As you will know from my blog posts during the pandemic, I took advantage of the free time I had due to the lack of tourists – and therefore a lack of tours – to travel during both summers (2020 and 2021), the only time most restrictions were lifted. But because of the various restrictions that were still in place during the summers, I was for the most part limited to travel in within the Czech Republic. And it was wonderful! I not only revisited some favorite places that I had not been to in years (such as Český Krumlov), I also made it a point to visit some towns and sites that, despite having lived here for several decades, I had never seen (like Žďár nad Sázavou). And I became fascinated again, and in a different way, with the amazing lands that are the Czech Republic. With its bucolic countryside, royal towns and castles, the Czech Republic has something for everyone. There’s even a wine country in this nation of beer lovers!
You might know that in recent years Prague has become one of the top tourist destinations. That's because it's filled with architectural wonders and has centuries of rich history. But you might not know that Czech beer is also one of the country's national treasures.
Czech beer is simply delicious, and the Czechs drink more beer per capita than any nation on earth. Don’t be surprised if you spot a few construction workers drinking it on their morning breaks! And Czech doctors routinely prescribe Pilsner Urquell to treat certain digestive disorders. As Gene Dietze points out in his popular memoir, “For the Love of Prague,” a Czech doctor insisted to him that a pint of beer or less per day is not considered alcohol, scientifically speaking.
Pilsner urquell - king of Czech beers
Many people (not just doctors) consider Pilsner Urquell (Plzeňský Prazdroj) to be the best Czech beer, or even the best beer in the world. It originates in the town of Pilsen, which is where we get the name "pilsner" from. Technically speaking, only beers brewed in Pilsen are allowed to call themselves pilsners, but the brewery gave up that loosing battle long ago. But they have not given up their time-honored tradition of brewing delicious beer. When you visit Prague (and most places in the Czech Republic), you will find Pilsner Urquell everywhere.
this bud's for you!
Another famous – and probably one of the best – Czech beer brands is Budweiser (Budvar). Yes, you read that right – Budweiser originated here in the town of České Budějovice (Budweis in German). This Czech brewery alone among all others is still state owned – the government doesn’t want Anheuser-Busch to get its hands on this national treasure.
For this reason (that is, the limited amount of funds a state-run enterprise has for things like distribution), it is relatively difficult to find a Budweiser here unless you’re close to the town of České Budějovice where it is brewed. But if you do find it, try it! It is very different from (and much better than) the American Bud.
Book a day trip to the pilsner urquell brewery in pilsen
And Czech Budweiser is also very different from its main rival, Pilsner Urquell. The storied history of Pilsner Urquell is worth a trip to the town of Pilsen for a brewery tour. Because of its special fermentation process, this beer takes longer and costs more to make than other Czech beers. That’s also why it costs more than other beers. Still, given its amazing quality and taste, it is incredibly cheap by “western” standards (cheaper than bottled water – the Czechs would have it no other way). In any case, you’ll taste the difference.
Yes, the microbrew trend has hit the Czech Republic, too, with great results. I'll tell you more in a future blog post, or you can learn more about this trend and all Czech beers in my Prague Restaurant Guide! It's available in both paperback and Kindle formats.
I am an American who has been living in Prague for two decades. After a long career in international finance, I left the business world to pursue other interests. I now work as a writer, mentor and guide to the city.