Prague

Prague’s good for beer. The Czech Republic has a long history of beer and even though much of it is bog standard lager, scratch beneath the surface and there are some really really good beers to found. Tourism has had a big part to play in all of this, and it’s helped develop some really good breweries and beery places, but it’s also chucked out a load of rubbish.

A colleague once asked me about Prague and it’s beer and I told him “Stay away from the main square. Go even one street away and if you see Czechs, you’re not going to be far wrong”. When he came back, he grumbled at how much he’d paid for bottles of Corona from ‘English bars’ on the main square.

So – where was visited on this trip?

Pivovarská Restaurace Berounský Medvěd

Tyršova 135, 266 01 Beroun, Czech Republic
Mon 09-20; Tue-Thu 09-22; Fri, Sat 09-23; Sun 10-20.

Ever been to a pub in a scrap yard? How about a brewery? No? Well visit Prague and get yourself off to Beroun (40 mins from Prague by train). Leave the station, turn left and after two minutes you’ll be in a scrap yard. Pass the Tatra and Škoda lorries, keep going past the tank and you’ll find this small restaurant, bar and brewery. They even have a hotel on site too!

Step from the train and into the station still ensconced in the Communist era and head left, walking by the railway lines into the scrap yard.

Many a beer afternoon has been spent here sampling the two beers – Světlý ležák 11° and Tmavý speciál 13°. Also available were some new ones – Cyklopivo světlý 8° and Polotmavý speciál Grizzly 18°. They also had a couple of beers from other breweries – Podkovan 10 Kvasnikove and Klepacek Polotmave 14. The rather excellent and very cheap lunchtime food (CZK69!) was also sampled

It’s one of the standards for Prague beer – well worth a visit.

 

Zlý Časy

Čestmírova 390/5 140 00 Prague 4-Nusle, Czech Republic
Mon-Thu 11-23:30; Fri 11-01; Sat 17-01; Sun 17-23
Tram: Line 11, 18; stop Náměstí Bratří Synků (on the way to or from První Pivní Tramway)

Well – Zlý Časy. They stopped selling Big Brand beers something like four years ago, and now have 24 beers on tap along with more bottles (Czech, German, English, Scottish, Belgian…_ that you could shake a stick at. The range of beers is displayed on information cards across the top of the bar as well as a menu (tick list) presented to your table. Of course, it’s table service which at times can be a tad slow, but that’s usually because the bar’s full. Oh yeah – if you want to be guaranteed somewhere to sit, arrive early!

As far as beer selection goes, Zlý Časy is easy the best bar in Prague. Prices are very reasonable (much better than other establishments with a ‘decent range’ in the area) and is just generally a decent place to spend a few hours in an evening.

 

Hotel V Pivovaře Davle

Davle, K Pivovaru 1, 252 06 Praha západ
Mon-Thu 10:30-22; Fri 10:30-11; Sat 10:30-11; Sun 10:30-22
Railway station: Davle

I’ve been through Davle a few times, and even spent about half an hour there last year. I’d noticed the building but there was no sign of a brewery. A few months ago however, the building was transformed into a hotel, brewery and restaurant. Excellent! [Update: the beer is brewed elsewhere]

Leaving the station and crossing the Davelský Bridge, which was used as the bridge in the film ‘The Bridge at Remagen’ and turn left and the imposing building is just in front. Everywhere seemed pretty dead in the town when we arrived, but fortunately there was a chap serving beer. They seem to do a range of seven beers, but only the only one available on draught was the sedmnáctke – a 17° golden beer. It was rather good. The other beers were all available, but only in 1.5l bottles – perhaps a bit much when we only had 40 minutes between trains.

The beer has a small terrace overlooking the river which in summer months, I would imagine is most pleasant. The area is popular with walkers and in summer, there is a steam train service.

 

Pivovarský klub

Křižíkova 17°, Praha 8, Karlín
Mon-Sun 11:30-23:30
Metro: Line B, C; stop Florenc

Pivovarský dům is the oldest of the new wave of brew pubs and is incredibly popular with tourists. Pivovarský klub is it’s younger brother, concentrates more on beer than food (even though the former actually brews the beer) and is definitely less touristy.

