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On Beer and Burčák: How to Drink your Way Through Prague

by Lily C. Fen

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Prague is a city perfect for meandering walks, immersing yourself in history. But in addition to some impressive sightseeing throughout the most beautiful city in Europe, Czech Republic this autumn also welcomes you to burčák season. From mid-August till the end of November, head to a Vinárna (wine bars) or Burčákomat (van-refrigerator selling burčák), or, as I’m won’t to do, drop by a burčák festival, which are ubiquitous throughout Czechia this time of year, particularly in the South Moravian region.

With many a festival presenting bottles of the early wine, burčák is the drink to indulge in this fall. As any first offering of the vineyard, expect a light and fruity taste, its alcoholic punch taking you by surprise hours later. Burčak may be the special go-to drink this autumn, but throughout any day of the year, the ultimate staple for locals and tourists alike is what they call their “liquid bread”—pivo in Czech, beer in other words.

This tiny European country is a place where beer is cheaper than water. It is to the Czech as rice is to the Filipino—the one thing on the menu that can satisfy all cravings. For Czechs, beer is nourishment, allowing them hours of time in the hospoda (the bar) with others. If you are interested in a genuine Czech experience, then do tour through the best pitstops for beer in Prague. We’re talking hearty pints of beer, from the traditional bitter light, to the caramel-toned dark and even something in between they call a řezaný—a garnet beer where the bartender swirls together a light and dark draft.

Head to Lesser Town (Malá Strana in Czech), where you will find U malého Glena (“By the little glen”) pub. Order a pint of Bernard’s dark or light lager —one of our favorites, a small brewery letting the product speak for itself. Have a taste of the spicy Czech sausage, klobasa, while here. Or help yourself to some Smažený sýr (fried cheese), as good as any schnitzel, paired with a generous helping of fries. Combine it with a light lager called Velvet, served in a tall slim glass. Do also visit Pivovarský Dům (Beer House) for a beer sampler, where you can get a shotglass size each of their various brews. Independently-owned micro-breweries offer a taste of some of the most flavorful beer— head to restaurant Nota Bene in Vinohrady or U Fleků Restaurant in Prague 1. Have a plate of svíčková and knedlíky (roast beef in thick gravy with Czech dumplings) for dinner, a satisfying meal.

While sampling your way through Czech beer, keep an eye out for household names such as Pilsner Urquell, Staropramen, and Gambrinus. The former tastes like the Filipino San Miguel Pale Pilsen. Some of our favorite dark lagers are those brewed by Kozel, Krušovice or Fénix. The latter is an orange-flavoured drink served in a curvy glass at the aforementioned U malého Glena, with a slice of orange on the rim.

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