Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Part 3: Prague

At this rate, I'll have all my Germany thoughts done around the same time we leave for another vacation… I left off with us checking out a brewing museum in Kulmbach, heading east across the German border into the Czech Republic. I was getting low on gas but figured it'd be cheaper in the former eastern bloc and held out until we were out of Germany. Much to my surprise, gas was actually significantly more expensive. Instead of being about €1.30 per liter, it was €1.75. That's per liter, not gallon.

Another interesting note about crossing the border was the absolute lack of any formality in doing so. We simply drove across country lines – no checkpoints, no passport review, not even a sign stating "Welcome to the Czech Republic!" The only way to tell we were in another country was a sudden inability to pronounce the road signs.

We stopped in Plzen on our way in to get some lunch. Unfortunately, it was Sunday so most everything was closed. We tried to go to the Bernardus Inn, which features a bunch of Bernard beers. You can get a couple of those here in KC, notably the amber and dark lagers, and I recommend doing so (more on that in another post). They're not what you typically think of when someone says "Czech lager" and they're very good - balanced malt, light roast, and moderate noble hop bitterness.

Almost forgot to take
a picture!
We ate lunch at the Na Spilce restaurant on the grounds of the Pilsner Urquell brewery, starting off with the namesake, of course. I ordered head cheese & bread for lunch, and John got a flat sausage that was coated in red pepper & rolled up into sausage form. It wasn't pretty, but it sure tasted awesome. But as for the beer - it was bready, yeasty, almost slightly fruity in aroma. There was quite a bit of sulphur in the nose, indicating it wasn't lagered too awfully long before serving. The finish was balanced, with lingering hop bitterness and bready pils malt sweetness. I absolutely enjoyed it and wish we could get it that fresh here. Czechvar is a pretty good substitute, however (often on tap at Swagger, and usually available at Grunauer). We ordered a couple more beers and headed on our way to Prague.

Master 18, a sweet dark lager - essentially a Baltic Porter. Very caramelly with some dark chocolate bitterness. Heavy on the dried fruit (raisin, prune) with a sweet finish.

John's Dunkel

U Fleků
It took us another solid hour, plus a couple turns of swearing at the GPS unit, to get to our hotel in central Prague. Once we got there, we stashed our car in the parking lot for the duration of our stay and walked over to the famous U Fleků, which was founded in 1499. It's a big tourist attraction and, as a result, was very crowded; it took us a while to get a spot at a bench table. Unfortunately, it was so damn smoky in the place, we couldn't really enjoy or appreciate the beer. You could have told me it was a smoked dark lager and I would have believed you. There was enough sulphur in the aroma to get past the smoke, though, and also reminded me of a chocolate coffee candy. It actually had moderate body, something I wasn't expecting from what I figured would be a light, refreshing, but lightly roasty lager. We left after our one beer, though, narrowly escaping our demise by smoke suffocation. Interesting place, with a ton of history and opportunities for people-watching, but you can do that elsewhere in Prague without needing an oxygen tank. Yes, it really was that smoky.

U Fleků's dark lager, "Flekovsky Tmavy Lezák 13°"

Sampler tray at Pivovarsky Dum
After a bit of walking around and playing tourist, we headed over to Pivovarsky Dum, a brewery restaurant that makes a ton of different beers (not at all common), including a "beer champagne", aperitif, and even a Russian Imperial Stout! We both got samplers and took a bunch of notes. The sampler included the following beers: Light, Dark, Wheat, Saison, Banana, Sour Cherry, Nettle, and Coffee. My favorites were the dark lager & sour cherry, but the nettle was probably the most interesting. It was quite savory and reminded me of some sort of baked dish, like lasagna. The nettle added a good amount of bitterness, but made me feel like I was drinking wheatgrass. Points for novelty.

Nettle beer

And now, some non-beer pictures of Prague.

"Dancing House" based on a design by
Frank Gehry and Vlado Milunic

Charles Bridge. And a lot of tourists.

St Vitus Cathedral at the Prague Castle

View of Prague from the top of the cathedral. It was unfortunately
hazy for all of our stay in Prague.

One of the cathedral spires
I don't know, either. 

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