Nancy Lopez-McHugh with a report from a fantastic monastery brewery in the fairytale city of Prague.
Text And Photo By Nancy Lopez-McHugh
Klasterni Pivovar Strahov (Klášterní pivovar Strahov) or The Strahov Monastery Brewery in Prague’s (Hradcany) castle district is a must try brewery and restaurant. This microbrewery sits perched on top of the hill leading up to the castle. Just stone’s steps away from the Prague castle Klasterni Pivovar is surrounded by ancient beauty and tremendous history. The grounds where the brewery stands are the Strahov Monastery buildings which were founded in 1142. Even though the brewery is housed there, the monks are not involved in the brewing process. But both the restaurant and beers are named after St. Norbert. The microbrewery is made up of the brewery itself, St. Norbert restaurant and the brewery courtyard.
If that history isn’t intriguing enough the view (from St. Norbert Restaurant and the Brewery) just across the quiet small cobblestone street, sits the Strahov Monastery which houses the Church of Our Lady. The very church where Mozart played the organ on his visit to the monastery in 1787. Lest not forget the famous library which houses the Philosophical Hall with its magnificent fresco ceilings and ancient books. Words alone cannot describe the beauty of the Philosophical Hall, so do a Google images search to preview it. All this history and sightseeing makes one hungry, time to eat!
Klasterni Pivovar Strahov is one of the special gems in Prague that we make sure our visitors get to enjoy. This time my husband and I were not playing tourist guides and were able to just appreciate the beauty of the grounds. We were also lucky enough to be enjoying warm sunny spring weather which could only mean sitting in the courtyard, of course. Be warned this place is very popular so either visit in between meal hours our call ahead for reservations. Within a minute of sitting down at our courtyard table the friendly waiter brought us our menus. A smiling,friendly waiter and menus so fast is a great start in a Prague restaurant. International visitors have no worries the staff are bilingual and menus are in Czech, English and German. First order of business is to order your Pivo which is Czech for beer.
We both ordered large or 1/2 liter (17 oz) beers, the St. Norbert dark beer for me and for my husband the St. Norbert amber beer. Typically dark Czech beer has slightly less alcohol than lager beer. But we later found out that St. Norbert dark is slightly higher than amber. The beer here is brewed according to the purity law of 1516, which is the regulation for the production as to what ingredients to use. The brewery also offers specially brewed beers that are available only at certain times of the year. The menu will reflect what is seasonally available. I’ve had my fair share of Czech beer but I’m not an expert. Having said that St. Norbert beers has a very good taste. There is no tin/metal after taste, just a clean smooth flavor. The second round my husband ordered one of their special beers, that we didn’t get the name of, which had such a unique smell and taste. I can only describe it as almost a flowery hint, not bad.
One can’t only drink beer, you need a good hearty Czech meal to help bring the whole experience together. While the standard Czech dishes are available I chose to try “Chicken St. Norbert”. A quarter roasted chicken in a dark beer sauce served on top of stewed red cabbage and both potato and bread dumplings. This was one of the best roasted chicken I have ordered in a restaurant. It was crispy on the outside and the meat so tender and falling off the bone. Let me state that I am not a fan of Czech red cabbage, it’s sweet and I just don’t like sweet cabbage. Well, this cabbage was savory and so delicious that it has changed my mind. The mandatory knedliky or dumplings were fresh, soft and another perfect side dish.
My husband ordered a standard dish, fried pork cutlet or schnitzel with buttery boiled parsley potatoes. I was too busy stuffing my face with my own meal to have a taste of his but the presentation was nice and hubby said it was a tender and tasty schnitzel. Did someone say ešte pivo? (another beer?) Ano prosim! (Yes Please!) If you can manage to order dessert I would highly suggest the griddle cakes with blueberry sauce, a traditional scrumptious Czech dessert. We were much too full to fit it in and were more than content to bask in the spring sunshine with beer in hand and glorious views all around.
Prague is a popular destination in Europe with many visitors year round. In many of the tourist areas the prices can be quite high compared to the residential neighborhoods of Prague. When the bill came we were surprised that eating in this fantastic restaurant in a tourist area didn’t cost much more than eating out in our local neighborhood, another thing to love about this great restaurant. Now that you are full why not walk off some of those calories and take in the sights.
Head back towards the castle and on your way stop at the top of the hill to take in the magnificent views of this ancient city. If you happened to arrive at the main entrance to the castle right before the hour (it happens every hour on the hour with noon being the biggest ceremony) you can catch the changing of the guard. Now how better to end your evening than that!