Beyond Pilsner: Prague Pub Crawling

November 15, 2012 by

Europe, Food, Drink & Travel, Things to Do, Travel Advice & Inspiration

Thirsty travelers have long flocked to the Czech capital to drink the country’s most famous liquid export (beer, that is) as close to the source as possible. And with hundreds of pubs and bars to choose from across Prague, it can be a daunting task to get beyond the signs advertising ubiquitous brands like Pilsner Urquell and Staropramen.

Pivovarsky dum

Pivovarsky dum

Thankfully, gone are the days when only the biggest beer brands held their sway among Prague’s populace. A recent trend has seen a seemingly bottomless thirst for smaller brands from across the country, and there are now numerous pubs dotted around the Old Town where visitors can get a taste of microbrews and regional and specialty beers that show just how varied — and popular — the beer nation’s golden offerings are.

There are more than 20 microbreweries in Prague and a surge in pubs proffering “multi-taps” with rotating selections of fresh arrivals from Bohemia and Moravia and beyond. Here are 10 such places, accessible right in the heart of the city. Armed with a map and a full stomach, it’s an easy walk to check them out, starting near Old Town Square. Be warned, though, that many of the specialty beers are considerably more potent than the average svetlý ležák (light lager), so make sure to pace yourself and fill up on pub snacks, which, fittingly, Czech pubs provide with flair.

Read more: A Guide to Drinking Beer in Europe

Prague Beer Museum

Dlouhá 46, Prague 1

Pouring from an impressive line of 30 taps, the Prague Beer Museum has heavy, dark-wood tables and low lighting, and is peaceful in the sun-streamed afternoons and equally as raucous come sundown. Located across the street from the Roxy nightclub and music venue, it’s open from 3 p.m. till 3 a..m., which makes for a good start — or finish — to a beer-fueled adventure.

The list of beer changes regularly to ensure freshness, with beers from the Kocour, Matuška and Kout Na Šumave regional breweries being particular standouts. If spoiled for choice, a five-serving mini-sampler is available, for which prices vary according to each beer.

Pivovar U Trí ruží (At the Three Roses)

Three Roses

At the Three Roses

Husova 10, Prague 1

Crossing Old Town Square from Prague Beer Museum and entering the maze of cobbled alleyways beyond leads to At the Three Roses, which is one of the most recent additions to the local microbrewery scene. There’s been a brewery on this site as far back as the 15thcentury, and it blends a classic approach (think gleaming copper tanks and taps, lots of wood accents and whimsical, cartoonish murals) with vibrant, deep-bodied brews. There are six house beers to choose from, and the bottom-fermented polotmavý (semi-dark, or amber) is especially refreshing, made with four types of Czech malt and world-famous Žatec hops. Also a good bet for lunch or a few starters, such as hearty goulash soup, homemade duck rillettes or grilled sausages.

Vzorkovna

Bartolomejská 13, Prague 1

Vzorkovna defies classification: Too grungy to be a bar, too hipster to be a pub and a little too odd to be anything else. This makeshift hodgepodge of a “showroom” (as the name translates) is constantly a work in progress, with mismatched furniture moving around the room and a staff that sometimes swings from the rafters. Despite eluding definition, Vzorkovna knows quality beer, as it taps the sweet, countrified Únetické, brewed in a village just north of Prague.

The two unpasteurized, unfiltered varieties available here (the 10-degree and 12-degree, respectively) are both dreamy and fortifying, a sip of stability in an otherwise ever-changing establishment. Dogs and wandering musicians are especially welcome here.

Pivovar U Medvídku (At the Little Bears)

Na Perštýne 7, Prague 1

Just a few steps onward is At the Little Bears, a complex that houses a hotel, a restaurant and a microbrewery hidden past labyrinthine arched-ceilinged rooms. Dating to 1466, the old-world rooms are filled with long wooden tables, and the brewery’s main beer, Old Gott, is an unfiltered amber. For the truly brave, there’s also the X33 beer, which is ranked among the world’s strongest, weighing in at a hefty 12.6% alcohol content. The charm of the cellar atmosphere is matched by reliable Czech staple fare, such as plates of goulash or pork aplenty.

