The Czech Republic has been brewing beer for over a millennium. As far back as the year 933, monks at Břevnov Monastery in Prague were crafting home-brewed beer by hand and the Czech brewing industry is still going strong to this day. With countless numbers of breweries across the country, we tour six of the best, visiting popular brands such as Staropramen and Velkopopovický Kozel, as well as micro-breweries like Pivovar Matuška, to discover what makes Czech beer so special.
Pilsner Urquell Brewery in Pilsen has been brewing beer since 1842. It’s the birthplace of Pilsner pale lager, a distinctive lager that combines the sweet caramel flavouring of malt with the bitterness of local Czech Saaz hops to produce a unique yet subtle taste. Brewery tours offer visitors the chance to learn about historical brewing methods and sample some of Pilsner’s best brews, including Pilsner Urquell, the world’s first blond lager.
Budweiser Budvar Brewery in České Budějovice produces some of the most widely exported beers in the country. Its most famous brand, Budweiser Budvar (not to be confused with the American Budweiser), takes a staggering 102 days to produce, which is around seven times longer than average, and uses locally grown Saaz hops and Moravian barley to create its much-loved taste. With six types of beer to sample, it’s worth making the two-hour journey from Prague for a tour and tasting.
If strong, dark beer gets your taste buds going, look no further than Velkopopovický Kozel. The brewery, which is named after the Czech word for goat (“Kozel”), prides itself on its distinctive flavours and traditional heritage. Operating since 1874 from the Bohemian village of Velké Popovice, just outside of Prague, Velkopopovický Kozel invites visitors to tour the brewery, discover its craft, sample beers and meet their mascot, Olda the billy goat – the emblem that appears on every beer bottle.
You don’t need to leave the capital to discover Czech beers. Staropramen, meaning old spring, is the second-largest brewery in Prague and has been producing beer since the late 19th century. Located just across the river from Corinthia Hotel Prague, the visitors centre offers a captivating interactive insight into the Czech beer brewing industry. Just as the Heineken factory is a must-see in Amsterdam, Staropramen should be high on the bucket list of beer enthusiasts travelling to Prague.
Once you’ve sampled the big names, the next step should be discovering Czech craft beers, of which there are hundreds of varieties. Pivovar Matuška is one of the most highly regarded. Established in 2003, the brewery specialises in full-bodied, unfiltered, unpasteurised craft beers. With an alcohol quantity ranging from 12 to 17 per cent, they’re not for the faint hearted, but they’re worth seeking out at pubs across the capital for their distinctive flavours.