Two clues as to where we were, beer wise: first, upon landing at the Prague airport in the early AM, we saw people in an airport breakfast cafes drinking beer. And coffee.
Second, we got lost: a common problem with the directionally challenged. We were looking for the home of Franz Kafka, and discovered the Prague Beer Spa, where you bathe in hand-made, thousand-liter, whirlpool oak tubs filled with the natural extracts used to brew Czech beer – selected varieties of hops, brewer’s yeast and malt. Bathing in beer is supposed to rejuvenate the skin. Also, there are Prague beer based shampoos and lotions, made by the Manfaktura Company. Good to know!
We also learned that the Czech Republic consumed the highest amount of beer – 143 liters ( 151 quarts) per person per year and a national total of 1.5 billion liters from 2013 to 2014, according to data from Euromonitor International. And that was three years ago. No stats yet as to updated numbers.
The fact is, in Prague, beer is everywhere: it seems to be in the Czech DNA, as it has been brewed in the area for about 1000 plus years. The reason behind this brewing intensity is the country’s soil, ideal for growing hops.
The first mention of Czech Republic beer was in 993 AD, when a Benedictine monastery (of all places) was built in Břevnov and started beer brewing there. How do we know? Because it was mentioned in the Foundation Charter for the church, dating from 1088.
Most Czech beers are light beers, brewed naturally from hand-picked hops. Increasingly, breweries are producing a dark ale as an alternative, but it has been said, more than once, that Czechs like their beer light, nicely chilled and with a tall head. When ordering a beer in a pub, it’s good ask for “male pivo” (small beer – 0.3 liters) or “pivo” (beer – 0.5 liters)
Arguably, the most famous draft beers in Prague are Pilsner Urquell (about 35 to 55 CZK), Staropramen (25 – 35 CZK) and Krusovice (25 – 35 CZK). $1.00 – $3.00 a glass. There are Beer Halls seemingly every few feet in Prague, and there is also a Prague Beer Museum, where you can see and sample hundreds of Czech beers. And, each time, try saying, Na Zdravi! meaning To Your Health!
Your pronunciation gets better with each beer you drink.
Our trip to Prague was part of the Viking River Cruise up the Elbe River, from Prague to Berlin.