Wednesday 20th August 2014
The town of Beroun lies in the winding valley of its namesake river, the Berounska, to the west of Prague. It is quite ancient and was first linked to brewing in 1295 when King Wencleslas (Václav) II granted it royal status and his permission to brew. Much later, in 1872 a municipal brewery was established and this brewed Berounský Medvěd beers until its closure in 1978.
I guess the situation with this brewery was the same as many others in the communist era when the only investment was made in the big industrial breweries. There were three of these in nearby Prague and this small former family brewery located in a small town lost sales to them and in consequence had no money to replace worn-out equipment. A familiar story enacted all over Czechoslovakia.
However, although it is no consolation for its loss, I did manage to drink beers from the old brewery.
As I have occasionally mentioned on this site, I have a liking for steam locomotives, especially big ones. The main line at Beroun ran from Prague to Plzeň (Pilsen). There were many large modern steam locos working through here in the period from 1970 to 1972 on expresses, local and suburban trains to and from Prague.
Because of this I was often at the (then) newly-built station and patronised its self-service restaurant for food and beer. I never ventured in to the town, there was never enough time. If I remember correctly they offered Berounský Medvěd 10% and 12% Svetlý Ležák. These and all other beers in this country are described using the Balling (or Plato) system of strength. These two light lagers were about 4.0% and 4.8% abv respectively.
Back in those days I must have seen the sugar beet processing factory at the western end of the station. Well that has closed and is now the site of the new Pivovar Berounský Medvěd (Beroun Bear Brewery) which first opened its doors in 1998 by Václav Mayer and his wife Hana.
This was my third or maybe even fourth visit since the mid 2000s and there have been some changes over the years.
The most notable external difference is there is much less clutter. When I first called in, the various yards around the buildings were full up with old commercial vehicles; lorries, mobile cranes and fire engines.
There were also military examples: trucks, armoured cars and even some tanks! I was told once the brewery owner also dealt in scrap metal. This could be true but is unsubstantiated.
The brewery and pub stands out amongst the drabness around it as it is fairly new and is the only building there that has had a lick of paint. The pub takes up most of the space with the brewery being located to the left of the main entrance. Access is up a few steps passing an outside terrace used mostly by smokers.
Inside it takes a few moments to adjust to the low lighting. You find yourself in a large barn-like room with rows of tables. The bar / service area can be seen at the end of the room on the right. There are some amazing wall decorations. On the left there are some well-preserved enamel brewery signs. These are followed by an old iron and enamel sink and tap set into the wall.
This may have been in a pub and might have used by customers to wash their personal glasses before re-use. There are many still used in the beer halls of Bavaria.
Around this old sink there is a wonderful wall painting that incorporates it into a street scene, presumably the old town area of Beroun. In the rear left corner there is another painting that depicts the wooden fermentation vats at the original brewery, with a decorative barrel end on the adjacent wall. On the right side wall there is another painting that shows the old brewery that incorporates its founding date, 1872.
There is a splendid tiled floor and the furniture is made of dark varnished wood with loose cushions on the seating. The ceiling rafters are garlanded with hops. Despite it being a rather symmetrical room it has a very comfortable feel, not unlike a small beer hall.
Following this praise there is only one thing that hasn’t been mentioned so far and it was the reason for me being here; the beer! Please read on.
On the tables there is a beer menu that mentions six of the beers brewed in-house yet to get the real picture you need to look above the serving area that doubles as the off-sales department. There, displayed in transparent plastic sleeves are the draught beers actually on offer at the time. It is worth noting that take-away beers come in 1.5 litre PET bottles at very reasonable prices and may include some that are not on the daily menu as they come direct from a fridge.
This was what was offered when I visited:
Berounsky Medved Zlatý Kůň 11° Světlé (4.2%) (Golden Horse Light).
Berounský Medved Medový Medvěd Ležák Polotmavý 11° (4.0%) (Honey Bear Half Dark Honey Beer).
Berounsky Medved Tmavé Speciál 13° (5.2%) (Dark Special).
Berounsky Klepáček Polotmavý Speciál 14° (5.8%) (Half Dark Special).
Berounsky Medved Grizzly Speciál 18° (8.4%) (Bock Beer type Special).
There was also a guest beer from Pivovar Náchod in the form of Primator Premium (5.2%).
I was here for two hours and had the Zlatý Kůň 11° Světlé which I thought was an excellent light beer in the Pilsner style with medium bitterness. I followed with Tmavé Speciál 13° that was very dark and not as malty as I thought it might be, with a bit of a bitter finish.
I couldn’t resist my last choice, as how could I leave with trying Grizzly? Well, it was an amazingly complex beer with both malty sweetness and back bitterness with a lot of other flavours in between including caramel and toffee. I restricted myself to a 0.3 l glass.
I had a quick look at the brewery as there was nobody present. It is exceedingly traditional in its methods. The copper is heated by a wood fire, only one of two in the Czech Republic. The beer is cooled in a classic cool ship.
Hops are mostly from the Zatec (Saaz) region yet it is the malt that is really special as they malt their own barley. This is an extremely unusual process to be undertaken by any individual brewery these days, especially one whose yearly output is just 300 hl; it is surely unprecedented for such a small concern.
They own another restaurant in a nearby village that is located in former brewery. It is here that the small old-style maltings are located. This pub is known as Pivovarská hospoda v Suchomastech. It is to be found in Suchomasty opposite the castle. I will try and get there one day and hopefully see the maltings.
Back in Beroun please note there is a full menu with daily specials. The brewery operates a bicycle hiring service as this area is very popular with cycling enthusiasts. The brewery sponsors the local ice hockey team called HC Grizzly Beroun, what else!
Pivovar Berounský Medvěd, Tyršova 135, 26601 Beroun. Tel: 311 622 566
Open: Monday-Thursday 09.00-22.00; Friday 09.00-23.00;
Saturday 10.00-23.00; Sunday 10.00-22.00
The pub is just 5 minutes walk from the railway station. This is situated on the Prague to Plzeň main line and enjoys an hourly express train service seven days a week between these two cities. Four of these trains come from / go to Munich via Regensburg.
Beroun is also the end station of the suburban line S6 from Prague.
From the front of the station turn left and walk in front of a row of flats. The road then goes left and right before it goes under a road overbridge. You will now be in the Sugar Mill property. Turn right and you will see the brewery on the left.