Chris Greenwood's Czech Tour
Last Updated : 07/02/12
Another Great Czech Adventure. July 2011. By Chris Greenwood
After a really enjoyable Easter holiday in Czech Republic, Slovakia and Vienna, I decided to have one last Summer holiday in the Czech Republic. The country has a fantastic and cheap transport system, lots of chateaus (zameks), castles (hrads), some beautiful cities such as Prague and Olomouc and lots of pretty main squares in towns all over the country, Telc, Slavonice and Novy Jicin to name but a few and of course some great beer (pivo). I discovered a website called beerme.com. It is very up to date and reliable (except for the suggested beer range which was nearly always smaller) and it had lots of breweries and micros I had never heard of or been to. All that was to be rectified over three weeks. I also revisited some old favourites and new places I had not visited before.
The Czechs drink more beer per head than any other country in the world. Pivo (beer) seems very much part of the Czech culture and outside of the centre of the major cities, it is still very cheap. The gravity / strength of beer is measured differently to ours. Itís in degrees. A 10 degree pivo is around 4%, an 11 around 4.5% and a 12 degree about 5%. In this article the beer will have a number after it. This will be the strength in degrees. Svetle is a light / pale lager, cerny and tmave are dark, polotmavy pivo is a mid brown, rezanne is a mixed cerny and svelte, some breweries actually brew them properly such as Rohozec. Quite a lot of fruit beers have started to appear such as visnovy (cherry) and many micros do weissebiers (psenicne) and unpasteurised and unfiltered beers and yeast beers often called kvasnicovy. Czech is a very different language to ours, find a menu it has the beer list in it, write things down, say prosim (proseem) a lot and point!
My adventure started at Brno again. At the airport get a 22 crown ticket and get on the 74 bus and before you know it youíre in the centre. Brno is a pleasant city and has a good choice of beers in its many bars and restaurants. The Vegas Club and Pub has a good half litre of Poutnik Double Chmel which is dry hopped and the Poutnik svetla 10 and the 12 kvasnicovy as well as guests. The famous Pegas brewpub is on Jakubska 4. Itís a lovely building and has a very good tmave with a cold coffee finish. The Richard micro has a pleasant pub on Uldoni. They do quite a few fruit beers especially the visnovy and a nice tmave. There are plenty of good, very busy bars on and just off Veveri. In Pub Zeleny Dvere I tried Comenius 14 an unfiltered beer by Janacek brewery, a very malty / sweet brew. The bar had ten beers and was a lovely brick vaulted cellar bar. Another nearby cellar bar is the busy Steakovy A Pivni bar on Pod Lekarnou. I had a sweet, malty Litovel 12 kvasnicovy and a very pink visnovy which started very sweet but had some dryness in the finish. The barman wouldnít tell me who brewed it! There is a good choice of bars on and just off Stefanicova, the main road out of the city but not far to walk. The theatre has a bar and a board telling you what beers are on. I had a very bitter Dalesice 11 there. On 25 Stefanicova Restaurace has 8 beers including Kout and Krakonose. On Hrncinska 23 the Magistr brewpub has a good visnovy and the time I was there a special merunkovy pivo which was very peachy, fruity and refreshing on a hot day. The Scotta 12 was a little thin and too malty for me. On Skrivanova 8 you will find Hostinec U Schinderlerky, a street corner locals bar selling Dudak beers and one or two guests such as Rampusak, Chotebor and on this occasion Zatec Premium 11 which had a really peachy flavour at first before becoming quite sweet and malty. Just around the corner is a bar selling two Policka pivos. If you fancy sausage and beer just up past Mc Donalds in the centre of the city is a Klobasa A Pivo bar selling a good bitter Dalesice 11 and loads of different kinds of sausages.
From Brno itís not too far to Pernstejn hrad, a really impressive castle. In the nearby village of Nedvedice, the Restaurace Na Namesti has an impressive display of clocks and a nicely balanced half litre of Regent 11. After a quick one I got the train to Zdar Nad Sazavou. On the outskirts of town you will find a pretty zamek and the impressive Santini built church of Zelena Hora. In the main square of Zdar there is a bar with a pleasant outside seeting area and a good bitter Chotebor 12. On the way to the train station is the down at heel 21 Herna Bar selling a really cheap (17 kc) and lovely hoppy Rebel 12.
It was time to leave Brno and head for Olomouc. You can do this via a brewery tap and two brewpubs. First stop was the cheap but not very cheerful Vyskov brewery tap in surprise, surprise Vyskov Itís virtually opposite the attractive town hall with the tall clock tower just off the main square. Donít let the rude staff or long wait to be served put you off and try a half litre of General 14. A really bitter beer with grapefruit notes. I had two, followed by a really good, bitter Breznac 12. Vyskov make some really good bitter, hoppy beers and there is a good bottle store next door to the tap. I tried bottles of Desikta, a little thin and malty and Havran, a decent brown caramelly beer, again a little thin.
