Czech beers are famous around the world, but nowhere are they drunk with such appreciation as in Prague. The Czechs take their beer (pivo) seriously and are very proud of it.
The Czech Republic also produces considerable amounts of wine, both red and white, mainly in Southern Moravia. Little of it is bottled for export.
Czech Pilsner and Budweiser
The best known Czech beer is Pilsner Urquell. Clear and golden, with a strong flavor of hops, Pilsner is made by the lager method: bottom-fermented and slowly matured at low temperatures.
The word “Pilsner” is derived from Plzeň (Pilsen in German), a town 80 km southwest of Prague, where this type of beer was first made in 1842.
The brewery that developed the beer still makes Plzeňské pivo as well as the slightly stronger Plzeňský Prazdroj, better known as Pilsner Urquell.
A slightly sweeter beer, Budweiser Budvar, is brewed 150 km south of Prague in the town of České Budějovice (Budweis in German). The American Budweiser’s first brewer adopted the name after a visit to Bohemia in the 19th century.
The second most popular brew in the Czech Republic is near-black tmavé pivo, or “dark beer,” a brewing style that actually predates pilsner — and upstages it in some Czech taverns.
Wines from the Czech Republic
Czech wine producers have not yet emulated the success of other East European wine-makers. The main wine-growing region is in Moravia, where most of the best wine is produced for local consumption.
Some wine is also made in Bohemia, around Mělník, just north of Prague. The wines are made mostly from Riesling, Müller-Thurgau or Veltliner grapes (polosuché is demi-sec and suché is sec). Rulandské (Pinot) is an acceptable dry white.
The reds are slightly better, the main choices being Frankovka and Vavřinecké. In the autumn, a semi-fermented young, sweet white wine called burčák is sold and drunk across the capital.
Czech Spirits and Liqueurs
In every restaurant and pub you’ll find Becherovka, a bitter-sweet, amber herbal drink served both as an aperitif and a liqueur. It can also be diluted with tonic.
Other local drinks include Borovička, a juniper-flavored spirit, and plum brandy or Slivovice. The latter is clear and strong and rather an acquired taste.