Monday, September 3, 2012



After Prague, what’s the next thing that comes to mind about the Czech Republic? This one is obvious: beer!! Or pivo, as the locals call it. And no wonder:

·         Lager was invented in the Czech Republic (in the town of Plzen)

·         The Czechs drink more beer per capita than any other nation on Earth

·         In the Czech Republic, there seems to be a Hospoda (pub) - or two or three - on every street corner

·         Czech pubs have play areas for the little ones…and people also bring their dogs

·         In the Czech Republic, women also drink big pints of beer

·         The word pilsner comes from the Czech town of Plzen (via the German version of the town’s name Pilsen). However, the concensus seems to be that the best Czech beer is Radegast.

·         The Czechs often also drink non-alcoholic beer, for example at work events or if they’re driving. So they don’t just drink it to get drunk, they drink it for the taste (I have literally never seen a Finnish person order or drink non-alcoholic beer. The only person in Finland whom I’ve seen drink it is a Spanish friend).  

·         In the Czech Republic, the typical price of a half liter of beer is 25 Czech Crowns (CZK), which is pretty much exactly one euro (in some places it’s even less). I’ve heard a story that at one point there was talk of raising beer prices but they did not dare to try it: they were so concerned about potential riots breaking out all over the country.

·         Many people all over the world consider Czech beer to be the best in the world. Czech people of course know this to be true.

What I don’t understand is how the Czechs manage to drink so much beer when it takes forever to pour one pint! It literally takes something like 5 minutes, because the foam has to be perfect: like an ice-cream sundae on top of your pint of beer. This is the complete opposite of Finland, where the guys want their beer as fast as possible and the bartender is supposed to know how to pour it so that there is as little foam as possible (you hold the glass at an angle so as to reduce the amount of foam). If there’s foam, it slows down your drinking! You have to wait before you can drink! When I told my Czech colleagues this, they were almost horrified: what, no foam? How barbaric! The foam on the beer is the stamp of quality. If there’s no foam, the beer could have been sitting there on the counter for half an hour…disgusting.

Not being a beer drinker (I know, sacrilege…) I only understood what they meant when I compared it to how I think of that other sacred drink: cappuccino. The foam does not really and truly serve any purpose, but it just has to be there; otherwise one cannot call it a cappuccino (then it’s just a café au lait). The Czechs think about beer in the same way: if it ain’t got foam, it ain’t beer. My husband is still not convinced, but let’s see in a couple of years...

I said that I’m not a beer drinker but it’s not from a lack of trying: I’ve seriously tried to like beer because in certain situations it seems rather barbaric to not drink it: at Oktoberfest for example (where my husband and I got engaged). Or at a pub in Dublin. And yes: anywhere in the Czech Republic. So I’ve tried beer many times, but I’ve simply not managed to acquire a taste for it. The best Czech beer I’ve tasted had orange in it, it was called Fenix. It was, well…tolerable. It pains me to say it, but the best beer I’ve had in the Czech Republic was: Corona (if my Czech friends read this, I’ll probably be burnt at the stake tomorrow). And speaking of sacrilege, in the Czech Republic, where nearly 60% of the people call themselves agnostic, I would venture to say – without much exaggeration – that beer is in fact more important than religion.

Do also check out this video about why the Czech Republic is the center of the known universe: Beer Nation

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