This year I decided that for Christmas, I’d surprise Ross with a weekend away somewhere – and that somewhere I picked was Prague. It’s somewhere I’d wanted to go for a while and I thought it’d probably have a decent amount of pubs and bars for us to visit, so I booked us a trip for the start of January. Prior to visiting, my only experience of Czech beer was mainly limited to not-too-exciting pilsners. Once I’d told Ross about the trip, we started researching and looking for some places serving craft beer in Prague and came across a fair few so we’d already had an idea where we wanted to go before we arrived. Here’s how we spent a weekend in Prague.
After a pretty annoying flight (it was delayed), we arrived in Prague quite late on the Friday night so decided to splash out and get a taxi to our hotel to make the most of our time. I’d booked us in at the King Charles Boutique Hotel, on the outskirts of central Prague close to Vysehrad as I wanted to make sure we were nowhere near any stag dos/groups of lads by being slightly further out. After checking in, we strolled through the ice (it must’ve snowed a few days previously) to Zly Casy, which was about a 20 minute walk away. It was probably about 11pm when we arrived and it was fairly busy.
We went to a bar on the ground floor but were told to go down to the basement – there was a sign up, it could possibly have suggested that area was reserved for a private party but I speak absolutely no Czech so it could’ve said anything! The downstairs area was quite busy (all Czechs, we were the only foreigners in there) and it was a cosy little spot with half brick/half wooden panelled walls and wooden furniture.
We went straight to the bar and were met with a fairly large selection of draught beer and as the majority was Czech we didn’t really have any idea what we were ordering or even how to, but the chap behind the bar gave us a printed draught menu so we could do the cliché English thing of pointing at what we wanted.
Breweries on offer included Pivovar Matuska, Brevnovsky and Pivovar Protivin – and everything was an absolute bargain. Brevnovsky is a monastery on the other side of Prague that brews beer and I was so impressed with the two from them I tried – the IPA and the Imperial Stout. Both were thick and flavoursome. Although the venue was open until 1am, they stopped serving at 12.30pm but you could buy bottles to take away. The bottled selection did seem dominated by UK, Belgium and German beers and I went away merrily with a bottle of Mikkeller’s Brewdog collab I Hardcore You to drink back at the hotel before bed.
With limited time in the city, Saturday was really our main drinking day. After breakfast, we wandered up to the Castle and explored the complex a bit – including climbing up the tower of St Vitus Cathedral which provided fantastic views across the city. We then headed over to the nearby Strahov Monastery and after climbing the hill to reach it, we were ready for some beer! The hilltop monastery has various sections but we were most interested in the brewery (Klasterni Pivovar Strahov, or Strahov Monastic Brewery in English). At the front, we spotted something which said it was a restaurant serving monastery beer but on closer inspection we realised it wasn’t actually the place we were looking for – a warning for any other visitors! We kept walking on and luckily some signs and a van pointed us in the right direction.
A small courtyard led the way to the brewery tap room and restaurant opposite. We entered the brewery and were met with a copper bar and brewery equipment as well as a limited number of tables.
We’d timed it right as a group were just leaving as we arrived, so we managed to get ourselves a seat. On draught they had four of their own options – a light lager, a dark lager, an IPA and a seasonal special which was at this time a bock. Between us we sampled all of them and combined it with a bowl of beer soup – which was absolutely delicious. The service was very efficient with the waiter coming to ask if you wanted another drink very promptly, and it was an enjoyable spot for lunch.
On our way back down, Ross spotted another beery place to try so we popped in. Velka looked like a beer hall as it was a huge space with long benches, but it did seem to be more focused on food than drink. On draught, they had the usual pilsners and lagers with one rotating option from a local brewery. During our visit it was Tmave by Pivovar Matusa, a Schwarzbier which was pleasant but as it felt more like a restaurant, we only stayed for the one.
After a touristy stroll across Charles Bridge, we hopped on the metro and went to find BeerGeek. This was on our list as somewhere we definitely wanted to visit and we weren’t disappointed.
Located in a basement, it’s a large and modern bar with the focus firmly on craft beer. Although there was a fair few Czech beers, there were also many from Poland, Germany and Belgium as well as Brewdog and, in what seemed an odd choice, Shepherd Neame.
As it had only just opened for the afternoon, we were the first customers which allowed us plenty of time to make our beer choices. We ordered at the bar, but there was also table service available. We stayed for a few before heading back to the hotel before dinner.
Our evening meal was at Estrella, an upmarket vegetarian restaurant that was absolutely fantastic. Although they had beer options, we decided to go for soft drinks to pace ourselves a bit ahead of the evening. Our next beer was at 20 PIP Craft Pub which was fairly close by and had 21 beers on draught.
