Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Czeched out at home

After several visits to Prague and the Czech Republic, I feel that Czech lager beers are among the best in the world. Sitting at home and thinking of delicious Kout na Sumave lagers or fresh Budvar or unpasteurized Pilsner Urquell brings back great memories. Some of those memories can be revived at home, as a few of the Czech beers are also available here in Norway.

Various beers at a Coop Mega supermarket in Norway. Among the international brands, you can see Czech lager beers like Starobrno and Pilsner Urquell.

The first time I tasted a Czech beer, was in England in 1990. A pub in Scarborough sold Pilsner Urquell from bottles. I liked the lager beer and had several bottles that evening. Later I found Pilsner Urquell now and then at the stately Norwegian Vinmonopolet outlet. Later Urquell also was available outside Vinmonopolet in ordinary shops, and at times I also found Budweiser Budvar here and there.

Pilsner Urquell is sold in both half litre cans and 0.33 litre bottles in Norway.

These days it is easy to get hold of some Czech lagers here in Norway. Pilsner Urquell is sold in many supermarket chains, and in my opinions this is one of the best lager beers. I really enjoy that hoppy taste. Urquell is a tasty lager beer and fortunately it lacks the sugary distinctions that I did not like with the Spanish lagers I had in Tenerife. Poured in a glass, Pilsner Urquell has a golden colour, a large head and little carbonation.

Gambrinus is only sold in half litre bottles in Norway.

Urquell's beer colleague from Plzen, Gambrinus, is sold in the Rema 1000 shops together with Bernard lager. Gambrinus lacks the bitterness and hoppyness of Pilsner Urquell, but it has nearly the same golden colour. Just like Pilsner Urquell, Gambrinus has little carbonation and a large head.

Bernard lager in green bottles - but without the trademark swing tops
as found in the Czech Republic.

Bernard is the odd one out. This is a lager beer that I thought I would never find in Norway's largest supermarket chain. But it is there! This is a malty lager with as good as no visible carbonation. In the glass it is presented with a large head and a brownish character in the colour. The beer is unpasteurized, which is quite uncommon among beers sold in Norwegian supermarkets. I like Bernard, and together with Pilsner Urquell, these are the lager beers I usually buy these days.

Starobrno is called "Czech traditional lager" on the bottle label.

Here and there I can also find Starobrno in 0.33 liter bottles. In a glass the colour is somewhat pale. The Starobrno lager is sweeter than the other Czech lager beers sold in Norway, but some hops and bitterness makes it a nice alternative. My wife likes this beer better than Bernard and Pilsner Urquell, but she prefers Gambrinus to Starobrno.

Dark lager from Staropramen.

Staropramen is the big brewery from Prague. Here in Norway Staropramen's pale lager beer is not available, but I can find their dark lager in some shops. Staropramen cerny is nearly black and it tastes fresh with some caramel notes. In my opinion this is much better than Staropramen's pale lagers, but I have tasted Czech dark lagers that are better than this. Kout na Sumave comes immediately to mind.

Budweiser Budvar is returning to Norwegian shops later this year!

Unfortunately Budweiser Budvar is not available in Norwegian shops these days, but that will change. According to a friend who has contacted the importers, the Norwegian ICA supermarkets will start selling Budvar in May. Hopefully more Czech lagers will follow. I would love to be able to buy Kout na Sumave's lagers now and then, and I would also appreciate some of the Svijany beers as well. And why not some offerings from for instance Primator?

Let us have Svijany in Norway, please!

Czech beers are very nice. If you have not tasted them, my recommendation is that you do it. And remember: Czech beers taste even better in the Czech Republic!


  1. Did you make sure that your Pilsner Urquell was actually brewed in Pilsen as opposed to Poland or Russia?

  2. Sure I did. All Pilsner Urquell sold in Norway is from Plzen.

    By the way: I have never tasted the Russian or the Polish Urquell. But talk about inconsistencies: Calling a beer original source and brewing it on licence abroad.

  3. Shameless profiteering on the name really. I wonder if any of the Polish stuff is sold in the Czech Republic as there are parts which are much closer to Poland than Plzen.