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Visiting Pivovar Proud and the Legendary Cellars of Urquell

One of the most inspiring moments in the last decade of journeys abroad was our 2017 visit to the historical time capsule that is the cellar at Plzeňský Prazdroj. Amidst the kilometers of cavernous hand-hewn limestone caves remain several actively fermenting wooden tuns—open to the cool cellar air and visibly krausening.

The moment of connection with the specialness of that place is in tasting the original beer of Pilsen, as it had once been, entirely fermented and conditioned in wood. Nearly 30 years ago, the brewery transitioned out of these cellars to more modern stainless steel vessels. Thankfully, the brewery has maintained this historical method (in parallel) as a sort of concurrent calibration of the flavor and quality occurring in their fermentation and conditioning world outside of the cellars. This is only available for visitors, served fresh from the oak, where it is also naturally carbonated.

We were afforded the rare and humbling opportunity to independently visit the cellars, guided by friend and former brewmaster at Plzeňský Prazdroj, Lenká Straková, who set out on this particular collaborative journey with us in 2018. She now leads Pivovar Proud, an independent brewery on the grounds, housed in its historic 1930s power generation facility, long since replaced by “modern” technology.

Before treading the hallowed oak-filled tunnels, we were proudly shown around Lenká’s project. Layers of history and ongoing renovations greeted us, as well as a tasting of beers considered non-traditional in Czechia but quite recognizable at home: pale ale, IPA, saison… even an outstanding non-alcoholic IPA—a revelation!

Our visit concluded in those magical cellars, no less entrancing and inspiring on this, our third opportunity. For this, we were also joined by new friend Martín Rosička of Pilsner Urquell.

The quiet echos of footfall, water, and history set the ideal stage for a wholly transformative experience. Enjoying a perfectly poured glass, being encouraged to try our hand at self-service from the wooden casks, and sharing meaningful space and time with thoughtful, wholesome people punctuated this already enriching chapter of Hill Farmstead’s story.

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