With up to six draught beers to choose from and over 200 bottles, it’s probably the best stocked bar in the centre. They usually have one or two beers brewed at Pivovarský dům, but the rest are from small breweries across the country. As can be expected, the food is rather good too.

 

Havelská Koruna

Havelská 501/23, 110 00 Praha 1-Staré Město
Mon-Sun 11-18
Tram: Národní třída

Havelská Koruna is not strictly a beery place, (they only sell Gambrinus and Pilsner Urquell). It is however a classic old fashioned Czech restaurant – my favourite since the one on Na poříčí was sold and turned into a Starbucks.

As you enter, you’re given a slip of paper that is imprinted with a stern warning of the threat of a 500CZK fine if you lose it!

Once you’ve overcome the shock of the threat of losing the piece of paper, you approach the array of serveries. At the hot food one, you have the choice of reading the menu on the wall in Czech or pointing to what you want, except that you can’t point to what you want as everything is covered with metal lids. Even though the style of restaurant is a bit of a throwback to the ‘olden days’, the staff now do have a smattering of English, although I was able to order the old favourite of ‘vepřo-knedlo-zelo’ (roast port, dumplings and sauerkraut), a beer and retire to the table. Everything you order is marked by number on the piece of paper which is then presented to the cashier on the way out.

If you’re in the centre of Prague and want good, homestyle cooking at a most agreeable price, go here.

První Pivní Tramway

Na Chodovci 1a, 140 00 Prague 4 – Záběhlice
Mon – Sun 14-00?
Tram 11; stop Spořilov (on the way to or from Zlý Časy)

Get off the tram at the terminus and immediately in front of you is a building. This is První Pivní Tramway. Walking time – about 2 steps.

This place is crowded. Even with only a few people in it’s crowded, but this gives you a good chance to sit with the locals and have a chat, for this place is definitely off the tourist trail (hurrah!). It’s got six beers with two or three exciting ones, again with good food at exceedingly good prices. Only downside – a touch on the smoky side.

 

Prague Beer Museum

Dlouhá 720/46 110 00 Prague 5-Old Town, Czech Republic
Opening hours: not mention on the web anywhere, but seem to remember them open much later than anywhere else
Tram: Dlouhá třída

Well, I was looking forward to this place. They had quite good reviews when they opened, but that seems to be long gone. Yes, they do have 30 beers on tap, but takeaway the national blands and they have less than Zlý Časy. Prices are very expensive – probably 10-20CZK more per 30cl beer than most other places.

The staff are a bit useless too – the one serving us just seemed to want to sell us the most expensive one – 69CKZ for a 30cl – that’s dearer than the UK! They also had a beer on called ‘Good Bulldog’ but no one seemed to know who brewed it and I was also advised not to try the house beer. It was also very smoky. If you’re a tourist, fine – you’ll like it. If you want a decent beer, find somewhere else.

Trappistenfest, Niel

Having first heard about the Trappistenfest in Niel on Belgian Beer Board last year, a visit to the festival in the small town just outside Antwerp was definitely one to be done!

Fortunately, on the same weekend of the festival, the first Modeste Bierfestival was due to be held, so this would pack in a bit of ‘added value’ to the trip. More about the Modeste Bierfestival here.

Trains to Niel don’t run on a weekend, so last Sunday, we took the bus from Antwerp for the short walk to the ‘Kapel van de Jongenschiro’. Once again, the weather was unseasonably hot so we took a seat outside.

First beer up was Chimay Doree – part of the Chimay ‘family’ of beers but not available anywhere except Auberge de Poteaupré or inside the Scourmont Abbey if you happen to be a monk there! Definitely the hardest to get hold of beer on the list. There’s none currently on eBay and a website in the USA is asking $69!!! I ought to have got a few to take with me…

Next was the Petit Orval, again only available if you’re a monk or at the cafe next to the abbey. There’s none of this on eBay or any other site I could see.

