The beer festival is the country's answer to Munich's Oktoberfest. Once inside the main tent, which holds 10,000 people, you develop an appreciation for what beer means to the Czechs. There are more than 70 brands available, all served in quart-sized tankards.
Beer, believed by some to be the oldest fermented beverage known to humankind, is the most heavily consumed alcoholic beverage in the world. The Czechs are doing their part to keep it that way. They rank No. 1 in world beer consumption.
Though it's their national beverage, the Czechs didn't actually invent beer, of course, though they are quick to claim credit for "real" Budweiser, despite what Anheuser-Busch has been saying in litigation over the past 100 years.
People have been making beer, what Jack Nicholson calls "the best damn drink in the world," for centuries. The Code of Hammurabi, the oldest known collection of laws, established a daily beer ration, and the ancient Egyptians are known to have composed some of the earliest drinking songs.
All of this happened long before there was a Czech Republic, though the country was as quick as any in Europe to get on the beer bandwagon. Back in the 10th century King Wenceslas, the country's patron saint, persuaded the pope to revoke his prohibition against making beer. No wonder they call him Good King Wenceslas.
Besides using beer to wash down foods, you can also cook with it, as the Bellavista restaurant adjacent to the Strohav Monastery atop Castle Hill in Prague knows only too well. This dish is similar to the one I enjoyed on the restaurant's terrace recently while drinking in the commanding view of the city below. The recipe is adapted from Yummly.com.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound smoked sausage, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
1 orange bell pepper, sliced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup beer
1/2 cup barbecue sauce
Tom Harte's book, "Stirring Words," is available at local bookstores. A Harte Appetite airs Fridays 8:49 a.m. on KRCU, 90.9 FM. Contact Tom at semissourian.com or at the Southeast Missourian, P.O. Box 699, Cape Girardeau, Mo., 63702-0699.