Prague's best beer tour comes with Czech tapas and wine? Yes! And it's perfect for the non-beer drinker.
The Czech Republic is home to Pilsner, beer halls, brew pubs, and huge, frothy mugs of your favourite suds for less than a dollar. But none of this makes much of an impression on me. I'm just not a beer drinker. My beer aversion is one of several annoying travel quirks that occasionally challenge our social lives and our budgets. I'm the gal always requesting a fancy mineral water at ten times the price of a regular bottle of beer! So why join in on Prague's best beer tour? When in Rome, er.... Prague..... you do as the locals do!
When Ryan and I had the opportunity to hang out with the team from Urban Adventures and be a part of the Prague Beer and Czech Tapas tour, I knew it would be a neat way to see the city. And I was confident that Ryan would love it. But me? I hardly suspected that a wine and lemonade loving girl like myself would have such a fun night!
Here's where we explored, what we sampled, and how we fell for the different flavors of Prague.
Cider and yummy sauces at Vinohradsky Pivovar
Just how hard did we fall for the flavors of Prague? Put it this way: Is it rude to openly drool over food when you're sharing it with strangers? The answer is probably yes but that didn't stop me. Phenomenally tender and savory cubes of pork belly brisket, cooked in an incredibly rich dark beer sauce, were an exceptional start to the Prague Beer and Czech Tapas Tour - and they were absolutely drool worthy. I'm hoping my new friends didn't mind! Meanwhile, the accompanying soft potato dumplings did a great job of soaking up any leftover sauce, while a cooked red cabbage added a sharp acidic touch to balance out the plate. But I'm getting ahead of myself....
My beloved appetizers were served up at Vinohradsky Pivovar, a microbrewery located some 5 kilometers from the city center. It would ordinarily take an hour to walk there from our meeting point in the city center but happily the tour included public transit tickets and we all rode there together (and our guide kept close watch to make sure we traveled as a group).
It was fantastic to get outside of Prague's core and visit a more residential area. The name "vinohradsky" reflects the neighbourhood's history of being a vineyard but today there's a much different scene here.
Vinohradsky Pivovar is one of the 30 some microbreweries that have opened in Prague in the past 5 years. Despite the city's reputation as a beer mecca, until recently beer production was limited primarily to the main commercial breweries (our guide places the blame on Communism for hindering the development of small businesses). I should pause, however, and note that while the brewery opened in 2014, previously a brewery operated for many decades on this land starting in 1893. This new business has deep roots!
The brewery primarily produces Czech style unfiltered lager from Czech hops and malt but they also make APAs and IPAs. Our guide said only about 2% of the beer consumed in the Czech Republic is an ale - lager really is king.
As a non-beer drinker, I had a French cider called Cru Breton, which was delicious. And it was a lovely compliment to the scrumptious snacks that I couldn't get enough of! There was also an option to order wine or a fancy non-alcoholic lemonade. Ryan, the dedicated beer drinker of our family, had the amber coloured Jantarova 13.
You really shouldn't play favourite when tasty bites and booze are involved but I can't help it. As you could probably tell by my love letter to the potato dumplings and beer sauce, I adored Vinohradsky Pivovar. Their tapas were to die for and their atmosphere was so welcoming, funky, modern, and relaxing. It was great to get away from the well trodden tourist paths and into a real locals' neighbourhood. And combined with the long (and new!) traditions of brewing in this area, it felt like we were in a really special place. But we still had three more stops ahead of us!
Kulovy Blesk for films and fine beer
With happy bellies and a spring in our step, our small group of approximately 8 people headed back to the city center for our second stop of the tour. It was a hard act to follow Vinohradsky Pivovar butKulovy Blesk did not disappoint.
The name Kulovy Blesk translates to "Ball Lightning" and this cozy restaurant-pub in the heart of Prague certainly was electrifying. The walls were covered in movie posters from the 1970s and 1980s, which is very fitting as "Kulovy Blesk" was also the name of a comedy film made in the Czech Republic.
Beer is done just a little bit differently here. Our guide told us that the restaurant owner has a company that imports beer and that you'll sometimes see select offerings from different countries on the menu. But for our visit, we stuck with some local classics.
