Prague is my favourite beer-drinking city. I’m a sucker for the round mugs of golden beer with a thick, smooth foam; for the amber lagers that you only find in the Czech Republic; for the richly roasty dark lagers. And for how the well-hopped and aromatic IPA-sation of beer has mixed with the perfect balance in Czech brewing to give elegant, powerful pale ales.
Prague is my favourite place to drink beer because you get the best of everything, all in a beautiful city that’s easy to get around, and one with some of the tastiest beer snacks. (And if you want the primer on understanding Czech beers then read this first).
Lokál is a name you’ll see in all the tourist guides and that’s because they are excellent pubs to go to. The Pilsner Urquell is always some of the best in town; they have the lush unfiltered Kozel dark lager; the food is simple Czech pub classics which are cheap, tasty and served quickly. There are three which you might be near: Dlouhá, U Bílé Kuželky and Hamburk. Don’t miss it
Because you might want to do some sightseeing (or at least pretend to see sights between the bars…), head to the castle then over to the monastery for KlasterniPivovar Strahov. They make my favourite version of a Polotmavý, or semi-dark lager, which is a style unique to the Czech Republic. It’s amber with a creamy foam, the malt is toasty and nutty and it finishes deliciously dry with a powerful bitterness from spicy Saaz hops. They make a good IPA and dark lager as well, plus they’ll have a special or two on tap, but always start with the Polotmavý.
On the opposite side of the city, in Vinohrady, is Vinohradsky Pivovar. They have two good beers and one excellent one: the good 13° amber and 15° IPA (using mostly Czech hops) were surpassed bthe excellent 11° unfiltered pale lager. Straight-up, balanced, smooth with a wonderful teasing mix of sweetness, some doughy malts and lemony-peppery hop bitterness – it’s a proper quaffer. You can see the handsome brewhouse while you drink and the food is very good.
Nearby is Beer Geek which has an excellent range of local and imported craft beers pouring through the 32 taps, though walk in and you could be in any beer bar anywhere in the world, and in a place like Prague I want to feel something local and special. However, it’s definitely worth visiting for how it’ll pour some of the best Czech craft beers by breweries like Matuška, Raven, Falkon, Kocour, Zhůřák, Únětické.
Also nearby is U Kacíře, one of the only places in Prague that regularly has the 10 and 12 pale lagers from the glorious Kout na Šumavě brewery. I can’t tell you what the place is like because when I went it was shut (don’t go on a Sunday), but I can say that when I’m next in Prague I’m going there.
If you want the better, bigger choices of Czech craft beers then Zlý Časy is the original bar. They have a few areas over different floors with different beers available in each. Closer to the centre, and run by the same guys as Zlý Časy, is Kulový Blesk, with a similarly good range. But I definitely suggest mixing these venues with the classics and drinking the classic Czech lagers which taste better and fresher here than you’ll have tasted them elsewhere.
For some of the best Czech food and beer, head to U Šumavy (to me it like it’s cut from a Wes Anderson film set, with precisely lined tables and a dramatically printed wallpaper). The food here is typical Czech done to a great standard. They also have around a dozen beers on tap including a mix of large and small breweries.
Sometimes I like to drink things which aren’t beer and Bokovka (which translates as Sideways) is a fun little wine bar, hidden away in what feels like a wine cave (a few doors down from Lokál Dlouhá in a small courtyard), with a large selection of bottles plus a range by the glass, mostly all Czech and Slovakian. Staff are very knowledgeable and friendly. They also have a cheese cave (an actual cheese cave!).
Some of the best coffee I’ve ever had was in Můj šálekkávy. Made with care, served with a smile and brewed with some special beans. My girlfriend had a chai tea which was extraordinary (and I usually hate chai tea).
If you want a grand breakfast then Café Savoy is the place to go. Smart staff, a bakery on site, excellent coffee, a huge tea list and a small but great choice of food. Their Savoy omelette is approximately 90% cheese.
I’m the kind of person who always googles ‘the best burgers in…’ wherever I go. In Prague, I recommend (though I’m still forever searching for more…) U Kurelů (traditional Czech pub, great beers, and with American diner food instead of dumplings), Dish and Naše Maso, a butchers that cooks sausages, burgers and meatloaf during the day and serves dinner at night.
And finally… Sansho is a little piece of pan-Asian perfection and it deserves some extra space to explain it properly. Paul Day is the owner. He’s an English chef and butcher who moved to Prague, opening The Real Meat Society butchers, Sansho and Maso a Kobliha(meat and doughnuts, which is opposite Sansho), serving a couple of excellent craft beers on tap and a range of meaty British-inspired beer snacks (using the local meat, of course) like scotch eggs and faggots.
Go to Sansho in the evening, sit down and prepare to be wowed by the stunning combos of local Czech ingredients and the brightest, freshest, most fragrant flavours from the nearby Vietnamese supermarkets. It’s a tasting menu format without a paper menu – just tell them what you like or don’t like and they’ll bring you lots of little dishes to share.
My highlights were the octopus satay, soft shell crab bao and a dish of pork, watermelon and hoi sin – it’s some of the most addictively umami-rich food, with amazing textures, and the lively South East Asian accent. There are great Czech wines and a super pale lager from Dalešice – it’d be hard to find an all-round lager more suited to this food, with its light caramel malt body carrying a lemony, zesty zing and bitterness – the hops highlight the herbs and spices used while the toasty malt wraps it in a cooling sweetness. Expect to pay about £50 a head and make sure you book in advance.
Prague is the best beer-drinking city in the world. And there’s so much more than just beer.