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Trying to open eyes

Nobody can blame a visitor if, after coming to Prague, they go back home with the impression that world famous Czech Beer comes down to four or five names.

All over the city the ubiquitousness of the big three, Plzeňský Prazdroj (Pilsner Urquell, Gambrinus, Kozel), Staropramen and Budějovcký Budvar is overwhelmening. You can find them pretty much at every corner if not step, leaving very little room for the rest, which is a great shame, since many of the smaller breweries have more interesting stuff to offer.

The reasons are several, gargantuan marketing budgets, economies of scale, business practices that are, alledgedly, not exactly fair play, etc. But most of the blame is actually on the consumer, specially the Czech consumer. They tend to be quite conservative when it comes to their beer, and it is not rare to find someone who would never even consider drinking a beer other than their favorite brand. Once I was at a dive in Žižkov where 3 different beers are tap, Staropramen, Svijany and Regent. When I asked one of the patrons why he drank Staropramen when the other two are better and cheaper, he said "I know, but I've been drinking it for 30 years now". Most expats aren't much different either, they are as likely to have been hypnotised by marketing as any other Czech, choosing, even when they can otherwise, the same three or four names to drink at home.

The problem is also that most alternative brands can be really hard to find, and are only sold at a few specialist shops. I've heard that some of the Tesco outlets have a much wider choice and apparently the Hypernova chain is starting to do the same. Still, and regardless that Primátor and Bernard are available in every supermarket chain, people will keep on choosing to pay more for less.

I like supporting the small guy, and that is why when reviewing pubs, restaurants or cafés, I will be mostly speaking about those who stock beers from smaller breweries. In fact, I will be deliberately looking for them. In my Spanish blog, I have already reviewed a few and with time, I will post English versions of them here. And the same applies to the beers I will beers I will be reviewing.

I don't want to boycott anybody, (well, with the exception of Stella Artois, which is simply rubbish) I'd like you to go and enjoy the beers from the big three and then compare them with those from less known breweries or even from brewpubs. And needless to say, if you know of any place anywhere in Prague, just tell me about it, I will really appreciate it.

I wish I could do more. I wish I could make restaurant owners consider stocking different beers, maybe even bottled, why not? And although some smaller bottlers like Svijany have been growing, I would like to see more of them in Prague and the rest of the country.
Fortunately, I'm not alone. Apart from the growing number of consumers who seem to have got tired of drinking the same eurothing, there is Evan Rail, who in his book "The Good Beer Guide - Prague & The Czech Republic devotes a whole section of pubs in Prague, many of which that don't stock the usual stuff. He has also worked with the people of Mandarin Oriental to put together a beer list, which apparently has been successful and knowing him, I'm almost sure that his blog Beer Culture, will have a similar philosophy. And Aleš Dočkal, one of the people behind Pivovarský Dům and Klub, who a couple of months ago gave a seminar on beer and high gastronomy. His aim was, and still is, to show restaurant owners and chefs that beer can also go together with more elaborated cooking and not only with pub food. And he knows what he is talking about, the success of Pivovarský Klub is is mainly because you can there find, and be introduced to, beers you otherwise might not get to know and then discover how different all of them can be.

Beer is Czech Republic's national drink, but unfortunately it is taken for granted and not seriously enough. There is no reason why a posh restaurant will offer 200 wines from all over the world, but only one beer from the big three. There is not reason why most cafés will offer only Pilsner or Budvar on tap and not something else. And I simply can't understand why a restaurant will stock Stella Artois, or why someone who is about to open one will not decide to stock a different kind of beer. And this is not only about me being a beer snob, it is also about business. At a beer wholesaler the price of a 50l keg of Gambrinus desítka is 1230CZK whereas a 50l keg of Klášter 12° (a much better beer, believe me) costs 1095CZK, and I'm sure the latter can be sold for higher price per glass than the former.

I really hope that with this I can help you discover Czech beer, which is still an unknown world to most.