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From the bottle to the stew

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This story is part of an occasional series of articles from the Prague Wanderer, a webzine created by New York University students in Prague. Learn more about the Prague Wanderer here.

A chilled, bubbling glass of amber liquid, foam falling over the edge and sliding down the etched trademark Gambrinus or Pilsner. This is a typical presentation of beer around the Czech Republic.

The millions of visitors to the Czech Republic each year who fall in love with the country’s beer may not know that drinking is not the only way to benefit from the full-bodied flavor of a lager or ale. While cooking with beer in the Czech Republic is not as common as swigging from a half-liter glass, this method of enjoying the famous Czech brew can be just as delicious.

A few traditional recipes showcase the possibilities of using beer in food. For instance, Magdalana Dobromila Rettigová, author of Czech cookbook “‘Domaácí Kuchařka’ or ‘Home Cookbook’,” cites a recipe for beer soup. Beer cheese called pivní sýr, a soft cheese traditionally combined and mashed together with beer before eating, is also a well-known staple among traditional Czech snacks.

But, if the prospect of doing anything more than merely lifting your mug seems tiresome and the idea of cooking beer-based creations too demanding, there is still a way to enjoy beer with a culinary spin.

Several small-scale breweries around Prague serve a scattered, although limited, assortment of entrées.

Novoměstský Pivovar, located centrally in Prague 1, is a restaurant home to the triple threat of brewery, home-made beers, and a small selection of dishes that boast beer as an ingredient.

Among such dishes at Novoměstský Pivovar are “brewer’s” chicken kebabs and “brewer’s pan”, which includes beer accented pork knee, duck breast, bacon, sausage, potatoes, and three types of dumplings. Nevertheless, this pivovar’s stand out beer-based dish is the house specialty, beef goulash in dark beer with grilled sausages accompanied by a selection of dumplings, horseradish, and chilies (225 crowns or $13.25).

Don’t expect the beer in this goulash to make a triumphant announcement of its presence. Instead, the presence of beer is only found among the last traces of the goulash sauce as it slides down the back of the throat.

A hint of carbonation combined with the layered flavors of onion, tomatoes, spices, and hops completes this Czech staple and leaves you wanting more in between each bite. While goulash certainly does not need beer to be full bodied and savory, the addition of beer in this case makes for an exciting twist to both dark beer and goulash.

However, for the ultimate number options in which beer is a chief ingredient one should head to Pivovarský Dům in New Town.

This microbrewery and restaurant offers a surprising array of variety in its use of beer. The menu boasts five Czech classic dishes, five additional meat and one fish based main course, and even a vegetarian entrée all proudly marked on the menu as utilizing beer in their making.

The maltster’s rabbit is one delicious example of Pivovarký Dům’s ability to incorporate beer into tasty dishes. The simplicity of the presentation of the rabbit thigh, gravy and spaetzles blends with the standard brewery atmosphere. Clearly, food here is about flavor not flare.

The sweat and smoky taste of the meal is echoed in the creamy beer gravy sauce. Again, the flavor of beer is rather hard to detect but does faintly reveal itself to the taste buds. The accompanying spaetzles, little rounded asymmetrical egg dumplings, serve well in soaking up the delicious sauce and the overall result is a hearty and homey meal.

Another delectable item on the menu is the drinker’s zesty pork medallions with rice. While the presence of beer in is untraceable, the sweet and tangy sauce combines a medley of tomatoes, hot peppers, and spices. The harmony of this sauce with the soft and succulent meat renders the lack of beer flavor in the dish an unimportant attribute compared to the overall delightful taste of the food.

If still hungry for more beer filled possibilities after Pivovarský Dům’s ample portions, the microbrewery proves inventive again in its dessert crepes with beer jam.

The crepes themselves are a little chewy and can’t rival a freshly made French version but the two varieties of beer jam, one light beer and one dark, make the experience of trying the crepes worthwhile. Preference over which jam is tastier might be in keeping with personal inclinations to the different types of beer as the two jams, like the two varieties of beer, have distinctly different tastes.

The light beer jam seems at first like an oddly harmonious combination of white grape jelly and a light beer. However, this jam becomes progressively more beer tasting the more you consume. The dark beer jam on the other hand sharply resounds of beer from the first taste but is also given a dessert edge by undertones of caramel and apple.

For a complete experience of Pivovarký Dům’s beer filled meals, combine any Czech classic (CZK 135-175) with the crepe dessert (CZK 45) and one of the home-made flavored beers (0.3 L for CZK 35). The total, less CZK, is a true beer-based bargain. Cheers to that!

Pivovarský Dům

Ječná/Lípová 15, Praha 2

Phone: 296 216 666

Novoměstský pivovar

Vodičkova 20, Praha 1

Phone: 222 232 448

Rebecca Weinstein is a third year student at Tufts University studying psychology. She is from Westchester, New York.

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