Next stop was the new brewpub in Prerov called Parnik. Itís really near the bus and train stations on Tovarni 6. Itís hard to miss, a large metal and glass foody establishment but with friendly, albeit slow waiters and a cracking Tmave Special 13. This was one of the best dark beers all trip. Plenty of roasted barley, dry and bitter like a good English stout with licourice notes in the finish. Next I tried the Pirat 13, a good polotmave. It was very full bodied and creamy with quite a strong nutty taste and a long bitter finish. The Janter 11 had a few hops but was malt dominated and the Kapitan 12 svetle was rather thin and one dimensional. I finished the visit with another Tmave Special but realised my watch had stopped and missed the bus I had planned to take. However all was not lost as the next bus soon arrived and took me too Prostejov. I canít believe Iíve never found the U Krale Jecminka brewpub on Ujezd 4a. Down the passageway, this large rambling, wooden pub is busy and popular serving up to 6 beers. The 13 psenicny was sweet and cloying and far too malty, a poor attempt at the style. The Jecmenny lezak 12 was much better. A good, straightforward bitter beer with a dry finish on the tongue. The visnovy 13 was very dry and had a lovely fruity nose and cherries in the finish. On the main road which leads to the train station you will find the rough and ready Admiral pub. Donít be put off, it has up to 6 beers on. I tried the well balanced Lobkowicz Vevoda 11, a nice balance of hops and malt with soft hoppy finish.
For the next few days I based myself at Olomouc, one of the Czechís most beautiful cities. Thereís a great hostel called Poetís Corner here with really friendly staff and guests. Itís a relaxed place and very clean and comfortable. Thereís two brewpubs Moritz (not keen on their beers) and Svatovaclavsky Pivovar on Marianska 4. A bustling pub which serves a variety of good quality beers. The Vasek 10 is a nice bitter beer with some balancing malt then a long dry, bitter finish, a good 10 with plenty of body and flavour. The Svatovaclavska 12 (try saying that after a few beers) was really hoppy and bitter with a lovely long hoppy, bitter finish, one of my favourite 12s. The Visnovy was very dry and astringent it had a lovely cherry nose but was not at its best that night. The Cerna Piva Pana Bruna was better, a pleasant mix of cold coffee, fruit and chocolate malt. The special Mandarinkova had a strong mandarin nose and was quite bitter with orange peel notes and a dry finish, very refreshing. Itís a very good pub with friendly staff, a must. Just around the corner is the gothy / studentsí Vertigo bar. Their beers rotate and I had a pleasant well balanced Cerna Hora Kamelot12. The music was a lot better than the dross in most pubs but it wasnít very friendly. U Kudeja on Krapova is a small busy free house with impromptu folk music and a decent choice of beers. I accidently ordered a Moritz Kvasnicovy 11 as it was called Maisel. It was very malty and one dimensional. Next I had a rare Litovel 13 Special which after some initial bitterness became very malt dominated. I finished with a Valasek14 Kvasnicovy. This was crisp and clean with a mix of hops and malt and pear drops on the tongue.
Despite the non stop rain I had a nice time in the town of Unicov. It has a lovely main square and very pretty town hall. The Hospudka U Bihelo Beranka, on the main square, had five beers on and was a really old pub with a lovely old fireplace. I tried the Moritz polotmavy 11 which was quite nutty but very malty and sweet too. Kavarna Mozart has a great view of the town hall and the mixed gas beer called Maestro by Litovel. It was a horrible cream flow beer with little taste! At least the view was good.
