As part of the U Medvidku "complex" there is a dedicated Budvar Bar. The Guide says five kinds of Budvar, but now one tap is taken by Oldgott, brewed upstairs in the microbrewery. And one tap was dry so we were down to only three kinds but two were ones we'd not had before so all was good.
The three we had were the Budweiser Budvar tmavy lezak (dark lager), which we'd had the other day in the U Medvidku beer hall, the 10° sveltle wycepni pivo and the 12° krouzkovany lezak or "krausened lager", also called "yeast beer." The dry tap was the 12° svetly lezak (pale lager) we'l also had the other day in the beer hall.
The dark lager was as we remembered it from the other day -- a wonderful dark beer. It still is our favorite dark lager of the trip.
The yeast beer surprised me -- even though it was krausened, it was still filtered so it was crystal clear. The extra yeast action only added about .3% alcohol, but it tasted much dryer and bitter. It was still very enjoyable, but I'm not sure I liked it better than the regular 12° (it would have been nice to have them side by side).
But the star of the flight was the 10° pale beer. It comes in at 4% alcohol and was very soft and light yet still lots a malt flavor. This is a dynamite beer and a must have if you should visit the Prague or the Czech Republic.
This is the Prague house tap room of the Ferdinand brewery in Benesov. The name comes from Archduke Ferdinand (of Sarajevo fame) who once lived there.
They have five beers on tap, but one was non-alcoholic so skipped it. If it had been our first beer of the day I might have tried it but well into our drinking day it would have suffered even if good.
We ran into a common problem -- there we two of us and we tried to order four beers. This has been a problem even without a language barrier, but with some hand signs and pointing we got the idea across. The four beers were a Svelty 11°, Svelty 12° ("Preminum") Tmavy 11° and a special 13° beer called Sedm Kuli whose name I'll explain in a minute.
The Svetly 11° and 12° were very similar as you'd expect. The 12°was a tad maltier (and a tad darker) but that was about it. I would guess they were hopped the same as the 11° tasted a bit hoppier and as a result, we liked it better. The Tmavy was a bit sweet in the finish, but not objectionally so, about the middle range of the ones we tasted.
The final beer was Sedm Kuli -- which translates to "Seven Bullets," which is the number of times Archduke Ferdinand was shot when he was assinated in Sarajevo. I found that to be a little macbre, sort of like the Abe Lincoln Brewhouse having a "John Wilkes Booth" Bitter or some such. But whatever the tragedy of WWI it did lead to Czech independence so they may have a different view of things.
As for the beer is was very malty but not sweet and I think is lightly spice. It had a lot of raisiny notes in the finish. It was only about 5.5% alcohol but tasted much bigger. A beer that would be better with food than drinking by itself, I think.
A final note about the decore -- there was a definite theme -- the coat racks were rake heads, the ashtrays small shovel heads. The light fixures where either water cans or galvanized steel buckets. The condiment tray on each table had a hammer for a handle (can be seen in the above photo). It actually worked fairly well.
And one final warning -- brush up on your Czech grammar before using the restrooms -- one is labeled "Ferdinand-y" and the other "Ferdinand-i" -- one is a masculine ending and the other a feminine. You do have a 50% chance of being right if you just guess.
In the nearby suburb of Liben is this wonderful little brewery and pub. The brewery is fairly recent, dating from 2004 though it looks as if it was an old pub before that. If not, they have managed to create that feeling. We had to take two different trams to get there, but it was worth the trip. Plus we got to see a little more of the area than the typical tourist.
The name is really Richter Brewery (in English) but website and the logo say Pivovar U Bulovky (it is on Bulovka Street) which makes the convenient acronym of P.U.B.
The menu listed about 12 different type of beer, including both ales and lagers (top and bottom fermented) but only four are on draft at any one time. Todays choices where Svetly Lezak (Pale Lager) , Maerzen, Weissbier and Polotmavy Weissbier. That latter translates to "half dark". Anyway we started with the Svetly and Maerzen.
