The craft beer industry here in the US and even in the UK has been growing by leaps and bounds. However, microbreweries are also popping up in many other nations too. Australia’s Foster’s brewery has been hit pretty hard by the rise of microbreweries there and so has Czechoslovakia, one of the strongholds of Pilsner Urquell. The Czechs drink more beer per capita than any other country in the world, averaging more than 160 liters per person per year. Beer is the nation’s official beverage and you’ll find that most people drink pilsner style beer here but that’s beginning to change.
Prague and the rest of the Czech nation have been hit quite hard by the rise of small brewers. In a country once renowned for the number of pilsners available, you can now find stouts, porters, bocks, ales and pale ales. For an example of what’s available, you need to look no farther than the annual Czech Beer Festival. This yearly event is held in the heart of the nation’s capital and runs through most of May. More than 100,000 people attend the event every year, and 2011 saw 36 different breweries in attendance. That’s a serious change for this nation, long dominated by Pilsner Urquell, Staropramen and Budvar.
The festival is free to enter and beer costs about $2.50 per glass on average. With low prices like that, it’s really no wonder that the festival’s brewers serve up 220,000+ glasses of beer during the two-week long festival. Prague’s festival also combines food and entertainment too. Those who make the trip (60% of attendees are tourists from other countries) will find some great tastes on offer, including goulash, roast goose, grilled sausage and other Czech favorites. For entertainment, there are live bands on offer as well as rides for the kids.
The real difference between the Czech Beer Fest and many others is the atmosphere found here. It’s not about drinking. Rather, it’s about celebrating beer and fun for everyone. But at its heart, the festival has come to represent a regaining of normalcy, of a “getting back to the roots” movement after the long communist occupation. Once upon a time, Czechoslovakia was home to some of the most diverse beer offerings on the planet and that is beginning to return, thanks in large part to microbreweries and festivals like the Czech Beer Fest.