A Czech beer primer

BeersSo you step into a pub and you’re dying of thirst. But the big decision...what to have? Well, here’s a quick run-down of what your choices will likely be. Czech Republic is the land of Lager beer. So, the type of beer you are going to get will be a Lager plain and simple. There are only one or two very small breweries that make an ale.

So what’s with the degrees anyway? Is that percent alcohol? The temperature at which it’s served? No! The strength of your lager is measured in the Balling or Plato scale and is expressed as a weight percentage of sucrose and is used to indicate the percent by weight of extract (sucrose) in a solution. A 10 degree states that a wort is 10 degrees Plato (or Balling) and it means that if the extract in solution were 100% sucrose, it would be 10% of the total weight. Not that easy to grasp but a 10 degree beer is about 4% alcohol and a 12 degree is about 5%. These are by far the most common but not the only types. Primator’s Exclusive 16° is 6.5% alcohol and 19° Porter from Pernštejn is 8% alcohol!

LIGHT 10° or 12°
The most common drink among Czechs is a nice light lager. You’ll find both types most places, but many here prefer the 10° as it’s less filling (thus you can drink longer!) These beers have a nice balanced flavor with a pleasant mild bitterness. If you just ask for a “Beer” with no other specifications most places will bring you a light 10° (large size of course!).

DARK 10° or 11°
The other standard offer of most establishments is a dark lager. This is typically a more flavorful beer with some sweetness to it. Don’t confuse it with a heavy stout such as Guinness, this is still a drinkable lighter beer. Expect to find some nice coffee or chocolate flavors to these beers. U Fleku’s ‘Flek’ dark beer is one of the oldest and most famous dark beers and it’s only available at the brewery restaurant.

Aside from the traditional types, there are some lesser known but outstanding specialty beers. These are made generally by the smaller breweries so are harder to find, but worth looking for! Herold and Primator both make a great Wheat Beer - crisp and refreshing. Cerna Hora’s ‘Kvasar’ is a 14° with a taste of Honey. Several breweries have a Half-Dark reminiscent of Bass’ IPA. Ferdinand’s ‘Sedm Kuli’ is one of the best in this category. In the novelty category are several Super-Strong beers ranging up to 24° (10% alcohol!), with Platan, Primator, Budvar and U Medvídku all having entries.