Jáma Steakhouse

Jama Steakhouse

Jama Steakhouse

Ostrovní 26, Prague 1

Ducking into the cobbled lanes of New Town just past the transit hub of Národní trída, the sister restaurant to longtime expat hangout Jáma the Hollow, Jáma Steakhouse features the same rock ’n’ roll American bar feel, with a menu of steaks, nachos and burgers as well as beers from the Lobkowicz group of local breweries, which includes the Cerná Hora range, as well as the refreshing 10-degree Princ Max X from Vysoký Chlumec. High tables and arched, brick-lined ceilings covered in music posters make this a laid-back stop.

Kavárna Velryba

Opatovická 24, Prague 1

A few doors down, “The Whale” presents a Bohemian take on a Parisian students’ café, equally as enjoyable in daytime or nighttime, when the coffees are passed over in favor of glasses of wine or the regional brews from Žatec, home to the well-known hops. Cool prints line the walls and a giant mirror behind reflects the marble-top café tables.

Both the 10-degree and 12-degree are on tap here; the latter, a kvasnicový (yeast) beer, is a deceptively light and fruity pale sipper of a lager. In the back room, there are overstuffed couches and mismatched antique furniture, as well as a small gallery with rotating exhibitions. The menu includes quite a few vegetarian, if otherwise forgettable, items.

Pivovar U Fleku

Pivovar U Fleku

Pivovar U Fleku

Kremencova 11, Prague 1

This maze of a brewery is the longest continually functioning brewery in Central Europe, in operation for more than 500 years. While the museum and boisterous beer hall on the premises are slightly gimmicky, it’s worth braving the crowds to taste U Fleku’s one beer, a rich, chocolatey dark lager. Accordion players serenade the jostling patrons seated at long tables, and servers will try to hawk food and shots of Becherovka (a local herbal liquor) to you, so make sure to stay on task. For warmer months, there’s a sprawling beer garden hidden out back.

Novomestský Pivovar

Vodickova 20, Prague 1

The New Town Brewery is quite kitschy, but not necessarily in a bad way. Hordes of Russian tour groups and plastic plants are stuffed into the corners of the vast rooms here, lined with equal parts wooden trim and 70s-style mirroring. The food and drink are worth it, though, with a choice of the brewery’s own light and dark lagers, made unfiltered and free of preservatives. If considerably hungry, tuck into a gargantuan pork knee, which is definitely big enough to share, and served with bread, horseradish and mustard – a fitting complement to the beer.

Pivovarský dum

Pivovarsky dum taps

Pivovarsky dum taps

Jecna/Lipová 15, Prague 2

Known for its adventurous takes on flavored beers, such as cherry, chili, coffee or nettle, Pivovarský dum has been a mainstay for interesting brews produced right on the premise since it opened in 1998. The pale lager, dark lager and wheat lager are all equally as palatable, and many of the specialty beers are available in tasting sets. Set on a busy corner in New Town, this pub-cum-restaurant (although the beers far outshine the fare) has floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the street, and the large copper tanks take a place of honor in the room, set off by checkered tiles in the background. It’s best to book ahead here, if possible, as it is full to capacity most nights.

Kulový blesk

Sokolská 13, Prague 2

Named after a Czech comedy film Ball Lightning, this multi-tap pub has a rotating selection of regional beers that changes daily in 27 taps, so there’s always something fresh and for every taste. Despite being located on a busy intersection, it’s a homey cellar space crammed with tables and bric-a-brac, with a nice sheltered garden for summer that’s shielded from the noisy traffic.

There’s also a decent food menu, with satisfying snacks like pickled hermelín cheese and homemade grilled sausages that go down easily with a pint. From here, it’s a short hop to the I.P. Pavlova transit hub, where the metro red (C) line and both day and night trams ensure a smooth journey back to your home base.

Photos courtesy of Fiona Gaze.

Read more: Sipping History in Prague: Top 5 Drinks

- Fiona Gaze

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