We hope you’ve been enjoying the updates from Utepils’s first annual beer trip and living vicariously (viBEERiously?) through our intrepid travelers. Wishing you were part of the action? This will be an annual tradition, so start dreaming about next year. VIPERs have priority access to this ultra-limited trip, so if you’re interested, make sure you’re part of our VIPER community! Ask your bartender for more information.
Cesky Krumlov or bust! We boarded the 58-passenger beer bus with just 16 of us, so we had plenty of room to spread out ourselves and bags and ride in style. The on-bus bar opened up immediately so we dedicated the day to enjoying both the ride and the Zatec beers we had been given. (And, yes, for the curious—there was a WC on board.)
We broke up our long travels with a couple of stops. First up was Brno, the second-largest city in the Czech Republic. As this was a first visit to Brno for most of us, priority #1 upon arrival was exploration. We headed off in various directions to scope out the town for a while before meeting up for lunch at the Starpromo brewery.
During pre-lunch explorations, Dan and Deb found a long winding street featuring a “drunk monk” sign for a wine bar. Down several hallways and into the hillside, we found a cozy local pub serving wines of the area. We sampled a few options and settled on two large glasses of wine and a plastic 2-liter jug of wine to go. Total cost: About $9. When we met up for lunch to exchange stories, we found that others in the group had found similar hidden gems.
One fabulous meal and several beers down, we somehow ended up buying more beer for the bus at the gift shop. We really think Minnesota needs to look at allowing breweries to sell “beer to go” in packages to tourists.
Once we were back on the bus, it was time to crank up the Bluetooth speaker and rock out with our augmented supply of beverages. Our next destination was Telc, a UNESCO world heritage site, accessed via a couple of hours of winding roads with occasionally threatening weather.
After arriving in Telc, we walked into a large plaza of homes—all seemingly frozen in time. At one point, the local prince fell in love with the new fashions of Italy, returned home with an architect and crew in tow, and decreed that all homes in the plaza—and whatever he could see from his windows—must rebuild the fronts of their homes to conform to his new standards. Hundreds of years later, little has changed, and it’s a bit of history frozen in time and on display. We found a nice patio bar for snacks and beers.
Following our stopover in Telc, we hopped back on the bus for our final two-hour drive to Cesky Krumlov. The music played on, more beers were shared, and a few naps occurred. We arrived in Cesky Krumlov fairly late, so we checked into our hotel and enjoyed a full night of rest.
Cesky Krumlov is Dan’s favorite small city in Europe...so far. Built within an oxbow in the river, it is virtually an island with a large castle perched upon a high hill. Our city guide, Carolina, walked around the overlooks, shared stories of how the city was reborn after communism collapsed, and introduced us to her dog, who escaped his yard and somehow found us!
Our tour concluded within the castle grounds. Some wandered the extensive castle gardens while others headed for the city shops. A climb up the astronomical tower drew several us to test our fear of heights, small spaces, steep stairs, and a sagging rope handrail. The view is magnificent, and I hope the photos give a small sense of the beauty and compactness of Cesky Krumlov.
For the rest of day, couples and small groups wandered about, occasionally rejoining and splitting up as beer, stories, and food were shared. The town has become a major tourist destination since Dan and Deb's first visit eleven years ago. Selfie sticks abound, yet the charm remains.
Birds of a feather seem to flock together. As five of us entered Pappa's Living Restaurant for dinner, we discovered two other tables of fellow beer trippers had preceded us. We promptly became the loudest tables in the place. We blame excitement, beer, wine, and amazing food. Our group has really bonded.
So much so, that seven us of later found a bar featuring local music and—what else?—local drinks. There was a very interesting birthday party going on there so we stayed for the dancing and people watching.
We also did a bit of preparation for our next day. The goal: Visit a small brewery and micro-distillery in the country. The good times keep rolling!
Here’s the third update from our intrepid travelers, who are currently on Utepils’s first annual beer trip! Their goals: See the sights. Eat the food. Drink the beer. Learn about local brewing traditions. Come home with inspiration for a new, limited edition Utepils brew.
Catch up with the previous updates and stay tuned for more!
Dan heard that our free day in Olomouc dawned clear and crisp, but he—and a few others—opted to sleep in. (What’s a vacation if you can’t catch up on sleep?)
