant in their town square. You need to buy tickets for the festival, and once in you’ll pay again for your glass on top of the beer – you can give it back for your money back, use it at every stand and keep it later. There were beers from all over the Czech Republic and a selection of Belgian beers, and we got delightfully drunk for around 30Kc a 0.5l glass. There was food there, too.
In Prague, there are a good many places where you can find a massive selection of reasonably priced beers. The most tourist-accessible one is The Prague Beer Museum, located on Dlouha Trida (just off Namesti Republiky or old town square). They have around 25 ever-changing beers on draft, each one earning itself a full A4 page and description. You can buy small 0.1l “tasters” for around 15Kc if you want to try a lot without feeling too full/drunk.
Some less touristy places are Pivovarsky Klub, near Florenc, with 250 beers available or the similarly named Pivovarsky Dum (between Karlovo Namesti and I.P.Pavlova). A 5 minute walk from Jiřiho z Podebrad will take you to U Sadu, a cosy, dark basement vibe with lots of hidden corners (just make sure the waiters know where you are) and a whole ton of beers available (including Merlin, Belgian beers, strawberry or chocolate beer). The only drawback is that the beers are written on various boards and pieces of paper seemingly hidden around the place, so you might have to go for a walk to discover everything that they have. They also serve meals, which are very nice.
One of my favourites is Zly Časy, a surprisingly busy little place near Náměstí Bratří Synků (I’d recommend reserving a table). Their drafts are ever-changing, and they have a load of bottled wonders available, too. If you continue along the 11 tram from here to its terminal point – Spořilov – you call also find the Prvni Pivni Tramway – a little tram-themed bar with lots on draft.
Finally, if you really want to try Belgian beers (around 85Kc each) – ranging from mild Kwak to coconut flavours or the strong Delerium (with a pink elephant on the bottle) – I recently found a lovely place called Los V Oslu (Elk in Oslo?) near Flora. It serves delicious food, has a charming atmosphere and a menu containing so many beers that you’d need a month just to try them all.
If drinking at home is more your style then you can buy beers from any potraviny (corner shop) or supermarket, usually from around 7Kc a .5l bottle! I recently tried the beer section at the Albert in Chodov (on metro line C/red) and found a wide selection, including Černá Hora’s Modrá Luna (blueberry), Master’s half-dark and Primator’s strong and wheat beers, all for under 25Kc a bottle. I was defnitely no beer drinker before coming to Prague, and I probably won’t be outside of the Czech Republic (or maybe Belgium) again – but at the moment I can’t get enough of the stuff! Happy beer drinking!