In Prague, unlock the secrets of cooking with beer

The Netherlands has gin taverns and Japan has sake, but the drinking culture in the Czech Republic is all about the crunchy pleasure of cold beer, a drink that encompasses everything from Pilsner-style to low-fermented beers. to the honorary Budweiser from the capital. town of Budweis. Drinking a Pilsner Urquell here is more than drinking a lager: it’s an opportunity to learn about a historic culture through immersive local life.

The Czech Republic’s reputation for producing quality beers is well founded – it’s the highest-ranked country for per capita beer consumption and the home of Pilsner and Budweiser – but it’s generally not considered a country with good dishes that boast beer as the not-so-secret ingredient.

“Unlike wine, using the malty, bitter drink to create nuanced flavors in the kitchen is elusive, but not in Czech,” says Alois Novák, sommelier at the Pivní burza Veve?í brewery in Brno. “It’s a living and thriving generational tradition.”

In Brno, beer floats take center stage with Matuška stout, a rich roasted malt that can give dark chocolate caramel for its money. In Pilsen, travel past the Urquell Brewery and you’ll find mussels simmering in lager near the streetside markets. And in Ostrava, the sweet smoky note of the beer sauce on the beef cheeks comes out extremely juicy with several innovative toppings.

The influence of beer on the style of cooking can also be found in other cities (?eský Krumlov, Karlovy Vary and Kutná Hora come to mind), but Prague is notoriously popular for bringing the most variety and promise. for the culinary use of beer. .

Pork’s restaurant right next to Charles Bridge wants you to discover a specialty that reinvents dark beer like no other place in town. Recently restored with an expansive seating area that seats 150 people, this restaurant offers a menu that includes everything from schnitzels coated in a secret spice to a comforting pulled pork sandwich. But the specialty remains a beer-braised pork knuckle drizzled with lager and served with horseradish and pickles.

This iconic dish comes with a dark beer secret that offers a smoother malted Czech lager finish: roasted malts. The result? A plate full of juicy and tender ham hock. Wash it all down with a selection of Pork’s house beer, then find a scenic spot to pop out and return for a beer dessert.

For travelers with limited time in Prague, U Sadu is the place to go for a slightly adventurous delicacy known as pivní sýr (beer cheese). This tangy cheese spread is a bit of a cult favorite as a frothy snack commonly served in bars. Add the classic components – sardines, mustard, paprika and onions – to the creamy cottage cheese before incorporating the tmavé pivo or homemade dark beer. Pair it with nothing but another glass of the same beer or ask the bartender to recommend one.

Like many great breweries and taverns in Prague, the Plavecká Polévka bistro near Wenceslas Square is easy to miss. It sits close to the bustling Rašínovo náb?eží wharf with no rush to advertise its menu or a Tripadvisor score. Even so, if you’re not planning an early visit, the line outside can circle the block on summer weekends, and a particular soup on their menu is to blame.

“Here you’ll find beer on the menu and in your soup,” says Beatrice, a craft brewer from the city of Pilsner who offers private beer tours and visits Plavecká Polévka when she’s in Prague to see members of his family. Pivní polévka – which loosely translates to “brewing soup” – is both a beloved appetizer and an apt metaphor for the culture of beer cooking. “The unique recipe combines Krušovice dark beer with milk, cinnamon and cream and draws little attention to its famous counterparts like goulash. And its flavors, as well as the inspirations it draws from local breweries , become obsolete.

Yet kitchens that feature staple drinks from a wide variety of Czech brewers are an important part of local cuisine thanks to the preservation of generational recipes and local chefs and restaurateurs who continue to promote them through their cooking. Pivovarsky dum, a brewery near Nové Mōsto, is one of them.

The brewery, which opened in 1998, is a local favorite and offers eight draft beers to pair with traditional cuisine. It is one of the first establishments to design a menu around the dynamic flavors of beer in dishes unique to Pivovarsky.

“It’s disconcerting to see people order crepes and pancakes during happy hour,” says Sébastien Pierre, a 24-year-old student from Clermont-Ferrand, France, who arrives at 11 a.m. every morning to order pancakes rolled up with an heirloom. beer jam who can make you order breakfast after sunset. “It’s obviously not alcoholic, but the flavor is so good.”

Made to a house recipe with light beer, cane sugar and lemon juice to balance out the sweet goodness, the jam is served with an assortment of baked goods. “[These underrated beer dishes] are rooted in our original culture but remain largely a secret,” added Pierre, “to paraphrase, you can have your beer and drink it too.

Berta D. Wells