We’re standing in the grandiose and pristine marbled reception area of the Budweiser Budvar brewery sipping tentatively at the first lager of the day. Back in London it is just 9.15am.
We know this because above us there are a series of clocks telling us the hour across the world. It’s almost as if the folk here want to reinforce on us that we are at an epicentre of decadence, in another world where the appreciation of great beer comes before all else. Suspend reality, for the day, they seem to be saying – this is Budweiser time.
This will be the first of several beers we will consume before lunchtime and it’s a cracker – an unpasteurised, chilled, frothy foaming delight, the bubbles rising like the finest Champagne, the rich golden beer gleaming in the morning sunlight. The taste is exquisite – crisp and clean, sharp and sweet at the same time. What a way to start the day.
And perhaps an early morning beer was exactly what we – that is a small group of journalists, Annabel Smith from Cask Marque and a couple of British-based public relations people – needed after our somewhat bizarre night in the Czech Republic the evening before.
We had arrived in Southern Bohemia quite late and enjoyed the hospitality of some of the brewery representatives before a small party decided to explore the town and found it all but deserted, the bars and cafés in the town’s huge square closing or closed.
That is, until we wandered in to a back street. Here were scores of youths with strange hippy outfits on having a street party. There were guitars and drums, people with pointy hats swinging balls on strings. It was like an open-air Levellers gig.
Encouraged, we went down an alley and in to another dingy bar which was packed. We struggled to the bar through clouds of cigarette smoke and then realised we’d stumbled in on a karaoke night. Every song was anthemic, every one Czech. And every one was sung lustily by the beer-swigging masses that filled every spare foot of floor space.
Invigorating, impressive and just a might intimidating, it made for a memorable night.