Field Trips: Original Beer Spa, Prague
On my third day in the capital of the Czech Republic, I discovered why this place is the quintessential paradise for any beer lover. After days of drinking in amazing sights including the iconic 14th century Charles Bridge and 9th century Prague Castle, it was time to consume in more luxurious ways. I found what I had come 5,000 miles in search of in a small alcove off a busy street in the heart of the city - my first beer spa. Specifically, The Original Beer Spa, one of the oldest in the city.
This is how to enjoy happy hours in the Czech Republic: Sitting in a wooden barrel filled with warm, bubbling “pre-beer” and drinking a mug of Krušovice (a Czech brewery that dates to 1581 that is now owned by Heineken) from an unlimited tap in a dimly lit private room with a bed of hay and a fireplace. The spa even supplied crisply clean white sheets, towels, a terry cloth robe and wooden shoes.
As a beer writer the past several years, I’ve drank a wide variety of beer, tasted all types of beer-infused foods and even tried a host of beer soaps from some favorite breweries. But I’d never fully bathed in a tub full of beer – or more precisely the ingredients of beer including hops, malt and brewer’s yeast. This was full immersion in the liquid that’s as prevalent in this country as water - and, in many restaurants and stores here, usually even cheaper to drink.
I’d always wanted to travel to Prague as its so full of history and culture, and most of all, beer. The Czech Republic has long since led the world in terms of per capita beer consumption, with each adult averaging 38 gallons a year. That’s 20 percent more than the next leading country (Seychelles!) and well higher than the U.S. average consumption of 20 gallons per person.
Czechs drink so much beer for two reasons: it's good and it's cheap. A fresh pilsner in a pub costs about the equivalent of $2. In a convenience store, a pint of canned beer is likely to be about $1. How is this possible? Beer is a Czech national drink, the producers have strong nationalistic feelings and competition here is so tight it is almost impossible for many breweries to raise the price.
Most importantly, there is a long historical tradition in drinking beer in Bohemia. It is common to drink it with lunch and see locals and tourists sipping brews while walking the streets and town squares. Pilsner Urquell was founded in Czech Republic in 1842, and has been an inspiration for brewers worldwide ever since.
When my girlfriend Misty Williams and I entered the Original Beer Spa — one of two locations in central Prague — we were tired of walking though the city over three sun-drenched days. We had made an appointment online weeks earlier for a one-hour session, which costs about $120 for the two of us. A two-hour session was also available for an additional $70.
Upon arrival, a spa assistant greeted us and led us into one of two private spa rooms that each had a pair of wooden baths that looked like giant beer barrels. The room had a dim green glow thanks to the large beer spa sign above the tub, and had an area for us to change our clothes. You can go naked or wear a bathing suit, depending on your nature.
Angelika, our spa assistant, quickly began filling our tub with hot water, then ground-up hops, brewer’s yeast, and malt. She left for us a tray of beer bread before she turned on the tub’s 25-minute timer and bath jets, which began heating and bubbling up the brown-tinged water just like a hot tub. There’s was just enough room for the two of us in the giant tub, though we were both giddy at the thought of what we were doing.
The smell of the hops and malt in the air in and of itself was almost intoxicating. Luckily, two tap handles could be reached while sitting in our beer bath along with two large mugs. Our choice was dark lager or light lager of Krušovice. About the only complaint we could muster at this moment was the difficulty of holding up our 40 ounce mugs of beer while slumping into our beer bath. Luckily, the spa also provided smaller 20 ounce mugs, too.
The bath liquid felt great on our skin and the moment seemed to dissipate any stress we’d accumulated on our long journey. Occasionally, you could feel a kernel of malt swirling by your feet, or hops floating by arms - proof something special was really fermenting here.
The Beer Spa owners tout the bath as a means to open pores of skin and improve overall health. They say the combination of natural ingredients eases fatigue, promotes relaxation and “contributes to overall vitality.” While clinical science has yet to prove all that beyond a doubt, what seems indisputable is how wonderful you feel sitting in the vat of beer ingredients and then being able share the pictures later on Facebook.
After the spa jets turned off automatically after 25 minutes, we climbed out of the tub and relaxed on clean white sheets on a straw bed for another 25 minutes to let the beer seep into our skin. The electric fireplace and brick lined room lent a sense of Zen to the experience.
Too quickly, our hour was up and Angelika came in to clean our room for the next guest.
After getting dressed and prepared to leave the spa, a small rainstorm darkened the skies outside and the spa receptionist invited us to pour another beer in their tiny greeting area until it had passed. She didn’t have to ask us twice. We were in no hurry to go anywhere.
If you're traveling to Prague there are several beer spas in that city, and across the Czech Republic. Definitely take time to relax in one of them!