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Czech Beer Culture
Czechs take their beer very seriously, so there is an etiquette to it. First of all, always use the beer coaster, the waiters will definitely appreciate you helping keep the pub or table clean. Second of all, look into the eyes of the other person while toasting. Third, although Czechs usually say “čau” while toasting, meaning a simple “hey”, it is preferable that you say “na zdraví“, which in English translates into “to health”.
An important point is that Czech beer is categorized by degrees. The Balling scale is a measurement (expressed as °Balling) of the concentration of dissolved solids (mainly sugars) in a brewery wort. That means the higher the degree, the stronger the sweetness and flavor.
Pilsner beer first appeared in the 19th century in the city of Plzeň. There, brewers discovered a bottom-fermenting yeast that produces a golden and more drinkable beer compared to stronger top-fermented ales from the time.
Pilsner Urquell started the production of its beer in 1842, and since then the Pilsner-style beer became so famous that most Czech breweries did not produce anything else until quite recently.
Czech Beer Foam
Many tourists who visit Prague, or even the Czech Republic in general, get surprised when they order a beer and get a glass full of foam, some might even feel cheated. But in reality, beer foam is traditional in the Czech Republic.
Foam is flavor, and for that reason, the way beer is poured into the glass makes a difference. The difference in taste comes from a different proportion between golden lager and dense foam. You can pour Pilsner beer in three main ways:
- Hladinka: With three fingers of foam on top of the golden lager, Hladinka goes perfectly with rich foods like a grilled duck. The thick top of dense and wet foam gives the beer a perfect balance between sweetness and bitterness while sealing the freshness and flavor.
- Šnyt: With three parts foam and one part empty at the top of the glass, the Šnyt is perfect for enjoying together with some hearty food such as goulash or a burger.
- Mliko: With the glass full of foam and just a bit of beer at the bottom, the Mliko tastes the best together with dessert. The excessive foam brings out the rich aromas from the hops and the sweetness from the malt. It will taste like a delicious sweet drink.
Where to Drink in Prague
When you think of the Old Town Square, the first thing that comes to mind is expensive stuff and tourist traps. But there is a hidden place right by the Astronomical Clock that will definitely surprise you.
Skautsky Institute is a mostly student’s meetup place, located in a historical building with no logo and no name. To find it, you must first enter a golden door and climb to the first floor.
Here you can enjoy Pilsner beers at different degrees as well as other types of drinks, accompanied by snacks such as chips and toasts. The atmosphere is very relaxed, and if you are lucky to sit on the edge of the building, you will have an amazing view of the Old Town Square from the window.
Branická Formanka is quite small and hidden, so if you are not paying attention you might just pass over it. It is quite known for having the cheapest beer in Prague and a very cozy atmosphere.
This place is visited mostly by locals, so you will not be hearing any English. Remember that it is a very small place, so be polite and quiet if you visit it.
Here you can enjoy Branik beer. Branik is originally brewed at Prazske Pivovar, belonging to the same company as Staropramen and is today brewed by this brewery in Prague. This particular brand has a very bitter and hoppy taste with a touch of citrus.
Lokál U Bílé kuželky
Lokál serves traditional Czech food prepared with fresh and local ingredients and all of this in a very cozy atmosphere at their cellar. As you exit the Charle’s bridge, you will have to go against all tourists to find this place, but you will be rewarded with quality food and beer.
Here is the perfect place to enjoy and compare the Hladinka, Šnyt, and Mliko. You can order all three at the same time, but you will have to drink fast since the foam from Czech beers disappears in a split second. You can clearly see in the picture above that my Mliko was almost turning into a Šnyt, and believe me, I took the picture 10 seconds after it arrived at the table.