Tales from Suburban Bohemia: Beer
This post originally appeared on Stumpy Moose on 5 September, 2001, and was migrated to PraguePig.com on 30 November, 2018.
I’ve been meaning to write a column about beer for three days now but I’ve been too hungover.
We have friends in town, and as part of the festivities our friend David Perry organized a trip to the Herold brewery, which he co-owns.
Beer’s a big part of the Czech culture. Since the wine-drinking Slovaks declared independence the Czechs have been the world’s biggest beer drinkers.
It’s not hard to see why — Czech beer is very good and very cheap. A decent half-litre can cost as little as 10 Czech crowns (about 20 pence). It’s cheaper to drink beer than it is to drink Coca-Cola or fizzy water.
Herold, in Breznice (about an hour’s drive south of Prague) is a typical Czech brewery. The communists nationalized the breweries but they never bothered to invest in new brewing technology. As a result, most Czech beers are traditional “real ale” by default.
Herold still makes beer the old-fashioned way.
According to our tour guide, a likeable old chap, it’s one of the oldest functioning breweries in the Czech Republic. It also seemed to feature some of the oldest functioning metal stairways in the Czech Republic, but we survived.
The only obvious sign of new investment at the brewery was a Laverne and Shirley-style bottling machine but the beer is now marketed quite aggressively. It’s in a lot of Prague expat bars.
Herold has also started exporting to the United States under the name Old Stork. The beer’s also very big in Azerbaijan, apparently.
With the tour over we were whisked off to the Breznice tennis club for many beers and a pig on a spit, then bundled, somewhat drunk, onto the bus back to Prague.
Even after taking several brewery tours in England, the beer-making process remains a mystery to me. I’m still no wiser about the use of malt, or why hops start life as a willowy green plant and end up looking like cat food. But I’m glad there are people out there who do.