Shortly following this was the new Mont des Cats beer. Mont des Cats is a Trappist abbey just over the border in France, but their beer is brewed at the Scourmont Abbey, along with Chimay. On one hand I’ve heard that they’ll be getting their Trappist accreditation in the next month or so. Another source says that for it to qualify, they must brew it themselves at their abbey. So, it’s brewed by Trappist monks at a Trappist abbey, the labels say ‘bière trappiste’, but it’s not an ‘Authentic Trappist Product’. Once again, it’s rather a good beer, but you won’t find it in shops near you as it’s only currently available in the Abbey shop and cafe. This may change soon though.

Even though I’d tried it before, it seemed a shame not to sample to Westmalle Extra. Again, only generally available at the abbey, this beer seems to be a bit more easily available than the others (at least one bar in Antwerpen seems to have it much of the time). It’s a light, golden beer, very easy drinking and at 4.8%, just right for a late summers’ (ish!) day.

So – the festival? Well run, in a most pleasant location, good table service and not too busy. The only downside is that it’s well out of the way! Looking forward to another visit in the near future…

Driving round Belgium looking for beer

Between October and April, P&O Ferries have a special price starting at £74 for a car + 2 people for the overnight sailing between Hull and Zeebrugge and return. As this gives a full day in Belgium, many beer places can be visited…

Drankencentraal Rotsaert, Zedelgem

Remi Claeysstraat 28, Zedelgem
Mon-Fri 9-12, 13-18; Sat 9-12, 13-17; Sun Closed
050 20 94 98

A well established beer warehouse in the area that I’d not visited before. With perhaps around 500 beers on offer (although there didn’t seem anywhere near that number in the warehouse), 50 or so of them were new for me. My excitement for being able to get a couple of crates of ‘winners’ soon waned when I saw that most of them were only available in 4 packs that they’d assembled themselves. Sorry Mr Rotsaert – that meant I bought less, not more.

Half an hour or so along the motorway is the tiny brewery of

Alvinne, Heule

 

Brewery and shop have relocated to Moen

Mellestraat 138, Heule
Open alternate Saturdays 10:30-16, or by appointment
0486 555314

Firstly, the opening hours may seem at first a bit sparse, but in reality, I’ve never found them closed! All it takes is a quick email to the address on their website or a message on Facebook and there’s someone there.

The brewery and beer shop are very easy to miss. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve screeched to a halt after I’ve gone past, only to reverse back to it!

Climbing into the upstairs part of the brewery reveals what is perhaps one of the regions best beer shops. They leave all the others in the area to stock the common (and not so common) beers – Alvinne stock the excellent and rare to find beers, not just from Belgium, but Denmark, Norway, Germany, France, USA and a few others as well as their own range of beers.

To be honest, their own range of beers are out of this world and range from the inky black (but not ‘burnt’) Balthazar to the hop fests of Gaspar and the Hoptrilogy range.

Give them a call and pop in – you won’t be disappointed.

Next on the list to visit were

Brasserie Vanuxeem

Rue d’Armentières 150, Ploegsteert
Mon-Sat 08-18:50; Sun closed
056 58 89 23

Firstly, Brasserie Vanuxeem is not a brewery – it’s a warehouse! It’s situated in an enclave of the Hainaut province. Even though it’s surrounded by Flemish speaking Belgium and the nearest part of Hainaut is miles away, this collection of 4 or 5 small towns speak French. The town name – Ploegsteert is a Flemish name, but don’t let that fool you. Speak Flemish and you’ll be treated like a weirdo.

Anyhow, Brasserie Vanuxeem have a house brand beer- ‘Queue de Charrue’. Until recently, they had 3 beers – Blonde (9%), Brune and Ambree. These were brewed by three different breweries (Van Steenberge, Verhaeghe-Vichte and Du Bocq respectively). Then, the Blonde was renamed ‘Triple’. More recently, in 2008, a new Blonde was launched at 6.6% and brewed by Du Bocq also. The three original beers came in 250ml bottles, but this new Blonde arrives in a 330ml bottle. Finally, the Ambree now is in a 330ml bottle with the new style label – I’m not sure if this is just part of their rebranding or if it’s brewed elsewhere. Phew!

