Prague’s oldest micobrewery debuts a new brew for the first time in over a hundred years

U Fleků will roll out a light lager for St Wenceslas Day; the last time it brewed a new beer was before the reign of Queen Victoria

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston
Published on 25.09.2020 14:10 (updated on 25.09.2020)

 An era has come to an end. For 177 years, U Fleků, the oldest mini-brewery in the Czech Republic, has made just one kind of beer — a 13 degree dark. For this year’s St Wenceslas Day festivities, the pub is introducing a light lager.

For historical perspective, Britain's Queen Victoria took the throne 183 years ago, the first postage stamps were issued 180 years ago, and the first telegram was sent 179 years ago.

The downturn in tourism due to the coronavirus pandemic has caused the pub, which opened in 1499, to try to attract more local people. But dark beer is unpopular with Czechs. Dark and semi-dark beers take up less than 4% of the market.

To meet local preferences, U Fleků is introducing a 13 degree light-colored beer lager called St Wenceslas Light Lager (Svatováclavský světlý ležák). The beer is being launched September 25, just three days ahead of the St Wenceslas national holiday, so it will be available throughout the three-day holiday weekend. The saint, aside from being a Czech hero, is considered one of the patrons of beer.

“Today we launch St. Wenceslas light lager! Our brewer Michael Adamík makes a final quality checks before the beer reaches you and is more than happy with the result,” U Fleků announced on Facebook.

Aside from selling the new beer from the tap, U Fleků has also made 500 limited edition numbered bottles for take-away.

The dark beer will continue to be available. “Of course, we are not ending our traditional Flek Dark Lager, the tradition continues. The light lager was brewed for the occasion of the St Wenceslas festivities and the 100th anniversary of Václav Brtník buying the U Fleků brewery,” the pub said on Facebook.

Adamík told news server Lidovsky.cz that U Fleků was trying to keep up with current trends. “We are targeting Czech clientele. Breweries in our country are increasingly presenting a varied offer, and I have had the idea in my head to expand the selection for some time. We will try to invigorate the offer when all of Prague is suffering from the decline of tourists, especially foreign ones,” Adamík said. He is the great-grandson of brewer Václav Brtník, who bought the brewery 100 years ago and whose family still owns it.

Limited edition bottles of St Wenceslas Light Lager / via Facebook
Limited edition bottles of St Wenceslas Light Lager / via Facebook

It is unclear how long the St Wenceslas Light Lager will be available, as that depends on demand.

Prague hotels and restaurants have been hit hard by the dramatic drop in tourists, which in turn led to a drop in alcohol consumption. U Fleků is only producing 15% as much beer as it did at the same time last year, according to Lidovky.cz.

Small brewers in particular have faced a hard time during the coronavirus pandemic, since beer has a short shelf life and much of the sales are at pubs. Even large brewers such as Staropramen had to dispose of unsold beer.

Many small brewers joined together to promote beer deliveries and pickups during the lockdown earlier this year. The brewers are now bracing for a second wave. Pub opening hours have already been limited to 10 pm, and further restrictions have not been rules out.

The small family-run Bernard brewery addressed the drop in sales by branching out into a distilled brandy made from the same ingredients as beer. Brandy, unlike beer, does not expire.