There were two words I saw more than any other on a recent trip to PraguePILSNER URQUELL.

The gold-hued beer is manufactured on a massive level today (it’s still produced in the city of Pilsen, where it was first brewed in 1842), and it’s served everywhere you look.

Prague’s cobblestone streets. (Photograph by Annie Fitzsimmons)

On the opposite end of this mass-scale production are the small microbreweries of the Czech Republic, of which there are several in Prague. These are the ones I wanted to visit, where limited-edition beers are produced.

I also wanted to find boisterous Prague beer halls, where college students mingled with young professionals and groups of retired Czech men smoking mid-afternoon cigars.

I needed to work up an appetite before I began my very scientific research, so I asked the concierge at the Four Seasons, who hadn’t steered me wrong yet. He directed me to Cukr Kava Limonada, a bohemian-meets-minimalist cafe in Mala Strana with a chalkboard menu of big salads, ciabatta sandwiches, and soups. Fully sated and armed with a map starred with the concierge’s recommendations and names I’d been given from friends and family, I hit the road.

Here are my favorites microbreweries and brewpubs in Prague — the ones with the best ambiance, location, history and food — and the one I’d avoid: 

U Medvidku

Watch the fermentation process in person at U Medvidku. (Photograph by Annie Fitzsimmons)

You must try the XBEER-33, one of the strongest brews in the world (12.6% alcohol). It’s sweet with low carbonation, and I tasted hints of caramel or maple syrup. Walk past the long tables, chairs, and iron chandeliers with fake candles, all the way to the back and follow the signs for “Brewery” up the stairs for the best seats in the house — next to the microbrewery, where you can watch the fermentation process happen right in front of you.

The building, the foundation of which dates to 1466, today houses a 33-room, mid-priced hotel. They also offer a 9-hour program to brew your own beer. Skip the gift shop.

Strahov Monastery Brewery

Philosophical Hall at Strahov Monastery.(Photograph by Javier Pedreira, Flickr)

Perched on a hill with a breathtaking view of Prague behind it, this monastery’s brewery has roots that stretch back to the 13th century. The monks brew three beers that are available year-round (St. Norbert Special Beer, Special Amber Beer, and an Indian Pale Ale), in addition to seasonal varieties. There is also a large menu with “beer cuisine,” like beer-onion soup and spare ribs in beer marinade. Order a side of Czech dumplings, a soft bread designed to soak up extra gravy.

But before you enjoy the beer, don’t miss the monastery’s astoundingly beautiful libraries, Philosophical Hall and Theological Hall. Pay the small extra fee to take photos — you’ll definitely want to.

U Fleku

Musicians at U Fleku. (Photograph by Bruce Tuten, Flickr)

This place is so popular that it’s practically a landmark in Prague, as important a stop as the Charles Bridge and Prague Castle. They have been brewing beer for more than 500 years and today serve ONE beer, with 4.5% alcohol and available nowhere else. I tasted hints of a very dark, bitter chocolate and loved it. You’ll find the typical selection of goulash, roasted duck, onion soup and sausages here, which you can enjoy as an accordian player makes his way around the rooms.

The sprawling building is divided into eight lounges that can seat 1,200 people, but I especially loved the outdoor garden. Stained-glass windows make the entrance feel church-like. There is also live music and shows in the Old-Prague Cabaret Lounge.

The New Town Brewery
To enter the brewery, you have to go through a shopping arcade with garishly bright lighting. But when you get inside, you’ll find a second-floor covered terrace with pillows on the benches and pretzels hanging from the tables. They brew two types of beer here — light and dark — but they add seasonal ingredients (like blueberries, which I had while I was there). And the extensive menu has every Czech specialty you could want.

In-Betweener:

The no-frills charm of New Town Beanery. (Photograph by Annie Fitzsimmons)

Though it’s not technically a microbrewery, I enjoyed visiting U Vejvodu, a place that’s on a small side street but still attracts big crowds. When you walk in, it might remind you of an Irish pub at first, but keep going. The authentic, large back room has two levels and feels like an old covered market. Here is where I found groups of those older Czech men on a Monday afternoon, laughing and drinking. There is also a lovely outdoor garden with heaters and blankets for cold nights.

Pass on this One:

I would skip Plzenska in the Municipal Building. Though the downstairs space is Art-Nouveau-pretty, I didn’t love the menu with photos of every food item and everything translated into six languages.)

Annie Fitzsimmons is Intelligent Travel’s Urban Insider, giving you the dish on the best things to see and do in cities all over the world. Follow her travels on Twitter @anniefitz.

Comments

  1. Stephanie - The Travel Chica
    December 21, 2012, 10:43 am

    It has been several years, since my trip to Prague, but I still remember how amazing the beer is. I went to U Fleku one evening and then led a pub crawl based on my travel guide. So much fun!