Beer from Bohemia, Wine from Moravia

U Vejvodu - Pilsner Urquell Beer Hall

Europe arguably has the best beers to be had on this planet. Even though they are drunk at close to room temperature (off-putting to a lot of folks who grew up on frigid lagers), British ales are a thing of beauty. Likewise the fabulous Trappist beers of Belgium and the German pilsners and bocks, all in a class of their own. And so it was with some anticipation that I looked forward to our recent visit to the Czech Republic. To many beer connoisseurs, Czech beers sit at the top of the pile. To many they are the best. Given the variety and quality of European beers, that is a tall order.

Our routing from the US to Prague included a stopover in London, a city I love, where I spent a couple of years of my youth. After enjoying the excellent Shepherd Neame Spitfire and Brakspear’s Oxford Gold during our brief stopover in London, I was ready for Prague.

Bohemia Moravia

In the Czech Republic, they have a saying – Beer from Bohemia, Wine from Moravia. Bohemia is the western part of the Czech Republic and that is where most beer comes from. You may have heard of the pilsner style of beer. It is a lager that was created in the town of Plzen in Bohemia. The most famous pilsner is, of course, Pilsner Urquell. Most beer in the Czech Republic is lager, including dark beer. A lager, for those of you who are interested, is a beer made from malted barley that is brewed and served at low temperatures.

An unusual characteristic of beer labeling in the Czech Republic is that it is often described with degrees instead of percentage of alcohol. The degrees indicate the percentage of sucrose in the overall solution. As a general rule. a higher degree indicates a higher alcohol percentage. A 10 degree beer is about 4% alcohol, a 12 degree about 5% and so on.

While most beer production in the Czech republic is industrial (i.e. mass production), we got a chance to visit an old style brewery in Cesky Krumlov, Eggenberg, that still produces low volumes of beer made the traditional way. The pictures below are self explanatory.

Barley, malt, hops

Barley is boiled, mashed, strained and hops added in these stills

Fermented and aged at low temperatures

And this is where it comes together

For a beer lover, Czech Republic is heaven. There was not a bad beer to be had. The only one that I did not care too much for was the Lobkowicz. But even that, by itself, was a pretty good beer.

A small subset of beers tasted in the Czech Republic

Our favorite before we went to Prague, was the original Budweiser Budvar (sold in the US as Czechvar). It still remains our favorite. Now more than ever, I am convinced it’s the best lager I have ever had. Fortunately for us, we can buy it in the US but it is still not quite the same as drinking it on draft…

Budweiser Budvar - Proof that god loves us and wants us to be happy

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