Czechs, Easter, and green beer: What goes into this traditional spring brew?

The day before Good Friday is Green Thursday, and some brewers have a tradition of making green beer while others simply make a special holiday brew.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 05.04.2022 15:46:00 (updated on 05.04.2022) Reading time: 3 minutes

Worldwide, green beer is closely associated with St. Patrick’s Day, but in the Czech Republic, the beverage takes center stage on “Green Thursday” (Zelený čtvrtek) the day before Good Friday. “Green Thursday” this year is on April 14 and Easter Sunday is on April 17.

Several Czech brewers of various sizes have said they're brewing green beer for the occasion. Some Easter specials are green, while others are limited editions with hoppy spring flavors. Some pubs simply use food coloring to achieve a green hue while other brewers take a more authentic route.

Štěpán Kozlík from The Pivotéka in the Brewery Museum in Plzeň explained the process behind green beer.

“The Easter special beers are a big hit every year. Most large breweries take their standard beer and color it with food coloring. A few breweries take a more complicated approach and make a decoction of nettles that not only colors the beer but also flavors it,” he said.

“Lately, however, most breweries have been relying on classic, pale lagers. Slightly stronger, with a full malt flavor," Kozlík added.

The Pivotéka at Plzeň’s Brewery Museum will have two Easter beers this year, but neither is colored green: Velikonoční Třináctka (Easter 13) from Permon and Hody hody doprovody) from the family brewery Zichovec. These same beers can be found in bottles in specialty shops across the country or ordered online.

“In terms of hopping, Permon chose the classic Žatecký červenák, while the Zichovec brewery enriched it with Harmonie hops, which complement the spicy taste of Žatec hops with their fruitier flavor,” Kozlík said. Plzeňský Prazdroj, the largest brewer in the Czech Republic, opened The Pivotéka in the reception area of the Brewery Museum last year.

Plzeňský Prazdroj has made its own Easter special, in cooperation with the Břevnov Monastery Brewery in Prague. Popeleční Benedict (Benedict’s Ashes) is a 13-degree semi-dark lager with a smoky flavor and 5.4 percent alcohol content. It will be made both at the Břevnov Monastery and at the premises of Plzeňský Prazdroj.

The Břevnov version in now available in restaurants near the Břevnov Monastery in Prague 6 and in the Pivovarský klub Benedict in Karlín. The other will be available nationwide.

Tomáš Pokorný of Plzeňský Prazdroj’s Brewers’ Choice program said that making an Easter special is always an exceptional event.

“This year's cooperation with the Břevnov Brewery enabled us to use traditional monastic raw materials, which added a new dimension to joint experimentation. In the end, the archbishop of the Břevnov Monastery, Petr Prokop Siostrzonek, blessed the result of our work. I am convinced that the beer was exceptionally successful and I believe that it will appeal to all our fans,” Pokorný said.

Green beers mostly on tap

The large brewer Starobrno is making a green beer simply called Zelené pivo (Green Beer). It will likely be the easiest to find. An online map shows where it will be on tap, starting on April 14.

Work on making the beer started already in February. “This year they have been preparing it for the 17th year in a row. Since the beginning of its existence, beer has been brewed according to the same recipe from quality water, special malt and quality Žatec hops. Along with the hops, an herbal extract is added to the wort,” Starobrno states. The color comes from a combination of technology, ingredients, and extracts.

Pivovar Lobkowicz is offering its Velikonoční Krasličák (Easter Egg) beer on tap as of April 5, so with any luck, you can already find it. They have posted a list online that includes 19 pubs in Prague. This beer is a bit strong, a 14-degree beer with a 6 percent alcohol content. They describe it as “a strong beer that contains a natural herbal aroma” but did not disclose what makes the beer green.  

Primator is also making a green beer for pubs. Its special Jarní pivo is a bottom-fermented lager with a distinctive golden-green color and the addition of young green barley. This year the brewery produced approximately 470 hectoliters of the special beer. On Facebook, the brewer stated that it would only be available on tap at pubs and not in bottles.

This beer may be a little harder to find. Primator is based in Náchod in the Hradec Králové region, and isn’t seen on tap widely outside that area. They so far have not posted a list of likely places to look for it.

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