Who Knew?- Czech Out the Beer Capital of the World!!!

For anyone who knows my drinking proclivity, it has always been, champagne first, and all else follows. However, a visit to the beer drinking-est capital of the world-Prague, Czech Republic this past summer, warranted an adjustment to my usual drinking game. Although, I can’t claim to be a “cerveza-a-phile”, an aficionado of beers and ales, I have come to develop an increasing fondness for the craft beers that bring legions of folks to its flowing taps.

Unbeknownst to us wine and champagne connoisseurs, more beer is consumed per capita in Prague, than anywhere in the world, outdoing its beer loving counterparts-Austria, Germany and Ireland. Every year, approximately 148.6 liters (39 gallons) of beer is guzzled down per person- enough to fill a standard bathtub. It’s no wonder that Prague attracts beer enthusiasts from around the globe, year round. And even if you are not an avid beer drinker like myself, please be assured that you will be able to find a beer that is dignified, impressive and worthy of  “champagne” status.

The noblest way to experience the Czech Republic’s finest light and dark lagers is to book yourself a walking beer tour with any local outfitter.  Most tour offerings include a “Beer Master” who will guide you through the cobblestoned streets of old town, whilst narrating the story of old brewing traditions in the Czech Republic.

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You will have the opportunity to visit some of the more traditional pubs and breweries of old town, Prague, where the fundamental rules of proper beer tasting are encouraged. For approximately 690 Czech krona (28 USD), you can catch a glimpse of how Czechs socialize; beer drinking in Prague is as quotidian as drinking tea in the Queen’s country. Beer is served just about anywhere and can even be found on the breakfast menus in cafes.

The uncontested beauty of beer drinking in a local pub or brewery is that it brings together some of the most affable, fun loving folks in an authentic setting. So I wasn’t the least bit intimidated when I signed up for a walking beer tour (with guide and dinner), shortly after landing. I knew that I could look forward to engaging in “drinking banter” with fellow like-minded individuals- those who are uncompromising in their desire to experience life in its fullness.

Prior to embarking on the beer walking tour, I was not well versed in beer terminology to discern the difference between ales, lagers, stouts, and porters. For beer amateurs like myself, this 3 ½ hour long tour was bound to bring my beer drinking game to another level. Expertly led by an underclassman, finishing up his studies in Fermentation Sciences, the tour began afoot to a local micro-brewery in old town, where we sampled a home grown brew, unfiltered from the tank.

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Pivnice Stupartska is a moderate sized pub, micro-brewery and restaurant rolled into one (Please note that Pivnice Stupartska has several locations throughout the city and serves up massive portions of Czech classics such as grilled pork sausage with horseradish and mustard, and roast duck with potato dumplings that complement just about any Czech lager).

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Pivnice specializes in craft beers. First up for tasting was a light, crisp beer that embodied what the perfect summer should feel like- exquisitely cool and refreshing.  With bursts of green apple and hints of pear, this light bodied beer was beaming with character. And for those who aren’t duly convinced that beer is able to dole out “happiness on top”, there are ciders, spirits and wines also on offer.

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From Pivnice Stupartska, we moved to Bowla Bar, where upon entry you are greeted with the mellifluous and gay sounds of accordion music. This quaint bar tucked ½ km away from the main square exuded 1870’s antiquity-astronomical lanterns and garish light fixtures added an additional worldly dimension to the bar.

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The conversation flowed with the beer-from philosophical and life perspectives to the Tour de France, as we sampled tastings of Malvaz, a variation of a semi-dark lager. Richly golden in color with caramel and biscuit notes, Malvaz has a bright nutty aroma and is more complex and assertive than most semi-dark lagers.

There is undeniable validity in the saying “go and save the best for last”.  We made our way to Staromestska Restaurant where we would sample the “champion” of all beers- the Pilsner Urquell, the world’s first blonde lager. First brewed in the city of Pilsen, Czech Republic in 1842, this lager is one of the world’s most popular beers.

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Copper golden in color with low to moderate bitterness, this beer packs the right bite. It is crisp, refreshing, and revitalizing, with some lingering afternotes, and is reminiscent of a late summer’s day at the sea. The Pilsner Urquell is what has put Czech beers “on the map”.  Highly favored amongst beer buffs, the Pilsner Urquell can stand on its own, but due to its delicate character, it is best paired with robust dishes such as a “farm plate” (grilled sausage, pork, smoked pork, cabbage and dumplings). Fish and chicken dishes also marry well with the softness of the Pilsner.

You may have to embark on a few pub crawls to find a beer that suits your taste and to make that final leap from wine to beer. But in the meantime, hunker down in any one of the Czech Republic’s verdant beer gardens, raise a cold one and salute your neighbor with nazdravi (cheers)!!!!

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