Have a drink at Pilsner Urquell, home of the original light beer, in Czech Republic
By IMMANUEL JOHNSON | Stars and Stripes | Published: February 6, 2020
The Czech Republic is known for its capital, Prague; King Wenceslas in the Christmas carol; tennis player Martina Navratilova; rising up against communist rule in 1968; and, to some, including me, Pilsner Urquell lager.
“Urquell” is German for “original source,” and Pilsner Urquell is said to have inspired more than two-thirds of all beers labeled pils, pilsner or pilsener, according to the official Pilsner Urquell brochure.
Before pilsner, beer drinkers only had dark, heavy, cloudy beers to slake their thirst. When golden, clear, blonde pilsner was first brewed in 1842, its light taste quickly won followers in Europe and America, where it was widely duplicated, eventually giving rise to a popular U.S. brew known for its Clydesdale horse mascots and Super Bowl ads.
Pilsen is about 90 minutes east of Grafenwoehr and Vilseck. Once there, head to the Pilsner Urquell brewery near the Radbuza River to sample a few beers and have a meal in the Na Spilce restaurant. When I went, the place was full of locals and tourists.
I started my meal off with a half-liter of Pilsner Urquell, but you can also try Volba sladku (the brewer’s choice), radler (beer and Sprite) or Gambrinus, which is unfiltered lager. I determined that beer tastes better when you drink it where it was brewed.
After opting to forgo the starters, which included goulash soup served in a breadcrust bowl or beef broth with liver dumplings, I went straight into a main course of wild boar with rose hip sauce — like sweet gravy with cranberries — served with bread dumplings. It exploded with flavor.
Other menu offerings included marinated pork ribs or a breaded pork cutlet with homemade potato salad, but I highly recommend the boar.
Dessert, on the other hand, was not so great. The Sacher torte — layered chocolate cake with a fondant-like chocolate icing and a dollop of whipped cream — tasted as if it had been sitting out for part of the day. When someone told me that Sacher Torte, which takes its name from the Hotel Sacher in Vienna, where it was first made in 1832 — 10 years before pilsner was invented — is traditionally dry, I wondered if my slice was the original one.
The other two dessert options when I was at Na Spilce were pancakes with blueberry cream and apple strudel with nuts. My meal and beer cost just under $15, and the service was friendly and fast, giving me plenty of time afterward to check out the rest of what Pilsen has to offer.
Address: U Prazdroje 7, 304 97 Pilsen, Czech Republic
Hours: Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Prices: Between $9 and $13. Beers are about $1-$3.
Menu: Czech, English and German. Carry-out is available.
Phone: +420 377 062 755. Reservations are available.