There were two beers to try on this stop (Ryan chose popular local lagers: Unetice Lezak and Hendrych Lezak), while I went for a Czech wine, a Moravia Riesling. And the treats were just as traditional. First, we tried a pickled sausage that emulated a style from the Middle Ages and tasted a bit like salami. Honestly, it wasn't really for me, but everyone else seemed to like it. But our second snack was amazing: fried rye bread ("topinky") with an irresistible garlic cream cheese style spread. Hello!
This spread was an absolute knockout. The combination of the sweet, creamy, sharp, garlicky spread with the dry, crunchy toast and the deep rye flavor was addictive. I could easily imagine passing a night here, nibbling plate after plate of it. But before I fell into a garlic induced coma, we were on to the third stop.
U Sumavy has a Bohemian flair
By now we were really getting into the swing of things and, fueled by carbs and alcohol, the short walk to our third stop passed by in a flash. U Sumavy specializes in beer from small Czech breweries and traditional Bohemian food. We fell into a familiar pattern, with Ryan ordering the house's recommended lager and me opting for a Czech white wine.
There was nothing familiar, however, with the tapas we were served: pickled Camembert cheese in a Mason jar with brine, peppers, and onions, served with bread. The presentation was stunning but the flavor wasn't to my taste. I think I would have appreciated the ingredients served individually instead of combined.
Sadly, U Sumavy was my least favourite of all the Czech tapas experiences on our tour. But to each their own! Other members of the group didn't share my hesitation and I suspect some of the previous swoon-worthy dishes may have spoiled me.
One of the most common questions we get about food tours is how "user friendly" the food selection is. The Prague Beer and Czech Tapas tour struck a great balance between choosing food that had broad appeal (there's nothing very spicy, bitter, or sweet, for instance) while still reflecting authentic Czech ingredients, cooking methods, and typical pub experiences. Vegetarians could easily be accommodated on this tour and I suspect, from studying the menus of each pub and knowing how friendly the staff are, that additional dietary restrictions could be accommodated with appropriate advance notice.
The other common question we hear concerns just how much food you can expect to eat on the tour. Is it equivalent to a full dinner? I would say yes - but with some caveats. The first is that there was a fair amount of walking. Even 10 minutes between stops adds up over the course of the night! As well, the tour was spread out over a couple of hours. Thus the eating experience felt more like a night of great snacking than one square meal. When the tour concluded, we didn't feel the need to go out for dinner, but we did have some more snacks at our hotel room later that night.
U Pinkasu for pancakes and politics
While nothing could dampen my love for Vinohradsky Pivovar, I have to admit that by any measure, U Pinkasu was a pretty spectacular beer hall. If I have the story straight, until recently the pub was owned by the descendants of the original proprietors, who ran a tailor shop here to outfit Franciscan monks. The building is reputed to be the first place to sell Pilsner lager (on April 8, 1843!) but it is even more famous for serving up Czech nationalism. As Soviet command crumbled, U Pinkasu was the favourite meeting place of patriotic politicians, including the first post-occupation president. Actors and writers have also called this beer hall home.
Regrettably, I was too enamored with our final tapas selection to pause for photos. You'll have to take my word for it when I say that the pancakes with whipped cream, cinnamon, and applesauce were just a delight. How fantastic is it that pancakes are considered a staple of the Prague pub scene? They were so yummy and it was nice to end the night with a bit of a dessert-like flavor.
While the tour was officially concluded, we stayed and lingered, and so did everyone else. We took turns buying each other rounds of beer (okay.... beer with a side of wine for you-know-who) and extending our night of revelry seemed very appropriate for a such a fun tour in such a friendly city.
This tour earns a "cheers!" from both of us.
As a non-beer drinker, I was a bit hesitant about this tour. While I knew that Ryan would love it, I was a bit skeptical if it was a good fit for me. In the end, I think I loved it more than he did - and he had a really, REALLY good time!
I was blown away by how great the tapas were and I was so appreciative that there were plenty of tasty beer alternatives in the form of wine, cider, and non-alcoholic choices (all presented with no fuss and no "why don't you like beer" lectures). Our guide facilitated a fantastic group atmosphere and he presented a great balance of serious information - politics, religion, history - alongside plenty of puns, jokes, and fun trivia about the city. By the end of the night, I was hugging the other members of our group to say goodbye - and it wasn't just the wine, I swear!
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Our visit in Prague was facilitated by Czech Tourism and we thank them for their support. All research, writing, and opinions are our own.
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