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The Tapster Tradition: Behind the Bar with Pavel Pressburg

It’s no exaggeration to say that Pavel Pressburg is one of the most experienced Pilsner pourers in Prague. Following a tradition of bartending that has run in his family for three generations, Pavel has worked for two decades behind the bar in some of the Czech Republic’s best pubs. Born in Pilsen where his parents worked in a restaurant, he later moved with his family to Prague, where his father continued to pull the taps and Pavel soon followed in his footsteps.

In 2014, Pavel won the Pilsner Urquell Master Bartender competition and was selected from the most talented Tapsters in the Czech Republic to represent Pilsner Urquell throughout Europe. Today he works with the famous Kolkovna restaurants and pubs in Prague, advising staff on the proper upkeep and serving of Pilsner. We recently sat down with him over a tasty Hladinka to talk about the craft of serving the original golden lager to Czechs, who Pavel says are some of the most demanding beer drinkers in the world because they know their beer and they want only the highest quality.

What are the most important skills for a Tapster to have?

The main thing is that the Tapster has to know how to clean and cool the glass, and how to properly sanitise and maintain the beer lines. Of course, the beer needs to be served at the right temperature and the Tapster needs to have a good pouring technique.

At the same time, a very good Tapster must love beer and love working with people. He must be a mix of a showman and a psychologist. And he needs to love his work. If I have problems coming to work, people will send their beers back because they can taste that something is wrong.

What makes Pilsner Urquell special for you?

Pilsner Urquell is just so drinkable. It’s special for me because it has that velvety bitter taste that’s not too strong, with a nice hoppy aroma.

Many drinkers outside the Czech Republic aren’t familiar with the different Pilsner pours. Do you have a favourite?

As we say in Czech “the brewer brews the beer, but the bartender makes the beer.” A lot depends on how the beer is poured. The style of pouring really has an effect on the flavour of the beer. The bartender can add love and style when he pours, or he can completely ruin the beer. The Čochtan, Šnyt and Mlíko are all delicious but for me the Hladinka will always be the best.