Even the non-early-birds caught the last few minutes of the hotel buffet bar, complete with complimentary mimosas. After breakfast—perhaps due to the mimosas—it was already time for a mid-morning nap for some, while others headed out to start exploring Olomouc.
The sleepyheads and explorers shared a common goal: Make it to the famed astrological clock by noon for its legendary, once-per-day performance. (We made it by 15 minutes!) Olomouc’s clock is even older than Prague’s. Early risers from the group were there on a nearby beer deck sipping a cold Pilsner Urquell and some of the latecomers joined them. Around a hundred visitors in total huddled in front to the clock to await the daily display.
It was worth the visit. The performance lasted over five minutes and was enjoyed by all. It’s amazing to think that this tradition has been in place for more than 400 years. If it could impress those of us used to fancy phones and 3D movies today, we can only imagine how it seemed to those observers in the early days.
Once the beer-drinking seal was cracked, it seemed best to wander and find some beer locations. Deb and Dan decided to track down the beer spa referenced in the previous post. They found it at St Weceslas brewpub, and were able to make reservations for the evening. The spa was down in the basement, and the stairs down proved quite entertaining: The walls featured a series of paintings depicting a young, well-dressed lady with a full beer who, as you descend the stairs, turns into quite naked lady with an empty beer going into the spa door. But we digress.
We’ve had our fill of pork and dumplings on this trip so we decided to mix things up with a pizza lunch. Later in the evening we met up with fellow Beertrippers in a delicious Nepalese restaurant. Deb and Dan arrived relaxed and serene as they came straight from the beer spa, where they spent two hours variously soaking in a hot beer bath, sweating it out in a huge sauna, and relaxing post-sauna with cold pivo (pivo is the Czech word for beer).
Others opted to spend the day in various museums, a laundry with Chinese food, considering climbing the tower with 480 steps (they didn't), lunching at the Torture Museum (don’t worry—it’s a bar), and generally having a beery, cheery day.
Coincidentally, we all arrived at the street to the hotel at the same time in the evening and convinced the bartender to not close the hotel bar. We just needed one more. Unlike other nights, we still made it to bed early, with plans to get up early to embark for Brno, Telc, and finally Cesky Krumlov.
Here’s the second update from our intrepid travelers, who are currently on Utepils’s first annual beer trip! Their goals: See the sights. Eat the food. Drink the beer. Learn about local brewing traditions. Come home with inspiration for a new, limited edition Utepils brew. Catch up with the previous update and stay tuned for more!
A scheduled travel day let us indulge in a necessary sleep-in after our late night at U Flecku (and, for some of us, a pub crawl on the way home!).
When we finally awoke, we dragged our bags and behinds to the train station for our three-hour ride to Olomouc, which is a former capital of Moravia and now an eastern province of the Czech Republic. After a bit of creative bag storage (imagine Deb jumping up and down on her luggage to flatten enough to fit in the overhead rack), we settled down for a nice ride.
Within 15 minutes of departing, we received complimentary champagne flutes & fills from train staff. Sweet! Shortly thereafter, the clinking cooler bags were opened to release the now chilled Zatec sample pack beers. The group was finally starting to recover from the previous night’s revelries and the libations were a welcome treat.
After arriving by train, we were whisked by taxi to our new hotel in Olomouc. We settled in and then gathered in the lobby at 4pm for a strolling tour of the city and parks with a local guide. Olomouc is an old city and former military fort that is full of impressive sights including huge walls, cathedrals, cobblestone streets, and plazas lined with restaurants and centered with monuments.
Famous genetic scientist F. Mendel lived here. Mozart, who recovered from smallpox here as a child, and Beethoven created special works for the city.
We ended our tour at a restaurant for dinner and gifted our guide with a cold can of Utepils beer. We had a delicious dinner and shared stories and plates of food.
After dinner, a few were ready to hit the hay, but Dan and Deb led a small group to a nearby brewpub to keep the festivities going. We were drawn to the brewpub due to its name, Moritz. Moritz happens to be the name of our Bavarian host’s son, who is building our new fermentation tanks. On our short walk to the Moritz brewpub, we spotted a sign for another local brewery offering a “beer spa.” Curiosity abounds. Wonder if we can get a reservation? Stay tuned.
Here’s the first update from our intrepid travelers, who are currently on Utepils’s first annual beer trip! Their goals: See the sights. Eat the food. Drink the beer. Learn about local brewing traditions. Come home with inspiration for a new, limited edition Utepils brew.
