Friday, 16 May 2008

Reflections on Prague

It's a nice city. Lovely architecture, grand old buildings in various states of repair, a river and a castle, though that is more of a palace and a very grand cathedral. It has a lot going for it. But what of the pubs and beer I hear you cry? Well I have already said that much of the beer drunk in Prague is ordinary. Not godawful Carling ordinary, but still fairly dreary mass produced lager. In each pint of Pilsner Urquell or Staropramen you just felt that the beers had had something taken out of them that should have been left there.

I liked most of the pubs. There is something about drinking in a brick cellar with vaulted ceilings that appeals to me. Perhaps, since generally there are no windows, it is the sense that you are separated from the rest of the world that I like. There are few distractions. It is the here and now that you have to enjoy. You can concentrate on the beer! In that respect the Pivovarsky Klub ticked all the boxes and in addition, it had six very different beers at all times. I liked the upstairs there too, with its bottle shop and a pleasant bar to sit at. U Fleku did not disappoint either, with its multi roomed interior and agreeable outside drinking area. Go there any time but the evening and it is excellent. I agree with Tyson when he says it is not particularly expensive compared to others around and there must be a lot of upkeep on such a grand place though the 0.4 measure is a cheap shot at the customers. Klášterní Pivovar Strahov wasn't cheap, but had a fine location above the castle and for me, the second best beer of the trip, more of which later. (Again here the nasty 0.4 trick is played on you.) U Medvídků had a very decent little bar and offered beer, tankovna Budvar was decent but not spectacular. We also tried nameless local bars which were cheap and dour in that particular East European way, but an experience well worth having with customers concentrating fixedly on the beer in front of them and of course their inevitable cigarette.

On the beer side, I found that the dark beers were much better. Pick of the bunch for me was Herold Tmavy Special which was bitter with treacle and liquorice roast flavours, full bodied with a clean bitter finish. A very good beer indeed, though it was pushed close by Strahov Dark 14° with its deep back colour, complex layers of bitterness and roast malt giving a firm body and a clean, hoppy, bitter finish. I liked Zvikouska 13° too, drunk at the Pivovarsky Klub, for its richness and dark cake fruit body with a hefty swish of alcohol at the end. An honourable mention must be given to the dark beer at the Richter Brewpub. I liked its slighly sour, lactic finish and the pub was pretty good too.

There were plenty disappointments. Much of the beer was vastly overcarbonated. I had really looked forward to Bernard Kvasnicové, but it was a watery let down. Generally speaking the kvasnicové (unfiltered) versions of beers were unhappy experiences for me. To me, despite Gazza waxing lyrical about it, the unfiltered beer from Kácov at U Klokočnika was far from being "divine nectar" but a foul, wort tasting, trub laden mess, though the pub was great and worth the long walk to it. Not a soul spoke a word of English and the food was good and cheap too, so all was not lost.

So a bit of a mixed bag like most beer places. Would I recommend it? Yes of course, but get there soon before any more of the existing breweries are lost.


Ron Pattinson said...

Nice to hear your experiences of Prague.

I'm surprised you liked the Bernard Kvasnicové so little. It was the best beer I had on the tour. According to my notes, at least. It could have been partly due to the moment. It was a beautiful day and I was so happy to be in Prague. But it really did hit a very sweet spot.

Never had the Strahov, but it sound like my sort of beer. I had a couple of wonderful dark lagers in brewpubs outside Prague.

You didn't go to U Rotundy, did you? It really is in my top ten pubs in the world. Don't believe me? I'll be posting a list soon of my favourites soon.

Tandleman said...

We did go to U Rotundy but it was packed and no seats, so we went elsewhere. We could have stood in the sort of entrance hall bit, but the womenfolk weren't up for that.

I had a good look round though and what I saw, I liked!

John B said...

More a question, really. Was the disappointment with Staropramen and Pilsner Urquell to do with changes in ingredients and lagering times since the multi-nationals took over?

Tandleman said...

John - I couldn't say really. The beers were just - well - ordinary. Not Fosters ordinary, way above that, but I think it was the over carbonation that was most striking.