The demand for craft beer in Prague is slowly but surely rising. In the past few years, we’ve seen a few new specialty shops open, offering a more diverse selection of beer than the typical Czech lagers. One of the newest kids on the block is BeerGeek on Slavíkova street near Jiřího z Poděbrad. I spoke with Olga Romanova, one of the owners of BeerGeek, about her love of unique, high-quality beer.
Olga and her partner Ruslan discovered their inner beer geeks while living in their small hometown in Russia. In search of a culture that is more appreciative of beer, they moved to Prague about five years ago and opened BeerGeek in April 2013. According to Olga, “beer is radost” or pleasure, and they opened the shop to share the pleasure of good beer with the rest of us.
BeerGeek seems to be a shop for people who, like Olga, don’t have a favorite beer. Choosing the appropriate beer depends on the situation, and it would seem that BeerGeek has a beer for nearly every situation. They sell approximately 350 different kinds of beer from many different countries, including Belgium, Germany, the US, and the UK. For local purists, there are also a few shelves of bottled Czech beer plus two mini fridges full of fresh beer from Czech microbreweries like Matuška, Rampušák and Antoš.
However, the majority of the shop is dedicated to imported beer which isn’t so easy to find in the beer conservative Czech Republic. Most of it comes from smaller independent breweries that produce craft beer, often with a higher alcohol content and different ingredients not found in Czech lagers. They also have sections dedicated to larger breweries like the Scottish brewery BrewDog and Nøgne Ø from Norway, each of which produce dozens of varieties of beer. In the US/UK section, I saw some familiar names like Sierra Nevada, Fuller’s, Samuel Smith and even a Sam Adams Boston Lager!
Since the beer at BeerGeek can be considered higher quality beer, it follows that the prices are a bit higher than we’re used to as well. Glass bottles of Czech beer cost between 20-40 CZK while most of the Belgian and German beers are in the 50-70 CZK range. I thought the Sierra Nevada was fairly priced at 68 Kč, but some of the more expensive bottles are 200 CZK or more. A 750-ml bottle of Anchorage Brewing Company’s Whiteout Wit beer, made in chardonnay barrels with added spices, was almost 400 CZK while Mikkeler’s Santa’s Little Helper, a 10.7% ABV Christmas ale aged in white wine barrels, was priced a bit less than 300 CZK.
Each week, they open up a bottle or two of the premium stuff so customers can pay for just a small taste as opposed to buying a whole bottle. They have two rotating kegs in the shop for customers to try as well. During my visit, they were selling a honey ale from Czech microbrewery Falkon and a wet hop ale from Nøgne Ø. The wet hop ale is only available seasonally, and is made with fresh, just-harvested “wet” hops, as opposed to most beers which use dried or extracted hops. It certainly had a different, “grassy” element that most ales do not have. I thought it was quite tasty and refreshing, but at 55 Kč for just .2 L it is a beer that should be sipped slowly.
When I asked Olga about her typical customers, she said that they have all kinds of beer drinkers. Some just pop in for a bottle or two of Czech beer, while others stick around to sip whatever specials they have that particular week. I spoke with one older Czech gentleman who is a regular at BeerGeek. It would be easy to take him for a Pilsner or Gambac drinker, but he told me that he just can’t get enough good Belgian beer. He stops in once a week or so to visit with Olga and Ruslan and of course, to enjoy his favorite beers. On another visit, a Russian man poured me a small sample from a bottle of his favorite wheat beer, which I thought was very kind of him.
As I was browsing the shelves at BeerGeek I noticed a couple of older Czech women who looked to be on their way home from the grocery store. They had stopped to peer through the shop window and read the chalkboard outside which lists the rotating beers, and they had a “what-the-heck-is-THIS?” kind of look on their faces. I can’t think of a better image to sum up the changing Czech beer market than this one. Yes, BeerGeek isn’t your typical Czech beer shop, but that is precisely the point.
Slavíkova 1047 – Prague 3
Where do you go for your import fix?