Our main goal when traveling to the Czech Republic was to explore the Czech wine scene. We wanted to highlight that there’s more to traveling in the Czech Republic than drinking different types of beer and eating meat and potatoes. I think we proved that. But, it was still hard for us to take a week-long trip without drinking a little Czech Beer. Just a little. And, what better place to do that than the city that hosts the Prague Beer Museum and the Beer Spa Prague.
Each time we travel to Prague, though, we learn something new about the beer culture. In the Czech Republic, people take their beer very seriously. The tips below just scratch the surface of the information needed to travel to the Czech Republic for beer. It’s not meant for beer aficionados, just for people who like to seek the best beer.
What is a Pivovar?
Pivo is a beer. A pivovar is a Czech brewery. Generally, these are beer halls or restaurants that brew their own beer. An example is Pivovar Národní in Prague. We drank their unfiltered draft beer, along with beef tartare and an enormous pork knee in a lovely beer garden. It’s the perfect place to drink a pivo beer in Prague.
That’s the difference between a pivovar and a bar: there is always something to eat. Unlike in the US, there is no significant markup on beer in the Czech Republic. A Prague beer hall makes little money on the sale of beer, which is how the Czech beer price is kept so low. Instead, they make their money on food, or minimally, on beer snacks. So, be thankful that the price of beer in Prague is so low, but spend that extra change on some amazing Czech food!
What is Tank Beer Prague?
At it’s most simple, tank beer is draft, or draught beer, served from a tank. Most draft beer is delivered to a pub or bar in a barrel. It is usually pasteurized and has preservatives that help it last longer. A barrel or keg of beer can sit in the basement of a bar for quite some time without going bad. Tank beer is the complete opposite.
Similar to bia hoi, the famous fresh draft beer in Hanoi, which must be drunk in a day, tank beer is unpasteurized and has no preservatives. It must be drunk within a day or so, to be at its best. The reason why it’s called tank beer is that it is delivered to the pubs in temperature controlled trucks, more reminiscent of small oil tankers. It is then pumped into large metal tanks inside the pub.
This is my favorite way to drink beer in the Czech Republic, particularly at beer halls or a Prague beer house, like Lokal, with locations all over Prague. It’s a traditional style Czech beer hall, with tasty food, and is one of our must-visits while in Prague. It’s like visiting a Prague brewery, just one where the beer is made off-site.
One of the more interesting things at Lokal is the beer tab. When you sit down a piece of paper with a mess of beer mugs is placed in front of you. Every time they deliver beers to the table, they check off a mug. Just once I would love to make it through an entire sheet with a group of friends. But, that could get dangerous.
Filtered Versus Unfiltered Czech Beer
Here’s where the technical stuff comes in, but I’ll try to keep it simple. This is not an in-depth expose of Czech beer, it is merely a guide to help understand beer menus in the Czech Republic. Here is also where my wine knowledge comes in handy.
After wine is fermented, it’s a bit cloudy and can have a lot of sediment in it. After it is filtered, it becomes clear, like we are used to seeing in white, rose, and sparkling wines. Beer is similar. Recently, over the last few decades, people are used to seeing crisp and clear beers, think Budweiser. Currently, the trend is reversing, where craft brewers are leaving their craft beer unfiltered, to maintain taste.
In the Czech Republic, beer is often categorized as filtered (meaning more crisp and clear) or unfiltered (meaning cloudy, but more flavorful).
The Czech Beer Called Milk Beer
No, this is not a beer for children. During our Taste of Prague food tour, our host and guide, Jan, taught us something brand new: milk beer. One of Eric’s pet peeves about drinking Czech beer is the amount of foam. Eric is used to ordering a pint of beer and getting a full pint of liquid, with little head. In the Czech Republic, beer is served with a good amount of head. It’s also possible to order a beer with about 50 percent head (šnyt), or even around 90 percent head. These 90 percent head beers come out white and almost completely foamy, hence the name milk beer, or mleko.
Milk beer is often drunk at lunchtime, to limit consumption. Or, some people just like the flavor of the foam. It’s kind of liking drinking a beer cloud. I’m with Eric on this one, though. When I order a Czech beer, I want beer, not foam. But, it’s worth trying at least once.
Pilsner Urquell – The Original Czech Pilsner Beer
We’ve been on enough winery tours that we could probably open our own winery. I often find myself educating people on wine and champagne making skills. I recently found myself at a lunch overlooking a small patch of vines, explaining to my dining companion how it’s possible to tell approximately how old the vines are. I don’t think he was all that interested.
But, beer. Now, that’s a different story. Of course, we’ve toured the Guinness Brewery in Dublin. We took the regular tour about 15 years ago. More recently, we visited an Irish craft beer brewery in Dingle, Ireland. Although I enjoyed the Crean’s lager served at the Dingle Brewing Company, we didn’t really learn in much detail how the beer was made.
