Monday 6th May 2013
I was taking a trip around some pubs in Prague that I had not previously visited and had earlier met up with friend Andrew, who lives in the city. I told him I wanted to visit a pub that sold Plzeňský Prazdroj Tankova. That is unpasteurized Pilsener Urquell that is served directly from a tank in a pub without any added CO2. I had identified a pub in the old town that was always known for the quality of its beer, right back to the communist era, yet he steered me in another direction. In his opinion the best tankova beer was to be found in one of his local pubs, and that's why we were here.
U Veverky (Squirrel) gets its name from a former owner, it was formerly known as Jaselská, and although it is not recorded what its title was when it first opened. It holds an imposing corner location and is housed in a building that dates from 1922. There are some nice exterior decorations that were typical of the time.
Entering the pub, you find the bar in a small room in the apex of the triangular floor plan. There is a larger room adjoining to the right with a further small side room where we settled as the pub was very busy. I think there is a further room to the left of the bar area.
The rooms have dark wooden-panelled walls in the traditional style. There is a fine display of ancient valve radios and each has a little sign explaining all about it. There was a big pull-down TV screen in the main room that was showing an International Ice-Hockey match between Switzerland and the Czech Republic. This is the country's national sport and Andrew had an interest from another angle, as he is from Switzerland.
What exactly is Tankova? To get the full answer we have to go back the end of the communist era. Then nearly all beer was unpasteurized and because of the high turn-over it came in large aluminium tanks to most pubs. It was transferred from the lagering tanks in the brewery to these containers without added CO2 and relied on the inherent gas produced during the closed secondary fermentation to propel it to the font.
As the large international companies gained control of Czech breweries after democratisation they "modernised" them with new conical fermenters and kegging plants. By 1996 this process was very well advanced.
However, there had been a back-lash from drinkers as they found all their favourite beers became bland because of pasteurization and gassier in way that dramatically altered the taste in the mouth.
When Pilsner Urquell (SAB Miller) took over the Pivovar Kozel of Velké Popovice, they found that some work had been done on a modern version of the old tank. They continued the development of this, and tankovy beer is the result.
The system is different from the past, as the tanks installed in the pubs' cellars are of stainless steel rather than aluminium and have polypropylene bags as liners. Gas is added to the tanks but outside of the bags. So, like in a giant poly pin or wine box, as the beer comes out of the tank the bags slowly collapse, and it does not have contact with the air, or any other gas.
What is it like? Well, it's quite wonderful actually, full-flavoured, slightly effervescent in a nice way, and at a really good temperature (8°C). I thought it was quite superb. I have not yet tasted it in another pub, so I have to take Andrew's word that this pub sells the best of the best. Yet it has got me interested in searching out some of the others and also the other breweries that serve by this method such as Staropramen, Krušovice, Budvar and Kozel.
U Veverky is a great pub and, although it only offers one beer, it is so good it finds a place in BeerVisits. The menu is both traditional and International. The pub boasts a line-up of four chefs, one of whom cooked for Pope Benedict on his visit to Prague. It is thoroughly recommended.
U Veverky, Elíašova 324/14, Praha 6, 16000. Tel: 223 000 223
Open: Monday to Friday 10.30-24.00; Saturday and Sunday 11.00-24.00
Please refer to the map below. The large roundabout in the top left corner is the location of Dejvická metro station. It is served by trams 2, 8, 20, 26 and 36. A large number of buses also start and pass through this area.