Beer Factory

How can you go wrong with a bar where you pour your own beer? Brewsta finds out

This article was originally posted on the Czech Please weblog.

"Oh, well, of course, everything looks bad if you remember it."

--Homer Simpson

The concept for Beer Factory seems like a winner. Pour your own beer. Drink it. Repeat. The principles of mass intoxication on an industrial scale. I like it.

I just don't like Beer Factory very much.

It's a drinking and eating establishment at the top of Wenceslas Square, right across from the statue of St. Wenceslas on his horse. It opened within the last year. There's plenty of foot traffic, and the area is a favorite with the stag party crowd. You'd expect pre-marital bliss.

However, the bar itself is underground, with the door at street level. I noticed a number of times that people seem to have a fear of going all the way in. They open the front door, look down the cracked glass spiral staircase, and then turn around and walk out.

For those brave enough to venture down, they'll find a bar, and a big open space with tables with beer taps built into them. There is a kitchen in the back. One friend called it "heaven" the first time he saw the tables.

"Ah, beer. The cause of and the solution to all of life's problems."

--Homer Simpson

When you sit down, you let the waiter know you want to drink, and he brings you beer mugs. The taps pour Pilsner Urquell. There are four taps on each table.

Each has a pressure valve. You have to be very careful with these because if the pressure is too high, you'll get a mug full of foam. This leads to wastage because the people I drink with have no patience for watching beer foam settle.

On top of the taps, there is a meter that measures how much your table has drunk. Beer Factory charges 40 CZK per half liter. The meter can be programmed to display your consumption information in either Czech, English, French, or German. It seems pretty accurate.

Burns: Smithers, this beer isn't working. I don't feel any younger or funkier.

Smithers: I'll switch to the tablespoon, sir.

There is also a projection on the wall that shows, with hash marks, how many beers each table has had. It's a fun idea that I'm sure goes over well with the stag boys. I've been to Beer Factory three times, usually between 6pm and 8pm. And it has always been virtually empty. So, I'm wondering what their peak times are and if the place ever fills up. We did see a group of seven young men come in the last time. But perhaps the lack of customers caused what we considered a serious, perhaps fatal problem for the place. The beer was bad.

On the last visit, I poured my beer and took a sip. The first thing I noticed was that it was not very cold. Not warm, but it was not at a reasonable temperature.

The second thing I noticed was that the taste was off. Way off. It was a little too sweet and it smelled stale. I asked the others at the table.

"This taste funny to you?" They agreed. Something was wrong here.

For further confirmation, as if any were needed, a third friend arrived, poured a beer and took a sip.

"This beer is bad!"

We hadn't said a word about it to him. He was pretty unhappy with it. And he complained about the bad taste in his mouth for the rest of the night after we left.

Our theory is that the kegs are nowhere near the taps. There must be long pipes running through the floor. And when the beer is not flowing all day, the beer just sits in uncooled pipes. And goes bad.

Results might be better after a big party comes through and fresh beer gets sucked into the pipes. Sort of like a Vegas slot machine, you have to hope someone has been giving it a few pulls before you get there.

A couple of friends have tried the food. One had the beef (svíčková). He said it was good. I tried some onion rings and thought they were very greasy. I do think the prices are very high for what you get. I couldn't find a menu online for some other examples.

The waiters are a pretty surly lot. Their jobs seem mostly limited to dropping off beer mugs on tables. And throwing out anyone who gets out of line, which I'm sure must happen when people are in charge of pouring their own beers. More on that later.

The music is not to my taste, often techno or some Euro pop, and pretty loud. There is a big open space in the middle of Beer Factory. There is a DJ station at the end. Perhaps it turns into a great dance party at some point. But I've never seen a crowd at the hours I've been there.

Some time around 10 pm, they turn the music up. My friend, Mr. B, was there with a friend one night and it got so loud, they couldn't talk any more. Since there was almost no one else in the place and a disco party was not about to break out, he asked a waiter if the music could be turned down. The waiter said no and Mr. B told me the waiter was pretty rude about it. So, he went to the manager. He admits he was pretty annoyed at this point and was, perhaps, less polite with the manager. So, the manager kicked them out.

I had such high hopes for the place, but now I'm filled with a sadness that can only be expressed in song:

I went to Beer Factory

I had a very bad beer

I had a very bad beer

It might be because pipes weren't clean

It was too warm for me

And the waiters were mean

I don't like Beer Factory

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