Pivovarský Dům and Pivovarský Klub – two top-notch beer destinations in the heart of Prague

Pivovarský Dům, photo: Gastroinfo

In the Czech capital, Pivovarský Dům, a brewpub right in the center of Prague with a microbrewery on its premises, as well as its sister establishment, Pivovarský Klub, a restaurant that offers hundreds of beer varieties, were among the first to promote small, regional beers. With the current renaissance of microbrews in full swing, Pivovarský Klub continues to showcase the best of what the Czech Republic’s small brewers have to offer. Pivovarský Klub’s Aleš Dočkal talks about how he got his start in the hospitality business, the beer industry and how many kinds of beers his restaurant has on offer.

Pivovarský Klub, photo: Gastroinfo
Ales Dočkal, the manager of Pivovarský Klub, talks about some of the curious beer choices at his pub and restaurant in the Prague neighborhood of Karlín. Here, beer enthusiasts can choose from hundreds of bottled brews.

“Among our beers, there are several that have an interesting story. Let’s stay, this is the strongest bottom-fermented beer recorded by the Guinness book of records, with the name of Samichlaus, which in Swiss German means Santa Claus. And this is a beer which is only brewed once a year, on the actual day of St. Nicholas. And that beer ages a full year until it is distributed and then a new batch is made.”

But of course, foreign beers are only a small part of what Pivovarský Klub has on offer. Czech brews are also heavily represented. I asked Mr. Dočkal to describe the restaurant and what you can find here a bit.

“My idea was that while other restaurants sometimes serve hundreds of dishes with one beer, we would serve one dish with hundreds of beers. This is, of course, a bit of a joke. But currently, we run some 240, 250 beer brands in bottles, plus six beers on tap. And the selection of our beers on tap always and constantly changes, so since opening, we have run some 400 beers on tap through our beer bar.

“We want to present to the Czech public more than just the bottom-fermented, Pilsner-style beer. So in this restaurant, you can find many beer types, from Weizens, to Belgian Lambic beers, Abbey beers, Indian Pale Ales, you name it. So the diversity and the large selection of beers make our restaurant unique.”

Pivovarský Klub, photo: Gastroinfo
Pivovarský Klub, opened in 2005, is the sister restaurant to the brewpub Pivovarský Dům, which also houses a microbrewery on its premises, just a few blocks away from Wenceslas Square. Aleš Dočkal explains how he first got started in the restaurant business.

“Pivovarský Dům started all this. We opened in 1998. Actually, the idea is very, very old. My lifelong friend, with whom I was travelling and enjoying school vacations some 35 years ago…

“By coincidence, at that time, I was a student of the hotel and trade school, and he was a student of the technical college, specializing in the fermenting industry, namely beer production. So we dreamed that one day, when we grow up, we would have a house where he would make beer, and I would have a restaurant and sell that beer, which at that time was obviously non-sense, because during the communist era, when there was no private entrepreneurship, these were really childish dreams. Well, the situation changed, and more than three decades later, those old dreams have come true.”

Pivovarský Dům opened at a time when microbreweries were still quite a new phenomenon in the Czech Republic, in 1998, not even a decade after the fall of communism. Since then, the restaurant with its small on-site brewery has flourished. While the traditional Czech menu, with many dishes that have been prepared with the Czech Republic’s national drink (including pancakes with beer marmalade for dessert) is popular with tourists and locals alike, the beer remains the main attraction. Aleš Dočkal describes what is on offer and how much of it is brewed yearly.

Pivovarský Dům, photo: Gastroinfo
“Pivovarský Dům actually brews beer just for its own restaurant, so the microbrewery runs at its almost maximum capacity. We brew eight beers there. Some of them are on offer all the time. The basic is the bottom-fermented, Pilsner-style, unfiltered, unpasteurized pale lager, and of course the dark version of the lager as well.

“And then when one of the first, and for some time, several years, the only brewery that made top-fermented wheat beer, Weizen. So that’s always on tap there. And then we were the first ones, probably, to put flavored beers on tap on a regular basis. So our coffee beer, sour cherry beer, banana beer and nettle beer, with a greenish color, are evergreens of our selection. And that all is supplemented with a special of the month, which changes with the season, throughout the year.

“So the eight tap always offers something special, from flavored beers with really unusual flavors, to other beer types. One of our highlights of the past year was a Russian imperial stout, a really strong and excellent stout, which is a type of beer that is very foreign to our market.”

Having opened over a decade ago, Pivovarský Dům is one of the country’s first successful microbreweries, and its sister establishment Pivovarský Klub also celebrates microbrewery culture. What is the status of smaller beer producers in the country now, over twenty years since the end of communism, and will their brews become even more popular? I put the question to Mr. Dočkal.

“I believe so. Look, while the industrial breweries, especially those regional, mid-size breweries, have a really hard time to survive the fierce competition with multi-national groups, those biggest breweries, the microbreweries have a good chance to survive, to bloom actually. Because they have no competition. Most of them brew their beer for their own restaurant, so for them, another restaurant is actually more of a competitor than even the biggest breweries on the market.

“And the customers are getting more and more ready to appreciate craft beers, high-quality beers, something else, and something that is really different from the mass production. And people are also ready to pay for quality and choice.

“Imagine, when we first opened Pivovarský Dům some thirteen years ago, there weren’t even twenty microbreweries in the country. The current number of microbreweries is some 110, with many more to open. And I believe, that there still is room in the market for maybe 100 hundred more, at least. And I think this would be a really very good balance to the mass-production of the biggest breweries.”

The team behind Pivovarský Dům and Pivovarský Klub has also realized that as microbrews become more and more popular, the appeal of home-brewing increases as well. To cater to those who would like to make their own beer but are not equipped to do so, Pivovarský Klub now offers beer enthusiasts the chance to make their own libations.

Pivovarský Klub, photo: Gastroinfo
“This is a package of services. The principal thing is that anyone who is interested in brewing his or her own batch of beer has that chance here. But it’s not only about the brewing itself. It is supposed to be a pleasant day that the people who buy that package here can spend in the restaurant. So step by step, under the supervision of an expert brew master, they will prepare their own batch of beer, and they can choose any type of beer they want to brew, including stouts, porters… we are able to bring the needed materials, malts and hops varieties and everything that is necessary to make that type of beer.”

In 2010, Pivovarský Klub even appeared in the Prague episode of the well-known American TV series “No Reservations” with celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, who went to the restaurant with local beer expert and journalist Evan Rail. The success of Pivovarský Klub is a testimony to the revival and celebration of the country’s multi-faceted beer culture, and if Aleš Dočkal’s predictions hold true, we are only at the beginning of a veritable explosion of microbrews.