Dobry Den (hello) and welcome to the first entry in my little section of the blog.
I don’t have much of a way with words, so I prefer to leave that to Kathleen for the most part. However, I will be weighing in from time to time throughout the trip, here in Chris’ Corner.
Its been a whirlwind first week here in the Czech Republic, and I sit down to write this post as we wait for our bus, en route to Poland for the next stage of the journey. I am not only left with fond memories of our days spent in Prague, but also a bit of a queezy stomach, and a lingering headache. This brings me to the topic of Chris’ Corner #1: Czech Beer!
We Canadians think we can handle our liquor, but over here in Czech Republic the national average is 165 litre of beer consumed per citizen, per year. As Kathleen mentioned in her blog, this includes the elderly, and young children. Considering this, the national average is estimated more around the level of 300 litres of beer per person yearly. You can only imagine what type of stats the heavy drinkers are raking in yearly: they may even surpass Wes Moran. This is not entirely a surpise, considering beer is literally cheaper than water: a 500 mL beer costs 19 Czeck Krowns (95 cents canadian) in the stores, and as low as 28 Czeck Krowns (1.40 canadian) in Prague. Pubs in smaller towns charge as low as 90 cents canadian. These prices include taxes. Thus, in any restaurant, its common practice to have beers with lunch as well, even on working days.
Pilsner beers are the king, as the first Pilsner was invented in a small town called Plzen (Pilsen) which is about a 2 hour train ride from Prague. Due to national pride, proximity, and cost, the Pilsner has dominated since its inception hundreds of years ago. Having said that, the craft brewery scene is alive and well here, not only experimenting with different types of Pilsners, but all other classifications from IPAs to amber ales to double IPAs to Stouts to Porters, etc. Alcohol content is not an important concept here, as beers instead report “Degrees Plato” which is a measure more reflective of the color, flavors, and aromas of the beer. It is referred to as the ‘size’ of the beer. A conversion for us canadians, is that the alcohol content will fall around 40% of the degrees plato. For example, a beer listed at 10 degrees, will have a content of about 4% alcohol.
Another interesting point, is that the goal in pouring a good Czech beer is to have as much foam as possible. Sitting at the bar enjoying my first Czech beer experience, I was shaking my head when the bartender handed me a glass which was over a third full of foam. Here I am thinking I am a beer veteran and know how to pour a beer, but its a whole different world with true Pilsners. The foam is thick and tasty, often referred to as the “milk” of the beer, and is a key aspect of a good beer. FYI: The foam is delicious.
Our first night in the city, we decided to take in a traditional Czech pub so we walked about 10 minutes from our hostel, through the old town and town square, to a little hole in the wall called ‘U Zlateho Tygra’ which means “The Golden Tiger”. We were told that it is where the locals go to drink, and is far from a tourist destination, so act accordingly. We wandered around a last corner, and there it was in all its glory, or not: An old building, windows stained glass black so you couldn’t see through, and the only entrance being through a side alley with the door consisting of only a black curtain. In we went, and it was jammed to the gills with locals, enjoying their Thursday night. The only server, a big burly man, motioned us to the only empty table. As we wondered where the menus were, he pounded down two big Pilsners in front of us, threw down a little piece of scrap paper on the table, and put two lines on it with his pen. Could this be any simpler? It would make waiters in Canada jealous: the pub only served one type of beer, and in one size. Effectively, when you ordered, it consisted of YES or NO. When you were 3/4 through a beer, he would slam another one onto the table and add a tick to your tally on the scrap paper. Effectively, it wasn’t a YES or NO, it was an implied YES YES YES until you got up from the table and paid. The burley bald waiter managed to serve the entire pub of over 100 thirsty people by himself, while still managing to slam pint after pint himself. This scene was a trend that continued in the following days as we made our way through numerous other Prague drinking holes. Lets just say we were doing our darnest to keep up with the national drinking average throughout our stay.
Another highlight of the beer scene in Prague, was when we made our way up to a Monestary where monks continue to live and practice to this day. They not only have a long religious tradition, they also have a long brewing tradition. For hundreds of years they have brewed all their own beers, and only in recent years has the brewing been taken over by a third party. It was craft beers at their finest. We were able to try an unfiltered dark porter, an unfiltered amber, and a dark wheat beer made without hops. We made sure to get a snapchat or two, which I was more than happy to send to Tom Forbes, taunting him a bit, as I know how much he loves both travelling as well as beer. We figure if I taunt him enough, he will quit his job and join us. He will have to get used to waking up in Calgary to head to work, with daily snapchats sitting there waiting for him.
We are sad to say goodbye to the Czech Republic, as it treated us well. Having said that, I am pretty fired up to see what Poland has to offer!!
Until next time,