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Prague: ARTĚL Style

Expert recommendations and insider tips for first-time visitors and locals alike from ARTĚL’s founder, Karen Feldman, who has lived in Prague since 1994. Click on the links below for detailed reviews – from Feldman’s own unique perspective – of all the best that Prague has to offer...

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Dining & Drinking

Czech Beer: An Introduction

Published on June 27th, 2013 in Dining & Drinking

* This review was taken from the new edition of Prague: ARTĚL Style that was published on May 28, 2013.

  

The production – and (copious) consumption – of beer has been an intrinsic part of Czech culture for centuries. The brewing tradition here dates back as far as the 13th century, and even the smallest rural villages always have at least one pub.

 

Czechs drink more beer than any other nation, at a rate of 132 liters (about 35 gallons) per person in 2010 – which is actually down from 2006, when Czechs consumed 163.5 liters (about 43 gallons) per person!

 

This may be less surprising when you consider that Czech beer is much cheaper than bottled water, soda, or coffee, and is available anywhere you go at any time of day – plus, it’s just plain tasty beer.

 

 

 

The Czech Republic’s original claim to fame in the beer world is that it was here, in the city of Plzeň (about an hour southwest of Prague), where “pilsner” beer – a hoppy, golden style of lager – was developed in the mid-1800s. With its bright, clear appearance and crisp, refreshing taste, this new style had a huge influence on brewing throughout the region and the rest of the world. Today, the world’s most popular beers are variations of the pilsner style.

 

The largest and most famous Czech brewery is Pilsner Urquell, which was founded in Plzeň in 1842. At that time, Plzeň was part of the German-occupied Sudetenland, so the brand name is German for “the Original Beer from Plzeň.” However, locals never call it that, preferring instead to use the Czech name, “Plzeňský Prazdroj” (which means the same thing), or simply “Prazdroj” (“the Original”). There are two other major breweries in the country: Budvar (from České Budějovice, about two hours south of Prague), and Staropramen, which is brewed right here in town. All three brands make several varieties of decent beer, all of which are different enough from each other to be worth trying while you’re here.

 

              

 

Over the past few decades, these three brands have created a virtual monopoly on local pubs by providing owners with free stuff (signs, tablecloths, coasters, etc.) in exchange for an exclusive contract, making it difficult for visitors to sample any of the excellent craft beer produced all across the country. Fortunately, that has changed in recent years, and it’s much easier to find pubs serving interesting microbrewery beers all over town.

 

 

 

Most Czech microbreweries (many of which had been in operation for centuries) were shut down under communism, but since 1989 the nation has experienced a huge craft beer revival that continues to grow: As of 2012, there are over 150 breweries in the nation, with more opening all the time. Czech craft beers are some of the best in the world. If you’re a beer lover, they are well worth seeking out.

 

 

 

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