Beers, Business & Galapagos with Golden Prague: An Interview with Martin Smetáček

While our focus is primarily on the vibrant city of Cuenca, Ecuador, today we’re taking a little detour to the stunning Galapagos Islands. On our visit, we had the pleasure of catching up with Martin Smetáček, the owner of Golden Prague Pub & Restaurant, which has grown to become Ecuador’s largest micro-brewery with six locations across the country. Join us as we dive into a conversation with Martin about his journey into the world of brewing and business, and how he’s making a mark in Ecuador.


Martin Smetáček, hailing from the Czech Republic, embarked on a journey that would lead him to the shores of Ecuador. In 2005, he first set foot on the Galapagos Islands as a tourist, little knowing that destiny had other plans for him in this enchanting country. His educational background was in diplomacy and international relations, a world away from what he would ultimately pursue.

The Brewing Adventure

Why beer, you might ask? Martin’s answer is simple: because beer is a way of life in the Czech Republic, the world’s biggest beer consumer. They also happen to be the birthplace of the lager beer, with the style originating in Pilsen in 1842. Martin had a deep understanding of beer as a consumer, and when he saw the friendly legal landscape for beer production in Ecuador in 2015, the seeds of Golden Prague were sown. In 2017, they began brewing beer in Cuenca.

Building a Team

The journey started with a group of seven friends and colleagues, all with Czech roots. Today, the team has expanded to nine members, each contributing their unique expertise. There’s a brew master, a chef, a finance expert, and even a construction specialist. Interestingly, some key members, like the brew master and chef, are based in the Czech Republic, highlighting the international collaboration behind Golden Prague.

Challenges and Successes in the Ecuadorian Beer Market

Ecuador’s beer landscape was largely dominated by giants like Budweiser when Martin arrived. There was a small community of homebrewers, but microbreweries were virtually non-existent. Golden Prague set out to change that, bringing the concept of microbrewing to Ecuador, producing high-quality beer in smaller quantities. Today, they proudly claim to be the largest in the Ecuadorian market with their range of brews.

Brewing Process and Ingredients

The brewing process is crucial to achieving the high standards Golden Prague sets for its beer. While they initially imported malt from the Czech Republic, they eventually found that Chile produced excellent Pilzen malt, which was more accessible. Hops, especially Saaz hops, essential for lager beer, continue to be sourced from the Czech Republic. They also import hops from the United States for other types of beer.

Golden Prague’s Signature Beers

Martin’s confidence shines through when discussing their beers. While they produce various types, it’s their lager that takes the spotlight. Their traditional Czech serving style, with a generous layer of foam and cold, humid glasses, sets them apart. Martin believes they have the best lager in South America, and he’s not shy about it. Their commitment to quality and tradition is evident in every sip.

Cuenca’s Evolving Food and Drinks Scene

Initially, Golden Prague focused on beer and simple food, but they quickly realized that food was essential to complement their brews. However, introducing Czech cuisine in Ecuador didn’t quite hit the mark. Ecuadorians had their preferences, and Golden Prague adapted by offering traditional Ecuadorian land and ocean food, successfully merging international and local flavors.

Appealing to a Diverse Audience

One of Golden Prague’s standout features is its ability to attract a diverse clientele. Families, tourists, locals, judges, and even indigenous people find a place at their tables. Their family-friendly environment, complete with a playground, has been instrumental in drawing a wide audience, making them a staple in Cuenca’s food and drinks scene.

The Galapagos Venture

Taking the concept of tailoring to the local market further, Golden Prague established “The Post Office” in Galapagos. With a tourist-centric approach, this unique venue allows visitors to send postcards that will be delivered with a delay of a few months, given Ecuador’s postal limitations. It’s a creative way to connect with the adventurous spirit of the islands.