The next day was a real adventure. Avery early bus took me from Olomouc to the lovely town of Novy Jicin. Even the torrential rain couldnít spoil the beautiful town square and I spent two hours there. It isnít far by bus to Stramberk another beautiful place and a classic brewpub, the Metsky Pivovar which stands on the pretty main square. A lovely place to sit out in good weather. Well there wasnít any good weather but the inside of the pub is very pretty too, with large atmospheric cellar drinking areas and a pleasant upstairs bar. They have two beers. The Troobak svelte 12 is a well balanced bitter with a lasting bitter finish. The Troobak tmavy 13 starts sweet with lots of caramel but licourice notes become more dominant as you get down the glass. Again itís not far to Pribor, the birthplace of Freud, by train from Stramberk. The town has an impressive church and pleasant main square and a Freud museum. What it doesnít have anymore is a microbrewery. I went to the bar that had the Freudovo pivo on my last visit but was told the pivovar was ďkaputĒ! Fortunately the next brewpub was alive and kicking. A bus ride to Frydek Mistek and an hourly train to Dobritice Pod Prasivou soon gets you to Minipivovar Konicek in the village of Vojkovice. You turn right off the train at Dobritice, follow the path alongside the train track, take the first left under a motorway bridge and follow the road for ten minutes and youíre there. The pub had very friendly staff and three beers. The Ryzac svetlou 11 had a pine needle like bite to it and a really long dry finish. The Vranik tmave was better. It had a dry, dark berry start and a nice bitterness like a good stout. The Grosak polotmave 14 was dry and nutty but a little cardboardy and unbalanced. It doesnít take long to get to Ostrava by train and two brewpubs. In the Zabreh district you will find the Zabreh Zamek brewpub with its three Pickard beers. I gave the Wheat beer a miss as it was poor last time, in fact the other two beers were disappointing too. The pub is beautiful. A lovely old building with vaulted ceilings. The waiter was also very friendly. The svelte lezak 12 was soft and gentle with a slightly tart finish and the tmavy 12 was slightly dry with hints of cold coffee but it wasnít the great beer I remembered from last visit. The pub is very food orientated and expensive but very busy. The next brewpub, virtually in the centre on Pivarska is very different. The Hobit pub with its Qasek Biovar beers is a basic heavy metal bar (played at low volume). Firstly I tried the Sjdojicky Klid polotmave 9. Definately one to point to to order! The beer was malty and nutty but had a long dry finish. Next I drank the Kuneticky Hejkal 10 which was malty at first but again had a long bitter, astringent finish. There was a lot going on in the third pivo, the Qasek svelte 12. It was a well balanced mix of hops and malt with a very long dry, bitter, astringent finish. The Qasek tmava 11 had a good mix of flavours with dry dark berries, hints of cold coffee and a nice stout like bitter finish. The beers had really improved since my last visit.
Leaving Ostrava I arrived at Hlucin. Just off the main square is the Avar micro. The pub is full of dark wood and ornaments and free monkey nuts . I really enjoyed their beers last time but not much this time! The Avar svelte 12 was okay quite bittersweet, but the Kvasnicove 12 was sweet, cloying and a little sour. Like the kvasnicove, the Avar tmave 12 was straight from the barrel and very caramelly with a tiny bit of cold coffee in the finish. Whilst waiting for the non existent train in Hlucin I had a pleasant bittersweet, crisp and clean tasting Ostravar 10. The barman kindly chased after me to give me my brolly and tell me there were no trains and showed where the replacement bus to Opava. Opava is a really attractive town but its brewery and brewpub (Zlatovar) are now a demolition site, definitely kaput! I finished the day back at Olomouc and the Svatovaclavska brewpub with some good beer again.
Well it was a Sunday but an early bus took me from Olomouc to Litomysl. Iím sure there are some good pubs but this is a beautiful town and sightseeing is the main pleasure here. Thereís a lovely main street, a magnificent zamek and some other attractive buildings here. After a few hours you can catch one of the many busses to Policka. The town has an impressive set of defensive walls a ramshackle main square and a brewery. Many pubs in the town have the Policka beers. Just off the main square is the Hotel Pivovar. A very down to eareth locals bar with three beers. The Oktakar 11 is a decent session beer with a genle mix of malt and hops with a sweetish finish and the Hradebni tmavy 10 was a good caramelly mild with some licourice notes. The beer here was very cheap.
After a stop off at Vysoky Myto, a pretty town, I arrived at Hradec Kralove. The city has a beautiful main square and plenty of other pretty buildings too. It is a really good city for transport connections for the region. The city has some good pubs too. Danup on the very start of Ceskoslovenske Armady (CS Armady) is a freehouse with a decent selection of quite expensive beers except for the regular Tambor 10, a very nice well balanced easy drinking lager. Itís one of the few good pubs open until 11 ish on a Sunday night. Next I had a unfiltered Kocour 12. It was expensive and disappointing.. The beer was yeasty with some bitterness but a little sour. The other pubs I visited gave me a chance to try new pivo too. Hostinec U Kohouta on CS Armady 216 was a lovely renovated old vaulted building with friendly staff and good rock music. The one home brewed beer was the Kouhout 10 was yeasty with a fruity finish. A refreshing beer on a hot evening. The bar was buzzing with conversation and had lots of young people all drinking beer. Next I drank the Primator 14 which was really fruity with dark berry notes, a lovely fruity nose and a long dry finish. I went here twice and the bar was really enjoyable both times as was the Kouhout and Primator beers. Very near U Kohouta up a flight of steps into the old town and opposite the Klic Perovu Divadlo ( the theatre to you and me) is the trendy Jazz Club Satchmo. They sometimes have Primator Stout, but not tonight. But they did have an expensive 12 from the Hron Pivovar. This was a really flavousome pivo with orange peel notes, plenty of hops, some balancing malt and a pleasant tangy, hoppy fruity, astringent finish. I stayed for two in the outside seeting area with plenty of chatty locals. On Havlickova 6 you will find the rambling localsí boozer Sklep Restaurace. Thereís about four beers on here. Votrok 11 (another new brewery for me) was quite complex. It was very bitter at first, with pear drops on the tongue but had quite a malty finish. The second beer was a Kanec Hradec Kralove Patriot kvasnicovy 12 badged in a very misleading way (Kanec is from Zamberk)! The beer was sweet and malty with a dry finish. Just around the corner from Daup bar is another themed Ferdinanda pub selling the full range of Ferdinand beers. They are are good beers, very consistent. The Ferdinand 10 was crisp with a pleasant hoppy finish. One handy bar is on the main road to the train station and not far from there or the bus station. Down a little side passage the Caffe Bar Don Cortez is a relaxed, bohemian bar with lots of wine. It also has a really good half litre of Votrok 10. A lovely straight forward, in your face hoppy bitter perfect for breakfast as it opens at 9a.m, and my bus was at 10.20 a.m two days running. Lovely start to the day.
