17 March 2011

About the New Town

Novoměstský Pivovar is on a bustling street not far from Wenceslas Square in Prague. The entrance is down a long passageway leading to the back of the building where it opens out into a large beerhall that was bustling with diners even at 11am on a weekday morning. In staunchly traditional fashion they brew two beers here, one pale and one dark. Novoměstský Pivovar Světlý is another unfiltered, cloudy orange lager with a nice pithy kick and a gentler banana fruit flavour too. The Tmavý is also a little bitterer than a typical dark lager, offering liquorice as the follow-up to a caramel aroma. Neither are especially exciting beers, but solid examples of traditional Czech brewing.

Something similar is going on at Pivovarský Dům with their Štěpán range. Štěpán Světlý is a light and breezy affair, a bit grainy but balanced by some mild citric notes and a sort of canned fruit sweetness. Very drinkable, like a house beer should be. On the dark side, Štěpán Tmavý is mostly about the sweet caramel but adds in some lovely dry and smoky elements as well. Not content with such traditional fare, Pivovarský Dům also offer flavoured versions of their beers: just the house beers with an extra dash of syrup, I assume. We had the coffee-flavoured Kávove which had a lovely coffee aroma to it and, while the sweet mocha and chocolate flavours were tasty, it just didn't resemble proper beer enough to be enjoyable. I did quite like the Kopřivové, however: the nettle essence giving it a lurid green colour with some nice herb and pepper flavours. Still not very beery, though.

The people behind Pivovarský Dům also run a specialist beer bar near Florenc called Pivovarský Klub. Just six draught taps, but a vast range of bottled Czech beers, and more from Belgium, Germany, Scotland and elsewhere (though, oddly, hardly any US beer and nothing at all from England). This was our last port of call before heading to the airport.

I went straight for the weird beer option and Velke Brezno Pepřovy. The spice isn't laid on too thick with this one and the subtle piquancy leaves lots of room for the grassy hops and grainy lager malt. Everything else we tried was dark. Chodovar Černé is from a brewery probably better known for its baths than its beer and is a super-sweet dark lager absolutely loaded with brown sugar flavours, as is Primátor Premium Dark: ruby-brown and going all-out to be as tooth-rottingly sweet as possible. I also took the opportunity to try Primátor Stout and really enjoyed it, despite its almost total lack of carbonation. At the centre of the flavour there's sweet toffee and milk chocolate, then this is tempered by some dry roasted coffee and and a little bit of acrid bitterness right on the finish. Complex and very satisfying. A great beer to go out on.

And go out we did. It was a fairly epic couple of days and I learned a lot about the city's current beer scene, and that of the nation in general, as well as indulging in a little nostalgia from my previous visits. My one regret is that I didn't get to try any of the more mainstream beers. But now that the exploratory groundwork is done I can spend more time with the tankove Budvar on my next visit.