Erik Heinrich is in ecstasy sipping an award-winning lager while steeping in a beer bath.

There's nothing better for curing a bad case of jet lag than a few hours at a spa - and in Prague it has to be a beer spa. That's what I decided as I pulled my third pint of Bernard pils from my private tap while soaking in a jacuzzi bath filled with pedigree Czech hops and brewer's yeast.

Getting access to a private tap and all the beer I could drink in the cellar of a 500-year-old building was alone worth the price of treatment. All my life I've wanted to steep in a beer bath while drinking beer and this was my Heaven's Gate moment.

That said, the Bernard Beer Spa is not just a gimmick. Bernard pils is an award-winning Czech lager exported to 26 countries. It comes out of the tap unfiltered and unpasteurised with 4.2 per cent alcohol content and a yeasty aroma. The body is golden with a slight cloudiness and thick white head. On the tongue it releases a pleasant bitterness and full hoppy aftertaste.

For the jacuzzi tub, Bernard uses Zatec or Saaz noble hops, grown in the town of the same name for more than 700 years. They are considered the Rolls-Royce of hops in a country that consumes more beer per capita - 148.6 litres per year - than any other. The high concentration of Zatec hop oils opens pores, improves circulation, helps with detoxification and is thought to be an aphrodisiac.


"Bathing in beer and consuming the beverage has long been used in Czech folk medicine," says Tereza of the Bernard Beer Spa.

"Our grandmothers and great-grandmothers recommended using brewer's yeast for many ailments."

Technically I wasn't bathing in suds from a tap because beer gets sticky when it's heated. But I was bathing in the ingredients used to make the best Czech lager while gulping down the nectar of Valhalla.

This made me wonder about the paradox of detoxifying my body while getting intoxicated. But I could not think of a better way to end an day of exploring this city's medieval and Baroque architecture.

It also set me up perfectly for a dinner of Czech-style tapas.

The flavours are smoky, sour and savoury with an occasional morsel of delicious animal fat to help stimulate beer consumption.

My favourite is probably Olomoucke syrecky, donut-shaped slices of ripe, pungent cheese much loved by the Austrian Emperor Rudolf II - a sorcerer who spent most of his life trying to uncover the secret of the Philosopher's Stone.

A close second is Matjes herring fillets. These tender strips of Norwegian herring marinated in oil and crowned with freshly chopped onions melt in your mouth.


Other Czech tapas classics include pickled sausages known as utopenci (drowned men), nakladany hermelin, a marinated camembert type cheese served with a sprinkling of fresh onion and paprika, and hog's head cheese.

Everything is accompanied by fresh Czech sourdough rye bread and washed down with Pilsner Urquell, the world's original golden lager brewed in Plzen since 1842. Any beer using pilsner in its name is a faded copy of this Sistine Chapel of beers.

So when in the City of a Thousand Spires, visit the Bernard Beer Spa, chill out with some Czech lager - and knock on Heaven's Gate.

Getting there: Air New Zealand flies daily to London, from where a range of budget airlines connect to Prague.