Good Beer Guide to Prague and the Czech Republic

Book Review: For anyone with more than a passing interest in pivo Evan Rail's impressive guidebook is a must

To put it simply: If you enjoy Czech beer, you'll enjoy this book.

Published by the UK's Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), Evan Rail's Good Beer Guide to Prague and the Czech Republic serves as a both an overview of the country's breweries and an incentive to get out of the capital to discover some lesser known beers.

Cataloguing over a hundred breweries and around 450 beers, most of which the writer has tried for himself and reviewed, the book is clearly a labor of love.

Helpful additions include a glossary of Czech beer terms, a guide to Czech beer styles, a "beery" history of the Czech lands, a calendar of beer festivals and brewery open days, and a rundown of Prague and Brno pubs with special appeal for beer-lovers.

Aside from the drinking, the number of miles clocked up crisscrossing the Czech Republic is impressive enough. In the Acknowledgements, Rail's Škoda 120L gets a special mention.

By putting this guide together, Rail conclusively proves that there's more to Czech beer than Staropramen, Pilsner Urquell and Budvar.

Among the many intriguing beers unearthed are a low-alcohol lager brewed by a glassworks for its employees (Huťské výčepní), a yeast beer brewed in a village where the streets have no name (Arthur's Old Keltic Beer), and a Pilsner made with hemp extract (Hemp Valley Beer).

Being the work of one man, much of the guide is, of course, subjective, and a Czech beer enthusiast is sure to find something to quibble with within its pages.

(Budvar 10-degree a better beer than Budvar 12? Surely not...)

But beyond that, my only reservation is the way the listings are organized geographically, using the 14 Czech regions introduced in 2000 rather than the eight regions used previously.

Strictly speaking, the new system is more correct, but for anyone unfamiliar with Czech geography, is "Hradec Králové Region" really a more helpful category than "East Bohemia"?

Nitpicking aside, this is a superb guidebook -- thoroughly researched, engagingly written, and full of scene-setting color photos.

Anyone with more than a passing interest in pivo will immediately find a place for it in their heart and in their backpack.

Disclosure: Sam Beckwith worked with Evan Rail at The Prague Post between 2001 and 2002

• The Good Beer Guide to Prague and the Czech Republic is available from the Anagram bookstore in Prague and from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com

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