Mug Shots: Rushing a Czech growler, 1989

It was the summer of 1989, and our exact whereabouts in the verdant Bohemian countryside to the southeast of Prague were unknown to me, but it was a lazy, sunny, aimless afternoon — and I was on protracted holiday.
My hosts, the aunt and uncle of a dear friend back home, were puttering around their weekend house, tending to the garden and cooking sausages and vegetables. Uncle Vlasta was a proud Communist bureaucrat, and the “Velvet Revolution” that would free Czechoslovakia from its Warsaw Pact orbit — and render him unemployed — was entirely unimagined, but only six short months away.

I returned from a stroll in the woods to find a grinning Vlasta waiting for me. He held two oversized earthenware pitchers. We exited the front gate near where his beloved red Skoda was parked and walked along the rutted road, our ultimate purpose lost to me owing to our language differences.

After a quarter-mile, we came to a stuccoed 1930s-era building in the shade of old, leafy hardwoods. It stood by the terminus of a rail line, one that seemed to exist solely for the use by the many camps and dachas in the vicinity.  The structure tripled as ticket office, grocery store … and pub.

Uncle Vlasta had been forewarned that I was a beer lover, and throughout my three-week visit, he enthusiastically volunteered to introduce me to historic pubs for sampling the many varieties of golden, hoppy pilsner for which the Czechs remain justly famous, and so having a creamy draft lager made sense. But the suburban American accustomed to cans and bottles still couldn’t fathom why we’d lugged the pitchers.
That is, until the friendly barman began filling them for the journey back. Some of the beer didn’t make the trip. Imagine that.

Roger Baylor is co-owner of the New Albanian Brewing Co. in New Albany. Visit
for more beer.