This is the second Maerzen we've had it this one was much like the first. I think the Czech have a concept of Maerzen -- as do the Austrians -- that is different than the traditional German definition. This was a very nice Amber Lager -- slightly less hoppy and slightly more malty than the Svetly. As for the Svetly, it was excellent -- if not the best we've tasted, one of the top three. It had a nice "freshness" you can get from a good unfiltered beer, as if it had just been poured from the lagering tanks. I really got a sense of Saaz hops as well, which (surprisingly to me) I haven't found much of on this trip. I were a brewer here I would to brew beers with a huge Saaz nose.
It was lunch time and the place was filling up with a lunchtime crowd. They have a daily menu for really good price -- 79 crowns our about $4 that today was a bowl of soup and a portion of sauerbraten with dumplings and cabbage. That seemed a little heavy, so we had an omlette and salad, even though that was more expensive. When they started bring plates out to the neighboring table, I regretted my choice, but the omlette was very good.
I needed another beer so I tried the Polotmavy Weissbier. It was a nice wheat beer, with just a touch of roasted malt without much banana ester.
And I leave you with a picture of the bar and brewery. This is a great little brewpub and I recommend you take the tram ride out there if you have time.
The "First Beer Tramway" I think is my favorite Prague pub. At the very end of tram line 11, it is a small building literally as part of the loop where trams turn around. The chair and benches are made from old tram benches and there is transportation memorabilia all around. They even have turned an old tram into a room. It clearly is a locals place but has some good beer as well. I don't have any pictures of the inside (other than the one below of our beers) because it just didn't seem like the kind of place where that was done.
They have four taps, with three regular beers a rotating tap, the regulars are Pilsener Urquell, Primator Weizen and Pardal, a low cost "off brand" beer brewed by Budejovicky Budvar that was described by Evan Rail (author of the Good Beer Guide to Prague) as "smells like bear urine and tastes not much better." We started off with Tap 4 (as they call it) which was the Opat 12 from Pivovar Broumov near the Polish boarder, and a Pilsner Urquell.
The Opat (means "Abbot" ) was very malty and slighly sweet in the finish, but in a good way. It was a beer I would definately order again. The Pilsener Urquell was very clean as you'd expect, but much thinner in the finish than I liked. Its been 19 years since I was last in Prague and my beer tastes have improved (and probably physically degraded somewhat because of age) but I remember a big malty and hoppy finish, which I haven't found here. Progress, I guess.
I had a glass of the Primator Weizen while my dad tried to order the Opat 12 but instead got another Pilsener Urquell. While we were enjoying that, some people came in with glasses of the Pardal. Luckily, what little Czech I have is not up the question "May I please smell your beer?" so I didn't ask and therefore probably avoided a fight (which I would have lost). So confirmation of bear urine aroma will have to wait. Actually, I'm not an expert on bear urine, so even if a fight didn't occur, the results would not have been conclusive. But Evan assured me he is an expert on bear urine (aroma at least) so at this point I'll just have to take his word.
We started off our day with visits to two brewpubs, Novomestsky Pivovar and Pivovarsky Dum.
Novomestsky Pivovar ("New Town Brewery") is the oldest "modern" brewpub in Prague, founded in 1993. U Fleku is of course a bit older, founded in 1499, which is why the qualifier.
It takes up the ground floor of a large old building, so it has lots of rooms, nooks and crannies. You walk down a long hallway with shops on either side until you reach the entrance.
They have the traditional two beers, svetly and tmave (pale and dark). The svetly was unfiltered and very nice -- with just a enough hops to balance the almost bready sweetness of a beer not completely fermented out. The tmave I didn't like as much -- it had a funny bitterness that wasn't from hops or black malt. The beer was OK until the finish. We still emptied the glass, so it couldn't have been too bad. We had another svetly with our bowls of soup.
