Beer Culture

Stories about great beer from the countries that invented it.

Czech Beer Fest Update

Max Bahnson has an interesting post about the opening ceremonies and the first day at the Czech Beer Festival, along with some good insight and opinions on what works and what doesn’t. Please read.

From where I sat, the first day seemed to go very well, especially given the scale of the event and the fact that this year’s is the first. There were some great beers that are never seen on draft in Prague. There was a friendly, festive atmosphere with lots of catching up. Honza Kočka from Pivovar Kocour Varnsdorf dropped by. Tomáš Erlich from SPP showed up with friends from Poland’s Bractwo Piwne (still in town from the recent Days of Polish Beer at Pivovarský klub).

The most rewarding thing? To my eyes, the beers from small producers were by far the most popular.

But it turned out I wasn’t the only one who thought so. The next morning, I got a call from the festival organizers.

Everyone, they said, was going for the beers from the small breweries. The vast tents from state-owned Budvar and the large breweries owned by multinationals were not nearly as popular. Thus, they had a request: could I recommend another small brewery or two to bring in?

I offered up a few suggestions. I’m happy to say that from today onward, the festival will also serve Herold Bohemian Black Lager and Herold Bohemian Granát Lager, two great Czech lagers that definitely deserve wider recognition (and wider distribution). There’s a chance that even more beers from small producers will show up this week.

Another possible change: the festival organizers have been considering dropping the 120 CZK entry fee, or at least dropping it after 8 p.m. Though it hasn’t been ixnayed yet, if there’s news, you’ll see it here.

In any case, I think it’s a great sign that, given the choice between the big brands and small producers, consumers are picking the smaller breweries.

And why not? The vast Pilsner Urquell tent serves Pilsner Urquell, a great beer, sure, but one which is available in what seems to be more than half of the pubs in Prague. At the small breweries tent, you could try twelve unusual brews including Jihlavský Grand, a strong golden lager much like a Doppelbock, with a rich maltiness that completely masks its 8.1% alcohol, which many Ratebeerians seem to admire, and yet which is never seen on draft in Prague. I found the Rohozec 12° pale lager to be in fine form at the festival, and yet I know only a couple of pubs in Prague that have it regularly.

According to the organizers, there’s a chance as well that Konrad will start bringing in more of its beers beyond the first two on the Czech Beer Festival’s official beer list. (Perhaps the beer called Joker, which no one at Beer Advocate has even tried.)

Depending on how things shake out, more of the festival space currently devoted to industrial brewers might be turned over to small producers — almost the exact opposite of what usually happens in most beer retail outlets.

For a first attempt at a festival on a large scale, things are looking pretty good: great service, friendly atmosphere and plenty of unusual beers (with even more on the way). It actually looks quite a lot like the picture up top, though that is in fact a shot from Munich’s Starkbierzeit, which has been going on as an organized event since at least the nineteenth century. Only in its debut, the Czech Beer Festival is already almost there.


30 Great Brews: The Czech Beer Festival Beer List


U Radnice Pub in Prague


  1. i can’t wait :)
    although i have to remember i am there for work … !

  2. I think the relatively high price for the beer played in the small breweries’ favour. Everybody knows the stuff from the big boys and I don’t think there are too many people out there willing to pay 39CZK for Gambáč, Staropramen or Braník when you can get them cheaper at pretty much every corner.
    The smaller breweries, however, have the advantage of being, to many, unkown, which I’m sure makes many people more willing to pay that price. All beers will cost the same, so why not having something they never had before? To this, of course, we must add the variety factor.
    Anyway, this post is really good news, and I’m really happy that more beeers from smaller producers will make it to the lineup.

  3. I was proud of my fellow Praguers when, as I departed the packed k-brewing tent, I passed by the almost-empty aircraft hanger of the Staropramen tent. I then had a nice pint of Konrad.

  4. Well, life is full os suprises.

    When I talked to organizer, he told me to have five small breweries for a tent. So there was our Kocour, Herold and two other that were “thinking” about going there. At the end even Herold decided not be there…

    May be for next year they can do more for small breweries.

    I would be just so excited about the beer choice – how many beers were there to try you did not have before? Including the entry fee, how much it would cost total?

  5. and by the way, I was told yesterday, that K Brewery Group bought another brewery, Klaster Hradiste…

  6. Woah! That is news…

    It’s an interesting situation. When I first talked to the organizers, I was told that Primátor was definitely going to be there, and that Primátor was brewing a special beer for dogs. (Remember that?) One month later: no Primátor, no psí pivo. What happened? I have no idea.

    My impression is that things are getting made up as they go along. Not that that’s bad — for some people that’s the ideal mode of operation.

    In any case, I’m definitely on the side of supporting the festival: however much we might criticize some of the choices, someone took some serious initiative and spent some serious money to put on an major, large-scale event that — at least ostensibly — celebrates beer in Prague. That’s already an achievement. Other than yourself, Honzo, I can’t remember anyone else who has done something like this. Constructive criticism is fine, but at some point I think we have to say, “Hey, this is a heck of a lot better than a stick in the eye.” It really could be worse.

    That said, I do think the festival would be vastly improved if they would (A) drop the entry fee, and (B) drop the big multinational breweries that are available everywhere in Prague already.

    Effectively, what I would push for would be like the K Brewery tent now, with the Konrad tent and another tent or two for other small brewers. (Sound familiar?)

    Going further, I think things would be helped if the breweries were encouraged to make special beers just for this event. (Also familiar?)

    As to your question: how many beers at the festival have I not tried before? As you might have guessed, the answer is exactly zero. (How many beers are there in the CR that I haven’t tried yet? I don’t know, maybe 15 or so?)

    Which is to say: I’m not going to the festival to taste beers I haven’t had before. Although it wouldn’t hurt if I could do that, too.

  7. Andy

    I hate to say it, but I think that you do need to have the Budvars and Staropramens at the festival for the same reason that they are so popular everywhere else: they’re familiar. Participation by the big boys gives casual drinkers assurance that they’ll find a beer that they like. It probably also legitimizes the festival, since Plzen (in this thinking) would never get involved with a fly-by-night outfit.

    Of course, the proportion of smaller breweries should be higher, and I would bet it will be next year.

  8. Misak

    I don’t think people need the big brewers there to be sure there’ll be something they like, but it’s a question of whether those brewers aren’t putting in a big financial injection, which could justify their presence. Of course it’s a question whether they won’t rethink their participation themselves after half-empty tents. There is a good small brewery festival in Brno by the old town hall, and it’s quite packed.

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