Beer Culture

Stories about great beer from the countries that invented it.

Czech Beer in Stockholm

There’s a fair amount of beer in the Swedish capital, and much of it seems to be Czech. Step into a bar in the trendy neighborhood of Södermalm and you’ll probably see Krušovice and Pilsner Urquell as often as anything else. Czech lagers seem to be frequently sold as premium imports here, an in the case of Starobrno’s position at the top of the list at Pet Sounds Bar, a chic offshoot of a legendary local record shop. A few other Czech brands — including Primátor — show up at the many outlets of Systembolaget, the Swedish government’s alcohol monopoly.

And then there’s Stockholm’s Švejk pub.

Despite the similarity of the name, Krogen Soldaten Švejk is unlike any of the Švejk pubs — or any pubs — you might have seen in Prague. To start, look at the beer list.

On draft, Krogen Soldaten Švejk offers:

  1. Bernard 12° světlý ležák.
  2. Bernard kvasnicový ležák.
  3. Bernard 13° tmavý.
  4. Primátor Premium.
  5. Primátor Polotmavý.
  6. Platan Premium.
  7. Bohemia Regent 12°.
  8. Krušovice Mušketýr.
  9. Rohozec Skalák.
  10. Pilsner Urquell.
  11. Gambrinus 12° světlý ležák.

That is to say that while most bars in Prague carry just one brand, Krogen Soldaten Švejk offers eleven Czech beers on draft, most of which the pub imports itself.

“Urquell we buy from an agent, Krušovice too, but the others we bring in ourselves,” said Jari Ounasvuori, the pub’s manager. “Every two months, we bring in a truck filled with kegs of our beers, and we have a lagering facility about 30 kilometers outside of town.”

Founded by a Czech émigré — Ounasvuori’s father-in-law — way back in 1974, Krogen Soldaten Švejk had to wait until 1996 to serve its first real Czech lager. (The first was Bohemia Regent; others were added over time. At one point, the pub also stocked Budvar, Ounasvuori said, but it was given up due to difficulties with that brand’s local distributor.)

To pair with the pivo, there’s Czech grub as well: goulash, potato pancakes, schnitzel and vepřoknedlozelo. And as a digestif, Krogen Soldaten Švejk has Czech slivovice. Due to the draconic nature of Swedish alcohol taxation, however, slivovice creates a black hole, at least in business terms.

“Because of the alcohol level, I pay so much in taxes on the slivovice that I don’t make any real profit,” Ounasvuori said. “But I wanted to have it.”

While there’s nothing quite like Krogen Soldaten Švejk anywhere else in Stockholm, Ounasvuori said that there’s been some talk of Pilsner Urquell opening one of their Pilsner Urquell Original Restaurants in the Swedish capital.

“But they have to realize that won’t work here,” Ounasvuori said. “People here won’t go to a pub with just one kind of beer. This isn’t Prague.”

Amen to that. It is ironic, however, that it’s easier to find a Czech beer like Skalák on draft in Stockholm than in Prague. In fact, I can’t think of a single pub that serves eleven beers on draft anywhere in the Czech lands. The closest might be the legendary Modrý Abbé, but that’s more than a few taps shorter than Krogen Soldaten Švejk.

As for the beer, I thought that Bernard’s kvasnicové tasted a bit different when I tried it at Krogen Soldaten Švejk: slightly spicier and denser in flavor than normal, perhaps due to the trip, or maybe to the extended lagering. The only other significant difference from home was the pub’s vibrant atmosphere, with a great mix of young and old and a bustling, neighborly feel that is sadly lacking in most Prague beer halls.

I’ll be happy, however, if pubs in Prague merely followed Krogen Soldaten Švejk’s lead in offering a greater variety — and greater quality — of draft beer. If they do that, the improved atmosphere will surely follow.


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  1. Rob

    Any interesting local beers tickle your fancy? Found any smoked ales/porters? And last but not least (and break it to us gently), how much for an average půl litr in the Krogen Soldaten Švejk?

  2. Hey, Rob. Half-liters are almost all 48 SEK at the Švejk pub, or roughly 130 CZK / $8. Before you choke on your pivo, that’s apparently quite cheap for Stockholm — I paid the same price for a mere .4-liter portion of not-so-great Swedish lager elsewhere.

    On that note, I really liked the 101 Oktan Imperial Stout from Nynäshamns: an excellent rich dark ale with chocolate and treacle notes and a grassy finish that reminded me of Fuggles. At the great beer bar here called Akkurat, a .3-liter glass went for 58 SEK, or about 156 CZK, or $9.85. Ouch!

  3. One funny thing about Švejk’s association with Pilsner Urquell.
    In the whole book only two beers are mentioned. While saying good bye to his mate Vejvoda (they were both being taken to jail), they promise to meet at U Kalicha (the good soldier’s favourite pivnice) after the war. Vejvoda then asks Švejk what sort of beer they have there, “Velkepopovický”, answers Švejk. “Oh! I thought they had Smíchov”, says Vejvoda ending the conversation.
    There is a place called U Kalicha not far from IP Pavlova, as expected they have Pilsner Urquell. I wonder what Švejk would have thought of his place becoming some sort of tourist trap.

  4. Rob


    perhaps Švejk might say, ‘Jesus Christ was innocent too…and all the same they crucified him.’

  5. Actually, I think he would have taken tourists there himself and profit from it….

  6. Rob

    And his business partner would perhaps be Jára Cimrman?

  7. WOW!!! Those two together could kick some serious gastronomic business ass…..

  8. It was Vodička, not Vejvoda.

    Also, check Švejk on FaceBook:

    The Good Soldier Švejk wroteon August 5, 2009 at 8:19am
    Having the funny mark over the “S” in my name, Švejk, means that people who are looking for “Svejk” or “Schweik”, or some other mongrel mutant of my name won’t find my page in Facebook. That way, I won’t be bothered by journalists, who otherwise would be begging me for an interview, as you know. And, there is always some war – hot war, cold war, trade war, turf war, war of words, or some other kind war going on and I’ve done my bit for the Lord Emperor a few times already, pulling the chestnuts out of the fire for him. I dutifully report, I have to go now, but, should you run into my old buddy Vodička, tell him I’ve been sitting at the pub since six o’clock after the war, as originally promised, not since six thirty, as we agreed, but he hasn’t shown up yet.

    P.S.: If you can’t keep this page a secret, make sure you keep it at least away from Colonel Bedřich Kraus von Zillergut. It is really amazing that such an idiot was able to advance relatively quickly. He had very influential people behind him. His sponsor, a commanding general, always kept his fingers crossed because he knew of von Zillergut’s total military incompetence.

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