When you first come to Prague, you’ll quickly discover that Czech beer culture is much different from the more Westernised countries. Firstly, we drink a lot here. But secondly, the manner in which we drink is vastly different. It is quite rare to see people shouting over music, or on their mobile phones messaging friends instead of enjoying the friends in front of them. When we go to the pub, we’ll talk to anyone — our friends, family, loved ones, dogs, a stranger who might be sitting beside us. And we’ll talk the whole night through. Typically, you’ll see a constant resupplying of beer, brought in many mugs to the table. But sometimes you’ll see something different: special glasses branding a small brewery’s logo and their beer. These are eagerly drank by people who care about what they’re drinking and what it represents.
The world over, people have started a beer and brewing revolution. With corporatisation and globalisation we’ve seen merger after merger, and brewery after brewery snatched up by the bigger companies — which have come to make up most of the beer drank in the world. Most of what they produce, EuroBeer, looks, tastes, and smells the same. This drab state has birthed a swell in homebrewing and microbrewing, led by people who care about flavour and quality over money and big business. People want to reinvigorate the Czech pub culture with better beer. Though we have hundreds of breweries here in the ancient brewing lands of the Czech Republic, we’re nowhere near the thousands we used to have. Nevertheless, here are just a few places outside the city that are conveniently accessible from Prague, and worthy of an addition to your itinerary.
Rodinný Pivovar Berounský Medvěd
Although the first brewery in Beroun was recorded in 1872, it wasn’t until about 20 years ago that the city gave us Berounský Medvěd. Although much less known than most others, this family brewery is anything but average. They have seven beers on tap — a few more than most Czech brewpubs — including a fantastic beer brewed with honey, a heavy dark lager called the Grizzly, and a few other special beers. The food here merits a stay through lunch (and to also linger awhile after, to digest with another beer, of course). All the beers here are made with water from a well and cooked in a traditional manner, with handmade brew kettles and open fermenters. Furthermore, these beers are unfiltered and unpasteurised “yeasty beers.” Yeasty beer? Fresh wort (young, yet-to-be-fermented beer) and yeast are added to a beer after its lagering period, thus creating a more vibrant flavour and even healthier beer. No lover of beer should leave the Czech Republic without first tasting this type of beer.
From outside, the pub is unique to its surroundings. Once a sugar factory, this whole complex, except the brewery, seems abandoned, amid the scrap yards, old military artillery, and even an old firetruck. While sitting outside is obviously interesting, the inside of the pub has a bucolic charm of itself, full of wooden beams, boards, and tables, and paintings and a recessed area with a whittled wooden relief of historical brewing houses. Though it’s the hop bines dangling from the ceiling that really bring the room together.
Getting here is simple. At Praha Hlavní Nádraží (Prague Central Station), purchase a ticket to Beroun. Hop on any S7 train and 45 minutes later, you’ll be just a short walk away from the brewery. For the more adventurous, there is a walking/bike path following the beautiful Berounka River, which will take you from Prague to the Beroun, passing through some very pretty landscapes, farms, and villages. Most of this is on dedicated trails without traffic, and there’s an added bonus of a few other breweries (MMX Pivotel and Pivovar Bobr) along the trail. On your way out of the brewpub’s courtyard, you can stop in a small 24-hour office and buy a bottle or two of your favourite(s) at a very modest price before going into the centre of Beroun to enjoy a waltz around before getting back on the train or bike.
While the city of Beroun is charming enough, the surrounding area deserves some attention as well. Replete with nature (including caves that once housed prehistoric humans), history (for example, Karlštejn Castle or the Tetín Castle ruins) and picturesque villages all around you, a few days spent here wouldn’t be enough for the outdoor enthusiast. All of the hiking trails are well marked and posted, and the Czech maps site Mapy.cz will show you the hiking or biking trails (note: the website is all in Czech, however you can translate it through Google Chrome). For those who’ve jumped into the 21st century, they have a free smartphone app that allows you to view the maps and trails offline.
Are you up for the best beer and culinary tour in Prague? Then let’s go! Let us lead you on this tour of the most reputable (though not always the most beautiful) beer sanctuaries in the city.
Pivovarský dvůr Chýně/Pivovarská Krčma
Situated right outside Prague’s boundaries, Pivovarský dvůr Chýně is the the first brewpub to open after the collapse of communism. It is also the first microbrewery I visited in the Czech Republic (outside of Prague), and I’ve been back many times since. This place has been around long enough to perfect their beers and earn themselves their own bus stop. Whether you sit in their wonderful beer garden with the grill, or inside the big beer hall with the copper brew kettles, they know how to make food and beer that keeps people coming back time andagain. They also have one of the largest lists of vegetarian options I’ve seen in this seemingly (though not truly) vegetable-barren country. They have a nice repertoire of both standard and specialty lagers and ales, all of which are yeasty beers. If you journey here in the warm months, you’ll see a full rack of bikes, as this happens to be a hot spot for the country’s unofficial national sport: cycling from pub to pub.
Adjacent to Chýně, you have a different, quaint little space: Pivovarská Krčma or ‘the Brewery Tavern.’ Though less English-friendly than its neighbour, this tavern is worth the extra effort. Point, mime, make noises, do what you need to do — those who try will get what they want, and simultaneously brighten everyone’s day. The one room looks as though it’s an old lodge, filled with antlers, dried corn, and hops — in reality, it’s a rather heavenly place full of fried foods, desserts, delicious beer, and singing locals. With “In Vino Veritas” scrawled across the wall, you can understand how this would quickly rise to the top of the ‘pubs to return to’ list.
