Czech Beer in Prague
The most popular Czech beers are Pilsner Urquell, Staropramen and Budweiser Budvar, but hundreds of other lagers and speciality beers are produced by independent breweries, microbreweries and brewpubs all over Czechia.
Beer is served almost everywhere in Prague, from small cafés and pubs to the opera houses. It is fresh, cheap and tastes terrific.
CZECH BEER GUIDE
Czechia is the No.1 beer drinking nation on the planet, with an annual per capita consummation of some 156 litres.
The most common type of Czech beer is pale lager, which is bottom-fermented and brewed naturally from hand-picked hops. It has a delightful transparent golden colour, and is best served chilled with a tall head.
Most pubs in Prague only sell Czech beer, no other type.
When ordering a beer, ask for a “pivo” (beer, 0.5l) or a “malé pivo” (small beer, 0.3l).
|Czech people are rightfully proud of their beer. Pilsner Urquell is the original Pils lager from which golden beers the world over are derived. It has been brewed in Plzeň, a Czech town to the west of Prague, since 1842, and is commonly perceived as the premier Czech beer.
The Pilsner Urquell brewery also makes Gambrinus, which although popular in Czechia, and sold in pubs throughout Prague, is hardly known outside the country.
Staropramen is brewed in Prague, so is sold in pubs all over the capital city.
The most widely exported Czech beer is Budweiser Budvar, or Budvar for short (not to be confused with the American Budweiser, which is unrelated).
In addition to the premium brands, smaller breweries all over Czechia produce excellent beer for domestic consumption; some Czechs prefer to drink this beer because it is cheaper, others because they prefer the taste. Bernard, for example, is a highly regarded brewery in East Bohemia, Cvikov is in the north of Czechia, and Žatec brews Malostranská Pils in the west.
Únětický Pivovar, located just outside Prague, produces terrific filtered and unfiltered beers called Únětice.
Other Czech beers to look out for are
Kozel, Radegast, Starobrno, Krušovice, Svijanské, Lobkowicz and Breznák.
In recent decades, breweries in Czechia have also expanded the types of beer they brew.
Wheat beer, "Pšeničné pivo", is increasing in popularity. It is not bitter and very refreshing, particularly in the summer.
While some Czech breweries produce dark ales, "tmavé pivo". Velkopopovický Kozel Černý and Krušovice Černá are almost black in colour, and are served with a thick dark foam on top.
If you are looking for a more English-inspired ale,
Velvet by Staropramen is a smooth and creamy dark beer. While pale ale and IPA beers are a relatively new introduction.
Foundation of the Czech Beer Industry
Czechs have been drinking beer for more than a millennium. The secret behind their brewing success is the country's agricultural conditions, which are ideal for growing hops.
Chronicles place the cultivation of Bohemian hops as early as AD 859, while the first evidence of hops export dates to AD 903.
Bohemian hops became so prized that King Wenceslas (907-935) ordered the death penalty for anyone caught exporting the cuttings.
|In another act, he convinced the Pope
to revoke an order banning beer brewing - which
may explain why he is known as Good King Wenceslas!
In the early days of brewing, citizens of the Czech lands were only allowed to brew beer for their own consumption. Many people, therefore, set up a microbrewery in their home.
It wasn't long before citizens banded
together to form a co-operative central brewery, from
which they would take beer extract home and finish the
brewing process there; the medieval equivalent of the home-brew kit. The first such brewery was built in Cerhenice in 1118.
From here, once the king's permission had been granted, it
was a small step for breweries to begin
hawking their wares to the general public. The Czech beer industry was spawned.
Decline and Rise of Czech Beer Brewing: 16th-19th centuries
The expansion of the beer industry was halted in the 16th century, when feudal lords discovered that forcing their
labourers to drink the manor brew, instead of buying their beer from another brewery, was a clever way to
line their pockets.
|The Thirty Years' War then devastated the country, and Czech beer brewing in particular, as land was destroyed and resources were diverted elsewhere. At one point, beer was even used to pay off the Swedish
army to prevent the plunder of Kutna Hora.
The Czech beer industry fell under the auspices of
the Emperor in Vienna, and the situation remained dismal for many years, until the "Czech National Revival" movement in the late 18th and 19th centuries spurred the reinvention of the Czech language,
Czech institutions and Czech culture.
Czech beer was about to experience a renaissance.
Pilsner Urquell: Beer Reinvented in 1842
Beer had been brewed in the city of Plzeň in Western Bohemia since the 1200s, but like elsewhere in the world it was dark, top-fermented beer. In 1842 this changed, when Pilsner Urquell produced the world's first golden lager. It was achieved through a new method of bottom fermentation, and by storing the beer in cold cellars cut into rock.
The new tasting pale lager, with its unrivalled clarity, was in such demand that it led to the establishment of new pubs in Prague, such as U Pinkasů at Jungmannovo náměstí, which to this day still sells Pilsner Urquell.
The new brewing technique was rapidly copied by brewers all over the world. A Czech
brewmaster was even sent to Mexico to teach Mexicans
how to brew beer (Bohemia beer from Mexico
gets its name from this period).
Beer under Communism: 20th Century
Under communism in the 20th Century beer was very cheap, indeed it was mandated so by the authorities. The thinking was that every man, no matter what job he did, should be able to afford a few beers regularly with friends without it hurting his pocket too much.
This help greatly to establish beer drinking as perhaps the single most popular hobby among Czech men. Unfortunately, as with other industries, the Communists failed to invest in the breweries. They simply produced the beer and squeezed as much out of the industry as they could. The buildings and their facilities were allowed to deteriorate.
