I’ve picked the most popular Czech beers which I recommend you try on your next visit to Prague. Most of these are easily available in restaurants, bars and shops in Prague. Some of these beers, such as Pilsner Urquell, Budweiser and Staropramen are also available abroad as they are widely exported to the rest of Europe, UK and beyond.
I wanted to focus on the taste in this beer guide, so I’ve tried and tasted all the different beers, to give you an idea of what to expect when you order one yourself.
If you are interested in knowing more about the different beer strengths, flavours and where to find good beer in Prague, my quick guide to Czech beer includes all of this and more.
1. Pilsner Urquell
Taste: Usually described as very distinct and “hoppy”. A strong beer but one that leaves me always thinking that a few sips is enough.
I hope I’m not being too unpatriotic when I say that Pilsner Urquell may be the nation’s most well-known beer but for me it’s far too sharp with an edge to it that I’ve never managed to drink enough of to like it very much. Saying that, Pilsner Urquell is quite light on alcohol, as this beer alcohol content is 4.4%, which is 11.75% original gravity.
Pilsner Urquell is usually one of the more expensive beer on the price list in restaurants and pubs and is exported all over the world.
The Pilsner Brewery is now the largest brewery in the Czech Republic and you can see how beer is made by visiting the Pilsner Brewery complex. Plzen town is only an hour away from Prague by train, so it makes a great day out. If you want to stay in Prague, you can also visit the Pilsner Urquell Experience Museum, which is close to the Wenceslas Square in Prague (opposite the Mustek Underground Station).
2. Budweiser Budvar
Taste: This beer is soft and with a refreshing all round taste; it’s relatively smooth but with enough of a satisfying after-taste to leave me reaching for another sip and doesn’t feel heavy in my stomach. Budweiser is a light type of beer and has about 5% alcohol content and it’s labelled as 11.90% of original gravity.
The Budweiser is actually owned by the Czech Government (it says so on the bottle) to save it from being taken over by foreign companies and a certain American beer of the same name which is completely different – so perhaps I am being patriotic in liking this beer best after all! It must be the famous Saaz hops from the historic Zatec town that they use to brew it.
Taste: Light, slightly fizzy, verging perhaps on a fruity flavour. Staropramen has a 5.0% alcohol content and it’s marketed as 12.00% original gravity.
It’s made in Staropramen brewery in Prague – so this really is the taste of Prague. The brewery is in the Smichov area of Prague, where I lived as a small child and is well worth a visit. The label says the beer is perfectly balanced, although you might not be after a couple of litres! Widely available in the UK in supermarkets and pubs.
Staropramen also produces Staropramen Granat, which is a semi-dark beer with a ruby or amber colour. The colour has also been described as garnet which reflects its Czech name. This is one of my favourites as it has a lighter after-taste while retaining a certain bitterness at the same time. First brewed in 1884, it’s definitely one to try as a variation to the standard Staropramen offering.
Another great beer from Staropramen is Staropramen Cerna Barbora, which is a black beer. It’s served with a bit of a head on and is stronger than you might think.
Taste: bitter but not too alcoholic and with a weak all round flavour; hoppy with a touch of citrus.
Braník is one of the cheapest brands of bottled beer you can buy in a supermarket in Prague. It’s part of the Staropramen brand, but it’s brewed in a separate brewery in Branik – Prague 4 – hence the name.
My grandfather really liked to drink Branik, probably because it wasn’t as alcoholic as other beers and the cost was very reasonable too.
5. Kozel (Velkopopovický)
Taste: Strong but smooth at the same time. Kozel Premium is made with three different types of malts and aromatic Czech hops, which gives the beer a balanced taste with a bit of bitterness. The alcohol content is 4.6 %.
