Preview: Czech Beer Festival
Sixth-annual beer fest returns for 17 days of suds in the sun
Posted: May 8, 2013
For those who like beer - and I mean really, really like it, in both quality and quantity - the Czech Beer Festival is one of the year's highlights, not only for those in Prague. The 17-day event, running this year from Thursday, May 16 through June 1, has been ranked among the top must-guzzle events worldwide. And for those making the regular pilgrimage, the 2013 edition has some changes up its sleeve.
With liter-large tankards and barmaids dressed in, uh, traditional costumes, comparisons to Munich's Oktoberfest are inevitable, but the Czech Beer Festival has a certain je ne sais quoi that is uniquely Czech. It's something to do with the gravitas given to the brewing tradition here, which has manifested in such a epic event: With more than 70 types of beer on tap, it's a fair representation of this country's rich and diverse hopsy offerings, and the festival now has five years of experience under its belt in catering to the unquenchable thirst of beer lovers.
Like last year, this year's event will be held at the Výstaviště Exhibition Grounds in Holešovice, conveniently easy to get to from the city center by tram and located on the edge of Stromovka Park. Two tents will allow for seating of up to 10,000 visitors, and the floor plan has changed slightly - for the better - since last year: The main tent, where only 1-liter glasses are sold and the mostly foreign patrons sit at long wooden tables, is located just next to the second, smaller, tent, which specializes in a wider range of interesting regional beers from around the country - something that proved a hit last year, especially with the local clientele. Between the two tents is a grassy beer garden equally accessible by both.
The smaller tent, or Pivní rozmanitost (Beer Diversity), as it's called, is where people should head in order to sip, not swig. Prague-based beer writer Evan Rail says the festival is a way for people to drink outside their comfort zones, so to speak.
When: May 16-June 1
Where: Výstaviště Exhibition Grounds, Prague 7-Holešovice
Entry: Before 2 p.m. weekdays, free; otherwise, 90 Kč (includes a token for one beer)
Main tent: Protivín, Vysoký Chlumec, Rychtář, Klášter, Jihlava
Beer Diversity tent: Protivín, Klášter, Černá Hora, Rychtář, Jihlava, Vysoký Chlumec, Kostelecký kahan, Sokolské pivo, Ruprenz, Valášek, Poddžbánský, Ferdinand, Starokladenský, Náchodský, Šumavský, Dalešice
"The best part is that it might introduce the mass-market public to a few beers they wouldn't normally try," he says. "For real beer lovers, the only interesting brews at the festival are those from smaller producers, located in the Pivní rozmanitost area."
A highlight of the 2013 festival, says organizer Tomáš Král, is the multi-genre Rock'n'Beer Fest, which will see more than 50 bands playing live, with concerts on every evening. The organizers wanted to focus on providing more entertainment this year. "We want visitors to be a part of the program and to participate as much as possible," he says. "That's why we are putting on a bright new music festival where people had the chance to choose the bands themselves [online], and there will be a lot of competitions."
Best of both worlds
Král says the event continues to draw a steady crowd of about 50 percent foreigners and 50 percent Czechs. "It really depends on the day, and it depends on the time of day," he says.
Admission is free on weekdays before 2 p.m., and is 90 Kč after 2 p.m. and on weekends. The price includes a 45 Kč "tolar," or token that can be used to purchase beer. This year, the tolar system has had a makeover, and payment for beers, food and merchandise can be made using the new Beer Card, which functions as a credit card that patrons can top up throughout their visit. A VIP pass costs 2,000 Kč and includes access to the VIP area - where beer is self-service - as well as special merchandise and entry for five days.
Bookings are also a lot easier, now, with reservations possible for even one person. There is, however, a charge of 585 Kč per person to book a seat.
To keep hunger at bay, the Vyšehrad 2000 catering company will be serving up a menu of classics like goulash, svíčková, pork knee, halušky, roast duck and plenty of sausages.
Král says that while "we are trying to become a Czech-style Oktoberfest," there is enough distinct character to the Czech Beer Festival. "We want to supplement the festival with Czech tradition," he says. "This means we're not only following economic goals or rules that say we can only serve beer in 1-liter glasses or just one style of beer. We offer different possibilities and a lot of brands from across the country. Breweries will also have the chance to organize presentations and workshops and explain to visitors why they should try that beer."
And with 17 days, there's plenty of time to try to taste each and every one.
Fiona Gaze can be reached at