Nov 212011

Staropramen Label

The Staropramen label off my bottle

There is no shortage of Czech beer brands in the U.S., at least not in Portland, Oregon. Pilsner Urquell is unsurprisingly ubiquitous, both on tap and bottled. The real Budweiser (Budvar), sold here in individual 0.5l/16.9 oz bottles as Czechvar, has in the past few months become a staple in Safeway’s and Fred Meyer’s beer coolers. Lion (Lev), Rebel, Žatec, Primátor, and Bakálař brands are all available at beer ’boutiques’ or international grocery stores. But to discover Staropramen Lager (courtesy of my hockey buddy Brian Schmonsees) was like discovering a little bit of Prague in my backyard.

Tasting Staropramen years after I last drank it required reconciling memories with the new reality. I always associated Staropramen with Prague, where it is brewed, and when visiting, I never missed a chance to drink it on draft—never from a bottle. Staropramen was a liquid taste of Prague; it was Prague.

Here in Portland, therefore, Staropramen Lager started with a handicap. It came in a six-pack of “small bottles”, giving it not only the feel of a rarity, but also of exclusivity, with a price to match ($9.87 for a six pack).

The memory colored my drinking experience, too. Despite the beautiful golden color and mildly hoppy scent, both prototypical of the lagers I love, I immediately thought, ‘It’s better on draft’. A few sips in, however, I had to admit: Staropramen comes with a balanced taste to match the color and smell. It is smooth. It’s got a bite. I love it.

Then, the memory of a memory intervened. The positive sensory experience is fine in and of itself. Taken out of its natural environment’s context, it falls short of the full experience. You can take Staropramen out of Prague, but Prague is too big, too important, indeed, too much a part of me, to fit in 11.2 fluid ounces.

Still, I like Staropramen too much to not go get some more. Even if it comes without real Prague, the memories are strong enough to supply it in my head.

Word from the Brewer

Staropramen Six Pack

A six pack of Staropramen in Portland, Oregon. Precious.

Staropramen Lager is one of Staropramen’s three offerings:

Staropramen Lager, #1 Prague beer in the world, has been linked to Prague’s brewing origins since 1869. Even before the liquid reaches your lips, the rich hop aroma takes you back to our Lager’s Czech ancestral lands, where the beer was first brewed. The bright golden clear color, clashes at the top with a thick creamy foam, giving it an inconceivable taste. Full bodied and pleasantly balanced, Staropramen starts off with a thoroughly rewarding and soft malty flavour, finishing off with a just right gentle bitterness. 5.0% ABV

American Robotnik’s Brewrating

  • Lowdown: Staropramen is a near-perfect lager if you have no associations to moderate your experience. It’s bound to be a conversation starter at any party, particularly among the many Americans who have been to Prague.
  • Grade: A

  3 Responses to “Staropramen Is Prague in a Bottle…Almost”

  1. Great article – I live in Prague and enjoy Staropramen regularly. Its like there’s a little bit of the Spirit of Prague in every bottle ;0)

  2. […] the distance between Prague and me has grown, I still love her. Prague now lives in artifacts: in a bottle of Staropramen; in books like†“The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain”;†on blogs like […]

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