Kocour has set out with an ambitious task; in the land of golden lager, among hundreds of years of brewing history, and for people whose traditional tastes are clearly defined, Kocour is creating some of the most innovative, unique, and internationally influenced beers in the Czech Republic. Our taste buds first noticed them a few years ago, and this Spring, we had the opportunity to visit this ground breaking brewery.
Kocour (which means ‘tomcat’ in Czech) started in 2007, by a few individuals whose beer tastes have been influenced by microbrew culture in the States and other European countries. Lead by Mr. Honza Kocka, the creative engine behind this operation, Kocour has rapidly expanded from brewing 300 hectoliters in their first year, to 1000 in 2010. Located on the outskirts of Varnsdorf on the German border, Kocour’s brewery is in an old ceramics factory, that’s been converted to hold a huge restaurant, a developing brewery, and a concert/banquet hall.
Using a variety of different brewing methods, Kocour has laid claim to ales and special brews for Czech residents, and is also getting some international fame. Kocour brews typical pilsners, using the traditional decoction method, and for their tasty ales, uses a fusion method, were the temperature is increased step by step. Brewing both top and bottom fermented beers, Kocour uses a large variety of yeast as well, and some come all the way from the States. So, if you’re looking for something different, and something delicious, look for the yellow tomcat logo.
Kocour is a fun, lively place to visit; they have a great restaurant, with 15 beers on tap, and throughout the year, they host beer themed festivals. With everything from wheat beers to fruit flavored porters to stouts and most importantly their impressive ales, the variety is outstanding. In Prague, you can find Kocour at some of the best pubs, like Zlý Časy and Kulovy Blesk, and if you’d like to buy bottles to take home, try Pivni Rozmanitost.
Currently, there aren’t many hotel options in Varnsdorf. However, in the near future, Kocour will be offering there own, unique accommodation located right at their brewery. At the time of our visit, the best option was Hotel Atrium, which was also an easy and convenient walk (15 minutes) from the train station. Hotel Atrium is centrally located within Varnsdorf, and was pleasant and clean. Service was friendly, and breakfast was included. However, the price was a bit much, for a 3 star hotel. There are a few other pensions in Varnsdorf, but contacting them is a bit of a challenge. From Hotel Atrium, Kocour Brewery is about a 20-30 minute walk.
Of course, drinking some fine brew will be your main activity at Kocour. But, if you’re a nature enthusiast, the area around Varnsdorf has so much to offer in terms of beauty and outdoor activities. Located roughly 15 km to the West, is one of the Czech Republic’s most esteemed national parks, Cesky Svycarsko. This area is full of well marked and wonderful trails for hiking and bicycling.
Since Cesky Svycarsko is only 15 km. West of Varnsdorf, it’s possible to bike directly there through the towns of Rybniste and Krasna Lipa. There’s also a train that goes from Varnsdorf to Rybniste. To enter the park from the Eastern side and move West, consider going through Hrensko, a picturesque village on the German border. It’s also possible to go from Decin to Varnsdorf by train, which takes just under 2 hours.
Kocour is an active place, with quite a few entertaining events to go to. They have a few great festivals every year- including the one we visited, which was themed around smoke for the 30 of April’s witch burning tradition, ‘Kocouri Kour’. So, check Kocour or Prague BeerGarden for current updates on events.
Currently, Kocour also hosts company events, like team building, dinners, or other celebrations. The old ceramic factory has given them a lot of space, and they have plans on expanding even more and including activities centered around beer tourism.
In 2010, Kocour finished the reconstruction of their new restaurant. With 15 beers on tap, you’ll certainly find a few beers that fit your tastes, and you’ll need some food to minimize any negative effects the next day. Serving a typical Czech menu with some internationally inspired dishes, Kocour offers great food to wash down with your beer. Their interior is spacious, and with a new, more stylish pub atmosphere. Seating 140 people indoors, 80 on their large terrace, and 120 in their indoor arena, there’s certainly enough space to enjoy some great beer.
Varnsdorf is a sleepy, quiet little town in the very northern tip of the Czech Republic, directly on the border with Germany. The countryside here is beautiful, and a perfect place to do some nature tourism as well as drink great beer. Cesky Syvcarsko is close by, which is a great place for hiking, and one of the most famous Czech parks and protected forest areas. If you’re into cycling, this area is full of paths. Varnsdorf has a few little pubs around, shops, but in general is a pretty calm little town.
Getting to Kocour can be a bit of a challenge. However, there are quite a few cheap and easy options from Prague.
Going by train to Varnsdorf is probably the slowest, most difficult way. There are no direct trains, and most routes you have to change trains at least twice. Your second choice is to go by bus from Nadrazi Holesovice. This is a direct bus, which leaves frequently and takes 2 hours and 15 minutes. The only negative aspect about this is that with this particular bus company, (the Quick Bus company), you can’t buy tickets in advance, but only upon boarding the bus. So, there is the possibility that all tickets will be sold out.
The best option is to take a Student Agency bus from Cerny Most to Liberec, and from Liberec, take the train. These buses leave Cerny Most frequently, and the bus ride takes about an hour and fifteen minutes. In Liberec, the train and bus station are located right across the street from each other. Be aware that the bus probably will make 2 stops; the first is in the center of Liberec, and the 2nd is at the bus station, so make sure you get off at the bus station. Train tickets from Liberec to Varnsdorf can’t be bought in advance from Prague, but only at the train station and directly on the train. From Liberec to Varnsdorf should take about an hour, and one direct train leaves Liberec every hour.
Kocour’s official website: www.pivovar-kocour.cz
Travel links (Czech Republic)
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