So there I am in Prague wanting a beer and the only problem is where do I go. Ever since I first visited this city of cities in 2005, I have always had an extraordinary thirst for its pubs and bars. On that debut trip I drank wall to wall Pilsner Urquell, partly because the press trip I was on was hosted by the then brewery’s owners (SAB-Miller) and partly because I loved (and still do) the. beer. Times change (and how they do). Ever since a visit in 2010 when the writer Evan Rail introduced me to Zlý časy (for want of a better phrase, the pioneering craft beer bar of Prague), my Czech beer cup runneth over with all kinds of miracle brews (a good book btw, buy it if you haven’t).
During my latest visit the other week when I arrived during the sort of light snow storm that would bring London to a grinding halt, I drank trad pale and amber lagers, IPAs (naturally) and the odd DIPA, a bretted barrel-aged porter and a Baltic porter whose taste was suggestive of a strudel, and all of them from Czech breweries. So this is the problem that one is faced with on arriving in Prague, where to go.
Do you head to somewhere like Hostomická Nalévárna (another great introduction from Rail, who lives around the corner), a two-roomed pub with battered, distressed wooden furniture and surroundings, dominated at the back by a tv screen showing metal videos (that’s music, not a physics lesson) and odd winter sports, with three fantastic beers from Pivovar Hostomice (its 14˚ is a dark garnet/brown tmavý ležák with a caramel/toasty nose, and hints of gently baked pumpernickel on the palate alongside a pleasing bittersweetness).
Or do you take the metro to somewhere like Beer Geek, where images of the icons of craft and European beer (BrewDog, Matuška, Gouden Carolus) dot the spare minimalist walls, and its mainly young clientele of expats and cool local kids take their time to pick beers from a list on a digital screen. Yes, this is a craft beer bar, but I rather like it. I certainly swooned over Bad Flash’s Barrel Aged Brett Porter, a deep and harmonious beer in whose depths I could have drowned, while Grove Beer’s Strudel Near the Baltic Porter had mint suggestions on the nose, alongside the dark malts, while the palate was vanilla and coconut and chocolate and coffee, striking sparks in the dark Baltic sea.
So that’s the dilemma, which is easily solved. Make time to enjoy both sides of the Prague beer experience — first of all head for a local joint with lashings of gorgeous svetly lezák or tmavý ležák such as Hostomická Nalévárna or, on the other side of the river, Klášterní pivnice. And when you feel like following the craft beer trail then mosey over to Beer Geek or the newly opened, post-industrial vibed Dva Kohouti, which is in the up-and-coming Karlin district (itself a treat) and features oodles of Matuška beers. Easy, really.