Czeching out Prague’s beer scene

What are Saturday afternoons for if not a good pub crawl? Well, I say afternoon; in Prague many bars (the good ones at least) don’t open until early evening on the weekend. While shops and cafes tend to open until midday it seems everyone then goes home for a few hours before venturing out again for an evening’s drinking. We unfortunately didn’t realise this and despite heading out just after lunch, it was past 5 o’clock by the time we’d got our first beers of the day in!

One place that did open earlier was the Mead Museum, so we decided to start our afternoon there. It’s apparently Europe’s largest mead shop, with more than 100 varieties from around the continent.  There’s also a bar offering tasters and various mead cocktails for the more adventurous. To be honest, I’ve always thought of mead as more like wine than beer, but it’s on Untappd so I suppose that’s good enough for me. We opted for the tasting flight of five meads; Poppy was so taken by the spiced one, Staročeská medovina, that she ordered a second helping!

We started the afternoon at the Mead Museum

After a couple of hours of world-class time killing (it’s amazing how long you can make a McFlurry last), our first beer stop of the day was Malý/Velký near the National Museum. It’s an easy place to miss – it took us a couple of walks around the block to locate. Once inside though, we found a fairly typical basement bar with 8 beers on draught. Poppy wasn’t feeling the heavy metal playlist, so we found a seat in the courtyard upstairs; thankfully it was covered because the heavens opened as soon as we sat down.

The bar acts as a tap for the Falkon microbrewery, with around half the beers coming from them. I sampled two of theirs: the nicely-balanced Sourberry Coffee Sour Ale (4.6%) and the interesting lager/ale hybrid DDH Kölsch (5%). Meanwhile, Poppy went for the crisp Dalešická pilsner (4.3%). With the big-name pilsners so ubiquitous around Prague, it was refreshing to find a lesser known example to try.

Malý/Velký combined craft beer with heavy metal music

Next up on our route was NUBEERBAR, which came recommended on a free map we’d picked up. This time there were 22 beers on offer, but unfortunately I think it was a slight case of quantity over quality, though most of the 22 came from Czech breweries which was nice to see. That said, they were mainly IPAs and APAs, so a bit more variety would have been welcome. I had the Zichovec Mosaic Ale (5.1%) which was pleasant enough, if a little under-hopped. However, Poppy’s Pivovar Permon Cherry Lager (4.5%) was pretty awful; the beer was flat and the cherry flavour tasted weak and artificial. Luckily we’d only bought small ones so we quickly drank up and moved on.

A quick ride on the number 11 tram took us to the Vršovice district. We were aiming for Zlý Časy (“Bad Times”), Prague’s joint highest-rated bar on Ratebeer at 97/100. Such high ratings meant we had lofty expectations and I’m glad to say those expectations were fully met. You come in to the ground-level bar, which looks like it could have been transported brick-by-brick from any East London boozer. The floorboards were bare, old bottles lined the wooden-clad walls and the barman looked like he wouldn’t stand for any nonsense.

To be fair to NUBEERBAR, they did serve the beers in the right glassware

The beer list, however, was much better than what you might find in the Queen Vic; hoppy pales, sours and stouts from all the best Czech microbreweries plus international beers such as De Molen. Poppy went for the hazy, juicy Pivovar Antoš NENE NEIPA (5.4%), a very good beer for the relatively low ABV. My choice was even better though, the rich, boozy Bad Flash Torpid Mind (10.5% Russian Imperial Stout). While sitting at our table, we kept noticing people appearing from nowhere and wondering where they’d come from. We thought no more of it though and carried on drinking our beers. After leaving, we learned that there’s apparently a downstairs bar too with 30 more taps… sounds like a good excuse to go back!

We hopped back on the number 11, our destination BeerGeek, the other Prague bar with a 97 on Ratebeer. After our experience in Zlý Časy our hopes were high once again. BeerGeek is a very different type of bar, modern and sleek with giant TV screens displaying the constantly-updating tap list. It was certainly much busier too; by the looks of it they’ve done a great job of attracting more tourists than any other place we visited.

Zlý Časy’s interior reminded me of pubs back home

With tourists come higher prices though, and while the beer was tasty, our round of two small servings cost over 50% more than we’d paid anywhere else. Poppy stuck with the NEIPA theme, sampling an Over the Moon (6.8%) from German brewery Fuerst Wiacek. I on the other hand went for the fiendishly strong Sibeeria Zima 2018 barleywine (10.5%) to finish the evening. With our delayed start to the afternoon it was getting late by now, so we elected to save the last couple of pubs for another day.

Tuesday rolled around and after a morning stroll around the Holešovice district, we decided it was time to pay those last three pubs a visit. First up was Pivovarský Klub, just by Florenc metro station. It claims to have the largest bottled beer list in the Czech Republic, with more than 240 varieties from around the world. We both opted for draught beers though, and being in Prague it was a couple of lagers on the menu. I had the Venoušek rye lager (5.2%), while Poppy went for the Benedict 12° pale lager (5%). Both were decent enough, but with more places still left to visit we paid up and made our exit.

Pivovarský Klub boasted the country’s largest bottle menu

About 10 minutes’ walk down the road was Bad Flash Bar Karlín. This is one of two Bad Flash taprooms in Prague, with the other located down in Vršovice. I’d been really impressed by their stout a couple of days earlier, so was excited to try out a few more from their range. There were about 10 beers on tap when we visited, plus dozens more in bottles. I started with Bikini Ale (4.8%), a classic citrusy session IPA with Amarillo hops. Meanwhile, Poppy went for one from the bottle fridge: Rogue Ales Mocha Porter (5.6%) was a tasty dark beer with plenty of chocolate and coffee notes.

The bar was comfortable and quiet on a Tuesday afternoon, so we decided to stay for another one. Poppy, a new-found fan of dark beers, stuck with the same again. The other Bad Flash beers weren’t doing it for me unfortunately so I went for one of the guests instead. Austria’s Brauhaus Bevog was a new brewery for me, but definitely one I’ll be looking out for again on the back of their Kramah, a hoppy, tropical 6.5% IPA.

Poppy enjoying her Mocha Porter in Bad Flash Bar

With just one more bar on our list, we set off walking again. Just one issue – right in the middle of Prague is a huge hill, Vítkov, which separates Karlín from Žižkov. At more than 270 metres high, it’s not one we fancied climbing no matter how good the beer on the other side! Fortunately, a tunnel has been built through the middle for lazy people like us. Our destination was ROH Družstevní Kavárna, a little co-operative cafe nestled in the shadow of the hill. The beer choice here is small but perfectly formed, with three beers all from Pivovar Kolčavka. We enjoyed a Ležácká Světlá 11° (4.5% pilsner) and a Summer Ale 13° (5.5% APA) while discussing the future of CAMRA (yes, we’re cool), before heading back to the room to pack our bags and prepare for our trip to Pilsen.

I’m in Prague for the day, where should I visit? Zlý Časy was easily my favourite craft beer bar in Prague; it had the perfect mixture of ambience, value for money and of course excellent beer. In fact, now we know about the downstairs bar too, it will definitely be my first port of call next time we’re in Prague.

Brewery to look out for? Both the Bad Flash beers I tried while in Prague were very good, but especially the Torpid Mind imperial stout. I would say to look out for them arriving in the UK soon, but apparently they’re already there – their Bikini Ale was recently available at the Great British Beer Festival!

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