It isnít too far to Nove Mesto Nad Metuji from Hradec which has an impressive zamek (well inside anyway) and a pretty main square, with attractive vaulted passageways. Thereís one good, large basic boozer selling Primator pivo next to the small bus station, but after taking in the sights I headed for Rychnov Nad Kneznou. Yet another pretty main square, zamek and a brewery. The tap isnít open until 3pm but the upmarket but very friendly Hotel Havel has a pleasant bar (ask at reception for the pivnice). They had two beers from the local Metsky Podorlicky / Kastan Pivovar or something like that! The Kastan polotmave 11 was malty and nutty at first but had a dry finish. Itís quite a walk across town to the Rychnov Pivovar senk on Kastany 435, but itís quite scenic. The senk / tap was unfriendly the beers were served in a pleasant garden by two grumpy staff. I drank the Zilvar 10 which had a sweetish malty start but with a dry finish again. Directly opposite was the large rough and ready Hospoda U Vody. There was a massive painting of a giant green frog and a billiards table with no pockets. The staff and locals were quite friendly and the pub had three beers on. I tried the Rampusak Dobrusska 11 which was bittersweet with some pear drops on the tongue, getting sweeter by the end. I returned to Hotel Havel where the friendly woman at the bar said I was like a local now! The Kastan Knezna 12 was crisp and quite hoppy with the now familiar pear drops on the tongue and long dry finish.
Another really pretty town you can visit easily from Hradec is Pardubice. You can spent a few hours sitting in the lovely main square, wandering around the sidestreets, looking at the colourful houses and the impressive zamek. On the main road out of the town towards the bus stop is the Pernstejn brewery tap. There were six Pernstejn beers on offer. The Kvasnack nefiltovane 12 was quite sugary, yeasty, and fruity. The Taxis 14 was also fruity and sweet with some dryness in the finish. The woman serving at the bar was very friendly and helpful but the two beers were rather thin! Not so the next beer, the famous Porter 19 ( their only good beer it seems). It was a nice example of a Baltic style porter, almost black with a sandy coloured head. There is initial sweetness but with a balancing dry stout like bitterness, hints of mollases and licourice in the finish too. From Pardubice you can catch regular busses and trains to Chrudin, another attractive town with an impressive cathedral and lots of grand buildings. I arrived at the train station bar in Chrudin in time for a quick one before my next train. The Restuarace Na Nadrazi had two Pernstejn pivos on (the regulars had had a lot already)! I tried the simple, sweet session beer Pernstejn 11 before getting the train to Medlesice. The Medlesice Pivovar isnít far from the train station and opens at 2pm. Itís a large, simple locals bar with two really cheap beers. The svelte 12 was doughy, yeasty with some fruitiness in the finish. The tmavy 12 was very fuity with dark berry notes and a dry finish, quite good but not the great beer I had last time I went there!
The next morning I left Hradec Kralove for Miletin (change bus at Horice). In the hard to miss (very pink) brewpub Restaurace U Sousedsky Dum on the main square, I had a couple of homebrewed Pytlak 12s which were yeasty, fruity and quite bitter in the finish. In Summer, if you go around the side of the pub there are usually two other beers on. Unfortunately there were none left! The pub is really popular with the locals and it gets very hard to get served at lunchtime. Still, the pub was friendly and relaxed.
It doesnít take too long to get to the pretty, historic town of Jicin with its impressive clock tower, another pretty town square and an attractive yellow zamek. From here you can get a bus to the Prachov Rocks, which makes a nice half day out. I visited two bars on the main square of Jicin. The outside bar of the Pivnice U Katu served two cheap Krakonos pivos. The 11 was soft and gentle with a sweet finish and the 12 was a sweet and malty, full bodied beer. The Caffe Dienjme had a good view of the main square and is a nice old building inside. I tried the Nymburk Postrizinske 11, a one dimensional bitter with a cardboardy finish, not great! There are two good pubs selling a range of nearby Nova Paka breweryís beers. Senk Na Hrazi on Kollarova, opposite the boating lake, is a nice clean locals bar. I had a good bitter Broucak 10 and a very nice Podkrkonossky tmavy13 which was a mix of caramel, dark chocolate and fruitiness. The best pub I have found for Nova Paka pivo is the down to earth localsí boozer called Restaurace U Suku on Revolucni. It looks rough but Iíve always found the staff friendly and they usually have six beers on in very good nick including the Nefiltrivona 11, Granat, Broucak 10, Krystof 11 and Kumburak 12. I had a half litre of each, The light beers are very bitter and tasty.