Getting here isn’t so difficult, either. From Prague, you simply take the yellow metro line (line B) until its end at Zličín, and catch the 347 bus to the stop Chýně Pivovarský dvůr, and you’re there. Make sure you check the timetables at the return bus stop or posted in the garden of Pivovarská Krčma, because the bus doesn’t come frequently. If you happen to miss the last bus back to Prague, don’t worry, the brewery also has an inn and a beer spa.
All the way back in the early 18th century this brewery was making a name for itself. With draymen carting great beer to the surrounding villages, towns, and Prague city, Únětický Pivovar was well-known. But after the Second World War and the centralisation and amalgamation of breweries during the communist era, this brewery closed its doors in 1949. In 2011, the old brewery was reopened, and again has made a name for itself. It’s my humble opinion that this is one of the better light lagers to be found in many corners throughout Prague — if you see the Únětické pivo signs hanging outside, you know it’s a pub worth trying. The brewery regularly verifies that a pubs’ taps are clean and beer is served properly — if it’s not tapped correctly, then it won’t be tapped at all. They offer two flagship beers, the 10º and the 12º light lager, at about 4% and 5%, respectively. Both are worth trying. The 10º has a more summertime drinkability, while the 12º offers a more full-bodied malty mouth feel and heavier hop bitterness.
The beer is available only within arm’s reach of the brewery, as nothing is distributed further than 35 kilometres. Though their beers are easy enough to find it in the big city, if you want to visit the brewery, it’s an easy 20-minute bus ride on the 355 bus from the Metro station Dejvicka (green line), to the village of Únětice (the second bus stop in the village). The building is right behind the bus stop, and it’s hard to miss a restored early 18th-century bustling brewhouse. They’ve got a nice beer garden, but be sure to spend some time looking inside the old fermentation room, where the current restaurant is. If you come in winter, you’ll be kept warm by the wood-burning stove, a fun little cat, and the sign threatening parents to keep their children attended to lest they would like their child to return with an espresso and a free kitten.
The brewery’s focus on quality stretches beyond just beer to gastronomy as a whole, with a well-prepared menu, consisting of mostly traditional and some more daring meals and desserts (lavender cheesecake) made from quality ingredients. The menu changes seasonally, which is quite welcomed, as each season has its own life here. They brew seasonal and holiday beers as well. On top of it all, they host community events, folk concerts, and dancing in their barn.
Rodinný Pivovar Sv. Florián
Hiding just 12 kilometres from the famous Czech spa town of Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad), and near the German border, sits the beautiful and often overlooked historic town of Loket nad Ohří. The first time I visited this town I immediately fell in love with it, and the second time only made me love it more. Loket was built in an ‘elbow’ (loket means ‘elbow’) of the river Ohře, which surrounds the little old town on three sides. Although it’s especially charming in autumn, I’d recommend visiting no matter the time of year. The village is dominated by a 13th-century castle set on a promontory above the settlement while the old ramparts follow the river’s bend around the main settlement — this area feels like it hasn’t changed in centuries. You won’t find all the commodities of a big city here, but that’s what makes it nice. The town still offers everything you would need for a relaxing weekend stay.
Right between the bridge and the main square is a building you’d better not miss. The brewery of St. Florian makes very respectable light and dark Czech lagers, but the real gems are the special beers they brew. On my visits, they tapped a lager made with smoked malt (this near to Germany, a rauchbier isn’t so far-fetched here) and, my personal favourite, a 15º ruby-coloured lager with an exceptional malty body and an ever-so-subtle hop backbone for balance. This is a beer that grips your tongue and won’t let go until you give in to another sip; a beer worthy of a prolonged visit, or at least a return once or twice more during your stay for another round. The atmosphere of the pub is old, and you can sit amongst the brewing equipment and look down into the deep well. Their food won’t disappoint either. They seem to care about what is served and make plenty of carefully prepared dishes. The brewery is located in a nice hotel, but if you’re looking for something slightly different, there’s a hostel just around the corner where the hosts and guests are always nice. If the beautiful town, surrounding nature, and spectacular food and beer isn’t enough to convince you to visit, surely the rambunctious town goats that roam the cliffs below the castle, and occasionally break free, will seal the deal. This is one town that merits its own weekend, whatever the reason.
Time to discover the Bohemian in you! Our Bohemia tour of Prague starts, appropriately, at the statue of the Duke of Bohemia, martyr, and patron saint Wenceslas. Throughout the tour, you’ll learn about various influences on Prague, including architectural, art, and political influences.
The Czech Republic is well known for its rich brewing history and excellent beers, but history is history, and currently we’re seeing a change like never before. Bohemia, in its past, has jumped to and fro, producing ales or lagers, and now we’re finding our stride with a little room for both. And while the most important rule is to enjoy what’s in the glass in front of you, try to make it something easy to enjoy. With the cowboy capitalism period after the communist rule, many of the big Czech breweries (i.e., Staropramen, Krusovice, and even Pilsner Urquell — though their history and brewing methods still make it stand out) are run by multinational conglomerates, and have, thus, been turned to EuroBeer. If this is what your tastebuds crave, that’s fine, but if you want to try the beer this country is known for, I’d suggest you start going to the train station and find out for yourself.
Want to check out more of the Czech beer scene? We can show you where the locals drink on our Prague city tours!