No, I haven't forgotten. I've been around some of Prague's brewpubs and have a few reviews in the pipeline. Here's the first two of that bunch: Pivovar U Bulovky and Pivovar Bašta.
Basically, both these places are neighbourhood pubs that happen to make their own beer, but that is pretty much where the similarities end.
U Bulovky opened in 2004, back when the fingers of one hand was more than enough to count the city's brewpubs. It was the first to open out of the centre of town, very far from the tourist frequented areas and was, from day one, a stand-alone business, the creature of a Brew Master, Frantíšek Richter.
Bašta, on the other hand, opened in late 2007, right at the beginning of the current microbrewing boom, as an annex to an old school pub, U Bansethů. The owner is not a brewer, but someone who realised what a good business making your own beer can be.
Since then, Bašta has expanded with a couple more rooms (it has also gone non-smoking) and, more recently, they've moved the brewery proper next door. The space where the brewery used to be has been turned into a bar. It's in stark contrast with the style of the rest of the pub, but I like what they've done there. Now you can drop by for a quick one na stojáka, buy some of the excellent home-made pastries, and move on. And they also some imported beers on tap, mainly from Belgium.
Consistency isn't something Bašta is famous for. The house beers are a bit hit-and-miss. I don't think I've had a truly bad beer, something undrinkable, but I've had a fair share of beers that were in serious need of improvement. I was wondering what I would find there that day.
Both beers I had, Světlý Ležák and Polotmavý Ležák, were supremely well tapped. The thick half litre glass mugs (sod snifters, tulips and flutes, this is hands down the best glass for beers like these) are kept submerged in a basin with cold water, assuring they are clean, well rinsed and chilled without being too cold.
As for the beers themselves. The best way I could describe that světlý ležák is: where are the hops? You know that I'm not much of a hophead and that I enjoy malt forward beers; and in this one the malts tasted lovely. It's a pity there was nothing to balance them. I'm not exaggerating, it was as if the brewer had forgotten to add hops.
The polotmavý was much, much better. It had that acoustic blues character I so much enjoy in this type of beers – with the malts playing vocals and lead guitar, and the hops as a subdued rhythm section. Very satisfying stuff.
Unlike Bašta, U Bulovky has not changed a single bit since the days I went there often. It's exactly the same place that makes you oblivious to the passage of time. It's one of the things I've always liked the most about it.
There's one change I would have welcome, though, their smoking policy. For some reason, I was surprised that smoking is still allowed there. Now, (even as a non-smoker) I am on principle against a smoking ban on restaurants, bars, etc. As an adult, I'm very much able to choose where I will go for beer or food, and I don't have to go to any place that has something I don't like – be that the prices, the music, the atmosphere, the decoration, the food, the beer brand or their smoking policy. That being said, U Bulovky is a rather small place and, though there was nobody smoking during my visit, I don't think it is very pleasant to be there when it's full in the evening. Fortunately, Prague has a growing number of non-smoking places with very good beer, I just wish this one was among them.
There were four beers on tap when I visited: two seasonals and the two staples – Světlý Ležák and Weissbier. The Pale Lager was like running into an old friend you haven't seen for a while, and realising you both have some time to grab a beer or two, that become six. Without any major changes in either of your lives, you just pick the conversation pretty much where you left it last time you met. Beers like this deserve to be celebrated more, instead of those that try to shake the world.
I think Richter's is the first Weissbier that I've ever liked. And like the lager, this one was also far, very far from bad. It followed to the letter all the instructions of the text book, while singing a profanity laden version of a national anthem. Can't go wrong with that.
Sousedský Pivovar Bašta
Táborská 49 – Praga 4
email@example.com – +420 724 582 721
Tram: 18, Bus: 193 – Nuselská Radnice
Pivovar U Bulovky
Bulovka 17 – Praga 8
firstname.lastname@example.org – +420 602 431 077
Mon-Thu: 11-23, Fri: 11-24, Sat: 12-24, Sun: 12-23
Tram: 3, 10, 24, Bus: 201, 295 – Bulovka