Wednesday 20th August 2014
This piece has two names in its title because it’s an account of a visit to a pair of establishments that are both located within the walls of the Břevnovský Klášterní (Břevnov Monastery).
The reason for the separation is that each is under its own management. The first is a brewery (Břevnovský Klášterní Pivovar) and the second a pub and restaurant (Restaurace Klášterní Šenk).
The brewery claims to be the oldest in the Czech lands and was founded extremely early in 993. However production has been interrupted several times and its location has moved several times around the area of the monastery. However, I don’t doubt it was the first established in Bohemia.
The Benedictine monastery was also founded back in 993 by the Bishop of Prague, St Vojtěch and Prince Boleslav II of Bohemia. It contained the brewery and I presume this was for the usual reason that it was unsafe to drink the local water. I guess it also provided some income for the fathers as there were no secular breweries at the time as they were not permitted.
During the period of the religious Hussite Wars also known as the Bohemian Wars, from 1419 to 1434, the monastery was pretty well destroyed and the monks had moved to Broumov, where there was an existing Benedictine monastery. Today that town has a brewery that is still functioning, producing beers under Opat name. They also acknowledge their monastic beginnings, it being founded in 1348.
They stayed out in the country for a considerable time as they didn’t move back to Prague until the late 17th Century. The beginnings of the beautiful monastery we see today were started in 1720 when Kryštof and Kilian Ignaz Dientzenhofer began construction of a new church, monastery, convent, cloisters and of course, a brewery.
It was done in the Baroque style so prevalent in Austria at the time, as Bohemia was now a province of that country. Sadly, a lot of this work was wasted as, soon after the War of Austrian Succession occurred from 1740 to 1748. In 1742 the monastery was badly damaged by French and Bavarian forces. As soon as the war was over it was reconstructed by one of the original architects, Kilian Ignaz Dientzenhofer. Later the brewery gained cellars for cooling beer in the warmer months and an artificial lake was constructed to supply the ice.
By the nineteenth century secular breweries had been in operation for many centuries. After the introduction of Pilsner beer to Prague in 1843, the days of the top-fermenting breweries were numbered. Drinkers moved away from the unfiltered dark and wheat beers served in ceramic mugs to the clear Pils-type beers that were offered in glasses. It was a case of adapt or die. The monastery brewery was not prepared to fund the building of extended cellars for lagering and new equipment for the new bottom-fermenting style, so closed in 1889.
A long time later, 2011 to be precise, a new brewery also named Břevnovský Klášterní Pivovar opened in the former stables of the complex. On a pleasant summer day I entered the main courtyard through a decorative archway and took my bearings. The brewery was to my right and the pub to the left. The door was open so I strolled down to have a look.
You couldn’t miss it as there were a number of hop bines growing in front of the building. As it was a weekday, the brewery was open for take away sales, see foot of page for times.
I asked if I could enter and photograph the equipment and permission was granted. I must admit I was very surprised at the size of it. It is quite large and I now know it is of 3,000 hl annual capacity. Their beers are sold under the Benedikt name.
It was time to taste the products so I wandered up to the Restaurace Klášterní Šenk which means Monastery Restaurant & Tap Room. Šenk is an interesting Czech word as it is adopted from the German Schänke which means exactly the same: Tap Room or outlet. The pub has two entrances and I went up a few steps through some large wooden doors. The service bar is on the right and on the left a medium-sized room.
This room has a rustic feel with the furniture being wooden tables and chairs. This feature along with the wooden supports and the hops and other plants hanging from them, takes one far away from the suburbs of Prague. A wood burning furnace and its attendant collection of waiting logs completed the picture.
There was a very reasonable beer selection on offer including two from across the courtyard. These were Benedikt 15% IPA Speciál (6.5% abv) and Benedikt 11% Černe.
I had the latter, which is a dark beer, first and liked it a lot; tons of roasted malt in the taste with a little bitterness. The IPA was in the US West Coast style, as was expected. After all, I have only ever found British and North American brewers to have tackled the true India Pale Ale using English hops and malt. Yet this one was good, not as aggressive as some US versions.
There were a number of other draught beers, seemingly all from the Lobkowicz group, as follows: Lobkowicz Premium 12% (5% abv), a classic light beer said to be brewed at the Platan brewery of Protovín in Southern Bohemia. There was also Klášter Ležak 11% (4.6% abv) from Hradište nad Jizerou in Western Bohemia.
The two other beers were Řezané 11%, a polotmavé (half dark or amber) and Pšeničný Vit, a wheat beer. Quite frankly they could have come from any one of the eight (I think) breweries operated by Lobkowicz.
I enjoyed my visit to Břevnovský Klášterní and would recommend it to any Prague visitor. Common sense is required about choosing a time to call in, especially if you are going to the restaurant. Should you there just for a drink it would be advisable to avoid the lunch period. Notwithstanding that, there is a nice outside beer garden with a lovely view of the monastery church. If you are dining it would be wise to reserve a table.
Břevnovský Klášterní Pivovar, Markétská 28/1 Praha-Břevnov 6 16901. Tel: 607 038 304
Open for take-aways: Monday/Friday 10.00-17.00; Tuesday-Thursday 10.00-18.00.
Restaurant Klášterní Šenk, Markétská 28/1 Praha-Břevnov 6 16901. Tel: 220 406 284
Open: Monday-Sunday 11.30-23.00
The best way to get there is by tram. There are two routes 22 and 25.
The 22 is particularly useful line as it passes many of the city’s brewpubs and is normally every five minutes. On my visit the end section of the routes was replaced by bus as the road was being dug up to lay new track. This work should be finished by the time you read this.