Czech Beer expert Evan Rail will be visiting our area next week. Rail, who lives in Prague, writes about travel, food, and drink—including beer. He is the author of Why Beer Matters, In Praise of Hangovers, the guidebook Good Beer Guide: Prague and the Czech Republic, and his writing is frequently featured in the New York Times. He famously showed Anthony Bourdain around Czech breweries and pubs, and when American brewers need an insider’s look at Czech beer culture, he is typically the first one they contact.
Rail is presenting at the Czech Embassy in D.C. on September 30, and at Port City Brewing Company in Alexandria, Virginia on October 1. His appearances are free, but you must register (use the links above). We highly recommend attending one or both of these events.
We reached out to Rail with some questions, and he was kind enough to answer.
DCBeer: Tell us about your trip to the US. What is the impetus, where are you going, and for how long will you be in each city?
Evan Rail: Let’s see, we’ll be in DC at the Czech Embassy on September 30th, in Alexandria at Port City on October 1st, in Philadelphia on October 2nd, and in New York on October 3rd and 4th. The idea is to help spread the good word about Czech beer during this anniversary autumn. It’s been 30 years since the Velvet Revolution and the Czech Republic is really having a moment. As is Czech beer.
DCB: DC sees you at the Czech embassy on 9/30. What is the gist of Czech Beer Days: What’s Behind the Brew?
ER: Well, we’ll drink some Czech beers, of course. I’ll talk a bit about Czech beer and what I think US beer lovers can learn from the history, tradition and culture of beer and brewing in the Czech Republic. I’ll answer questions as best as I can. And then I imagine we’ll probably drink more beer.
DCB: Have you noticed an increased American interest in Czech beer?
ER: Sure, I get more emails from Americans asking about Czech brewing every year. And I know that more American brewers are showing up in Prague and asking questions here every year. Even just in terms of the culture of drinking beer, the Czech Republic has a lot to be proud of. Which is what I hope to talk about with you guys.
DCB: We know that Bohemian hops were being used in DC-area breweries as early as the second half of the 19th century. Do you think there are any remnants of Czech beer culture that carry into modern-day American brewing, marketing, or beer culture?
ER: Yes, although we’re looking at palimpsests at this point. It’s like archaeology — so much has changed that it’s hard to recognize the origins and the early connections. I still think that the general American preferences for lagers of four to five percent comes pretty directly from the Bohemian and Bavarian brewing tradition. It seems there is a new interest in Czech beer in the US.
DCB: What are side pour faucets and why should US consumers care about them?
ER: We actually call them Lukrovky here in the Czech Republic, after the company that makes them, Lukr. They’re ball-valve taps that offer a lot more control for the person running the taps. And they help to create good foam, which is pretty crucial for Czech lagers. I’m not sure they’re absolutely essential for a great lager-drinking experience, but they certainly don’t hurt.
DCB: What questions have we not asked or what do you wish to share with the DCBeer readership?
ER: You didn’t ask me what’s my favorite Czech beer. Okay, what is your favorite Czech beer? The next one.
DC Beer appreciates Evan Rail’s time and we thank him for speaking with us. Be sure to attend at least one of his appearances, at the Czech Embassy in D.C. on September 30, or Port City Brewing Company in Alexandria, Virginia on October 1.