It took a lot of busses and a short hitchhike on a daytrip from Jicin to Detenice to try the Detenice Zamek Pivovar beers. The pub is a medieval theme pub. Very silly but the pub is impressive and the bar staff were friendly. I drank the unfiltered and unpasteurised Svelte which was a good, straightforward bitter beer with a nice hoppy finish. The barman was not happy with the Tmave pivo, saying it had only been brewed for three weeks not four. I thought the sampler was quite good, so he let me have a half litre for free. The tmave had hints of dark chocolate, some bitterness and caramel on the tongue. If you plan it right you can get to Sobotka by bus then train. Then you can walk or hitch like I did to Podkost to see the impressive Kost hrad and then walk to Sobotka through the really pretty countryside back to Sobotka, another pleasant town and get the bus to Jicin.
There are many busses and trains from Jicin to Turnov, with a great view of Trosky Hrad. Not far from Turnov is the Cesky Rai with some interesting rock formations. Two and a half k.m. from Turnov on the Cesky Rai trail and next to Valdstejn zamek is Hospudka U Hrad which sells three local Rohozec beers. The Malinova 11 was very dry with a lovely raspberry nose and plenty of fruit and a bitter finish. I also tried the Razane 11 which was a real mixture of choc malt, sweeter malts and a very sharp bitter finish. I had planned to stay at Turnov and visit the Rohozec brewery tap but everything went wrong and I decided to head for Prague. Right near the train station, near the Billa supermarket, I had a bit of good fortune. I found a pub selling most of the Rohozek beers. Yet another down to earth localsí bar called Bar Skalac which had the Kvasnicovy 11. This pivo had a fruity nose and tasted a bit yeasty with soft fruity notes, some malt and that bitter finish. I ordered a Malinove 11 to find it was a bottle and a very good bottle it was too, even fruitier than the draught version.
Next port of call was Prague. Itís still one of my favourite cities. There are a lot of brewpubs in the city. Most of them are quite expensive but most of them also brew good beer. I arrived late but not too late to get to U Dvou Kocek on Ulhelny Trh 10. A classic, old style pub serving two own brewed beers and Urquel. The Kocka svelte 12 was soft and gentle, okay but needing a few more hops perhaps? The Kocka cerne 12 was pleasant with a strong caramel nose. Like a midlands mild with caramel notes and faint hints of licourice and aniseed. I didnít see anyone else drinking it! The pub gets very busy but you can get served at the bar.Many of the good pubs in Prague close at eleven. One exception is the down at heel (but popular with tourists) Jamajka on Staroprama in Smichov. They have three Postrizinske pivos on. The Nymburk tmava 11 was another mild-like caramel brew. The beers are decent and quite cheap for Prague.
The next day I used Prague as a base for a trip to two brewpubs. Not put off by the torrential rain, I caught one of many busses to Kladno. They go from Europska road very near the Devijka tube station. The town does not get a good write up in the Rough Guide but I thought it had some pretty buildings. Yet another helpful bloke in the tourist info. place gave me directions and I was soon at the Starokladno pivovar tap called U Kozliku on C.S Armady next to Namesti Svobody. This large locals pub had a large beer range on and a really friendly lady behind the bar, who, despite being very busy, served me really quickly. I started my session with a really good Cerny Havir 12.8. The beer was like a good stout with plenty of dry bitterness and hints of licourice. It was one of the best dark beers on the trip. Next up was the Starokladenske 10.8, a nice bitter with slight pine needle finish. The Lezak 12.8 had a similar finish but was more balanced with a pleasant bittersweet flavour. I had a 0.3 of the next pivo as it was a wheat beer. However, the Psenice 12.8 was one of the better ones on the trip, having a nice balancing fruitiness along with the taste of cloves. The next beer was a polotmave with a fruity nose and malt sweetness and a nutty middle and finish, called Lezak Mistra Ta Vice 14 (what no .8!). Next I ordered the Special. It arrived with a few chopped bananas floating in it. Yes youíve guessed, it was a banana beer. It wasnít over sweet, okay really, it tasted of bananas. Finally I had 0.3 of the Mazlicek 18 which was very nutty but also had some jammy / fruity flavours half way down the glass to the end of it. A good pub, shame a lot of locals drank Gambrinus there!
