New Czech Beer Festival opens in Prague

Photo: CTK

Billed as the largest gastronomic event in the Czech Republic, a new 10-day Czech Beer Festival is up and running at the Holesovice fairgrounds in Prague right now. Since Saturday, visitors to the festival have been enjoying not only the large selection of Czech beers on offer in the numerous shady tents, but also food, live music and a carnival-esque atmosphere.

Photo: CTK
When I arrived at the Holesovice fairground the festival was in full swing, with hundreds of people sampling different brews and enjoying the sunshine. Over a couple of mugs of cold pivo, Max Munson an American -expatriate living in Prague and one of the event's organisers, explained what the goals and intentions of the beer festival are, and what's on offer there this week:

"We're coming from a beer culture. There's a lot of festivals around the Czech Republic and they are always 'plastic cup' beer festivals with rock music and various people lying around on the ground! We wanted to avoid having people lying around on the ground, we wanted restaurant style service, we wanted beer in a mug and we wanted to make sure that when people walked in they felt comfortable no matter what sort of position they had in life. We want to set a new standard for what a beer festival can be like."

Photo: CTK
With 10 000 seats and hoping to attract as many as 200 000 visitors over the 10 days, the festival is welcoming visitors both from the Czech Republic and further afield. Max Munson again:

"It's amazing. We've seen different groups each day; the most extreme variation was where we had at one point fifty percent Czechs and fifty percent foreign tourists; otherwise it's generally been about seventy percent Czechs from what I've been able to see. The rest is a mix of all different kinds of tourists. This is not the English stag groups coming in. There are couples, families... there's Australians, plenty of English, Americans; the tourists get a kick out of not only the higher end service and the high quality of the festival but I think they really enjoy having the great variety of beers- we added two more today to take the total up to 32- all in one place, and served just the way they should be."

The festival has plenty of food on-site to soak up all that beer, but whatever you fancy eating you'll be paying for it with the festivals very own currency the Tolar as Max goes on to explain.

"We've got our own currency. You walk in the door and Czech crowns don't work in the festival. Instead you change money with money changers who are walking around the grounds. They'll change every 39 KC into one of our festival 'Tolars'. In any tent, whichever beer you order, you just hand over one tolar. Or you can buy some hermelin- cheese, some goulash or a slice of the bull that they have being roasting out there every day, all for one tolar as well!"

Foreign visitors enjoying the beer and the sunshine were certainly impressed by the whole festival:

"It's my first time at the beer festival, and my first time in Prague. It's great, I love it. The beer is so cheap and so good - I love it!"

Judging by the party atmosphere, the lively hustle and bustle in the beer tents and the clink of beer mugs everywhere, this seems to be a view which most visitors held at the festival. The Czech Beer Festival continues until the 1st of June.