Advice for Expats and Business Owners

For those considering moving to Ecuador or opening a business, Martin offers valuable advice: embrace the local culture and its idiosyncrasies. Ecuador is different from North America or Europe, and success often hinges on understanding and adapting to these differences. It’s about playing by Ecuador’s rules, not your own.

Expansion Plans

Golden Prague’s success has pushed their brewery to near-maximum capacity. To meet growing demand, they plan to expand and explore new markets. Peru is on their radar, and they are poised to take their Czech-inspired brews to new territories.

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, Martin Smetáček’s journey from the Czech Republic to Ecuador is a testament to the power of passion, collaboration, and adaptability. Golden Prague Pub & Restaurant, with its exceptional beer and diverse clientele, has made its mark in Ecuador. As you consider your own adventures, Martin’s advice echoes loud and clear: embrace the culture, adapt, and raise a glass of Golden Prague beer to the beauty of Ecuador.

Cheers to more stories and brews to come!

Golden Prague Links

Further reading:

Beers, Business & Galapagos with Golden Prague – Transcript

Jason    00:00

Hola, Welcome back Jason from YapaTree here. Today we’re doing something a little bit different. We normally focus our videos on the Cuenca area of Ecuador, but we just so happen to be in the Galapagos and we ran into our friend and owner of the Golden Prague pub and restaurant chain Martin. They currently have six different locations in Ecuador, including this one right here on San Cristobal. I’ve been a big fan of their beer, food and just their business in general ever since I first visited Cuenca around 4.5 years ago, and I’m really excited to have a chat with Martin about beer, business and general life in Ecuador. I hope you enjoy it. Let’s go.

Jason    00:38

Hi Martin thank you very much for your time. I know that you’re super busy running 6 Golden Prague pub and restaurants around Ecuador, so I do appreciate it. Do you mind just telling the viewers a little bit about yourself and how you got into the world of brewing?

Martin    00:51

Hi, Jason. Hi everyone. My name is Martin Smetacek. I’m from the Czech Republic. I came here first as a tourist in 2005. Actually, I was here right at this place in Galapagos in 2005 and I had no idea that I was ever going to be doing some kind of business here . I actually studied diplomacy and international relations and I came to Ecuador for an internship in Cuenca, where you live actually in 2012. And I already had the idea to do some kind of business in South America.

Jason    01:32

Why beer?

Martin    01:34

The answer is easy. Because in the Czech Republic we are the biggest beer consumers in the world with a hundred forty three liters per head per capita which we consume. And we are the inventors of the beer, of the lager beer which was invented in Pilsen in 1842. And so I had some kind of knowledge of beer as a consumer and I found out that in Ecuador the legal structure was very friendly for beer production. So in 2015, we started with a bunch of friends and colleagues thinking about an investment in the beer business. And since actually 2017 we are producing beer in Cuenca.

Jason    02:35

So this is you and some friends basically. Is that the idea? How many people, roughly, are involved in the business?

Martin    02:43

At the beginning, we were seven and today we are 9.

Jason    02:49

Yeah, well, that’s really good so you’ve got some additional shareholders.

Martin    02:52

Yeah, we are all from the Czech Republic and there is a guy who is my classmate, actually, and a friend since childhood. And there are some other business people from our background in the Czech Republic. Sure, we have the brew master. We have a chef. We have a finance guy, we have a construction.

Jason    03:16

So those guys that you bring over from the Czech Republic, the brew master and then the chefs, they’re actually part owners of the business or these are other people you…?

Martin    03:24

No they are part owners and they live in the Czech Republic. I’m the only one who works here.

Jason    03:30

Yep right. And is that because you just love Ecuador or why are you the one that’s based in.. You’re based in Cuenca normally, right?

Martin    03:38

Yeah. I had the vision that Ecuador and South America was an interesting market to bring some value added business. It means some kind of production process where you produce something special for the local market. And the beer business has always worked for the Czech’s everywhere in the world. Here in South America you probably heard about Pilsener here in Ecuador, where the first brew master was from Pilsen, Czech Republic.

Jason    04:18


Martin    04:19

There is Pilsen in Peru, Pilsen in Bolivia. There is actually the beer Polar in Venezuela. And the lager beer in Polar was founded by a guy whose name was Carlos Rudy Check and he was from my city in the Czech Republic. And so I thought that if these guys, were successful, we have to be successful too.

Jason    04:50

Absolutely and it’s great that you talk about the market here so obviously compared to the Czech Republic and even my home country, Australia, the market here in terms of beer and brewing, it is relatively, I guess immature you would call it. What is your take at the moment on the market here when it comes to brewing in Ecuador?

Martin    05:11

When I came here, 99 % of the market was possessed by Budweiser. By the American Budweiser AB which is the owner of Pilsener and Club, Cerveceira Nacional. And there was a little market of homebrewers and there is a difference in Europe between homebrewers and microbrewers. And I found out that or I noticed that in Ecuador there was the big industrial brewing and homebrewers and there was no microbrewering. So we started, we had the idea to do microbrewering, which is like an industrial brewing in a smaller scale, and that’s what we do. And today I think that we are the biggest Hector in the Ecuadorian market with Kex.

Jason    06:13

How much beer do you produce, like per year as an example?

Martin    06:17

Per year, well, per month we produce more than 30.000 thousand liters up to thirty five, thousand, liters which is about 400 It’s over 400,000 thousand liters. Per year we can produce up to four hundred fifty thousand liters per year.

Jason    06:42

Yep, and the brewing process. I know at the moment won the Galapagos in St cristobel, but I understand you don’t brew the beer here. But for the Galapagos, where is your main brewing station?

Martin    06:54

We have a factory in Quanta and we produce 100 % of our beer in Quanta and we bring it to Galapagos in text.

Jason    07:07

Which we believe is the cleanest way of treating the beer because you just move the the kegs and you just sell the water, you don’t have any waste, right and so why Quanka is it the water in Quanka or some other reason why you’re you’ve set up the the main brewing location in Quanka.

Martin    07:28

Well, the water is probably one of the most important reasons.

Jason    07:35

And second, we knew Cuenca very well and it was very easy for us to start any kind of business, but the water is very important.

Jason    07:48

Awesome. And so your style of beer, you’re obviously bringing it over from the Czech Republic. Is there any challenges in that style of beer, beer being brewed here in Ecuador? I know for example you talked about the home brew market. I’ve spoken to a lot of those guys and they struggle to get quality hops here locally grown in Ecuador. So what sort of challenges do you face?

Martin    08:15

Well, first at the beginning the challenge was that we didn’t have any market studies and we actually bet everything on the Czech lager beer, which is the…

Jason    08:36

So you didn’t do any testing beforehand?

Martin    08:38

No. The lager beer is the type of beer that is the most popular all around the world. All the big beer companies produce lager beer as their main beer, and we knew that the Czechs were successful with the lager beer all around the world. And so we decided that we would do the lager beer exactly as we do it in the Czech Republic. And it worked. And since the first day in Cuenca we were full and regarding the materials, the hops and malts. First, we used to bring malt from the Czech Republic, then we found out that they produce a good quality of Pilzen malt in Chile. So now we bring it from Chile. Just today a container of 27 tons of malt from Chile from Pilzen malt arrived in Guayaquil and it is the environment in southern Chile is the same as in the Czech Republic and the quality is exactly the same. And the hops, especially the Saaz hopes, which is very important for the production of lager beer, we always bring from the Czech Republic. Later on we started producing some other kinds of beer like IPA, stout, porter. And we started importing some hops from the United States, from the Yakima Valley, Washington State. And it’s also easy. You actually can’t get a good quality malt or hops in Ecuador. It’s. impossible.

Jason    10:30

Yeah, that’s what I’ve heard as well thank, thanks for that. And let’s just change gears a little bit. And you talked about some of your beers and the Porter in particular, that’s my favorite is the BlackBerry Porter. And my question to you is what makes your porters, let’s say, better than the average porters out there in the market here in Ecuador?

Martin    10:49

Actually, I don’t think it is better. I think that we have the best lager in South America. I’m sure that we have the best larger beer in South America and we have other types of beer and which can compete with any. I don’t know any other brewery, but what we do and why we are successful is the style of serving the beer. We do it in the traditional Czech way, with three actually centimeters of foam, and in cold, humid glass. Which we just get out of the water, the little pool we have for the glasses everywhere in our pubs. And this is the traditional check way, which makes it special.

Jason    11:54

That’s what I can tell you about it. That’s great. But your lager is really your flagship beer. That’s one that your most proud about.

Martin    12:00

Our lager beers. I think all our beers are excellent. But I’m absolutely sure that we are the best in lager in South America.

Jason    12:08

That’s incredible and so let’s talk about your Cuecna location because that’s the one that I know the most and then that’s where we met. I actually think we had the best discussion or we really met, you bought the Czech ambassador over, I think he was in Peru or something, but it was a night and you put on a really big beast and it was a lot of you know, Czech meets and and all the rest of it and that was just a really fun night for me. But when I came there to Cuenca about 4 and a half years ago for the first time, I do distinctly remember walking into your location in El Vergel, a really nice central location. And I’m not gonna say it’s the reason that I moved to Kwenka it’s not, but there was a certain quality about Golden Prague and it was sort of indicative of the general food scene in Cuenca. And I felt like it was elevating itself and you guys in the beer hall and the setup that you have, it’s certainly a really big part of that and so I guess my question to you is how do you rate the overall food and drinks scene in Cuenca?

Martin    13:13

In general?

Jason    13:16


Martin    13:16

Actually, it has increased a lot in the last 12 years since I’ve been living in Cuenca since 2012 – it’s eleven years. And when I came there, there were, I don’t know, three restaurants where you could go maybe one, I don’t remember. And when we started our business, we had no idea about food. And we were thinking, you didn’t know us at that time, but we are thinking like we will produce beer and some sausages and French fries. It’s okay and it will work the same way it works in the Czech Republic. And so we started like this and the people started yelling it as that we don’t have any food and that we are not a restaurant, that we are a bar and that they will close us down and so on. And the sales were high only on Friday and Saturday. And so I realized that without food, the people don’t drink in Ecuador. And we started focusing on food. We were trying to get some professional help and we wanted to develop the Czech cuisine in Ecuador. It didn’t work either.

Jason    14:49


Martin    14:51


Jason    14:51

But you still do the Czech cuisine. I know you don’t solely do that, the Czech cuisine, and that’s still a big part of it. But why didn’t that work and why does it work now?

Martin    14:59

Because the people here are used to eating the regular food of Ecuador.

Jason    15:11


Martin    15:11

And even our shareholder, one of the shareholders is a chef. Who had 14 restaurants in Prague and he has even a gold medal for producing the traditional Czech cuisine.

Jason    15:28

High quality food but it just didn’t work?

Martin    15:30

It was great, but it didn’t work. So we maintained I think about four or five Czech dishes and we focused on traditional Ecuadorian land and ocean food. Which is typical – not Ecuadorian, like international food and it works. We introduced the new menu in March, I think in everywhere and actually we started here in Galapagos because the menu of Galapagos, which was very successful with Ecuadorians as well as with tourists, is the menu we later used in all of the pubs.

Jason    16:12

So this is like your trial kitchen, so to speak, here?

Martin    16:16


Jason    16:16

Awesome that’s really cool and then speaking of of the food, I really love the fact that you’re sort of bought into the local Almuerzo culture or the set lunches with – you called the golden lunches right? Between twelve and three. Can you just walk me through that concept and how that evolved?

Martin    16:34

Look, this is very interesting and it is a concept that everybody said that it wouldn’t be successful because I wanted to introduce beer in Ecuador as something which is a part of your regular life. And in Cuenca that’s where the Golden Lunch started, and in Cuenca we are next to the main court and there are 800 employees in the provincial court next to us. And we were thinking that if we introduced the Golden Lunch with the beer, the people wouldn’t accept it because in Ecuador they weren’t used to drinking beer during the day. And today, I am very proud to say that all of the judges are our clients.

Jason    17:43

Oh really? Don’t say that. Don’t say that.

Martin    17:46

And I don’t know, maybe you can cut it out.

Jason    17:51

But you’re very close to that whole legal district, so that makes.

Martin    17:55

We were fighting with this for a long time. And at the beginning, we used to sell the lunch for three dollars.

Jason    18:03

Yeah, really. Yes, with a beer or.

Martin    18:06

With the beer. And that’s how we actually go to the market and that’s how we taught them to drink beer during the day and today it works. It works in… actually works everywhere. In the mountains, in Cuenca and Quito, it is more successful than in Guayaquil. But the Golden Lunch introduced the beer or our beer as a part of your day and you can go back to work.

Jason    18:33

Yeah, that’s fantastic.

Martin    18:34

That’s probably one of the most important, successes for me and Ecuador.

Jason    18:40

I think it’s really cool because it’s the merging of the local culture and I would be super surprised if that didn’t work, because that concept to me just sounds like Ecuadorian that’s what they do for lunch, you know, it’s a set lunch, it’s a set thing and it’s cheap, it’s cheerful and it’s really, really tasty. I mean your guys in particular, your menu rotates though right? Is it every three weeks, four weeks?

Martin    18:59

Every two weeks?

Jason    19:00

Every two weeks.

Martin    19:01

In Quito every week.

Jason    19:02

And the idea is you’ve got a couple different options do you mind just running through the different options. It’s like a main and you have a salad one as well.

Martin    19:10

There are 2 soups, 3 salads and 3 main dishes. And in Guayaquil and Quito it’s I think one soup, 2 salads and two main dishes, but it changes every week. In Cuenca, it’s every two weeks.

Jason    19:26

Yeah, super, super. And look, I love your food, I love your beer. But if I’m going to be completely honest the main reason that you probably see us so much in Cuenca is that you guys have really thought things through in terms of attracting a family-friendly audience and you have a playground and so that means we can go to the cinema around the corner, watch a movie, come back to you guys, have some beers, have some food, the kids can play and everybody’s happy. And so my question to you is, obviously the families are one of your audiences, but who are your core audiences now? I guess mainly in Cuenca is the one that I’m talking about here’s a little bit different this is very touristy and whatnot.

Martin    20:07

Well actually in the Czech Republic, the main audience of beer is everybody because everybody drinks beer all the time. And I had the idea to do the same thing in Ecuador. And so just like 2 weeks ago, I was there in Cuenca drinking beer and I was watching the people and there were kids playing in that place for kids with their families. There were some very old people, like over 80. There were some judges with lawyers. On the other side there were some indigenous people, there were some young guys with girls. And I realized that the concept we wanted to do – attract in Ecuador everyone and that’s probably the only place where you can find out the people of different social classes, which is very marked in South America, sitting next to each other. But regarding the business like the numbers, our main segments of clients is people between 25 and 45 especially people with kids. People who work with kids, that’s about 40% of our clients.

Jason    21:45

There are really no other options that I’ve found for quality beer in a family friendly environment with nice food in Cuenca, so I think you guys are doing a splendid job with that. But shifting gears to this particular place where we are San Cristobal. Now this is the only one that has a slightly different name at the moment, it’s called the Post Office. Can you just run me through why that change has occurred or what the thought process is behind that?

Martin    22:11

Well, actually here in Galapagos, the people come here and there’s about 30,000 of tourists who come here every month. It’s increasing all the time. And the people who come here, they want to see sea lions, Darwin, sharks, turtles. I don’t know, maybe Francis Drake or some of the people related to the ocean business and everything, traveling, exploring and so on. And so we decided that we would create a concept which is attractive for tourists here, which is the Post Office and it’s a place where you can actually send a postcard and we will deliver it.

Jason    23:03

You can do that here really?

Martin    23:04

We can do it here. I take it to the Czech Republic and I send it from the Czech Republic. But we collect postcards and we send it to the people. We send them actually because Ecuador lost its post service a few years ago. But we do the service. It will take about 3 months for the postcard to be delivered, but we do it.

Jason    23:33

That’s cool.

Martin    23:33

And so that was the there was the idea, because Prague in Galapagos, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. So it’s the golden Prague beer but in bot Post Office. We do everything the same as in Golden Prague, but it’s a tourist concept just for Galapagos.

Jason    23:53

Awesome and just having the venue here, I know it’s notoriously difficult to run a business on the Galapagos for a variety of reasons. Can you just walk me through some of the challenges that you’ve faced and how you’ve overcome them?

Martin    24:09

Yeah, we started here in Galapagos almost three years ago during the COVID epidemic, where there were no tourists. There were some restrictions all the time. But you know the challenges are very similar to any gastro business everywhere in the world. Here in Galapagos, it’s more difficult because the people have more opportunities for work. There are more jobs. So you have there is a big boat and they say I need 20 people, I will pay 2000 per month and everybody disappears in 5 minutes, you know, and.

Jason    25:07

So staffing is a core issue?

Martin    25:09

Yeah, the people and the other… the logistics because just a few months ago one of the two ships which brings all the goods to Galapagos was broken and there was no replacement. So we were short of gas. We had to send the beer by plane, but you usually can solve everything. Here we were cooking with coal and it worked, you know. So I wouldn’t say that it is different than the continent.

Jason    25:48

Awesome, awesome and so a big part of our audience is people that are, you know, in another country, North Americans in particular, and they’re considering moving to Ecuador. And so I guess my question is, do you have any advice for those people that are considering moving to Ecuador? In particular, the guys are thinking about opening a business like you did so many years ago? Do some other research maybe? Or no?

Martin    26:11

Well, I will tell you, because I have many colleagues who have done this and who come from European or American culture. You must not expect that the culture here will be the same as in the United States or as in Europe or Australia, because it is different. And do you have to adapt yourself to the culture and you have to play their rules. You can’t get angry because at the beginning I was always angry when I had to wait for something when something didn’t work. But it’s the way it is. You can make it work as you want, but you have to accept that the people who work with you will not do it the way you want.

Jason    27:06

Yeah, I’ve learned that as well. That’s a really, really important point. And the other question I have here really is in terms of expansion, are you guys looking to expand in the coming years or what are your thoughts at the moment? You’re consolidating or what’s the plan?

Martin    27:21

Our idea is to grow of course. Right now our factory is working with basically 99% of its capacity. So if we increase the capacity of the production of our brewery, we will of course look for new markets. I think it’s Peru.

Jason    27:48

Wow, that’s really cool. Do you have any idea in mind or it’s too early to tell where?

Martin    27:54

We have some plans in mind, but I will…

Jason    27:58

Yeah, walking through them. Yeah, yeah, no, no issue. Awesome and so we’re almost out of time here, but any last tips that you have for our viewers or anything you want to share with the viewers?

Martin    28:09

Welcome to Ecuador because it’s a very beautiful country, probably one of the most attractive Latin American or American countries to visit. Where you can see many things in a small area, geographical area and visit us and enjoy it with our beer.

Jason    28:31

Awesome, Martin that’s super helpful thank you very much for your time. I do appreciate it and looking forward to having a couple more of these with you. Cheers buddy.

Martin    28:39


Jason    28:39Thank you, ciao.

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