Friday, March 4, 2011

Part 3b: Prague

We spent our second (and last) day in Prague walking several miles around the city and, of course, drinking beer. As an aside, despite all the beer we drank and the food we ate, I ended up losing over 2 pounds on this 10-day trip due to all the walking we did. I think I may have found the perfect diet. Now to find a way to afford it…

Budvar bar
Our afternoon kicked off at U Medvídků, another famous brewery/restaurant in the city, and the only one in Prague with a hotel. We grabbed two seats at their fancy copper Budvar bar (click on the picture to make it larger); I ordered a plum ale, a specialty of the house, and John got a dark lager. 

Plum Ale
It was interesting to note how prevalent dark lager was in Bohemia, as it’s not really a style we see much of here. Say “Czech lager” and most people think of Pilsner Urquell (or spicy, bitter, pale lager in general). It’s a shame, as the dark lagers are well-balanced, interesting, and not at all heavy. 

U Medvidku dark lager
Both are full of pils malt breadiness and noble hop flavor & bitterness, but the dark lager has that extra layer of complexity from the roasted malt. A little chocolate, a little roast dryness, and a touch more sweetness to balance the roast. Not much, though – these are still dry Bohemian lagers that are refreshing and bitter. As I mentioned in my last post, we can get Bernard amber lager here, and I recommend checking it out. I know that MDL on 95th Antioch carries it in the fridge case; you can probably find it in other liquor stores with a good import section.

To continue this tangent, if you haven’t had any Czech lager other than Pilsner Urquell, you owe it to yourself to try something else. I can’t recommend Czechvar enough and prefer it to Urquell (draught, not bottle). It has a wonderful spicy & floral hop aroma & flavor, and the finish has a moderate, lasting bitterness that is clean and balanced with the pils malt sweetness. You can get it on tap at Grunauer and, often, at Swagger. Alternately, you can sometimes get Rebel lager at Waldo Pizza in a brown bottle. I ordered this once on a whim and was very pleased with it. It had a slightly fuller mouthfeel than the aforementioned lagers, and a prominent spicy hop flavor with moderate bitterness.

Can you tell I’m a fan of Bohemian pilsners?

But, to continue with Prague. We had a couple more beers at U Medviku and continued our wandering about the city. Several hours and miles later, we arrived at a bar we weren’t aware of until the prior day: Pivovarsky Klub. It’s owned by the Pivovarsky Dum owners, but is strictly a beer bar; there’s no brewing here. It has the largest beer selection in the Czech Republic and has fantastic food to boot. 

Pivovarsky Klub
On tap, they offer six beers by small, local brewers (often one-man shops) and each is named after a person or animal. They also have bottles to consume on premises, or to take away. 

Pivovarsky Klub's beer fridge. Includes an $8 bottle of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
Take-away bottle selection
The place was impressive – and we didn’t even go into the basement. If you’ve seen Anthony Bourdain’s episode on Prague, the pictures should be familiar.

We stayed for quite a while, sampling a handful of beers. I ordered a Bernard dark lager, which was sweet & roasty, somewhat reminiscent of a Baltic Porter without the high carbonation. John had a Herold black lager, which was more chocolately than the Bernard but quite good. 

Bernard dark lager

Demon, a "strong lager"... at 5.2%
We wrapped up our evening with a long, meandering walk back to our hotel that included one more stop at a place that sold unpasteurized Pilsner Urquell on tap (as did many bars in Prague). But, as with most bars in Prague, the place was filled with smoke and quickly became unbearable. We called it a night, went back to our hotel, and got ready to depart for Leipzig in the morning.

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