Where beer and culture are unseparable and a pub becomes a second home - a story about our Czech neighbours.
You can see it from far off. Climb the tower of St. Bartholomew’s Cathedral and it’s sure to be one of the first things you spot (alongside the view of the city and the football stadium). And even if you can’t see it, you’re sure to smell it several days of the week. But that’s not the only reason it’s the pride of the city.
What is “it” anyway? It is the Pilsner Urquell brewery. And the city is, of course, the Bohemian city of Plzeň. From Krones’ Neutraubling plant, the city in Western Czech Republic is only about two hours away. So it is familiar to many of us. But even those who have never been to Plzeň will quickly note the connection between the town and its namesake beer, Pilsner.
The very first Pilsner-style beer was tapped here in and it became known as Pilsner Urquell. Then-brewmaster Josef Groll was originally from Bavaria. But that didn’t stop the beer from becoming the quintessential Czech beer and, in fact, a Czech national treasure.
Calling it a national treasure is by no means an exaggeration. Czechs love their beer and consider it a part of their national identity. That fact is reflected in the country’s per capita beer consumption, for which the Czechs are unrivalled worldwide.
From my experience during a semester abroad in Plzeň, I would say the average Bohemian is a down-to-earth aficionado when it comes to drinking and going out. Friends and acquaintances sit together in a pub, sociable yet relaxed – no need for action or sophisticated variations on the beer theme. People discuss politics, life, football, ice hockey, and ordinary things – all the while imbibing one beer after another. The pub room is dimly lit, smoky, sparely furnished. The atmosphere is homely. An air of contented melancholy lingers over each conversation among the (mostly male) guests – I’ve never seen anything quite like it outside the Czech Republic.