"Tankova" Pubs in Prague
I had a few questions regarding tankova pubs in Prague. For one how common are they? Are there tens in Prague or fewer? Second how's the variety of beer and also what's the food like? Finally what's the best time to arrive and is there an obvious difference in beer quality there versus non-Tankova pubs?
This might not necessarily be a good question. There is of course a difference between beer being poured from a large tank and from a smaller barrel, but I have yet to come to recognise it. I would say that the biggest difference is if the beer-pourer takes good or bad care of the pipes and if he pours the beer well.
Very few pubs or restaurants or any sort of establishment would have no beet on tap, just bottles or G*d-forbid, in cans.
So, it is not overly common to have large tanks of beer, but there are a few of these restaurants / pubs around. I would think there would be no more than a dozen of them. Lokal is the most famous, but there are some micro-breweries or the Staropramen brewery restaurant (that is the Prague beer). Most of pubs though have beer on tap and whatever brand it is, usually it comes from smaller barrels.
Foreign beer (also from other European countries) is most commonly served in bottles poured into a glass. In posh restaurants you might find mostly bottled beer.
The places that we really liked seemed to take loving care of their equipment, whether it was a large tank or a keg. Those machines are their lifeblood and the quality of the pours was universally amazing. (Let's just say you can only judge consistency by sampling a large selection... and we did that!)
From my (limited) experience most places will NOT have a variety of beers because most places have one beer that they advertise over the door, often in bigger letters than the name of the place. A pub may be a Pilsner Urquell pub or a Bud pub or a Gambrinus pub. I'm sure there are many exceptions to this but found that a lot of places were like that. Klasterni Stahov was the big exception for us because they brew their own and have a few different kinds available all the time, including a seasonal special.
Since your post, I've noticed signs over several pubs, even smaller ones, that they serve beer from a tank. In Czech, the sign would read Pivo z tanku. So there are more of them than a few years ago, but I'm sure that their number is not greater than a hundred. However, as I mentioned in my first answer, there are many more pubs who serve beer from a smaller barrel.
If you enter the pub, take a smell. If you smell stale beer, dirty tables or floor, dirty toilets, go away. Burnt frying oil is not necessarily a bad sign but it can mask other smells. Sometimes it's hard to smell anything over the thick clouds of cigarette smoke :-D But as most pubs do not have a very good ventilation, you can learn a lot from how it smells inside.
Of course, Kukubura has been to the more upmarket or more famous pubs but if numbers is what you're after, there is a pub on almost any street corner here in Prague. But not all of them serve good beer!
After a year's delay we're headed to Prague the last week in March for 5 days. I've lined up the following tankova and pubs to visit:
1. U Rudolfina (Pilsner Urquell Tank),
2. U Cerneho Vola (Kozel Tank)
3. Beograd pub (Krušovice Tank)
4. U Jindrisska Veze (Gambrinus Tank)
5. Pivovar U Tri Ruzi (Brewpub)
6. Plzeňský Anděl (Pilsner Urquell Tank)
7. U Medvidku (Brewpub and unpasteurized Budvar)
I’m aware of the Staropramen brewery but haven’t heard great things so I think I’ll pass despite being a fan of the beer. Are there any Staropramen tank bars or any other beers I can have from the tank that I’m missing? Is this too ambitious?