Ah, the tough life of a college student, nothing but studying, classes — and brewing beer.
Or at least how it might appear in Prague, a city with at least nine functioning breweries and the capital of a country that famously consumes more beer per person than anywhere else in the world. Beer lovers everywhere have heard of Prague’s Staropramen, owned by the giant brewing group InBev, and U Fleků, a tiny brewpub that’s been running strong since 1499. Many know that the Czech lands are home to the original Pilsner and Budweisers, as well as great brewing barley and legendary hops. But very few have ever heard of Suchdolský Jeník, a beer brewed by students at Prague’s Česká zemědělská univerzita, or Czech Agricultural University.
So with my fellow beer researcher Max Bahnson, I took a trip out to the suburban campus to check Jeník out. It’s not the easiest place to reach, coming at the end of a 10-minute bus ride north from metro station Dejvická, but I found excellent instructions on where to go once you get there, available online as a PDF. (Which seem to have disappeared since our trip, though if I find them again I’ll post the link here. There’s definitely a reason they call this Kafkaville.)
After leaving the bus (from metro station Dejvická, line 107 or 147) at the stop Zemědělská univerzita, we followed the crowd of students onto the campus and checked the large map at the entrance for the industrial-looking Building G (pictured above), then wandered past the dormitories and classrooms until we found it.
Inside, past a small construction site, we entered a modest student pub with a chalk sign advertising Suchdolský Jeník on tap. Of course, when we asked for beer, the waitress immediately offered their regular beer, Staropramen (no thank you), and the Jeník ended up being served in a Staropramen glass.
So, after all that, how was it? Pretty damn good for something brewed by students — better even than a few local brewpubs I could name. Jeník seems to be a yeast beer, meaning that it should have an addition of fresh yeast after lagering. Typical of most such brews, it is a slightly cloudy deep gold in appearance with a yeasty nose and very light carbonation. In the mouth, the beer is light in body, faintly malty-sweet with a slightly sour finish and a grassy, peppery hop back-bite that approaches mint in flavor (a taste I’ve also noticed lately with bottled Pilsner Urquell).
It might not be a brew for which you’d cross a continent, but if Suchdolský Jeník were the only beer in your town, you’d probably be very happy indeed. And if you’re coming to Prague for the beer and have the completionist gene, this is something like the tenth functioning brewery in town, depending on how you count Pivovarský klub, which just released its own private bottled beer (more on this soon). Other new breweries should arrive in the coming year, making for at least a dozen excellent destinations for beer lovers in the Czech capital.
But not for the students out at the Agricultural University — no, they’ll probably stay out there in Suchdol, just studying and brewing (and drinking) their Suchdolský Jeník. Yeah, it’s a tough life.