The phenomenon of the čtvrtá pípa — or fourth pipe — just keeps on growing: slowly but steadily, more and more pub owners in Prague are switching over from monopolistic suds to beers from independent brewers, often on a tap they own themselves, rather than the three taps installed and owned by a major brewing group. It’s an interesting concept: when I wrote about it earlier this year for Prague Monitor Magazine, the term earned a note at the Schott’s Vocab weblog (“a miscellany of modern words and phrases”) at the New York Times.
Max Bahnson just covered two new čtvrtá pípa pubs at his Pivní filosof weblog, with not such great results. But there’s another fourth pipe pub which is a total winner: the Klášterní pivnice near Letná in Prague 7.
Klášter fans, have no fear: they still have 11° Klášter dark and pale beers in good shape and well-tapped, at 19.50 Kč — just over a buck and a dime — per half-liter.
In addition, the pub runs a special event with a new 12° beer from a different brewery every weekend. It was Rychtář when I was there last; the time before that saw Slovakia’s Steiger appear on draft. Herold fliers around the room offer evidence that Březnice was an earlier choice.
That’s three taps. To fully embrace the fourth-tap concept, Klášterní pivnice pours a rotating special beer: Telčský Zachariáš on my last visit.
Not enough to get you to Letná? Try this: in addition to the taps, Klášterní pivnice now lists a nearly complete line of Primátor’s specialty brews in bottles, including Weizenbier and English Pale Ale.
But the reason to go to Klášterní pivnice really isn’t the rare beers. It isn’t the buck-the-system independent streak, and it isn’t the low prices. The reason to go to Klášterní pivnice is this: in an era of homogenization and plastic culture, it remains a very real Prague pub, with some of the best atmosphere anywhere. Neighbors stop by and greet each other in the afternoon. Dads sneak in for a quick cold one while the kids are at the park. It’s the kind of place where it’s not strange to order one beer and nurse it over the newspaper in the middle of the afternoon or late in the morning, because that’s what you do there.
Max Bahnson wrote a nice piece about the place before it got all indie. It’s the same as before, only better: just eight tables in the main room, banquettes all the way around, wood paneling, coat hooks and bottle-bottom windows. There’s only room for about 40 lucky people.
Much like comedians and the Aristocrats, travel writers have a question they often ask each other: if you found someplace wonderful that was still undiscovered, would you write about it and potentially ruin it? Or would you keep it for yourself? All I can say about Klášterní pivnice is this: don’t ruin it.
I’ll be off in Franconia for the next week, drinking Landbier and researching beer tourism among the 200 or so breweries there. Until I return, I’ll leave you with a shot from a perfect afternoon in Prague:
Ovenecká 15 (at Jirečkova)
Tram 25 or 26 to Letenské náměstí
Tel. +420 233 376 150