From across the globe and by train, plane, and Uber, we gathered in Prague. The majority of the group arrived on Thursday. Despite a light rain, we easily found a pub (or two!) to begin our exploration of Prague and its beer.
Most of us indulged in sleeping in Friday morning as we fought off jet lag and late nights. The trip formally began at 3 p.m., when we met in our lovely hotel lobby. By 3:00, many of us had already engaged in quite a bit of exploration, and we can report that fine beer can be found all around Prague at about $2 per half liter. During a break in the drizzle, Jim, Bob, Al, and Dan found a small street fair and enjoyed large grilled sausages.
To formally kick off the trip, we exchanged hearty greetings and Dan and Deb handed out our inaugural Beer Trippin' scarf. Our local tour guide provided a short history lesson on Prague to prepare us for the sights we would see. It was still drizzling, so it seemed best to do as much talking as possible inside. Along the way, we popped in the Two Cats Pub to warm up with a couple of beers.
We ended our tour at U Suppa, whose owners claim its status as one of the oldest brewpubs. We laughed, drank beer, told stories, ate huge amounts of food, drank more beer, listened to the strolling accordion player, drank more beer, tried to teach accordion player a new song, and drank more beer before heading out into the night. Perhaps a spontaneous pub crawl may have occurred.
Saturday was our first full day of Beer Trippin' and we went big. We took a bus to the Pilsner Urquell brewery in Pilsn. This the original creator of blond hoppy lager, which became a worldwide sensation in the mid 1800's. Today, 75% of all beer brewed is of this style, though most is not nearly as good as theirs.
At the brewery, we encountered a veritable “Disney World” of technology that presented the story of their beer with film, museum displays, an English-speaking guide, and a bus to whisk from building to building. The current brewery is a marvel of high tech. We also toured the original cellars where the beer is brewed (just for us tourists) in wooden, open-topped fermenters and then lagered another three weeks in oak barrels. We sampled the beer directly from the barrels in the unfiltered, unpasteurized state. Yum!
After a quick lunch and stop the gift shop, we were back on the bus to head to the Zatec Hop Festival. Upon arrival, we weaved our way thru the crowd to the Zatec Brewery. Here there was no high technology, no film, and no English-speaking guide. That didn’t slow us down. We came, we saw, and we sampled in the lagering cellars. This is an old brewery that makes great beer, but due to the low prices of beer sold in the Czech Republic (money is in exporting), it has been hard to fix up the place that Communism let fall apart.
With the tour complete and gift packs of Zatec beer in hand, we hit the Zatec Hop Festival. Just like any other county fair, there are rides, games of chance, a big stage with politicians yakking, bands playing, food stands, and beer stand after beer stand. It was prohibitively difficult to keep a large group together amid the happy chaos, so we scattered with a planned meet-up for later. When we re-convened on the bus, many arrived wearing big smiles—and hop wreaths upon their heads. We enjoyed exchanging stories on the ride home.
Saturday night, we were on our own to explore. Small groups headed out for shows, dinner, and/or more beers.
Sunday was also unscheduled, to give Beer Trippers the opportunity to explore Prague on their own. Many took advantage of the opportunity to shop and check out local culture, including museums on the history of Czech Communism and one dedicated to the life and work of the world-acclaimed Czech ART NOUVEAU artist Alphonse Mucha. Many also visited the famed Prague Castle, which dominates the skyline. Reports also filtered back of plenty of stops for beer!
Our evening dinner was a U Flecku, another brewpub with owners claiming its status as “one of the oldest in the world.” One claim to fame is that they make only one beer, a dark lager. They have sold this beer for more than 600 years. This dedication to a single dark lager would stand out anywhere, but in the land known for golden lagers, it is amazing....and delicious. Innumerable beers were consumed (well, not innumerable, as someone there tallied up the bill) along with huge platters of food. Things got loud and energetic as we enthusiastically sang along with the strolling accordion player.
With some heading back to pack for our Monday departure to the east of the country, a few hardy souls embarked on a short, three-stop 3 pub crawl to try to some local Budweiser beer. (No not the Budweiser you’re thinking of—this is the good stuff made by the Czech brewery of the same name. And, yes, many lawyers over the years made a lot of money on that trademark battle.) Off to bed with much more fun to come!