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Francis might be in the centre of Plzeň but it’s not a bar you stumble across easily.
At the north end of Plzeň's square, in the shadow of the magnificent 13th century Cathedral of St Bartholomew, there is an inconspicuous tunnel that leads into the body of a building. With its signs for a dress shop and hairdressers, it doesn’t instantly strike you as a centre of craft beer excellence.
But if you walk in you’ll discover a genuine hidden gem. It’s a small bar renowned for its Pilsner Urquell plus excellent selection of draught Czech craft beer and Belgian bottles.
Adam Vlček is Francis’s young entrepreneurial owner. He used to work as a Pilsner Urquell tour guide and was a brewery ambassador, travelling to Canada, Korea, Italy and the UK to teach others about storing and serving the beer.
“I still consider it one of the best jobs I’ve had,” he says. Talking about great beer is also a job that runs in his family. “My great-grandfather Alexandr also worked at Pilsner Urquell, before becoming a maltster and director of a brewery called Zlatozdroj in old Plzeň. I have a portrait of Alexandr in my bar to remind me of the beer quality my family have always strived for.”
Today Adam’s approach is simple: “I’m more focused on the quality of my beer than how much I sell,” he says. “My aim is to get people to widen their horizons in terms of beer – to show them that this is what beer could be like. Czechs are naturally more conservative when it comes to trying new beer – but I think beer is changing. People no longer just accept what’s being brewed for them – they’re demanding new styles and new tastes.”
Given his beery travels, Adam is more open to others about new beers and that’s why he wants to champion a wide range of different beer. “I find it exciting discovering new styles and I enjoy dealing with them on a personal level.”
The bar was previously run by a friend of his and Adam drank there regularly. Another friend, called Francis, grew up in Belgium and always talked about the beer there. Adam ended up taking over the bar and decided to source lots of Belgian beer – he also changed the name based on the bar’s inspiration. The bar opened with the Belgian beer and two taps, one for Pilsner Urquell and one for local craft beers. He’s since added two more beer lines.
“Pilsner Urquell is the only permanent tap – the rest are rotated with new craft beers, like Raven the youngest brewery in Plzeň.” Part of the development included improving the way the Pilsner Urquell was poured, making sure the hometown beer is as fresh as possible.
As well as this bar, Adam organises a beer festival in Plzeň called Brewstock, he’s opened a bottle shop called Brewhemian, he works with breweries on making different beers (including some very innovative styles), and he’s opening a beer bistro which will focus on beer and food.
“The future is very exciting,” he says. “I’m trying to spread beer culture – focusing on quality first.” It’s also great to show how a beer like Pilsner Urquell can fit some comfortably next to the new styles of beer like porter and pale ale, and it can even do so in its hometown of Plzeň.
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