Czechs love their beer. Maybe even more than the Poles love their beer.
Don’t tell any Polish people I said that.
Czechs drink more beer per capita than any other country in the world, even despite the best efforts of both the Poles and the Germans. It’s a sore point with them, so I wouldn’t bring this fact up unless you’re actually in the Czech Republic.
In most places you travel to, there is a ‘beer culture.’ There are places you can go to find out what the local brews are like, how to drink them properly, and how to talk to the people who drink them. I, personally, love a good beer culture. I’m not sure what it is, but the people you meet in a place’s beer culture are more open and more passionate about whatever it is they do or happen to be talking about.
Actually, that might be the alcohol. But I prefer to think of some sort of overarching social phenomenon attached to putting people in a bar together.
That being said, in Prague, there is no beer culture. There is, rather, a culture that is inextricably tied to beer. I said that Czechs drink more beer than anyone else on the planet. In 2011, they drank an average of 161 liters of beer per person in the country. That’s over 300 beers per person that year (if you order a draft beer in Europe, it’s usually a half liter). That number gets even higher when you take into account that some people included in the ‘capita’ count don’t drink beer: there are always people who don’t drink and people who prefer wine or cocktails to beer, but there are also children who are too young to drink beer as well. So, generally speaking, that’s more than one beer a day for each beer drinker in the Czech Republic.
My friend and I also found that beer was cheaper than water in Prague. That is not hyperbole, nor is it true in a few bars, or only at tourist traps. In an average restaurant in Prague, water costs about 55 koruna; beer costs between 45 and 55 koruna. Remember, this isn’t the U.S.: water isn’t free here. Ergo, if you’re traveling on a budget, beer is the way to go. There aren’t too many places where you can say that.
Naturally, we had to find out what all this hype was about. We thought about doing a pub crawl, but we decided against it, simply because pub crawls are very touristy – mostly college-aged, party-minded tourists – and we were looking for that beer culture that every place claims to have the best of. We found a tour company that offers a plethora of different tours at fair prices. The tour itself was 500 koruna, 350 koruna with a student discount, and included a walking tour of the local pubs and four beers – three smalls (half-liter) and a large (liter).
This tour was one of the best decisions we made all week. The tour guide, Daniel, was great. He knew each of the pubs that we visited very well, along with the types of beer we were served in each place. He also made sure that the night felt like a group of people going out for a few beers, not like a lecture. In two of the three pubs that we went to, we sat down at a table and drank our beer while he told us about it and the bar we were in (the second place was just a bit small for us to take up a table for just a few minutes, so we stood in the foyer drinking our beer).
The bars that we went to were exactly what my friend and I were looking for in a beer tour. We hit two local microbreweries, trying their most popular beers, and one regular bar, which, from what I gather, is still a favorite of the locals in that area. My personal favorite was the first microbrewery we went to: U Valšů. One of the beers we tried there was a dark lager (most beers in the Czech Republic are going to be lagers), which had been brewed with coffee grounds. I know that sounds strange, but it was delicious. We ended up going back a few days later to get it again.
At the end of the tour, we were such a good group that Daniel gave us all certificates proving that we were Czech Beer Tasting Experts in Training. There are no words to describe how accomplished we felt at that.
The group of people we were with on this tour was also great. Once we all received our certificates, we decided that we should put them to good use, and we all went to another microbrewery, recommended to us by Daniel. Here, we see how beer brings people together.