As the rain got even heavier, I caught a bus to Slany, a pretty town with attractive churches and old gateways and streets. The Pivovar Antos couldnít have been more different to the U Kozlicku in Kladno. It was a pretty old building, upmarket and much more expensive with less friendly staff. The Nova 10 smelt of old socks but got better down the glass, becoming very hoppy. The Cerne Poupe 12 was quite dry with some bitterness in the finish. The Antosuv Polotmave had the old socks nose but was a multi flavoured beer with sweet malt, nuts, hops and some choc. malt. The Antosuv Lezak 12 was a nice hoppy session beer, easy to drink and full bodied. I finished with a small wheat beer. The Slanska Psenka was a decent mix of cloves with some balancing fruit.
I used Prague as a base again to visit a brewpub and a castle. A short train ride took me to Dobrichovice a quiet town with a scenically positioned zamek near the river. Just out of town on the main road is Lety U Dobrichovice and the MMX Pivotel, a large ugly hotel with a soulless, unfinished massive bar and drinking area and expensive pivos. My excitement at seeing eight taps was short lived as there were only three beers on. The Svetle 11 was crisp and refreshing with a good mix of malt and hops. The Svetle 12 was a full bodied sweet and malty brew. The Psenicne 13 had a lovely nose and taste of cloves, lemon and wheat with a slightly bitter finish, one of the better wheat beers. Itís not far to the impressive Karlstejn hrad / zamek, which is a must visit place. The next train stop on is Beroun, where you find another brew pub in an industrial estate nearby which is also recommended.
I arrived back in Prague early evening and set off for yet another brewpub (thereís a lot in Prague). The Jihometsky Pivovar is a good way out of the centre but quite easy to get to. You take the tube to Opatov station, turn left out of the station down Chinska go right at the roundabout and right again onto Bachove which becomes Podjavorinske where youíll find a large community brewpub with plenty of customers whose chatter masks the dross music and pleasant staff. The Jihomestan 11 had a nice balance between hops and malt. The Svetle Lezak 12 was sweeter, more malty, but,there was still a fair few hops in the flavour. The cold Weissbier had a strong clove nose and quite a lot of banana notes.My final drink, the Tmave Special 14 had hints of cold coffee and licourice but was quite sweet and caramelly. If you get back on the tube you can get off at I.P Pavlova and walk down the hill to Nusle and go to the tickersí paradise Zly Casy (itís downstairs). There were around twenty beers on from all around the Czech Republic, mostly micros and a few regionals. Itís expensive but thatís Prague for you. I started with a beer from the raved about Koucar Pivovar. The Tmave Lezak 12 was a soft and smooth stout like beer with some roasted barley and chocolate malt. Their beers have yet to really impress me so far. Next up or down really, was the Vyskov Jubiler 16 in rare draught form. This beer has become much sweeter with far less hops on the tongue than last Easterís bottled brew.Then it was on to another well thought of brewery, yet to impress me, Rambousek. Their Kastanomedovy was full of honey and had a very powerful taste. Thereís a tiny amount of hops to combat the rather cloying honey taste.If you have time thereís a brewpub around the corner called Basta which is a nice pub.
The next day I travelled to Loket via the classic spa town of Karlovy Vary. Thereís now a brewpub here but I didnít know at the time! Loket is a beautiful little place with itís own brewpub the Rodinny Pivovar Sv. Florian which is right next to the main entrance to the town. The pub is expensive and seemingly aimed at German tourists but itís a well preserved building with an interesting exhibition of pretty cups for drinking the spa water from Karlovy Vary. There were three beers on. I tried the Cerne Lezak 11 which was a little thin and tinny but got more tasty down the glass with quite a lot of licourice notes.
The next part of my adventure took a bad then a great turn. I thought the Permon brewery was in Lomnice just outside of Sokolov so I walked / hitched there only to find the Permon Hospuda closed! I was hitching back to Sokolov cursing my luck when a friendly young Czech, who spoke really good English stopped and gave me a lift. He was from Sokolov and told me the brewery was there and he knew a pub where they sold the Permon beers, so he took me there! The pub U Permona is on the edge of the town / city centre but I donít know the address. The pub was modern with some interesting murals on the walls. It had eight Permon pivos on tap, definitely time for 0.3 litres of most. The Permon Svetle 10 was quite tangy, fruity with some bitterness and a slightly sour finish. The Svetle 12 was a simple dry, bitter beer but the Svetle 13 was sweeter with quite an alcohol kick to it and some bitterness in the finish. The Permon 17 was a bit all over the place! There was a slight sourness, a little bitterness and a strawberry jam like flavour throughout too, again there was a big alcohol kick to it. I decided to have a half litre of the next beer and was really glad I did. The Tmave 14 reminded me of a good Fullers London Porter. It had plenty of chocolate malt, good bitterness and cold coffee flavours, beautiful. Next beer down my neck was the Permon Visen which had a gorgeous cherry nose and had a massive cherry flavour becoming more bitter down the glass. More fruit was to follow with the Permon Boruvka, again a really fruity nose with bags of blueberry flavours with a lingering sweetness on the tongue and then bitterness to finish.
