Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Zlý Časy and beer help me slip the bonds of surly life

Rambousek Tmavý Speciál, oh you’re a beautiful beer, a selfless shadowy shaman of a beer, a sirens’ call to the senses of a beer — and that swish of a sound in the corner is the sound of my senses being thrown all over as I sally forwards to the bar to order another tall, lean glass of this raven-black, earthy-chocolate, autumnal-smoky, creamy beer, whose appeal and feel nails me within this bar for far longer than I’d planned. But then I’m in Zlý Časy and oh Zlý Časy you are one of my most beloved bars in mainland Europe — oh don’t worry Moeder, Arendsnest or Ma Che I still love you lot to bits, it’s just I’m in Prague at the moment.

This is a beloved place where I can sit or even skulk in the basement bar where I always feel at home, a homely space where drinkers gather about the bar with the air of those for whom drinking beer is an urgent and important business, as it is for me on this night when like the attraction of the peste in Camus’ best book I cannot let Rambousek Tmavý Speciál go (or can I just briefly?).

Around me, all are engaged in the buying of beer in preparation to the drinking of beer, a variety of beers, including the magnificent Pivovar Matuška, where I had spent a fascinating afternoon that day in the company of brewer Adam, for whom there are three things in the world: ‘baseball, beer and my girlfriend.’ It’s good to hear that beer folk have something beyond the world of the glass.

But back in Zlý Časy, I briefly turned my back, on Rambousek and grabbed a glass of Brauerie Griess’ Keller, a beer serpentine in its service from a small wooden barrel that sat on the bar, a benevolent uncle from across the border in Bavaria, a sweet malt nose, a dry and bitter finish, an elegant style of herbal aromatics, though its bitter finish at which (and with) I kept smiling time and time again reminded of a beery back-slapping bawdiness.

But oh Rambousek Tmavý Speciál it’s time for another glass and as I pounce on its raven-black, earthy-chocolate, autumnal-smoky, creamy essence drinkers about me continue in the urgent business of buying beer, while a guffaw of a laugh from the man on the next table reminds me of the sight of steam from a newly awoken train, intermittent signals that something is happening outside in the world. The evening passes, voices rise and fall like waves before they crash onto the shore; there is no climax here, just a continuous rise and fall that eventually comes to an end with the calling of last orders, an event that causes nature to crack and sunders the natural world, the world of the pub shut down and brought to its unjustified end. But on the other hand, I want to enjoy Rambousek Tmavý Speciál on another day or evening like this and so I head out to get my tram and remind myself that for an evening I have slipped the bonds of surly life.


  1. Zlý Časy was one of my favourite places to drink. I really hope it hasn't lost its dive bar charm when I get back to Prague next winter.

  2. I haven't been to Zly Casy despite going to Prague at least once a year (bar one 18 month stretch) since I lived there in 2003-4. I don't really want to concede theres a craft beer scene in Bohemia. I liked things the way they were too much!

    1. I know that feeling! When I am back I just want to drink great lagers whether svetly, polotmavy, or tmavy, in dingy old man pubs, whilst eating pivni syr.