During our visit to the Pilsner Urquell Brewery, in Plzen, we learned a lot about the beer making process. The tour walked us through a museum of sorts that explained the manufacturing process and the history of Plzen town, and Pilsner Urquell, the most famous Czech beer. We also toured the bottling plant, although it was a cleaning day, so we saw very little bottling.
I now have a better idea of how they make Czech beer, but I would not consider myself a connoisseur by any means. I think I need a few more, in-depth Czech brewery tours, in order to understand the process better. Especially tours that end with tasting a pilsner beer directly from the barrel, in a historic underground cave.
After our tour of the brewery and learning about beer production, we ate at Jdelini Listek, a local restaurant named after a famous Czech cartoon. The food was good, and I was happy to indulge in a large platter of roasted duck, red cabbage, and dumplings, one of my favorite meals in the Czech Republic. There was also something about knocking back a pilsner, just down the road from where pilsner lager was invented.
Tours of the Pilsner Urquell Brewery cost about $9, with discounts offered by booking ahead of time online. Tour options and times are a little complicated, so definitely check the website.
Kozel Beer – The Goat Beer
For the most part, I drank two beers when in the Czech Republic: Pilsner Urquell, and Kozel. Kozel is one of the most popular Czech beers, and you can find it by looking for the goat. It might be entirely possible that I enjoy Kozel because of the goat, but it also is available almost everywhere, making it easy to find and easy to drink.
One of the surprising things about Kozel is that is available in several varieties, including a dark beer variety, which I actually enjoyed. Generally, if I’m not drinking Guinness, I like simple, clean, crisp beers. But the Kozel dark was nice, and a little sweet. Apparently, it’s very popular with the ladies. Although they call their strong dark beer a billy goat, goat is translated to kozel in Czech. How adorable is that?
One of the best places to drink Kozel in Prague is at Kozlovna U Paukerta, which not only has Kozel beer and a good food selection, but their logo includes two goats with giant beer bellies. How can you not want to hang out there?
Craft Beer in the Czech Republic
After a long day visiting Plzen, and touring the Pilsner Urquell brewery, there was part of me that just wanted to head back to the hotel for a nap. Instead, our itinerary had us visiting another brewery, on the way home to Prague. The train stopped in Beroun, seemingly in the middle of nowhere.
We kind of were in the middle of nowhere. As we walked through what seemed like a junkyard, with abandoned buildings, and rusting military tanks, I wondered whether Charlie had something sinister in mind. Growing up in the mobster region of New Jersey, we have a phrase “great place to dump a body.” And, this industrial yard, just steps from the railroad tracks was just that.
But, at the heart of the junkyard was Berounský medvěd, a traditional beer hall serving its own craft beer. Now, now, neither of us has ever been into craft beer, something we joke about often with our friends over at the Opportunistic Travelers. They’re craft beer people, teaching us about the nuances of fancy beer a little at a time. We are wine people, and we are teaching them about wine when we can.
When the barman at Berounsky Medved started to pour a tasting flight of beers, I was immediately relieved that we were about to share the six glasses among the three of us.
And, as much as we are not craft beer people, some of these were pretty good. It was a nice change from the Kozel and Pilsner Urquell. But, give me a goat beer any time, and I’m more than happy.
And, if you find yourself taking the train to Prague, and you pass through Beroun, stop in for a glass, or six.
Check out our Drinking Czech Beer video!
Looking For Unique Food, Beer and Wine Tours in the Czech Republic?
Looking for a unique way to learn about traditional Czech food in Prague, or farther afield in the rest of the country? What about an interesting Prague beer tour, or even a Czech wine tour? How about contemporary cuisine in Brno, or even some cool cocktail bars. Here are our recommendations for Czech food tours to learn more about Czech cuisine and traditions.
|Tour||Duration||City||Price From||Book It|
|Private Prague Bike Tour - Up to 15 People||1.5 Hours||Prague||$438|
|Bohemian Wine Tasting 4x4 Day Trip||7 Hours||Prague||$211|
|Prague Cooking Class & Market Tour||4 Hours||Prague||$157|
|Prague Food Tour With Local Foodies||4 Hours||Prague||$118|
|Mixology Bar Tour||3 Hours||Prague||$118|
|South Moravia Wine Trip From Brno||Flexible||Brno||$148|
|Pilsner Brewery Tour & Beer Tasting||5.5 Hours||Pilsen||$62|
*This post contains compensated links. Find more info in my DISCLAIMER.
Where to Stay in Prague
Heading to the Czech Republic?
Where to Stay in Prague: Get hotel recommendations here.
What to do in the Czech Republic: Drink Czech wine (yes, that’s a thing)
Find more Czech Republic posts here.
We were supported by Visit Czech Republic, South Moravia, and JayWay Travel, who offers customized tours of the Czech Republic and all of Central and Eastern Europe. Of course, all opinions, and yummy sounds are my own. While in Prague, we stayed at the lovely and contemporary Emblem Hotel, just steps from Old Town.
Pin It!! Prague Beer Guide