Tuesday 19th August 2014
Although the pub name U Salzmannů does not immediately resonate as one of the most notable in the development of world beer, it certainly it does hold a pivotal place in progression of Pilsner lager to become the most produced style on the globe. This is because of the importance of its former owner, Martin Salzmann, in ensuring that the beer reached the very first markets outside of the city.
As is well known, a massive step change occurred in 1842 when the first bottom-fermented lagered beer was produced in the city at the Plzeňského Měšťanského Pivovaru (Pilsen Municipal Brewery) by brewer Josef Groll. Please see the article on the brewery’s Na Spilce restaurant for details of the origins of Pilsner Urquell.
As a drinker of quality beer will know, there are thousands of lagers that use the Pils (or Pilsner, or Pilsener) name. Yet they are completely remote in taste from that beer first produced in Plzeň during the 19th Century, or even now.
Martin Salzmann was a carter in Plzeň and he rightly believed that this new style of crisp tasting and clear beer should be sampled in Prague.
So, on 8th April 1843 he took some of it to the Bohemian capital, specifically to his friend Jakub Pinkas, a tailor who made monastic vestments.
From then on its success was guaranteed as all Prague wanted to try this new beer. So much so that Jakub Pinkas gave up tailoring and bought a pub named Švingulanta which began selling the revolutionary Pilsner beer. Luckily this watering hole is still we us today, sporting the name of its new owner.
If visiting the city you’ll find U Pinkasu at Jungmannovo Náměstí 15 / 16, just around the corner from Václavské Náměstí, the famous Wenceslas Square. It’s just by the line B entrance to Můstek metro station.
We are lucky that U Pinkasu remains up till now, because in this case the Communist authorities realised its historical significance and it remained open throughout their control. Not so U Salzmannů back in Plzeň which was badly neglected during this period. After the velvet revolution of 1989 its importance was recognised and a restoration project was begun with its initial opening in 1995.
To go back in time, Salzmann continued with the cartage business until an accident in 1853 when he sustained a leg injury. He could not continue with that kind of work so in 1858 he purchased a pub with the assistance of the brewery. In 1872 he moved in to the city centre and opened on the site of the present pub, giving it his name.
It was once a residence built in 1584 by architect Jan Merlian which in 1843 became a coaching inn on the road from the city centre to Prague, hence the name of the street it is on, Pražská.
In 1907 it was almost completely rebuilt with only the main entrance portico remaining from the old building. It stayed in the family up to and into the communist period and finally closed in the late sixties because costly repairs were needed. It was well remembered as on its walls it had many decorations from Salzmann’s cartage days, giving it a rustic feel.
Nowadays it has been restored to be a beautiful pub and restaurant and also a small hotel. If you look at my photograph of the pub’s exterior you’ll notice the piles of earth. This is because the city authorities were rebuilding the tramway along Pražská. It is intended that this would finish before Christmas 2014. If you’d climbed over that trench and entered the door you would have observed the waiters’ area behind an upturned barrel used as a table for drinkers. Hopefully in future you’ll be able to walk in from the pavement.
On each side of the barrel there are tall seats and tables. Turn right and there is a pleasant room with large windows to the street and on the left of entrance there is a smaller yet similar room. The walls are panelled to above head height in dark and medium dark varnished wood. The furniture is all highly varnished wood. On the left side I found a room at the back of the pub with its own bar, I don’t think it was there when I was last here. From it a door led out to a small biergarten, again something I don’t recollect from my previous visits.
Well that’s the pub and its history and so what about the beers? Well, as it is inextricably linked to Pilsner Urquell (4.4%), that’s what should be drank here, it would be wrong to imbibe anything else! And, of course, in such a prestigious location it is served from the tank and I believe, unpasteurized.
They also serve Master (7.0%), a strong bock beer from the Plzeň brewery and Kozel Černý (Black) (3.8%), from their brewery at Velký Popovice, south east of Prague, also part of the SAB Miller stable. There was also a keg cider called Kingswood.
So, a good comfortable pub that holds its place in history. Add in that it is right in the centre of the city and its menu specialises in traditional Bohemian cooking.
Restaurace U Salzmannů, Pražská 8, 30100 Plzeň. Tel: 377 235 476
Open: Monday-Thursday 11.00-23.00; Friday-Saturday 11.00-24.00; Sunday 11.00-22.00
It would appear that the tramway tracks have now been renewed so it is possible catch the No 1 or 2 trams from Hlavní Nádraží ČD (Main railway station) to Náměstí Republicky. This is the main square of the city and is home to the cathedral.
Pražská is a street that runs easterly from the north-east corner of the square. Because the tramway operates a one-way system this is the road they return along to get to the station.
Alternatively it is possible to walk from the station in just over 15 minutes.