To summarise –
Blonde 9% – brewed by Van Steenberge and now known as Triple in 250ml bottles
Brune – brewed by Verhaeghe-Vichte in 250ml bottles
Ambee – brewed by Du Bocq originally in 250ml bottles, but now in 330ml and probably still brewed by Du Bocq
Triple 6.6% – brewed by Du Bocq in 330ml bottles.

As well as this quartet, they have around 500 other beers to choose from, as well as spirits, wine, soft drinks and anything else you might want need to run a cafe in Belgium, ranging from cup a soups to little biscuity snacks. I’ve always enjoyed visiting but sadly now, most of their beers I’ve tried before. I’ll still keep going as prices are very competitive and the wife likes the Queue de Charrue Blonde. Or is it Triple?

Following a trip to the supermarket, we headed north along the motorway back in the direction of Zeebrugge and called in at …

Bierboom, Brugge

Langestraat 73, Brugge
Mon-Tue 10-19, Wed closed, Thu-Sat 10-19, Sun closed (although website says it’s open)
050 34 99 36

I’d heard a lot about this cafe / shop and to be honest, it’s interesting. There’s a good selection of beers – not the biggest but reasonable, and always a tick or two for me! You can take the bottles away or enjoy them with one or two Jupiler drinking locals at the rear of the shop for no extra charge! Probably the cheapest place in Brugge to drink beer.

Euro beer trip day 4 – Wuppertal / Koeln

9 Sep
Most of today was spent travelling from Prague, changing at Dresden, Lepzig and Hannover. After a quick look round Wuppertal, we headed for Köln. Köln’s main export (as far as beer is concerned!) is Kölsch.

Kölsch is a pale golden lager type beer with a bit of hoppiness and it’s all pretty much the same. I’m sure seasoned drinkers will be able to tell the difference between them and have their favourites, but they were all pretty similar to me. Generally, the beer is served in 200ml glasses known as ‘stange’ by be-apronned (is that a word?) Köbes. Depending on where you drink and how much of a local / how gullible you are, the Köbe will bring you another glass as soon as the one you’re drinking is empty.

Anyway – we did call at various bars serving Kölsch, namely

Brauhaus Sion
(Sion Kölsch)
Peters Brauhaus (Peter’s Kölsch)
Alter Markt Treff (Gilden Kölsch)
Kalisse (Suenner Kölsch)

Euro beer trip day 1 – Getting to Praha

I’d started my journey from Doncaster on Monday afternoon after grabbing a few hours nap as I’d just finished a stretch of night shifts. No time for beer in London as there’d been problems on the trains. In fact I’d only get 14 minutes from my train arriving at Kings Cross to the Eurostar leaving St Pancras. Easy!

There was time for a quick beer at Bruxelles Midi before joining the Thalys service to Köln. In no time at all I was in the land of German beer. Unfortunately, there was some kind of concert type thing going on around the cathedral so after having a Kölsch beer (see more about Kölsch here) in Früh am Dom and decided there wasn’t time to eat there, I headed back towards the station to try my luck in Gaffel am Dom. After pondering over the menu with one of the small 200ml glasses of Gaffel Kölsch, the waiter, sorry Stange advised me that I could get the half metre long sausage with potatoes and whatever within 10 minutes. This would give me ample time for eat it and get to the station to get the overnight train to Praha.

Time ticked by and still the food didn’t arrive. Two more beers later, it still hadn’t arrived and the place started to fill up very quickly as the concert by the Cathedral had finished. With not much time to spare, I left a €5 note to cover the bill (€4,80) and legged it! The people who by then were sharing my table will have had a bit of a shock when my grub finally arrived!

Anyhow, a currywürst mit pommes quickly became my tea, scoffed down before joining the overnight train to Praha.