David Frum

01.25.13

The Czech Republic's Beer Party

A waiter distributes glasses of dark beer to tourists June 21 at the famed U Fleku pub in Prague, Czech Republic. Pub life and beer are an intrinsic element of Czech culture, and contribute to the Czech Republic's first place world ranking in annual consumption of beer per capita, at 156 liters, well ahead of second-place Ireland (125 liters per head) and third-place Germany (120 liters per head). (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images) ()

The Czech Republic's government is trying to get restaurants and bars to offer a single beverage on each menu that's cheaper than beer. Not so, say some very angry proprieters! I knew the Czechs liked their beer, who knew there was a Czech version of the Tea Party?

It won't be easy. Here in the birthplace of pilsner, beer is known as "liquid bread." Czechs drink an average of 37 gallons of the stuff per person per year, the highest per capita consumption in the world and more than double U.S. levels.

Pub patrons go through the sudsy amber liquid so fast that the nation's largest brewer, SABMiller, maker of famed Pilsner Urquell, delivers beer with the kind of tank trucks used to haul gasoline, and pumps it into bars' storage vats.

"Beer is like mother's milk for adults," said Marek Gollner, a 36-year-old computer programmer and regular customer at the U Zelenku pub in the Prague suburb of Zbraslav. "For a Czech, it's like wine for a Frenchman or vodka for a Russian."