In late September, Czechs celebrate their patron St. Václav. And the day before another icon of local culture – Czech beer. This golden nectar is an inherent part of Czech cuisine and no matter where you go, you’re going to find a pub or restaurant taking part in this celebration of beer. They will be preparing degustation menus, beer specials, visits to breweries and side programs. Liquid bread, as beer in the Czech Republic is known, will be celebrated until the 3rd of October, when the days of Czech beer culminate, for example, with the Pilsner Fest in Pilsen.
Plzeň and Prague – beer Giants
When giving out beer tips one can’t leave out the two famous Czech beer centers right at the start, namely Plzeň and Prague. In both cities, lovers of beer come into their own, because they learn all sorts of interesting things about beer as well as getting to taste it. You can visit the large breweries here - Pilsner Urquell and Prague’s Staropramen - and also visit a beer museum. These can be found in Plzeň and Prague. A couple worth mentioning are the Beer Museum in Old Town or the Brewery House. Not to mention the hundreds of pubs where they will be happy to draw you some "liquid bread", a popular nickname for beer in the Czech Republic.
Increasingly, smaller breweries are playing a more significant role. The capital city also has plenty to offer in this area. The Břevnov St. Adalbert Monastic Brewery can be found on the premises of Břevnov Monastery, so a walk to these places can be spiced up by visiting the brewery shop or the nearby monastery taproom and tasting some of the local specialties, like the dark Russian Imperial Stout (21%) with the taste of high quality dark chocolate. In the newly built Hostivař Brewery in Prague 15, you’ll be sure to get beer without pasteurization and filtration. The result is a series of interesting beers - the cycling "eight" to "fifteen" with the fresh fragrance of citrus and flowers.
Tours of the smaller breweries
Of course, you can always venture outside of Prague and Plzeň for delicious Czech beer. Guided tours combined with tasting are provided by both traditional large and medium-sized breweries like Budvar in České Budějovice, Radegast in Nošovice, Krušovice Brewery, Primátor in Náchod or Starobrno from Brno, but also a number of small, mostly family breweries. You’ll feel right at home in the family brewery Neumann near Mělník, in Koutský Brewery in Šumava, in the Chyše castle brewery, in the Black Eagle Brewery in Jindřichův Hradec or in the Slavkov Brewery, where they brew a special twelve-degree Slavkov white beer, which is a wheat beer which smells like bananas and cloves.
Beer trail trips
A visit to any of the breweries can be a great starting point, the final destination or a stop on a walking tour along what are known as beer trails. Walking in the highest Czech mountains Krkonoše, can be combined with drinking good beer on the Krkonoše Beer Trail that connects Vrchlabí, Friesovy boudy and Luční bouda. You can taste original beer right in four breweries along the 22 km long route. A similar hike awaits you in the beautiful Beskids. Enjoy picturesque villages and towns with stylish restaurants, historical and natural monuments, and especially the eight breweries involved in the Beskids Beer Trails.
If you are going to Vysočina, especially to its largest city Jihlava, you’ll probably hear information about the existence of a local Brewery Educational Trail that teaches you about the history of the royal town and the local tradition of brewing beer at twelve information desks. The Beer Trail of the poet Petr Bezruč, suitable especially for cyclists, is another opportunity how to take a nice trip from the outskirts of Brno to the gates of the Černá Hora brewery, with a length of 28 km.
Fun at a Beer Festival
Breweries are organizing festivals practically all over the country. One of the most popular is the Harvest Festival in Žatec, which is mainly famous as the city of hops. The western part of the Czech Republic is, of course, famous for its production of beer, and so it’s no accident that it’s home to a couple of beer capitals. Further south is České Budějovice and its Budvar, which is celebrating 120 years this year.
To the west lies Pilsen, the European Capital of Culture 2015. The Pilsen brewery festival will be held throughout the weekend of 3 to 5 October. There will be two stages on the site of Plzeňský prazdroj, offering performances by 12 bands. Visitors will again be able to weave between samples of beer craftsmanship and good food. Their popularity can be seen by the number of people who came to last year’s festival – 45,000.
The beer festivals will also be moving eastwards during September, to areas that have been traditionally associated more with wine than beer. For example, Zábřeh Château in Ostrava will combine its beer festivities with celebrations of St. Václav to create a long weekend of music, historical performances and tasting tours of microbreweries. The festival runs from 27 to 28 September.