Friday, January 15, 2010

A Bostonian's Beer Guide to Prague

Prauge, Czech Republic...New Year's Eve. Not really sure what I was expecting out of this trip, but I knew a few things about Prague: "cabarets" are in abundance (which in Prague boils down to a strip club); its damn cold even by New England standards; and the Pilsner rules. Well I didn't visit any cabaret's and the weather was unseasonably warm in the mid-40s, but I did get to try out Prague's beer scene, along with variety of pilsners and lagers.


View Prague Trip in a larger map

The map above highlights some of the popular beer bars and brewpubs that we tried to venture to, and in the end we were able to make it to U Zlateho Tygra, U Fleku, Pivovarsky Klub, Minipivovar U Medvídků, and Barego at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

Our first night we stayed around Old Town Square and went to some of the bars that border the square. Although touristy (and thus a bit more expensive), the views and atmosphere are great.


Krusovice
Prague Cathedral

On New Year's Eve we decided to make a journey around the city, starting in Old Town Square, strolled across the Charles Bridge, visited The Lennon Wall, and stopped in at a few of the bars. U Fleku, a traditional and popular Prague brewpub, was first on the list. U Fleku only serves one beer, a dark 5% lager, that is highly acclaimed and gets praise from beer drinkers around the world. While a lager, it is similar to a stout and has a bit of tartness to it. The beer does live up to the expectation, and was hands down the best beer I had while in Prague. U Fleku itself is a great bar with an awesome atmosphere; the 2-man band come around with tuba and accordion, and the goulash is delicious. If visiting Prague again, this would be my number one go to.

U Fleku, Prague

Our next stop after U Fleku was another brewpub, Minipivovar U Medvídků. While the atmosphere didn't match U Fleku, Medvídků has a variety of house beers, including a 12% strong ale - X33. Strong and sweet, this beer had a dominating presence of molasses and fairly thick mouthfeel. However, for a 12% beer the drinkability was definitely there and would easily go back for more; it actually reminded me of Double Arrogant Bastard.

Minipivovar U Medvídků X33

Minipivovar U Medvídků had a few other beers, including two smaller lagers, both which appeared to be unfiltered and had a very malty backbone. Interesting and worth at least a small serving.

Before heading back to our hotel to get ready for New Year's Eve celebrations, we stopped in for a beer at U Zlateho Tygra, which (I believe) translates to "At the Golden Tiger". The only beer served was Pilsner Urquell in large mugs, but everything is done quickly and it's clear the motive of this place is to drink your beer. There weren't any open tables and it looked like only locals were standing around the bar conversing with the man in charge, so we ordered our beers and stood off to the side. A very different(and smoky) experience, but a memorable one at that.

New Year's Day was a slow start, but by noon we had made it out of the hotel and wandered over to Mala Strana, eventually settling down at the Mandarin Oriental hotel. The hotel itself is beautiful and built within an old monastery, with elements of the old buildings still intact. The hotel bar, Barego, had an impressive Czech craft beer menu. Prices were reasonable given the variety and serving sizes.

Czech Beers at Barego

While I was looking for information on beer bars in Prague, I actually came across a group that looked like it rented out the hotel's wine cellar for beer tastings. The beautiful cellar is located below the restaurant and is walled with exposed brick; it is probably one of the most unique and extravagant tasting rooms I've ever seen.

Wine Cellar and Tasting Room

All told, Prague was a great trip and definitely has a unique beer scene, dominated by a variety of pilsners and lagers. If you happen to make a trip, U Fleku and Minipivovar U Medvídků are the two brewpubs to visit, while U Zlateho Tygra and Barego have their own appealing settings and offerings. And if you do visit Prague, make sure you don't forget the true drinking essentials.

Classic Czech Beer and Absinth

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