Drinking Beer in the Czech Republic - dummies

Drinking Beer in the Czech Republic

By Marty Nachel, Steve Ettlinger

The Czechs drink about as much beer per capita as any population does. And like Germany, locally produced beers can be found in almost every Czech town. Be aware that the Czech Republic is a lager-producing country (after all, it’s the birthplace of Pilsner), so anyone thirsting for ales is going to be parched. But if you happen to love lagers, this country’s brews, from light to dark to black, will certainly pique your taste buds.

The birthplace of Pilsner

Prior to 1842, Pilsner beers didn’t exist. The Urquell Brewery in Plzen introduced the first golden-colored lager to the world — and the world hasn’t been the same since. It’s believed that 80 percent of all the beer made in the world today is a derivative of the Pilsner style.

The brand name Pilsner Urquell literally means “the original source of Pilsner.”

Trying other Czech beers

Though the Czech Republic — and especially the region of Bohemia — is forever linked to Pilsner beer, this country has a long and storied history of brewing before the first Pilsner was produced. Long and storied, but not necessarily varied.

What you can expect to find is a progression of pale (svĕtlé) and dark (tmavé) lagers of varying strengths. Not unlike the British Bitters or Scottish Ales, Czech beers are often ordered by their alcoholic strength, as denoted by their degrees Balling (which is a measure of gravity or density on the day the beer was brewed). A beer with a gravity of 11 to 12 degrees Balling has an alcohol content of 4.5 to 5.0 percent; a beer with a gravity of 13 to 20 degrees Balling has an alcohol content between 5.5 to 7.5 percent.

Around the winter holidays, brewers may introduce a special black (černeé) beer that’s marginally darker that its regular dark beer. And, yes, it’s a lager.

Historical Czech beer establishments

Like their Western European brethren, Czechs love their beer, and they love to preserve their brewing history and culture. Here are some locations throughout the Czech Republic where you can enjoy and celebrate beer:

  • Pivovarské Museum (Plzen): This brewery museum is set up in a Gothic malt house in the historically significant town of Plzen. Hundreds of unique exhibits testify to the history of brewing and the culture of drinking beer, from the earliest times to the present day.

  • Pilsner Urquell Brewery (Plzen): The Pilsner Urquell Brewery introduced the world to the golden, clear Pilsner beer, granddaddy of all commercial lagers. This area was the medieval kingdom of the good King Wenceslas. Devotees say that the beer doesn’t travel well, so you need to try it on site.

  • U Fleků Brewery and Restaurant (Prague): This brewpub is one of the largest and oldest (started in 1499) brewpubs in the world. Only one beer is served here — oddly enough, a dark lager.

  • Budweis: Any beer from this town, once the location of the royal brewery, is called Budweiser (note the relationship to kings). Anheuser-Busch modeled its flagship brew on this local brew long ago. Michelob is also based on a nearby town name.