On my return to Loket (it looks beautiful at sunset) I popped into the Sv. Florian and drank a really expensive Tmave 13 which had more licourice, fruit and strength than the Cerne 11. By now the pub was full of German tourists, not a local in sight. When the Germans started singing, I went outside to finish my beer and left.
The next morning I set off for the pretty town of Cheb. Another place well worth visiting. Cheb used to have a brewery (Hradni). If you go to Cafť Bartholomeus you get a lovely view of the beautiful main street but a thin and tasteless Hradni 11 brewed in another country by Eger!
From Cheb itís not far to the classy spa town of Marianske Lazne, another place to visit. There are very few good pubs here but a ten minute train and a twenty minute bus ride takes you to Chodovar Plana home to the Chodovar Brewery. All the pubs on the main road sell the local beer, but, there isnít a great selection in any, except in Hotel Slunce, which unfortunately had a few beers off. The Chodovar svelte 13 was very fizzy but was crisp with a nice bitterness on the tongue followed by fruit and a dry finish. The Tmavy 10 was very cold but had a really nice mix of caramel and cold coffee. One of the best dark 10s I had. The Tmave 10 was also very good in the down to earth localsí bar called Bistro U Huberta. The cheap dark 10 was fruitier than Slunceís but the cold coffee notes were there, another good half litre. My last port of call was next door, the Victoria Herna Bar. The barman / owner was a really friendly Chinese guy who spoke really good English and served up a sweet, malty Chodovar 11 for 15 KC. Then it was back to Marianske and the Kaufland supermarket for some bottles. The Primator brewery do some good stuff especially their Stout and the mental Double 24!
In the morning it was back on the train to Stribro. Itís better to arrive by train as the approach to the town with its old lookout tower entrance and impressive church on the hill is pretty. Stribro also has an elegant town hall and of course a brewpub called Pivovar U Rybicek. Itís just off the main square on Plsenka. They had a new beer on this visit, the Burning Fish IPA. It was nothing like an IPA! There were some hops but it smelt like and tasted like a polotmave especially its nutty finish. I had time for one more pivo out of a choice of four, before I had to leave. I chose the very enjoyable Hornik Tmave 13 which had plenty of coffee and chocolate malt flavours.
A short bus ride took me to Kladruby. I got off at the wrong stop but found a shortcut with great views to the klaster (monastery) designed by Santini. The klaster is impressive and well worth a visit. Just in the monastery grounds is a bar selling the quite rare Chodovar President 12. The beer was crisp and clean tasting with bitterness and pear drops on the tongue, very refreshing on a hot day. The monastery is on a road to Pilsen. I couldnít find a bus stop so I hitched and was really lucky to get a lift all the way to the centre. Pilsen has three brewpubs and on this trip I visited two of them. Leave the pretty main square with its impressive cathedral, go down Roosevelta towards the river, look for the signs (Pivovar Groll Lotr), go down the bridge steps just before the river and you are there. The pub is a lovely old building with original features. There is often only one beer on but today there were two. I tried the unpasteurised Lotr Polotmavy 11 which was typical of the style, a full bodied nutty and malty pivo with some fruit in the finish. You can catch busses 10, 13 or 23 from the centre to get to the Purkmistr brewpub in Cernice. The brewpub is very popular with a pleasant main bar and large outside drinking area. Itís upmarket and quite expensive. The beer choice (seven on this visit) is on a small chalkboard to the left of the bar. First to be downed and quickly so as it was hot, was the Purkmistr Horky Pomeranc which was a very good orange fruit beer with plenty of orange content and quite a bitter finish. This was one of my favourite fruit beers of the trip. I had a Medovy next. This was full of honey but not oversweet or cloying. My final beer was the Radni 14. This was very gentle for its strength and was malty sweet with a few hops. Some of you may have tried Purkmistrís Tmave at a Wetherspoons beer festival when it was perversely called Schwarzbier! It is very good. Near the main train station in the centre of Pilsen, on Nadrazi, is the friendly free house KMP Klub. A slightly disappointing choice of three pivos yielded a new micro from Unetice. The Unetice 12 was really nice was quite bitter with a good hop content. I met two really friendly Czech lads who spoke good English and wanted to know everything about Britain and beer. It really chucked it down that night so I legged it to the hostel via a Billa supermarket and bought three interesting beers Bakalar Tmave Lezak which was very smooth with a caramel sweetness, like a good English mild (Holdens). The Bakalar 555 Double Bock started quite sweet but had a lot of choc. malt and a dry finish. The Eggenberg Svihak Nakoureny was a smoked beerbut had quite a lot of different flavours and wasnít too smokey.
