While Velichov might not be the most romantic getaway (to be polite), the postcard town of Loket, situated halfway between Karlovy Vary and Cheb, should have you and your beloved smooching in no time. The view from the bridge, the village’s main entrance, with its perched castle and colourful buildings and spires, is of fairytale beauty.
Right after crossing the bridge, on your right, is Hotel Svaty Florian. In its restaurant and pub, you will find another tiny Bohemian brewery which brews only one lager. And as you can now imagine, it is of the utmost quality. No Pilsener-style beers here; their house nectar is a Polotmavé, the Czech answer to the Vienna-style lager. Its delicate caramel maltiness envelops herbal, grassy hops for a full-bodied yet quenching session brew. It’s 45Kc for a pint, which is very steep for the country; the kind of price you only see at some of Praha’s most popular brewpubs. But its quality is undeniable, just like the food and the friendly service here. The restaurant’s classy, vaulted brick interior must not attract the typical workmanlike lager drinker like the two establishments in the previous article, but the quality of the entire experience at Svaty Florian is without reproach.
There are many regular buses from Karlovy Vary or Cheb that can take you to Loket. Again, there are very few evening buses around here, making this an easy choice for a morning town visit and lunch at the brewpub.
A few minutes south of Plzen by train is the suburban town of Dobřany. A 20-minute walk from the train station through many an apartment building will take you to the town square, where the Modra Hvezda brewpub and restaurant is situated. Once inside, the schwemm-type entry hallway with small gift shop and standing customers pounding away a quick pint may surprise you and recall the classic German set-up. The brewing kit is found in the dining room, as is often the case in these parts, and sure enough when we arrived the brewer was there meticulously surveying his day’s boil.
There were 7(!) house beers on tap that day, a feat rarely equalled in Czechia. But Modra Hvezda does not only stand out amongst Bohemian brewers because of this impressive menu; the quality of their brews makes you want to establish permanent residence nearby. I started out with the 10° Originální Výčepní Světlé, where citrusy yeastiness embraced gripping herbal hop nuances in a sensuously quaffable low-gravity lager. Then came the 12° Kvasnicové Světlý Léžák, which developed honeyed cereals atop herbal Saaz, as banana-like fruitiness (esters, really?) seemed to stem from the yeast. Another pleasant quaffer, nearly on the Weizen side of things.
Seated close to the brewer, we soon noticed his kettle wasn’t the only object of his attention. Our notepads, grunts of enjoyment and foreign language had him stare at us quite indiscreetly:
After a few moments of smiling at each other and making him understand we were appreciating his brews greatly, we went back to our pints, happy but aware that communication would be impossible. Now enjoying a delectable gulasova, I partook of one of Petr’s masterpieces, the 16° Dobřansky Dragoun. This Dunkler Bock sent wondrously structured caramel and chocolate maltiness to dally with elevating herbal hops, a harmonious design residing in a rich and balanced vessel; one of many fascinating strong lagers from Modra Hvezda, we would find out. Then came the 17° Dobřansky Sekáč, where bounteous hopping branched out into coniferous, spicy and strawberry-like melodies in a muscular and bitter lager some would probably call Imperial Pilsner. Quite stunning, again.
And then Petr, the friendly brewer, handed me his cell phone... I must have stared at it for a few seconds before I came back to my senses and grabbed the phone. Someone was on the line, speaking to me...in French! Petr had understood our mangled French accent and had called his French-speaking friend who lived a few villages over. I was then able to explain why we were at Modra Hvezda and how much we were appreciating Petr’s creations so far. A few translations later, Petr asked us if we wanted to see the rest of this brewery and we were off to yet another improvised brewery tour where the brewer spoke half German, half Czech, and I mimed in all languages I knew to keep the conversation going.
Back to our table, we then indulged in the darker brews; the 14° Tmavé was a cherry-flavored mokaccino which thrived on its sensual body and elaborate malt complexity. Its stronger sibling, the 23° Dobřansky Anděl, had dark chocolate and cherry fruitiness form a silky smooth black forest cake of a Baltic Porter with just a few alcohol flames to warm you up. Yet another sumptuous sipper from Petr.
As it was Easter time, we were treated to yet another special brew, this time a honey beer, called Medova. Explosive flowery honey engulfed this Světlé Speciální, offering lots of direct mead flavors which could not be completely balanced out by the herbal hop bitterness. One for bold honey lovers, no doubt.
<U>How to get there:</u>
There are many day trains from Plzen that pass through Dobrany. Just get on one and you should be drinking at the brewpub less than hour later.
The hamlet of Chýně, just outside of Prague, feels like it’s lost in the deep countryside. It often is like this in the Czech Republic; you don’t have to get far out of the main city to reach profoundly rural settings. Right in front of a truck depot, a modern restaurant provides a large room and quaint atmosphere conducive to family or romantic meals, but it was Pivovarsky Dvur Chýně’s Krčma we wanted to go to. That little door in the dilapidated building right at the back of the restaurant picture above:
Upon entering, animal skins, metal light fixtures, stone fireplace, wooden beams and cellar-like surroundings are quite bewildering, but quickly soothing. They had 3 house beers that day. The Dvorní Výčepní, a 10-degree Kvasnicové Světlé, had a stupendous balance of honeyed maltiness and leafy, herbal hoppiness leading to a marvelously lengthy and dry bitterness. This Svetlé Výčepní was more corpulent than the usual example of the style, and its flavor profile proved there is as much potential for this underling of the Bohemian Pilsener family as the usually fuller and more complex 12-degree. Later on, I would notice there seems to be a style discrepancy between many Czech microbrewers which filter and bottle their výčepní and most Czech brewpubs who only sell them from the tap. The filterers and bottlers indeed seem to treat the Vycepni as a lighter, thinner version of the Lezak, while the brewpub’s unfiltered, unpasteurized versions are much more flavourful creatures, with as much body and complexity as their Lezak. Leagues better than the fizzy brew that is sold at soccer stadiums.
Then, the Dvorní Ležák 12° Kvasnicový Polotmavý came. Hay and caramel peacefully coexisted, chatting and smiling away with the herbal hop flavor and bitterness until dryness increased and dusty yeast clinched this Czech Vienna-style lager. Finally, the Mlynářská 12°. Honeyed cereals delved into dusty herbal hoppiness in this balanced and inoffensive Světlé Ležák. This one didn’t turn heads that day, but its idiosyncrasies definitely pointed to this brewery’s signature and no one else’s. If you do not have time to travel to distant Czech countryside brewpubs, this one near Prague might very well do the trick for you!
Get to Praha’s Zlicin metro station. Outside is a bus terminal. You will soon find the bus which will take you to Chýně. The bus will stop 15 minutes later right in front of the brewery restaurant (on the left side of the road).