The next stop was Pivovarsky Dum, the parent of Pivorvarsky Klub where we had dinner on Sunday night. They had an amazing 9 beers on draft (one on a beer engine) and we were a bit worried until we saw they had a beer sampler. You got eight small glasses (.1 L) for about $6
The beers, from left to right: Nettle beer (the green one), Banana, Weizen, Coffee, Sour Black Cherry, Svetly, Tmave and a seasonal beer, Maerzen (it is March, after all). I would gather the others are all regular, but I forgot to ask.
The Banana and Sour Cherry Beers had big fruit aromas and some fruit flavor but not that good. The .1 L glass was too much. The Weizen was typical, well made with not too much banana and lots of clove. The Coffee beer we had had Pivovarsky Klub -- it was really roasty but not a lot of coffee flavor came thru. Very drinkable, though. The Svelty was nice -- not as good as Novamestsky but decent. The Tmave was better than at Novamestsky -- not to sweet in the finish with enough dark malt flavor to know it was a dark beer. The Maerzen was not as malty as I like those to be, I would describe it just as a typical amber lager.
The Nettle Beer was very interesting. I liked it a lot, but is one of those beers where a pint is more than enough. I couldn't tell if there where any hops in there or only the Nettles were used for bitterness. This beer alone makes this brewery worth a stop.
The only beer not on the sampler was the stout, and in the interests of completeness, we had one. It was served from the beer engine and had a great big head. It was hoppier than the other Czech stout we had tasted. I thought it was a little light in the roasted barley department, but quite nice.
I'll finish off with a gratuitous shot of the brewery...
Our first stop was to be a cafe, Duende, that is supposed to have the best draft Bernard in town. But when we got there, it not only was closed but looked like it had been closed for years. We learned later that it always looks like that so we'll have to give it try another day.
Not to far is U Medvidku (I have to apologize here to the language purists -- I haven't learned how to do the Czech diacritical marks yet -- the "i" should have an accent and the "u" a small circle over it) which is both a house pub for Budejovicky Budvar (a/k/a Czechvar) and a brewpub. They have both the pale and dark lagers on tap (svetly lezak and tmavy lezak, respectively), both 12° beers (i.e. starting gravity of 1048)
Now this was more like it, what I expected a Czech lager to taste like. The pale had some nice bitterness up front and a nice clean, dry finish. The dark had just a hit of chocolate and was also clean in the finish. We ended up having a second pale to go with a nice bowl of potato soup.
The main room is long and somewhat narrow and wouldn't be out of place in Germany..
Behind this room is another, equally as long. Behind that is yet another, this with arched ceilings, as if it was a beer cellar. Behind that is a set of stairs that lead up to the brewery. If you didn't know it was there, I doubt you would find it. There were discrete signs on the walls and one obvious one on the floor...
As you went up the stairs you passed a little shop selling glasses, t-shirts and other items labeled with either Budvar or U Medvidku. At the top was another long room with the brewery on one side...
At first we thought we were lucky and they were brewing, but it was just post brewing cleanup, being done by the young assistant. The system brews about 250 liters per batch, which is quite small for a commercial brewery. They have two regular beers, Oldgott, and amber lager that is just over 5% alcohol and X-Beer 33, a 12.6% monster that has a starting gravity of 33° (1132!).
The Oldgott was very interesting, it had an almost spicy finish, which sounds out of place in a Czech lager, but it was still clean and refreshing we ended up drinking a lot of these! The X-Beer 33 was, not surprisingly, very sweet but very drinkable. The alcohol was present but I would not have guessed 12.6%
We will be making a return trip to U Medvidku, not just because of the beers we had, but they have another bar (which doesn't open until later) that has 5 varieties of Budvar, including the famous 10° pale lager and a "yeast beer" or krausened lager.
This evening we'll visit Pivovarsky Club, a brewery, beer cafe and bottle shop that has 6 regional beers on draft.
