Tweet A few months ago we discussed Beerevangelism. Which is what many of us beer bloggers usually do.
Thanks to my offices many of the people I know have discovered that Czech beer is not only Pilsner Urquell and Gambrinus, and that there is a lot more and better to be discovered and drunk. And they weren't only foreigners, but also quite a few Czechs, among them some of my clients.
A typical case of someone who has seen the light was that of one of our new neighbours. He and his girlfriend moved in a few weeks ago, and with my wife we paid them a visit to see how they were doing in their new house. They were tired, but happy. They had just finished working for the day. The offered us beer. "What do you have?", I asked. "Staropramen Ležák", he said. Before I could say anything my wife started laughing and told him that I didn't like that beer. Our neighbour said that it was very good, and that he liked it a lot and insisted that we take a bottle. Without any joy and with a bit of curiosity (I hadn't drunk that beer for a long time) I accepted the offer and we went to sit outside.
God! What an awful beer that is! It is horrendous, worse than I remembered it! At some point the conversation turned towards Stella Artois and Heineken (Am I repeating myself?) y our neighbour told us, full of enthusiasm, how much he liked them. The disgust that was now showing on my face was not only due to what I was drinking, my wife again took the words out of my mouth to insist on how bad those two beers are. Our neighbour would not agree. With a lot of effort I finished that swill from Smíchov (or is it brewed in Ostrava?) and invited our hosts to our place, promising that there would be pravé pivo (real beer).
Once there I went on to open a couple of bottles of Svijany. Milan's (that's our neighbour's name) reaction said it all. He simply could not believe how good that beer was. He finished his first pint, and asked for another, and then another. He drank them all slowly because we wanted to enjoy them. I felt really good.
However, once he had left I started thinking. Yes, he did like Svijany a lot, but when he goes to do the shopping at whichever outlet of whichever supermarket chain he usually goes, it is unlikely that he will find it, or anything similar and he will sure end up buying his usual Staropramen (though he might not like it so much anymore). In fact, it will be easier for him to get Heineken or Stella than most of the very good regional Czech beers. And that is simply sad.
Things seem to be slowly changing, though. One of my clients told me that he buys Svijany at the Billa (a local supermarket chain) in Prósek (a neighbourhood in Prague. Others have told me that you can find Klášter at Hypernova Chodov or that many of the special beers from Primátor can be found at other supermarkets. Yet they all seem to be isolated cases, one of the dozens of branches of one of the several local supermarket chains carries a regional beer. Could it be that they are pilot tests? Is it possible that someday the beer shelves at supermarkets will offer as much variety as wine shelves? I think I'm daydreaming.