After the Velvet Revolution: 1989
Since the fall of communism in 1989, there has been a rejuvenation of Czech brewing once more, but it has come at a price. All the major Czech breweries, apart from Budweiser Budvar, have been bought up by foreign brewing giants.
On the upside, a lot of investment has been ploughed in to create impressive modern brewing facilities. And Czech beers are now marketed worldwide as a premium product.
Today, nine out of ten beers produced and consumed globally are pale lagers based on the 1842 Pilsner Urquell method.
Price of a Beer in Prague Today: 21st Century
A large Czech beer in Prague costs around 65 CZK in ordinary pubs and restaurants (0.5l = £2.24/€2.6/$2.83).
A large Czech beer in towns and villages elsewhere in Czechia costs around 45 CZK (0.5l = £1.55/€1.8/$1.96).
Beer is so engrained in the Czech national psyche that brewers are wary of raising prices too much, and no politician would dare raise taxes too high either! Indeed, some brewers make such little profit on domestic sales that exports are vital to their business model.
visiting Prague and Czechia, sample Pilsner Urquell, Staropramen, Budvar and the wide variety of local Czech beers in the best way possible: beautifully fresh, chilled, and cheap!
The Future IS FRESH: MICROBREWERY PUBS + Tank Beer (Tankové pivo)
MICROBREWERY PUBS IN PRAGUE
As we have learned, microbreweries formed the foundation of the Czech brewing industry more than a thousand years ago, and some pubs in Prague carry on that tradition today by brewing their own beer on site.
|In the modern age of the global brewer, it can be nice to taste a unique craft beer, and to actually see it being made: Visit the pub, order a beer, then take a stroll round. The whole brewing process may not be visible, but you can certainly get an idea of how things are done.
For a guided visit to the best pub microbreweries in Prague, try the Prague Brewery Tour.
|TANK BEER (TANKOVÉ PIVO/PIVO Z TANKU) IN PRAGUE
In recent years, developments in technology have led to the introduction of tank beer (tankové pivo or pivo z tanku in Prague. For some pubs and restaurants, instead of arriving in barrels, the beer is transported from the brewery by tanker lorry, unpasteurised.
At the pub, in the manner in which a fuel tanker delivers its load, the beer is fed via a pipe into a great stainless steel pressurised tank either stored in the cellar or on display in the pub. The tank is lined with a waterproof, airtight polypropylene bag, which seals the beer in.
|When a customer orders a beer at the pub, it flows straight from the tank to the beer pump to the glass. This method delivers the freshest beer because the first contact it has with air is at the time of pouring. And the taste is the closest you can get to drinking beer direct at the brewery.
Where the tank is on display in the pub, it is an aesthetic feature. It comes in the form of a huge free-standing, highly polished cylinder, and lets customers know that the pub has tank beer on tap.
The breweries Pilsner Urquell/Gambrinus and Staropramen lead the field in this technique, followed by Budvar and Kozel.
|Not all pubs can adopt the tank beer system because to make it viable requires significant investment, a high turnover of beer, and storage space for the tank. But its popularity is growing rapidly, because the difference in taste and the economies of scale are impressive.
Tank beer is served at these Prague pubs ("Pivnice" or "Hospoda")
Old Town Pubs: U Medvidku on Na Perstyne (Budvar),
U Pivrnce on Maiselova (Staropramen), Pivnice Štupartská on Štupartská (Gambrinus), Lokál Dlouhááá on Dlouhá (Pilsner Urquell), U Zlatého tygra on Husova (Pilsner Urquell), U Rudolfina on Křižovnická (Pilsner Urquell).
New Town Pubs: U Pinkasů on Jungmannovo náměstí (Pilsner Urquell), Hospoda Lucerna on Vodičkova (Pilsner Urquell), Lokál U Jiráta on Vodičkova (Pilsner Urquell), Pivovar Národní on Národní (Pilsner Urquell).
Lesser Town Pubs: Lokál U Bílé kuželky on Míšeňská (Pilsner Urquell).
Castle District Pubs: U Černého vola on Loretánské náměstí (Pilsner Urquell).
Tank beer is served at these Prague restaurants ("Restaurace")
Old Town Restaurants: Ribs of Prague on Melantrichova (Pilsner Urquell), Potrefena Husa on Platnerska (Staropramen), U Vejvodu on Jilska (Pilsner Urquell), V Cípu on Michalská (Staropramen), Krčma on Kostečná (Pilsner Urquell), Na čepu on Ovocný trh (Pilsner Urquell) and Kozlovna Apropos on Křižovnická (Kozel).
New Town Restaurants: Vytopna Restaurant on Wenceslas Square (Krušovice), Sladovna Restaurant on Vodičkova (Cvikov), Kozlovna U Paukerta on Národní (Kozel),
Srdcovka on Spálená (Gambrinus), Kantyna on Politických vězňů (Pilsner Urquell + Kozel Černý), Bredovsky Dvur Srdcovka on Politických vězňů (Pilsner Urquell).
Lesser Town Restaurants: Pork's on Mostecká (Pilsner Urquell) and U Glaubiců on Malostranské náměstí (Pilsner Urquell).
Learn more about Czech beer, and join the Prague locals who drink it by the lorry load on the
Prague Brewery Tour, Prague Tour With Food & Beer, or the Czech Beer Tasting experience.
|Prague Brewery Tour
|A fun tour of the best Prague pubs with breweries: