The Czech Republic drinks the most beer per capita of any nation on Earth. Its residents gave the world pilsner. And when beer fans in Prague order a cold one, they aren’t just tasked with choosing favorite brew—they can select their preferred pouring method, as well. Mlìko, or milk beer, is a style that renders a whole beer white and foamy, resembling a tall glass of milk.
Visitors who have negative associations with foamy brews (which tend to be bland, watery mistakes in other countries) often meet mlíko with skepticism. However, many first-time tasters are surprised by the sweet, creamy quality of the foam in Czech milk beer. One skeptic noted, “it didn’t leave me with any of the swallowing-air feeling that a badly poured beer gives.”
Bartenders turn a beer into a mlíko by opening the tap slightly and letting the foam fill the cup. The result, according to one reviewer, is “kind of liking drinking a beer cloud.” A glass of mlíko contains less beer, making it an ideal as a nightcap or lunchtime treat. Drinkers also find it easy to down quickly, which is essential to enjoying the sweet froth before it settles into plain, old beer. Most often, Czechs create the aromatic fluff using their signature pilsner.
Mlíko is easily distinguishable by its opaque body and sliver of amber along the bottom. It is the lightest of the classic Czech pouring styles. Bartenders deliver hladinka—a standard pour—at a ratio of about three parts beer to one part foam. Another pour called a šnyt contains about “two fingers of beer, three fingers of foam, and one finger of empty glass.” Connoisseurs initially ordered the latter style to receive less alcohol without suffering through the embarrassment of ordering a small beverage.
Mlíko, on the other hand, is no subtle order. But with its sweet, creamy profile and lack of usual bitterness, the fearless drinker can chug one much faster than their companions sipping more standard styles.
Need to Know
Czech pubs can serve any beer on draft as a mlíko. Pilsner Urquell is a popular choice. At the Urquell brewery's tap room, you pay half the price of a beer when it's poured in the mlíko style.