So we're sitting in a cafe, researching for our US trip, and we get an email from the Ambiente group of restaurants: They are opening a new season of their beer draughting school, two people cancelled just two days before the first session, and we are invited to fill in the vacancies. We did actually want to join a class and promised ourselves we would go after our main season was over, so this was a great opportunity. We have a soft spot for Lukas Svoboda, the man behind all things beer in the Lokal pubs and the Ambiente group of restaurants, whom we interviewed a few months ago. We said we'd go and eventually got in. So a disclosure first: we got the whole thing for free as "journalists". Sarka, the Ambiente's communications manager, promised Lukas would "teach us things we did not even dream of". Boy, you can see she's good.
The courses take place in the basement of the Lokal U Bile kuzelky pub at Misenska street near the Charles Bridge, and the basement part of the pub is reserved just for the lessons (a new bartender took over the bar towards the end of the lesson and people started walking in and ordered beers from him). We were a part of a group of eight: two guys from Brno who were pretty good, a bartender duo from a pub in Slovakia (with their manager and her small son - really good, professional pourers), a member of staff in another Lokal who was apologetic whenever he poured a bad one and Lukas just shook his head, a beer fan in his late twenties whose experience was "watching pouring videos on YouTube", and the two of us. Talk about a dream team. We all sat by the tables in front of the bar.
Lukas Svoboda is a naturally entertaining person and "restraint" is not a word that we would use to describe how he leads the lessons. Just like in, let's say, Spanish, Czech has a formal "you" and an informal "you". Lukas uses the latter exclusively to address the participants and if you like to be treated like royalty, this experience is not for you. For instance, we were treated for what we were: two clueless novices who had no idea how to pour a beer. You could see the smile on Lukas' face when Zuzi's pour ended to be just head. Lukas said this made him happy because making progress would be easy in this particular case (Jan's first beer wasn't much better).
What we liked about the lesson was that it was hands-on and just simply fun. We just simply tried to master different styles of pours. Beer was not spared that much and if you messed up, you would get to try again until you got it (relatively) right. Lukas did not spend much time explaining the technical details of how beer actually gets from the tanks to the bar, but whenever you asked a technical or any other question, he did answer it in a way we could understand. He is open to talk about anything beer-related and is not shy to express his opinion. For instance, did you know that "beer has no cholesterol and makes you lose weight"? Yes, he would totally make stuff up, too.
Let's be honest here: this lesson is definitely R-rated and not really suitable for children. Lots of jokes fly around and some of them may make even most hairy navy men blush. You should also leave your ego at the door. No matter whether you were a pro or a novice, you would pour bad and good beers. There is a fair amount of daring involved, especially when you pour "the sweet" and Lukas wants you to drink it in one go. Also, once you pour a decent glass of beer and leave the bar to make room for the next participant, you get to take your beer with you. Oh boy. We were happy we remember anything. You get to drink lots of beer while Lukas compliments you on your glass-cleaning skills.
As we said, the lesson was just pure fun and we agreed afterwards we would be happy to go again the next day if possible. You know you are having a blast when you loose track of time. Is it informative, too? Sure. We learnt things we did not even dream of (oh boy, Sarka is really good). You get some food in between the two sessions and a goodie bag at the end: a Lokal-branded beer glass, a book about beer and draughting by Lukas Svoboda and a diploma of "Master of Draughting". Not sure if you can actually claim this as an academic title. But getting it was definitely fun.