One of the few countries that barely requires an introduction when it comes to beer. Suffice to say, almost everywhere you are in Czechia (as it is now known) you will be able to access extremely high quality bottom fermented lager for pennies, as one of the last bastions of working class drinking culture in Europe becomes ever more isolated in its approach, and thus ever more fascinating from an outsider’s perspective.
You can hop across the western border from Cheb to Germany and find yourself suddenly paying 3-4 times as much for a beer that’s not as good – or at least not any better. Mainstream travel guides and less intrepid bloggers have argued that the days of getting a beer for under a pound in Europe are dead, yet Czechia provides proof every day that isn’t the case. Similarly, in bouts of spectacular point-missing guides warn you off going to rip-off joints in the centre of Prague who have the nerve to charge you 60-80 korunas for a drink, neglecting to mention even this is still below average for a drink nearly anywhere West of Ukraine.
Drinking is divided between ‘Pivnices’ which despite the name tend towards being restaurants rather than bars and ‘Hospodas’ which are more informal neighbourhood pubs sometimes serving salty bar snacks to wash the beer down with, but frequently offering lunches too.
One of the joys of Czech pub-going is the concept of the ‘tapster’, someone who stands and dispenses beer, sometimes not even with the duty of taking orders. These tapsters are usually middle-aged to elderly men and give already historic venues an even more intransigent feel.
The beers are deliberately cheap, low strength and easy to wash down, meaning many places keep tabs by marking your beer mat, collecting the dosh at the end with the final tally. Service can err towards surly but please give them a degree of latitude: unless they’re being outright rude, it just isn’t common practice in Czechia to give you New York smiles and fake pleasantries. There’s even a slight thrill to extracting the most minimal upward curling of the mouth or even a ‘Na Shledanou’ – ‘Good bye’ from staff at the end of your visit.
Out in the countryside you will gasp at some of the prices they ask for a beer (18 and 20 korunas are my records for a large beer at a pub, which worked out 55 pence and 70 pence respectively, when I visited). However, even in cities, if you’re brave enough to venture into the 24-hour drinking and gambling dens known as ‘Herna bars’ there are bargains to be had, and even the pubs themselves are occasionally not-too-seedy.
In the larger cities you will find a nascent alternative scene, particularly in Prague’s bohemian district Zizkov, but also in Brno where Pilsner Urquell does not hold sway nor indeed the other macro brewers. It is almost as commonplace these days for a mainstream bar or restaurant to sell local beer ahead of anything else, with a cop-out option for the conservative drinker, such as PU, Kozel or Gambrinus.
In summary, Czechia is one of the heartlands of beer drinking and pub going and so the aspects of both are taken very very seriously and to the highest standards. The quality and sheer down to earth nature of the experience is enough to send folk into raptures. I strongly recommend reading Pivni Filosof if you are at all interested.
There will be many Czech pubs featured here.
Ratings Key (0-10)
A: Choice and/or quality of drinks
B: Style and décor
C: Atmosphere and feel
D: Amenities, Events & Community
E: Value for money
F: The Pub Going Factor
Bars marked (*) will take you to our full profile write-up!
|U Poutnika *||Brno||9||8||9||6||9||9|
|Traveller’s Pub||Cesky Krumlov||7||8||8||8||9||8|
|U Krale Jiriho||Cheb||8||8||8||7||9||8|
|U Kudeje *||Olomouc||10||9||10||7||9||10|
|Prvni Pivni Tramway||Prague||9||9||9||7||9||9|
|Los V Oslu||Prague||9||8||7||8||8||8|
|Hostomicka Nalevarna *||Prague||8||8||9||6||9||8|
|Hospoda Nad Viktorkou||Prague||8||9||8||5||6||8|
|U Rotundy *||Prague||7||7||9||7||10||8|
|Pivnice U Lva||Tábor||7||9||10||8||10||9|