Zen Recreations

Czech the Diary

Posts tagged with “beer”

I have to admit that when I came to the Czech Republic for the first time, I had no clue about the great beer here. It was just assumed that Germany had the finest brew by virtue of Oktoberfest. Germany was in fact my first stop towards me eventually  settling down in Europe and naturally I was looking forward to my first beer in a pub there. I fell in with a group and ordered what they were having. We got the beer, did the customary zum Wohl, I took my first healthy swig and…what the hell? It had a strange taste and even worse aftertaste. The group informed me that it was Hefeweizbier, meaning made out of wheat. Wheat? Where was I, Kansas? The group told me that if I didn’t want breaded beer for the next round, I should order Pils. And just what grain are we talking about here? Not to worry, they said, Pils is a generic term for any beer besides the wheat stuff. I have to say, though, that Hefeweizbier grew on me and came to be my beer of choice until I moved to the Czech Republic.

   As it seems so obvious today, the word Pils comes from Pilsen, the city in western Bohemia that first produced the lagers that are the standard today. I had my first Pilsner in Prague and that was it. No more wheat. My only reservation was all the foam, which has more suds than a kid’s bath. But I found out that’s the way the Czechs like and expect it and you couldn’t meet a single one of them whose biggest complaint about their trip to America was the lack of foam in the beer. They were absolutely stunned. In a Czech pub, you order a beer on tap and wait 15 minutes for 60% of the foam to settle into something drinkable. In America, the damn thing is ready in 10 seconds. Too soft-drink like.

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The Czech Republic is often described as being in the heart of Europe, which sounds nice, but what it also means is that this is a landlocked country with not an ocean or seaside in sight for hundreds of kilometers. That always gave me the impression that going abroad in search of a week or two on the beach was a big deal here, and it is when you consider the million or so people who drive to Croatia and the Adriatic Sea this time of the year. Some time back I met my friend Pavel and asked him if he and his family were going to Croatia that year. We were standing below the weir on the river close to where we live. He looked at the beer garden next door, then to the mountains just off in the distance, and said he didn’t see any reason to when they had all this around them. He then put his head under the waterfall before going up to the garden and downing a few beers.

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