Try a range of Czech beers on Urban Adventure’s Prague Beer and Czech Tapas Tour. // © 2016 Valerie Chen
Feature image (above): Prague is the capital city of the Czech Republic, which ranks as the world’s top in per-capita beer consumption. // © 2016 Valerie Chen
- Tours have a maximum of 10 people.
- Participants must be at least 18 years old.
- Guides may slightly modify the itinerary, including stops and beer and food selections.
- Drinks such as water, wine, soda and coffee can be ordered as an alternative to beer at any time.
- Any tram transportation between stops is included in the price.
Among the top reasons to visit the Czech Republic’s capital city of Prague — alongside the bevy of historical and cultural sites and the grandeur of centuries-old, well-preserved architecture, accessible by winding cobblestone roads — is its most beloved drink: beer.
The presence of beer — called “pivo” in Czech — in the destination dates all the way back to about 993 A.D., to Brevnov Monastery in Prague. In the years since, the cultivation and consumption of beer in the country has flourished to become a full-fledged culture. Pilsner-style beer, a type of pale lager, is the most globally recognizable beer that has originated from the Czech Republic. Pilsner Urquell Brewery began producing this refreshing liquid gold in the city of Plzen in 1842, quickly attracting fans from all over the world.
But none are more devoted to pilsner-style beer — and perhaps beer in general — than the Czech people themselves: According to “Global Beer Consumption by Country in 2014,” a report published by Kirin Beer University, the Czech Republic placed No. 1 in the world for per-capita beer consumption for the 22nd consecutive year.
Evidently, the frothy stuff is plentiful in Prague, and visitors may be pleasantly surprised to discover that, here, beer is usually even cheaper than water. Both excited and overwhelmed by the wealth of pub and brewery options, my partner and I decided to turn to the experts at Urban Adventures, the single-day tour product of Intrepid Travel.
On the tour operator’s Prague Beer and Czech Tapas Tour, our guide, Travis, assured us that we would drink like the well-versed locals do — and he didn’t lead us astray. Assembling below the stately statue of Saint Wenceslas in lively Wenceslas Square, our motley group of eight readied ourselves for a four-hour stretch of beer drinking, eating and merrymaking, likely to be punctuated with shouts of “na zdravi” (cheers).
Following is a look into our four stops.
Stop No. 1: Vinohradsky Pivovar
Now an upscale, mostly residential district, Vinohrady has bucolic roots of the vineyard sort (the name of the borough is Czech for “vineyards”). And before being absorbed into Greater Prague in 1922, it was its own bustling, independent city.
Vinohradsky Pivovar, our first stop, also possessed a rich former life: Opened in 1894, it grew to become Vinohrady’s city brewery, quenching the thirst of many a beer drinker. However, a series of unfortunate events — shutting down to become a storage facility during World War II, followed by severe neglect due to nationalization in 1946 and just barely evading a fire that ravaged the rest of the block in 2000 — put Vinohradsky Pivovar out of commission until late 2014, when it reopened as a modern microbrewery under the same name.
Today, Vinohradsky Pivovar has evolved into a buzzing neighborhood haunt, with a steady stream of patrons who socialize with brewskis in hand. Focusing on quality over quantity, the microbrewery only has two aromatic beers — unfiltered and unpasteurized — on tap at a time. I savored my liberal pour of Jantar 13, a hoppy amber beer with a slight caramel flavor, which paired nicely with the hearty bar food: slow-roasted pork belly marinated in black beer (the lager version of a stout beer), potato dumplings reminiscent of oversize gnocchi and sweet-and-sour red cabbage.
Stop No. 2: Kulovy Blesk
A member of the Pivni Alliance (a prestigious association of pubs with a high-quality selection of beers), the New Town district’s Kulovy Blesk is a traditional Czech pub worthy of a visit. And if its bar with 11 rotating beer taps isn’t enough, there are about 17 more tucked away in the basement rooms — even the haughtiest of beer snobs will surely find something to fancy.
To wash down bites of pickled Bavarian sausage and house-made potato chips, I ordered Uneticky Pivovar, a pale lager brewed in the village outside of Prague where Travis resides. However, I was a bigger fan of Zlata Raketa, a fruity, full-bodied IPA from Pivovar Matuska, a brewery in the Czech Republic’s Broumy municipality. My partner preferred the same brewery’s Matuska Stout, a smooth, creamy and robust option.
Stop No. 3: U Sumavy
Also in New Town, U Sumavy embodies the typical Czech atmosphere — cozy, unassuming and friendly. About 10 draft beers are available, ranging from the universal Pilsner Urquell to a smattering of amber, dark and IPA beers. By now, our slightly tipsy group felt more like old friends than strangers, sharing stories over beers that included Cernokostelecky Cerna Svine 13 (a dark lager with a light sweetness and a bitter finish). However, what truly shined was the Czech version of Camembert: a pickled cheese that has been preserved in a jar with peppers, onions and tomatoes in canola or sunflower oil.
Stop No. 4: U Pinkasu
Pilsner Urquell loyalists will be thrilled to discover U Pinkasu in Old Town as the last stop of the tour. Not only has the establishment served the distinctive Czech beer for longer than any other pub in Prague, it was also the first; the original tap is situated in its basement bar. What’s more, Pilsner Urquell is served the proper way at U Pinkasu — it’s transported directly from the brewery and straight into a tank, rather than a keg.
Travis explained the revered process to our wide-eyed, appreciative group: The golden pilsner beer is unloaded from a tanker into stainless steel tanks, where all oxygen has been purged. As a result, when the beer hits the glass, that’s the first time it touches oxygen, guaranteeing a superior taste that’s difficult to find elsewhere.
And as if that wasn’t enough of a treat, cinnamon pancakes with a pear jam and whipped cream — all made in-house — accompanied our contented gulps of the best Pilsner Urquell we had ever tasted.