Sunday, January 25, 2009

A short beer guide to Prague - part 2

Now you are ready for some beer tourism in Prague. Before you start, you must know something about Czech beer and Czech bars. I will also recommend you to get hold of Evan Rail's excellent book "The Good Beer Guide to Prague and the Czech Republic". It has much information about both Prague taprooms and various Czech beers.

Many beer bottles in a beer shop in Prague. At Czech pubs you can
find bottled beer, but most Czechs prefer draught beer.

Usually Czech pubs serve only beer from one brewer. Most of the beers are in the pale lager style, and normally they are described by a degree number. For instance you can come along a Staropramen 10° beer. This means that this is a beer from the Staropramen brewery with 10° on the Balling scale. The Balling scale tells you about how much sugar that is in the wort before the fermentation starts. Therefore a 10° beer is not the same as a 10% alcohol beer. Instead a 10° beer would have around 4% alcohol.

Three different beers are served at this pub.

The Czechs have several names for their beer styles, and the ones you often meet are these:

Výčepní: A 10° beer. (Tap beer)
Ležák: A 12° beer. (Lager beer) (By the way: You can also find 11° beers many places - just like you can see on the blackboard above.)
Speciál: A stronger beer than 13°.

This hospoda serves beer in four different strengths.
The strongest ones are in the dark style, tmavé.

There are also several more styles of beer. Beers can for instance be flavoured, unfiltered or a mix of several beers. Evan Rail's book gives a good perspective, but here are some of the most common ones:

černý - dark beer
polotmavé - half dark
světlé - light
kvasnicové - yeast beer
pseničné - wheat beer

Here in Norway it is easy for me to get hold of Pilsner Urquell in cans. It is absolutely one of my favourite beers at home, and I drink it often as it has a taste I fancy. In Prague I usually only drink Pilsner Urquell at taprooms that serve the unpasteurized version. When I have been to Prague, I often find beers that tastes better there and then. Of course the sensation of drinking very good beers in another country influences. The same is to be said about the situation. Most times I sit down at a Czech hospoda I am on holiday, and the moments spent there are excellent pastimes. Very often I meet interesting people, and nice times may give me a better opinion of the beers I taste. Unfortunately I can seldom compare these beers at home, and my subjective remembrance will be a part of my point of view.

But what are my favourites in the Czech republic, then? If you want to try the big brands, both Pilsner Urquell and Budweiser Budvar are very good lager beers. But as a visitor to the Czech Republic you should try some of the beers that you will not find at home. Myself, I am very fond of Cerna Hora světly ležák and Kout na Šumavě's 12° beer. Svijany has several good offerings, and one of my new favourites is Primator's wheat beer (which is also a kvasnicové). Great stuff!

Coming up next: Part 3 of this little beer guide will take you on a little Prague pub crawl.

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