58 Liters of Beer on the Wall
August 4 – 8
Czechs drink more beer than any nation in the world – 157 liters per person every year (more than the German or Irish). And so, as Dave and I polished off a total of 58 in a mere 4 days in Prague, we considered a permanent move as we’ve clearly found Our People.
Fine. Maybe not, but as we paid no more than $2.50 for a half liter of beer during our visit, we’re at least considering dual citizenship. This place makes their title a foregone conclusion, as it makes it impossible for you NOT to drink 157 liters of the cold, frothy beverage. It’s available ANY time (like with breakfast), ANY place (you’re at a book shop? there’s a tap.), and it’s cheap as heck (see above). And? It is so so GOOD.
And, like the Czech Republic, we were totally equal beer opportunists. Dark, light, big, small, full-bodied, flat, we liked them all. Except small. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Many of the no-nonsense bartenders would literally just ask “Dark or light? Big or small?” when we sat down. Almost a friendly, passive way of saying “shut up and drink your beer.”) We loved the strong, hoppy flavor of Pilsner Urquell and Kozel’s medium and dark lagers best (me, medium; Dave, dark). Runners-up included the sweet and somewhat flat Krusovice, the light, fruity flavor of Staropramen, Budvar (no relation to Budweiser), the unpasteurized Bernard with it’s distinct bitter-sweet flavor as well as the easy-drinking Gambrinus (the best-selling beer in the country…and more importantly to some, the sponsor of their football league).
In case after reading the above you have booked a plane ticket to Prague and leave tomorrow, here are a few things you should know:
- The number you see attached to your beer does not, as in America, refer to alcohol content. Instead, it identifies the “degree,” translating to the amount of malt extract used in the brewing process. What you Miller Lite and PBR drinkers are used to? Is between 10 – 12 degrees. But their beers can reach up to 19 degrees. That’s what the guy who just told you he rode Pegusus, the winged horse, to the bar that night is drinking.
- So you like your beers without bacteria? Well you may want to double check your order when you pony up to the bar at a Czech tankova, or tank pub. They serve unpasteurized beer on the regs. Normally, the beer making process includes heating it up to kill the lurking bacteria and basically make it okay for export (giving it a longer shelf life). Prague’s tankovas serve their pivo (what we locals call beer) from steel tubes or tanks (delivered by tanker trucks and hooked directly to the pubs basement pipes, no fuss). Beer is then served fresh from the tanks, ideally giving more complex flavors full of hops and spices.
Consider your self learn-ed.
And despite what you might be thinking, we didn’t just drink our way through the county. We DINED! Oh how we dined.
First, dear readers, I must file a complaint. Every woman in this country is so. damn. thin. And this perplexes me, because below is an average summation of what my daily menu looked like:
And did I mention the beers for breakfast thing yet?
So, I am just going to assume the stick-thin, clothing-light women of Prague have found the miracle to weight loss in carbs, hops and gravy. Did I also mention the moving here plan?
Oh right! The sights. Prague is BEAUTIFUL. The enormous Prague Castle (and St. Vitus Cathedral within the walls) was stunning and it’s gardens provided incredible views of the city. Old Town Square provided some of the best people watching of our trip, and the beauty of the Astrological Clock drew tourists from all over the city. The incredible myriad of architectural styles, vibe while strolling across the Charles Bridge and the easy way of getting around town had us hesitant to pack our bags.
And yet we must say our goodbyes. My parting advice…
During tomorrow’s layover en route to the beer capital of the world, make sure to take note of the following pubs that you must remember. U Zleteho Tygra (Golden Tiger), where a Czech president once took our then-President Bill Clinton, who as a result canceled his run for the next morning. Our favorite of the trip, U Cerneho Vola (Black Ox), one of the last authentic pubs built after World War II, later bought by the rugged regulars when talks of redevelopment of the building swirled so they could ensure a place they could afford to drink. And still do. U Pinkasu, the first Pilsner pub opened in 1843, with great food and an awesome patio nestled behind the building. Pivnice U Rudolfina, a Czech pub at it’s finest with long wooden benches along the wall of a basement, where the smoke is thick and the beers fresh from the tank. U Medvidku (Little Bears), built with five centuries of beer hall street cred and a mecca for Budvar drinkers. Finally, grab an outdoor seat at an oversized, shared picnic table and relax with beers and food at Pivovar Strahov, the monastery brewery. They even have IPAs for hop-lovers like ourselves. God bless you (even more, that is), Czech monks.
As we had slowly, but surely, completely rearranged our August (where we had planned to explore the beaches of Sri Lanka atop elephants, but had a change of heart that led us back to Europe), we were off to Croatia, but not before a quick side-trip to the Czech countryside.
Otherwise, I’d still be on the former Prez’s old stool sucking down some bacteria.