After one of my longer train journeys, I arrived in Ceske Budejovice home of two breweries. I had a quick trip to the pretty villages of Holasovice and Dobcice before hitching back to Budejovice. I got dropped on the outskirts which was good as I found a bar selling the sometimes hard to find Samson / Budweiser Burgbrau pivos (the other and older brewery) the Hostinec U Nezmara on Studenska served me a Samson 13 which was quite tangy and bittersweet. The pub had a friendly woman at the bar and chatty locals, a pleasant local. Right in the centre, just off the impressive, large main square, on Karla IV is the Maly Pivovar Budvarka / Original Budvarka Pivnice. Itís a beautifully renovated old vaulted building. There were three beers and I chose the unfiltered Budweiser Budvar Krouzkovany pivo which was soft and gentle with a bittersweet finish. Just down the road on Kneska 11 is the more basic Restaurace Na Dvorku. It has a good good bittersweet Budweiser Budvar 10 which is cheap and very hard to find in its hometown. Further out near the bus station, on Zizkova 29 is the very rough and ready Bar Pohoda. The Samson B.B 11 was sweet with some balancing buitterness.
It was nearly time to leave the Czech Republic but not without some more visits to beautiful towns and of course pubs. Next stop was Slavonice. The only direct bus from Ceske Budejovice is at 8am. Get up and go there, itís a beautiful town with really interesting paintings on the facades of many of the building. There are plenty of trains to Telc with a change at the pleasant town of Dacice. Telc has a gorgeous main street and impressive zamek and scenic lakes. Another must visit place. Right near the bus and train stations is the down to earth but friendly locals pub called Littleís . They had four regionals on including the Kounic Jidensky Lezak 12 which was served in a weird twisted glass. The beer started sweet but developed a dark berry, fruity bite to it. I ended up in Trebic for two nights. Quite a nice town, but not many good bars.I settled for the busy locals bar Rest. U Vaigneru on B. Vaclavka which had Jezek 11 on. It was a good session beer, bittersweet with a malty finish.
In the morning I went to one of my favourite towns, Havlickuv Brod. It isnít in the Rough Guide tourist book but I think itís a lovely town. There are lots of pretty buildings and a really impressive main square. It is also home to the Rebel Pivovar, producers of some very good beers. Many of the bars and restaurants in town serve Rebel beers. The first bar I visited was the Pendolino Bar, just up the road from the train station. I tried the Rebel 12 which was very crisp with some grapefruit notes and a good bitter finish. On the main square is the simple but friendly Na Rynku. There were three Rebel beers on tap. I had a very hoppy and enjoyable and cheap Rebel 10, one of the best 10s in Czech I think. Straight up the hill from the main square, on Vysehradska 1349, is the brewery tap, Pivovar Hostinec Rebel. This is a spacious, historic building, a pleasant place to try the full range of beers. A pretty young woman who spoke good English was very helpful and the goulash soup was really nice. I started with a Czech Rebel 11, a crisp and clean pivo with hoppiness throughout.The Kvasnicovy was a lot sweeter, malt dominated with a slightly lemony finish. It tasted a little off / not at its best.This couldnít be said of the Cerne 12 which was really nice with lots of cold coffee flavour, a very good beer. Next I caught the train to Chotebor. Itís quite a trek to the Chotebor brewery but thereís no bar or shop there, so I walked all the way to the town. Itís basically just one long road to the centre. On the way I found a Chinese restaurant that sold a decent Chotebor 12 that had a nice mix of malt and hops (Thiang Long I think it was called). In the centre you can find a pleasant locals pub selling Chotebor 10 and 12. It was called Kavarna Bene and the 10 was sweet at first with some balancing hops later. Back on the train, with Jihlava as my next stop. Itís another nice town with old defensive walls, a couple of pretty churches and a large impressive main square and yes, youíve guessed it, a brewery. This one is the Jezek Pivovar. Itís has an impressive tap with loads of outside seating. I could have done without all the Lobkowicz beers but most of the Jezek beers were on. The Jezek 10 was a pleasant session beer with a good mix of malt and hops. My last beer of that day was the Jihlavsky Grand 18. A really strong pale ale reminiscent of Duvel when it was good. The beer is quite fruity and bitter and has a big alcohol kick to it, definitely a beer to finish the day on. I caught the last bus to Trebic and had a good chat with a German biker for the rest of the night.
From Trebic you can go by train to Namest Nad Oslavou to see the old bridge with many statues and the zamek on the hill. I also visited Boskovice which has an old Jewish quarter and an atmospheric Jewish graveyard on the edge of town.
I spent my last day in and around Brno and the beautiful Santini church at Krtiny which is definitely worth a visit. Before my bus to Brno airport (they are half hourly) I went to U Richard, Pegas, and Vegas Klub which I talked about right at the start of the article.
I think the Czech Republic is a fantastic country for travelling, sightseeing and beer. If you want any more information about the country contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org. Cheers
< photos online soon >