Near our hotel is the restaurant Kolkovna, which was recommended as having good food and unpasteurized Pilsener Urquell.
They obviously catered to tourists as we were given English menus without even asking. But I did hear Czech spoke at adjacent tables so it wasn't all tourists.
The beers came quickly. By this time we had been up for 36 hours or so and our palates were pretty well shot. Again, the beer wasn't as clean in the finish as the P.U. I've had in the US. But I am suspecting that is me not the beer. So we'll have to try again tomorrow.
After a nice appetizer of pickled herring and salmon and a dinner of Goulash I decide to have a Kozel for dessert.
When I've had this beer before it was very sweet and this one was the same. Its not a beer that I would want to drink a lot of, but one was OK just to say I've had it. The brewery is a large brewery that is owned by SABMiller (who also owns Pilsenser Urquell) so you often see the two together.
It's Budweiser Bürgerbräu -- a/k/a Samson. We were out walking around and came across Taverna Patriot with a big Budweiser Bürgerbräu sign so we went in.
As is common for a true Czech pour, it took a while for our beers to come. The first impression was that it was not as clean in the finish as we expected. There was nothing wrong, just not that bitter clean finish that is the Czech "Pale Lager" trademark. But the beers was good and was soon gone.
The only other draft beer on the menu was Pilsener Urquell and we figured we'd have lot a chances for that. We noticed a couple at the other table had a darkish beer and the bar maid had brought it from a tap so we figure maybe there was another beer but just not on the menu. We said we'd like one of those. It turns out it was a "half and half" -- half draft Budweiser and half bottled Samson dark. There was enough interest there we asked if we could have a taste of the dark by it self. The answer was no, but she would sell us a "half and half" with only the dark half. So we had one. If I had had this in Germany I would have said it was a very nice Dunkel. A bit cleaner that the U Fleku.
The Taverna Patriot itself was a friendly little pub and I would definitely recommend it.
It is too early to check in to our room so we hopped a number 14 tram and went to U Fleku.
We must have looked German because as we walked in the waiter asked "Zwei Bier?" After he brought us our beers another waiter came by and tried to sell us a shot of Czech schnapps. He was very persistent. This is a scam that U Fleku (and other restaurants) do to tourists. You are offered the schnapps on a tray and it looks like it might be for free, but it isn't and can be expensive. So just say no.
As for the beer, it was good but not outstanding. There was a little bit of dryness in the finish that was just on the edge of astringency -- not there but almost. The version I've drunk in Dusseldorf was better -- but the rumor is that was is contract brewed somewhere. As for the pub itself, it was very nice -- reminds me a bit of Schlenkerla in Bamberg in a way.
There was a little excitement -- when I tried to check in online yesterday, Delta told me I couldn't because I had to show my visa to the desk agent. Well, you don't need a visa to visit the Czech Republic as a tourist for 90 days or less. So I was a little concerned but all went well. The Delta lounge even has some decent beer, but 7am is a little early for even me.
Update: Met my father at the Atlanta Airport and all is on time and looks good. Plus the Delta Lounge has Sweetwater 420 -- probably the best "everyday" beer brewed in Atlanta.
Watch this space starting Saturday (with a few "in transit" posts of Friday) as I make a quick trip (5 days) to Prague with my father, Paul.
An old joke that those of you who've drunk beer with me may have heard too many times...
I've never been to the Czech Republic, but I had a good time when I was last in Prague...
For those of you scratching your heads, its a "trick question" -- when my Dad and were in Prague in early 1990 it was still the ČSSR or Československá socialistická republika. Václav Havel had been President for about a month. The Velvet Revolution was well underway (or complete, depending on your definition) but the country was still basically communist in its operation -- you had to stand in about 5 lines to buy anything, for example. A couple of months after we were there the name of country was changed to the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic (ČSFR) and in mid 1990 the first free elections were held.
In any case, it will be good to get back and see how everything has changed!