Prague is a jewel on the Vltava river and historically, the seat of power for Bohemia. Through two world wars and Russian rule during the twentieth century, the city has remained largely unmolested. Around every corner sits an unbroken heritage; not merely the buildings, but a sense of communal life and enjoyment that persists in Prague’s institutions be they the castles, churches, theaters, or taverns.
The thing that makes Prague one of the world’s best beer destinations is the Czech attitude towards beer. Czechia makes approximately the same amount of beer as Canada despite having a population about the size of Ontario. Better yet, they consume 75% of the beer that they produce in the country. The majority of the beer is pale or dark lager at varying degrees of strength, but what Czechia lacks in stylistic diversity, it more than makes up for in quality. The standard of service is higher on average than anywhere in the world for no reason other than they are making and serving the beer for their own enjoyment, which is taken suitably seriously.
Not only is it one of the safest cities in the world, it’s easily navigable by tourists due to the fine public transit and regional rail connections. Although part of the EU, Czechia currency is the Koruna, which Canadian travelers will find goes quite a long way: A full meal and a couple of beers might cost twenty Canadian dollars.
Here are some highlights you might want to consider for your trip:
In continuous operation since 1499, U Fleků has seen it all. While it has 1,100 seats, and is therefore popular with large groups touring the region, you’d be mistaken if you wrote it off on that basis. The brewery operates using traditional equipment including a coolship, and produces one of the world’s finest tmavý ležák (dark lager) that develops a pleasing berryish mid-palate and seems completely at home in the whimsically appointed early Renaissance dining halls.
In warm weather, the courtyards are an ideal place to find some shade and a quenching beverage. In the colder months, their mead will take the edge off the chill, and substantial dishes like Svíčková (beef in a cream sauce with bread dumplings), will stick to your ribs.
In Czech service, the tapster is on equal footing with the brewer in terms of assuring quality. A brewer could do no better than having their beer on tap at Pult. The large stainless steel bar takes up an entire side of the gothic vaulted beer hall, and its pristine aerodynamic sleekness lets you know what you’re going to get.
Six perfectly poured lagers and three guest taps featuring craft beer styles are typically on offer. While Budvar and Pilsner Urqell are mainstays, there are frequently offerings from Hendrych and Matuška, in addition to a wall full of bottled options and a small but robust menu of sandwiches and charcuterie. Try the pickled camembert with black garlic.
Located in the Karlín neighbourhood, just east along the river, is Dva Kohouti, one of the city’s most popular craft breweries. The same care that Czech brewers take in making lager is applied to craft beer styles like IPA and fruited sours, and Dva Kohouti is a great example of the results of that painstaking. The brewery and taproom format will seem familiar to Ontario drinkers, but the inclusion of a spacious beer garden and courtyard gives you room to sprawl.
Since the courtyard is shared by Lokál Hamburk, you’re in good hands for catering. Try the beef tartare, and should you get thirsty waiting in line, you can avail yourself of their pristine Kozel Tmavý Ležák served from tanks directly below the bar.
U Zlatého tygra
Some things never change. Adorned with a golden tiger for the last three hundred and twenty years, this pub is housed in a six hundred year old building. Over time, it has been formative not only for reformers, patriots, and the intelligentsia, but also literary hero Bohumil Hrabal whose sculpted relief greets patrons as they enter.
This is not a tourist pub, although it is surrounded by beer museums. This is a pub you can spend a couple of hours or a lifetime in, and since people are engaged in doing exactly that, order confidently
and find a place to sit. Try the fried ham rolls with blue cheese and cucumber alongside your Pilsner Urquell, and spend a couple of hours reading Hrabal. His writing style makes it seem like he’s sitting next to you sipping a Snyt.
In practice, the monks at Břevnov represent one of the world’s oldest operating breweries having started in 993 AD, but the lineage pales in comparison to the view of the grounds from the Monastery Brewery’s beer garden. The brewery features traditional methods including open fermentation in steel squares and is housed the Monastery’s stables.
Their regular offerings include a wonderfully vinous, silkily textured tmavý ležák that develops light roast and dark chocolate without sacrificing drinkability, and which must be one of the world’s best.
On the west side of the Vltava, in the Smíchov neighbourhood is Andělský Pivovar, which makes a wide variety of experimental craft beers. Having tacked IPA with a familiar combination of Chinook, Simcoe, and Mosaic, adventurous drinkers will want to try the Kolagen 13; a Polotmavy. The rich caramelly amber coloured lager is infused with pharmaceutical grade collagen, which is just the thing to repair your knees after walking all day on Prague’s cat’s head cobbled sidewalks.
It is conveniently located across the street from Pivotéka BeerGeek Andel, a fine bottle shop that will give you an idea of what’s happening in Czech beer on an up to the minute basis.
Manifesto Market Andel
You may have noticed that the Czech food recommendations have been a little meat and cheese forward. Eventually, you are going to want a vegetable.
Manifesto is an all weather food court with a wide variety of options for any taste. Whether you’re craving ramen, bibimbap, poke, Indian street food, or southern barbeque, Manifesto is a great all around option just across from Andel Metro. In addition to vegan options for food, the beer bar is a collaboration between Pilsner Urquell and Vinohradský Pivovar ensuring you’ll get to try something novel alongside a world classic.
While Prague contains untold joys for anyone planning a vacation, it is worth mentioning that local transit is excellent and that day trips are possible to Plzen to see Pilsner Urquell, České Budějovice to see Budvar, and Únětice for Únětický Pivovar. If you fancy just a little bit of distance, try the Letna Lookout Beer Garden for a sweeping vista of the entirety of the city including the castle.