Typically Czech? Beer!!!

You can hardly find something that is more typical for Czechs than a beer.

Czechs are the first in the world in consumption of beer (2nd are Austrians and 3rd Germans). Last year each Czech drunk in average
about 159 litres of beer. That means 0,4 litre per day per person (no matter if it is a baby or a hundred year old women).

In pubs and restaurants you can usually order "velké pivo" (Big Beer = 0.5 litre) or "malé pivo" (Small Beer = 0.3 litre). It is however getting quite common that some "better" restaurants serve different volumes of some brands or specialities (0.4 liter Pilsner etc.). Local beer drinkers are not used to think too much about the brand and there is usually just one brand available in the pub (so nothing like e.g. Britain where you often have 10 brands on tap). When there are more brands, those are often "concern" brands like 10° Gambrinus, 12°Pilsner and dark Kozel (different breweries but one company). In some more local pubs, you may still find unbranded glasses and if you want to find out about the brand on tap, you'll have to ask. Czechs just go for a beer (or better more of them).

Czech beer is (unlike e.g. British custom) served with the head (foam) that protects the beer from oxidation, however, you should get your glass full of liquid up to the mark, the head is above. It is unfortunately very often in Czech pubs and even expensive restaurants that you get less (sometimes much less) and the waiter may tell you that you have to wait for the head to change into liquid and than it will reach the line. This is against the law, you have the right to get your glass filled properly when it comes to the table.This is a bad local custom and you should always want what you deserve for your money (although beer is extremely cheap compared to the rest of Europe).

Pilsen beer as you know it has been first brewed in Plzen, 80km from Prague, therefore the name. It is a 12° beer, and costs about 35-40CZK as of 2014, in the city centre it can be more expensive - up to 90kc in the tourist traps. Lower alcohool beer of 10° costs about 5-10 CZK less (for example "Gambrinus"). Beer can be cheaper than water (you get 0.3l bottle of mineral water for the same price as 0.5l beer). A Czech joke says: A child comes to a pub and asks for a small beer, the waiter asks whether he shouldn't better order a glass of lemonade. The kid says that he'd like to but lacks 3 Crowns". And that's how it really often is.

The biggest brands are Pilsner, Buddweiser, Gambrinus, Staropramen, Kozel, Bernard, Starobrno, Svijany (and surely some more). However, if you get the opportunity to taste something from some smaller brewery, go for it. You will probably get a very pleasant experience.

Czechs are usually against anything other than the typical Czech beer as well as spoiling beer by adding anything to it. This is why you won't get anything like cherry or banana beer here in pub. You may also get strange looks from your Czech companions when you order stuff like shandy (radler = beer with lemonade) but you will probably get it. However, things are changing and you may buy alcohol-free cherry or plum beer made by Bernard brewery as well as lemon beer by Staropramen.

Before you brag to your friend that you can handle 5 ten degree beers with no sweat, you should know that those are not alcohool degrees but rather measures the sugar concentration which is directly related to the final alcohool content (read more here).

Pub etiquette involves placing a coaster (take it from the holder on the table) before the waiter brings you the beer. Amount of beers will be counted on a small strip of paper left on the table: a line for 0.5 and a crossed line for 0.3

Some pubs will automatically bring you another beer when you have about an inch left - it's ok to refuse though.

Here are the different types of beer you can get in order of their quality: 

  1. mini brewery: beer will be made there and have special qualities not found elsewhere. Maximum freshness and unique taste. Many times the brewing setup or part of it is on display - they serve 12° up to even 18 or 22°
  2. highest quality of mass produced beer is beer from the tank - usually 12° this ensures freshness (beer is just a few days old and never gets in contact with air to oxidize). You'll see this advertised in places offering it. The large tanks will usually be on display as well in the pub.
  3. beer on tap from regular 50l barrels - quality can vary depending on how clean the pipes are, usually decent 10°
  4. beer from the bottle (very few places serve bottled beer)