There are few things as refreshing as a good beer, particularly on a hot day. One of my favourite beers is Pilsener, which was first brewed in the town of Plzen, now the fourth largest city in the Czech Republic.
Pilsener was first brewed in in 1842 by a brewer called Josef Groll who cooked up some ale using a new method called bottom fermentation. A combination of Saaz hops, the soft water in Plzen and lighter malt was a great success and kick-started the legendary production of Plzen beer. This process gave the beer a somewhat bitter taste, but it also made it tremendously refreshing, which accounted for Pilsener’s rise in popularity.
For those visiting Plzen they can imbed themselves into the wonderful world of beer by following the beer trail to see how the various varieties of beer are produced and to taste the range of ales that are brewed in the region.
There are 14 highly regarded breweries in and around Plzen, which provide visitors with a unique opportunity to learn about centuries-old traditions.
A great place to start discovering what makes a good beer is at the town’s Brewery Museum. Here you can breathe in the atmosphere of the Middle Ages and discover the secrets of beer production and the manner in which beer has been served and drunk since the 15th century when the building which houses the museum was once itself a brew house.
It is also worthwhile visiting the Pilsener Urquell Brewery, which still makes Pilsener to the original recipe. The tour begins at the spot where the first batch was brewed before moving into the modern bottling plant where 120,000 bottles of Pilsener are produced every hour. In the historic brewery cellars you can taste unfiltered and unpasteurised Pilsener that is delivered straight from large oak barrels.
Outside of the main town there are many small breweries that are also worth visiting. There are some good places in Dobrany where there are two much-loved beers, Hvezda and Dragoun, here which have won many prizes. Pilsener isn’t the only drop available, at Rokycany’s U Stocesu microbrewery you can try their light, fruity beers.
Another beer route will take you to the oldest brewery in West Bohemia where you venture to the town of Chodova Plana, where ale has been made since the 12th century. In the part of the region that includes the Sumava area some beer trails lead to the doors of the Modry Abbe Beer Studio in Klatovy. The local speciality here is dark Granat lager and for the designated driver, they can enjoy the non-alcoholic, unfiltered Svaty Krystof.