We know. If you are planning your trip to Prague, you've already heard it all about Pilsner Urquell or Budweiser, the two largest and traditional breweries in the Czech Republic. And the truth is that even the basic products of these two brewing giants are actually very good and definitely worth a try.
That said, the Czech brewing landscape is now undergoing a change. While there were less than 40 collectivized breweries in the Czech Republic under the Communist rule, now we have nearly three hundred. If you took your car and drove through the country, you would see lots of regional diversity, with each region having their smaller local brewers. Some 10, 20 years ago, they were all producing the Czech classic beer: the pale lager in varying degrees of quality. Today, young brewmasters and smaller breweries are producing great craft beers that extend beyond the ubiquitous lager and venture into top-fermented beers, too. Here is where we go when we want to get a taste of these Czech craft beers by smaller, high-quality breweries.
As Evan Rail, the famous beer writer said in our interview recently, Zly casy is "ground zero for the Prague beer culture". You'll have to travel to the Prague 4 district to see it but you'll be happy that you did. 48 beers on draft from smaller Czech breweries and more beers in bottles from all over the world in a non-smoking environment? Yes, this is beer nirvana. Zly casy has created a community of beer aficionados that actually organizes bus trips to beer festivals in the Czech Republic, but you don't have to be one to enjoy Zly casy: their relaxed atmosphere, popularity and tight seating guarantee you will find friends there if only for that particular night. They do have a kitchen that serves "pub food" but that's besides the point here. One extra bonus: pretty long opening hours.
Beergeek is the new kid on the block but boy, did it make waves. When it opened in early October, we met many friends from the Prague foodie community on the opening night there, including Lukas Svoboda, the beer guru of the Lokal pubs. The retail space of an established beer distributor offers a well-curated selection of thirty craft beers, including many local favorites like Matuska, Antos, Kout na Sumave, Falkon and so on. We heard they should be opening their kitchen finally in November. Up until then it's all about potato chips and peanuts. We are not sure whether we like or dislike the interiors (we think we actually dislike it) but the place actually has a very nice atmosphere and brings together beer lovers from the entire city. And even if you are a novice, the friendly and knowledgeable bartenders will guide you in your choice, let you taste everything, and make sure you will enjoy just the beer you like in a friendly, non-smoking environment.
If you plan to have a nice meal while you explore beers by smaller Czech breweries, Nota Bene should be on top of your list because their food is the best out of all the pubs listed here, although expect to wait a bit for the dishes. Nota Bene is two things in one: a restaurant on the ground floor and a beer point in the basement, each with a nice selection of beers by smaller local breweries, totaling at 13 taps. They used to offer tasting portions of all the beers they have on tap and if you ask nicely and with a smile, they might just serve them to you again. The good part is that the interiors are really nice and Nota Bene is a non-smoking venue only, the bad part is that their beer snacks are sometimes pretty strange to us.
This place is not what we would call "cosy" but the four beers on tap (shared by Antos and Postrizinsky pivovar the last time we were there) and the fridges stocked with great local and foreign beers are definitely worth a visit if you plan to see the National Technical Museum or have a few beers at the Letna beer garden nearby (and you should). Sedmej schod is actually quite small, with only about five tables and a small "bar" in the fridges area. The name ("The Seventh Step") refers to a famous quote from My Sweet Little Village, a 1985 Czech comedy you should see. Our secret tip? On a warmer day, buy some beers from the fridge and take them to the Letna beer garden nearby because they will surely be better than the beer serve there.
You probably would not find this place on your own if you walked on the street because T-Anker is located on the top-floor terrace of the slightly run-down Kotva department store at the Namesti Republiky square, and you have to take a pretty shabby lift to get there. That said, when you do get there, it is definitely worth it: a nice selection of nine beers on draft and about 60 from all over the Czech Republic and the world. On top of that, you get a great view of the Old Town and the Prague Castle (if you manage to snatch the right seats). Honestly, we would not go to T-Anker because of the quality of the cooking alone but hey, this is a post about craft beers and T-Anker is a great place to have a few... with a view.
Making a reservation at Kulovy blesk is always a good idea: this place can get full at night very easily. While the immediate surroundings are not entirely inviting (the pub is located on Sokolska street with the heaviest traffic in town), the selection of beers, totaling at 16+11 on tap, makes up for it. In the summer the capacity of the non-smoking venue is expanded by the outdoor seating in the courtyard. The outdoor signs advertise beers by the Unetice and Kocour breweries but you'll find lots of other greats on the rotating taps inside.
Let's be honest here: with the exception of Nota Bene, neither of the pubs listed above are worth a pilgrimage for the food they serve. If you want to have a Czech craft beer with really good food that compliments beer really well, we recommend these three bonus venues:
The Tavern is a great place for many reasons: the atmosphere is really great and makes it hard to leave, the location right next to the Riegrovy sady park is hard to beat, and their juicy, messy burgers aren't bad either. And their beer selection does not lag behind: although it tends to rotate quickly, you can spot local favorites such as Matuska or Permon in the list, on top of their regulars: Jezek and the ubiquitous Pilsner Urquell.
Dish Fine Burger Bistro
The Dish serves one of the best burgers in town and everybody knows it. (Which also means you should have a reservation if you want to have lunch or dinner in the peak hours.) Their Smokey Dish burger with jalapeño coleslaw, fries and smoked chili mayonnaise is one of our top guilty pleasures whenever we need some energy boost. And we always wash it down with the nice lager made at the Unetice brewery (which can be visited if you have a few more days in Prague and are willing to spend half a day to see a small brewery just behind the city limits).
Nase maso butcher shop and its meatloaf has already been featured in our "10 best bites in Prague", and their meatloaf, sausages and burgers are definitely worth a visit. But did you know that you can wash it all down with unpasteurized and unfiltered lager by the Slany-based Antos brewery? Well now you do. Served in paper cups and you have to pour your own from the tap in the wall.