I like to play the part of amateur foodie while traveling, as I’m always on the lookout for food and/or drink that is unique to the place I am visiting. In the Czech Republic and Romania, that means saving room for beer. I’m actually not much of a beer drinker, but a little research online beforehand revealed that in both countries, beer is actually cheaper than Coke. Seriously. That made the decision easy. All in the name of blog research, of course.
A couple of notes before getting started. The beers I sampled came from the menus of wherever we happened to stop for lunch or dinner, or what was available in the refrigerator at the airport lounge. That means what you’ll see are widely available, mass-produced varieties. I’d have loved to visit a microbrewery or two, but we didn’t have time. In any event, my “research” concluded that even the mass market stuff in this part of the world is still superior to the equivalent swill you’ll find on this side of the pond. Prices were pretty consistent at around $2 for a 1/2 liter bottle.
Velkopopovický Kozel 11° (Czech Republic)
Style: Czech Lager
This was the first beer I tried during our European vacation, and it came under less than ideal circumstances, as I was running on fumes at this point from a long day and a half of traveling. The mountain goat on the label is cool, but what about the beer itself? The beer has a nice golden color, and has quite a foamy, white head, as you can see in the picture. Tastewise, it’s a tad watery, though not overly so, with a fairly strong aroma of malt. It’s pretty light all the way around, though tilting towards bitter more than sweet, and does have a noticeable grainy/grassy flavor once it gets warm. Overall: I didn’t find this beer particularly memorable, though it wasn’t bad.
Budweiser Budvar B: Dark (Czech Republic)
Style: Dark lager/Dunkel
The label might say “Budweiser”, but it’s not to be confused with the Beechwood-aged “King of Beers”. Though the photo almost makes the beer look like a stout, it’s actually a trick of the glass; the beer if more of a dark brown color with a fairly small tan head. This is a medium-bodied beer, with distinct flavors of roasted malt, caramel, and smoke, with even a hint of coffee and chocolate here and there. The flavor of roasted/burnt malt becomes even more dominant as the beer gets warm, though it doesn’t become excessively bitter. Overall: I tend to prefer dark beer to begin with, and I did find this one enjoyable. Especially since it was free, enjoyed in the Erste Premier airport lounge.
Gambrinus Originál 10° (Czech Republic)
Style: Czech Lager
Another freebie, this one found in the otherwise dreadful Menzies Aviation Lounge at Prague Airport. It is somewhat similar to the Kozel I kicked off this review with. The color is almost identical, though the white foam disappears pretty quickly. Also like the Kozel, this is a light-bodied beer, though the taste is more grain than malt, and it is noticeably sweeter, with what seemed like citrus notes. The problem here is a heavy hand with the carbonation, and after the first couple of sips, it’s pretty boring, especially as it warms up. Not much of an aftertaste or a finish. Overall: pretty ho-hum. It’s drinkable, not particularly special, but still way better than the Bud Light you get at the Admirals Club.
Budweiser Budvar B: Original (Czech Republic)
Style: Czech Lager
This beer features a lighter straw color than the Kozel or Gambrinus, with a healthy white head. Another light-bodied pale lager, but with a decidedly crisper, cleaner taste than the other two Czech Pilsners I sampled. The aroma and taste is malty/grassy, with a decent balance between sweet and bitter. There is a distinctively bitter aftertaste, but unlike many pale lagers, it isn’t unpleasant. Goes down smooth. Overall: I’m not a big fan of light beers generally, but B: Original was surprisingly pleasant. One of the better mass-produced beers out there. Note: this beer is sold as “Czechvar” in North America.
Ursus Premium (Romania)
Style: Euro Pale Lager
My first beer in Romania, and I was disappointed to find it served in a decidedly improper glass. Beer in a wine glass? How gauche. The color is pale gold, and the white foam had mostly dissipated by the time it got to the table, though who knows how long it was sitting around before our waiter brought it to me. The aroma is citrusy, with definite hints of lemon in the taste. Like the Gambrinus, it’s too heavily carbonated. It also gets unpleasant when warm, so this isn’t for you if you like to nurse a drink. Overall: better than mass-produced American swill, but pretty disappointing for the self-styled “King of Romanian Beer”.
Velkopopovický Kozel Dark (Czech Republic)
Style: Munich Dunkel
Finally, a beer served in a proper frosted glass! Somewhat similar to B: Dark, this dark brown beer is actually pretty light on the alcohol, at 3.8% ABV. The flavor of toasted malt is strong, with hints of chocolate, caramel, and coffee. The general flavor is bittersweet, a note that remains straight through the aftertaste, with a little bit of a nutty flavor kicking in towards the end. Ordinarily, this level of sweetness in a beer would be no good, but it works here for some reason. It complemented my venison goulash quite well. Overall: not very strong, but a good, drinkable beer. Probably my favorite of the bunch, though a close call with B: Dark.
Silva Strong Dark Beer (Romania)
Style: Dunkler Bock
This beer hails from Transylvania, and I had this one in a restaurant in Bran. It is an amber colored beer, notably similar in appearance to Texas’ own Shiner Bock. Unlike Shiner, Silva is pretty dry at the start, with a heavy malt flavor. Though the initial flavor is sweet, with a noticeable caramel feel, the aftertaste turns noticeably bitter, which strengthens as the beer warms – much like Shiner. It works as long as you drink quickly, but the bitterness becomes overpowering if it warms up too much. This is a strong beer, 7% ABV, and it paired well with my pork schnitzel. Beer and schnitzel – you’d think I was in Bavaria, not Transylvania. Overall: not without its flaws, but a good amber beer.
Now that you’re nice and buzzed from sampling 7 beers in a 5-minute lightning round, enjoy the rest of your Saturday!
Next up: we wrap up our vacation with a one-night stay at the Hilton Paris Charles de Gaulle before heading home.
This post is part of my trip report series about our trip to the Czech Republic and Romania in October. Click here for the introductory post and trip report index.