Beer Culture

Stories about great beer from the countries that invented it.

The Growing Fourth Pipe Phenomenon: Klášterní Pivnice


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:


Klášterní pivnice
Ovenecká 15 (at Jirečkova)
Tram 25 or 26 to Letenské náměstí
Tel. +420 233 376 150


Hotel Beers: Pivovarský dům in Bottles and the Return of Svatý Tomáš


A New Czech Wheat Beer — or Two


  1. You scooped me on this one… Stopped there for a quick one last week and was planning to write about it…. But I know about another one…. I hope I can get to write about it before you come back….

  2. I am now putting together a list of similar places around whole country – so far 40 counts. And its growing:) Honza

  3. Is there any indication how well this is going?
    I guess if there is a trend to add the fourth pipe then the answer would be “well enough to add a fourth pipe”, but it is interesting that the pub owner would even think about adding their own pipe without incurring the wrath of the big brewery.

  4. Max — Sounds great. Looking forward to reading your post.

    Honza — Excellent news. When you put up the list, tell us and we’ll link to it.

    David — My impression is that it’s growing less quickly than a flu epidemic, but still spreading. Honza said 40; that number must have been much smaller a few years ago. As for upping the Big Boys’ ire, I think it’s safe. They still want to sell beer, after all.

  5. I am going to Prague in a few weeks with my schoolmates and I think that fourth pipe is must :)

  6. David,

    As long as the owners of the pubs don’t use the taps provided by the big boys to tap those guest brews, everything is fine.


    As Evan said, let us know when the list is ready. I think it’ll be great news from everyone.

  7. Allen Kessler

    We have visited Prague and the Czech Republic twice staying in a small village outside the city. We had the opportunity to visit Pilsen and the brewery. In our visits we’ve tried approximately 25-30 beers (who keeps track after a while), we enjoyed everyone. We also enjoyed your book on Prague and beer. Keep the good beer news coming.

  8. Mike Beltzner

    Oh FINE. I was about to call it a night, but since it’s just a couple of subway stops and a tram ride away …

  9. One of our local Pubs has at least 20 english and 10 European beers on draught at any one time Plus a large collection of bottled beers And spirits.
    All of them in perfect condition and all the English beers unfiltered and unpasturised. Many English towns will have a similar phenomena. I spend a third of my time in the Czech Republic and are rather depressed by the Czech beer trade. Even the small craft brewers are mesmerised by the power of the big internationals. The beer trade in the UK is in vigorous health and that was achieved by ignoring the antic of the multinationals who now only have a small slice of the pub trade. I will get interested when we are talking about the 10th pipe but until then lets keep a perspective on it.

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