Kozel (which means “male goat” in Czech) is brewed in Velké Popovice town. Kozel dark beer (tmave) is one of the most popular dark beers in Czech Republic and is certainly a beer to savour. It’s widely available and you can, for example, taste it at the Letna Beer Garden in Prague 7 and other pubs and restaurants. It’s a good introduction to the dark side of Czech beers and although it’s on the sweet side that doesn’t stop it having a goat-like kick when you taste it.
Kozel has been produced in the town of Velke Popovice since 1874, originally by the Ringhoffer family (the same family who owned large factories in Prague – Smichov, where they made the first Prague trams). Kozel is now owned by Pilsner Urquell, but it’s still run very separately. You can visit the original brewery in Velke Popovice, which was the first one to employ women after the second world war and the first in the world to deliver beer to pubs in large car tanks rather than individual kegs.
If you see a dark beer mentioned on the menu in Prague restaurants or pubs, it’s usually Kozel Dark (Tmavy). Kozel Dark is a lighter dark lager with a hint of caramel taste made with four different types of malts. Its alcohol content is slightly lower than other beers 3.8 %.
6. Bernard (Dark)
Taste: This is a non-filtered dark lager with a fine yeast culture. It’s an unpasteurized beer brewed from four types of malt, It has a distinctive fuller taste and a fine bitterness with a smooth, foamy top. This is another good way to start appreciating darker beers.
Bernard’s brewery is in the Bohemian town of Humpolec, where I was born. My grandparents used to live nearby and we visited their farmhouse with its barn, fields, geese, rabbits and cherry trees every summer when I was young. Apart from Branik, Bernard was the next favourite beer of my grandfather, so I have a kind of soft spot for this beer too.
Bernard also makes gluten-free lager, non-alcoholic plum brews and Bohemian ales.
Taste: This is top-fermented unfiltered light wheat lager that has a very light flavour with fruity undertones. It has a light yellow colour. This is because the beer is unfiltered and slightly cloudy because of residual protein and brewer’s yeast. I think that this beer is a little bit on the sweet side with a medium flavour. Middle of the road and probably appeals to most tastes. My brother quite likes this one.
The famous Krušovice brewery was established by Emperor Rudolph II. in 1581 and currently offers about 6 different beers, including dark beer and non-alcoholic beer. Their new beer – Bohem is quite on a bitter side, but it’s still very drinkable. I had the chance to taste it during my recent visit to the Krusovice Brewery, where I also seen the beer being made.
Taste: Full bodied and refreshing. Undemanding might be another description. Despite its darker colour, it’s still categorized as a light beer and has 5% alcohol content (original gravity of 11 %). Everyone seems to like this one so it’s no surprise to find that it’s one of the best-selling beers in the Czech Republic.
Gambrinus was originally invented in 1869 and is now part of the Pilsner Urquell brand. It takes its name from a jovial bearded king of middle European legends who had supposed mythical beer making abilities.
Taste: Pale ale with light bitter taste.
Svijany beer is made from unpasteurized lager. Many fans think this gives it a more authentic flavour. This may be true but if you’ve never drank unpasteurized lager before, it probably takes a few glasses to get used to.
Svijany is one of the oldest breweries in the Czech Republic and was originally founded in 1534.
Taste: This beer is pale, but crisp with a subtle bitter taste and has 4% alcohol content with 10% of original gravity.
Radegast brewery was founded in 1965 in a town called Nošovice near the Polish border and it’s now owned by Pilsen Urquell. The brewery ran a public competition to name the beer and the name ‘Radegast’ won. Radegast beer is also the official sponsor of the Czech national ice hockey team and has been supporting ice hockey teams pretty much from the start.
11. Březnický Ležák
Taste: Crisp with a clean palate and undertones of honey and a toasty malt aroma with zesty hop finish.
Březnický Ležák is brewed by the Harold Brewery in Březnice town close to Brdy mountain and forest area. It’s another historic brewery dating back to 1506 and currently brewing 10 different types of beer including non-alcoholic beer and a very strong beer with 16,7% original gravity.
This blog post was originally written on 16 December 2023 and last updated on 16 December 2023
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