The majority were from Czech breweries which was good to see and they also had Schnider Weiss and, again, Shepherd Neame’s Double Stout. I’ve never tried it, but after tasting Bishop’s Finger I don’t think I ever would, so I’m not sure why it appeared in two craft beer bars in Prague.
We each had two (I went for Falkenstejn RAPL which I didn’t like and swapped with Ross’ Visnovy Lezak by Kocour, followed by Ale by Lobec) before deciding that we really liked BeerGeek and wanted to return. At this time, it was much busier than earlier on in the day but we just managed to grab a seat as a group were leaving. I started with Art White IPA by Polish brewery Stu Mostow followed by an IPA by what appeared to be their inhouse brewery Beerlab named Episode IV: Dry Hope and ended with the 10.2% WRCLW Rye RIS (a Russian Imperial Stout) also by Stu Mostow. But before leaving we also decided to treat ourselves to a bottle. As we were flying hand luggage only, there was no opportunity to buy anything to take home but we did get Pivovar Matuska’s Cerna Raketa, a black IPA, which we then shared back at the hotel.
For our final day, we started off spending some time exploring the Old Town in the morning and visited the Museum of Communism before heading over for some relaxation at Spa Beerland.
I’d booked in advance and on arrival we were greeted and shown down to the basement of the building where the spa facilities were located. It was a cosy, bricked room – it did feel like we’d been transported from a retail building in central Prague to the inside of a castle somewhere in the Czech countryside. Inside the room, there were two beer baths (I’d only paid for us to share one), a straw bed and a fireplace. Two taps from Krusovice – pale and dark lager – were located in between the baths and while setting up, the assistant poured some into the tub along with some malts.
She explained we’d get 20 minutes in the bath before the bubbles went off and then we could spend the rest of the time lying on the bed drinking beer. Nice. It was a relaxing experience even though it felt very very touristy, and although the beer wasn’t my favourite, it was good to try it out.
After we’d finished, we headed off to Pivovarsky Dum which was a short stroll away. A microbrewery and restaurant, the first room you enter is dominated by brewery equipment and a large bar.
There were no tables free in this area, so we were shown to another room through the back which did feel more like a dining area. We’d originally only planned to nip in for a drink, but we entered up getting food too – probably prompted by the aromas coming from some of the other tables. Pivovarsky Dum brew eight types of beer in-house (seven year-round options and a changing monthly special) but, unlike anywhere else we visited in Prague, they offered a taster board with all of their beers on. It was a circular shape and included a guide to each beer as well as a suggested drinking order.
The eight beers we tasted included some standard options (lager, dark lager) along with some more experimental brews – in particular the bright green nettle beer! Although I enjoyed the experience, none of the beers really stood out for me – the coffee one in particular was a bit of a strange one as although it did have lots of coffee flavours, I felt it was too thin. But it was a great bar to visit and also as a non-meat eater, the food options were also good – and very very hearty!
On leaving, one thing I noticed was an award from CAMRA on the bar. Didn’t get chance to have a proper look at it, but I didn’t see any others in Prague – must be a special international award? A quick Google search doesn’t reveal anything so a mystery to me for now.
Our final calling point before heading to the airport was U Fleku. A large beer hall, and said to be Prague’s oldest brewing pub, I wasn’t sure about visiting as our guide book described it as being “very popular with busloads of tourists” which did put me off a bit (I know, I’m a tourist but I hate being around the large groups with massive cameras and selfie sticks etc). But we decided to at least pop in for one before we had to leave, and I’m glad we did. It’s a huge venue; you can spot it when you’re walking towards it from the large clock, and has eight halls and a garden.
We were shown to a some seats on the end of a large table in the first room and before long, we were each offered a beer by a chap carrying a tray of them. Much like our visit to Cologne last year, your beers are marked down on a piece of paper on your table and you pay the waiter at the end. There’s only one beer on offer, a very drinkable dark lager, and there are also waiters wandering around with trays of shots if you’re feeling that way inclined.
Despite U Fleku having a significant number of tourists, it did have a good atmosphere. At one point, a chap starting playing an accordion and the venue just looked so appealing with its lovely historic features that it was hard not to enjoy it. I guess some things are touristy for a reason!
Prague was a wonderful place to visit, and it was great to get a bit more of an insight into Czech beer. There’s some really exciting breweries – with Brevnovsky (Brevnovsky Klasterni Pivovar) being a real favourite – and some excellent venues. I also couldn’t believe just how little we spent. I did struggle with the currency conversions (I think £1=Kc 35) but everything was fantastic value. I sense a return visit to Prague will be in order, possible in the summer months so we can try some beer gardens!