But if you happen to have the good fortune to visit you’ll find one of the easiest cities in the world to navigate, a feast for the eyes and surprisingly cheap travel. And within two days, the scales will have fallen from your eyes and your entire understanding of Czech beer will have blossomed.In any town with as many drinking holes as Prague, there is always going to be room for disagreement. And indeed, on Facebook, a Praguer (please tell me residents of Prague are Praguers) lodged his complaints:
U Fleku is full of tourists. Which is not always a bad thing. But in this case it's full of tourists because no locals would ever go there. The single beer they serve is nice enough, but it's ridiculously overpriced, and totally not worth the money...This raises an interesting division between what locals and tourists value. It's an especially sharp divide in Prague, which is perpetually awash in tourists and where the standard beer, so commonplace to locals, is new and rare to visitors. (And where, ironically, the more exotic beer--IPAs, stouts, sour beer--is fairly old hat to American beer geeks.) The reality is, the needs of locals and tourists differ.
Strahov is okay for a brief visit on the way past, but again, overpriced because only tourists really go there, and they don't care about the price because they're happy to pay for the experience of drinking beer which is supposedly brewed to an ancient monk memory...
As much as tourists to a country want to be in the know and want to avoid tourist traps, a certain amount of that is critical. You must understand the basics before you can get a feel for the subtleties. The first time I went to Prague, I skipped U Fleku because of its reputation as ground zero for tourists. But it's ground zero for a reason! The brewery has been there since 1499, which makes it far and away one of the oldest in the world. Perhaps even more impressive, the dark lager has been brewed there roughly the same way and to the same formulation, since the year after Josef Groll first brewed Pilsner. For obvious reasons, locals probably don't frequent a place with just one beer and throngs of tourists; that doesn't mean beer geeks should skip it, too.
It's possible some people visit Strahov because of a silly invented story, but I guess I'm immune to those. Trying to embroider a brewery's rep with ecclesiastical thread is so common I always tune it out. The reason to go is for the beer. Locals may despair at the price, but once you've spent thousands of dollars to travel half way around the globe, you're not about to let the marginal expense of a pint dissuade you. As someone who chafes over the price of Rogue and the McMenamins in Portland, I get why price is a relevant factor for locals. It's just not a reasonable objection for the tourist.
All of this comes to mind in part because I'm about to start writing about the beer and beer scene in Victoria, BC. It will necessarily be an outsider's perspective: I'm an outsider. But I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. It's okay to try to cover the basics when you visit a new town, to try to interpret things for those who have a baseline of zero experience back home. But Praguers and Victorians (another great demonym) will have to forgive me.
Anyway, go check out the piece at All About Beer if you missed it.