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About Bohemian
brewing history

The Czech Republic is the largest consumer of beer in the world (143 litres per head)  and in most places beer is actually cheaper than water!

It is a real pleasure to quench thirst in Bohemia and the reason being there is not only a where but also with a what! Indeed, we are beer loving nation leading the world league, followed by Ireland and Germany. 

Beer drinking throughout the Czech Republic goes beyond modern day social drinking habits and is deeply rooted within the fibre and culture of the people – even going so far as to be featured in films, literature and even the opera. Traditionally, beer was and in many places still is believed to encourage a general feeling of well-being and to encourage health. For this reason, traditional Czech breweries tend to utilise very meticulous processes and care when sourcing ingredients to ensure the high quality of the beer is preserved. 

In particular, Real Bohemian lagers are reputed to contain minerals, B and E range of vitamins. It is an important source of antioxidants.    

Beer brewing began in the very early middle ages in Bohemia and was driven by monks who produced it within their monasteries. However, it was in 1842 when the Pilsen Burgher Brewery produced the first batch of bottom-fermented lager that Czech beer became recognised as one of the best in the world with breweries attempting to imitate its products worldwide.

Early middle ages

There is evidence of hop cultivation in Bohemia as early as 859 AD and it was definitely a valued commodity. Indeed, King of Bohemia, Wenceslas imposed the death penalty to everybody attempting to export any hop variety that could be used as new hop seedling.

Homebrewing was common practice in Bohemia but brewing officially started mainly in monasteries. The oldest known brewing monastery is the Brevnov Monastery in Prague with records of brewing as early as in 993AD. The first recorded export of Czech beer took place in the 11ths century from the South Bohemian town of Budweis (Where Budvar is brewed now) to Bavaria. In the 12th century, brewing spread very quickly across the whole kingdom, not being subject to any limitation. In fact, it was equally used as food and drink.

ENGRAVING OF BŘEVNOVSKÝ MONASTERY ​Established 933 AD

monks drinking beer

Mile right

From the 13th Century, royal towns in Bohemia and Moravia were granted the so called “mile right” entitling them to brew within miles of their town. To the oldest recorded burgher breweries belongs the Teplá brewery from 1200, the Hodonín brewery from 1228 and the Olomouc brewery from 1250.

The aristocracy soon realized beer is a source of major income for Royal towns and started to build their own breweries and malthouses. Some were within the mile right, fuelling conflicts with royal burgers.  

The famous Bohemia Regent Brewery, founded by the powerful medieval Rosenberg noble powerhouse was founded in 1379 and has continued to operate uninterrupted up until now, thus making it one of Europe´s oldest breweries with continuous production on same premises whatsoever! The Albrecht brewery was founded by the “Ronov” noble family in 1381 and brewing initially took place right in their castle.

The Real lager is then filled in kegs, cans or bottles and may sometimes be filtered in order to remove the remaining yeast

MONK BREWING BEER

brewing
in medieval bohemia

bohemia regent 12°

The famous Bohemia Regent Brewery, founded by the powerful medieval Rosenberg noble powerhouse was founded in 1379 and has continued to operate uninterrupted up until now, thus making it one of Europe´s oldest breweries with continuous production on same premises whatsoever!

bohemia regent 12°

The famous Bohemia Regent Brewery, founded by the powerful medieval Rosenberg noble powerhouse was founded in 1379 and has continued to operate uninterrupted up until now, thus making it one of Europe´s oldest breweries with continuous production on same premises whatsoever!

The Right to brew
and the fight with the nobility

RIGHT TO BREW reaffirmed by Charles the fourth in 1410

King Wenceslas the second (1278 – 1305) laid down only burghers in the royal town within the walls hold the right to brew. This right to brew ways directly assigned to a concrete house a not to its owner. As an example, The Dobruška Brewery, brewing its fantastic “Rampušák” Real Bohemian lager up until now was granted Right to Brew in 1320. The famous Czech king and roman Germanic Emperor Charles the fourth (1346 – 1378) reaffirmed the right to brew in 1350.

These very lucrative rights were however contemplated with much envy by the nobility that finally started building their own vassal towns. The nobility and royal towns eventually were dragged into intense fight from 1484 up to 1517 and royal town lost their exclusivity on beer brewing as a result. The right to brew was now available to royal burghers, nobility and the Church. Brewing was a major source of income for most of these  – as an example, the Olomouc bishop has seen 28% of its episcopate income come from brewing. Even better on average, brewing accounted for 40,8% of all nobility incomes!

In late middle ages, in  the 14th and 15th centuries, burghers were thriving and joined forces and started establishing burgher breweries.  A typical example would be the Kutna Hora brewery, established in a very rich silver mining town not too far from Prague.

In late middle ages, in the 14th and 15th centuries, burghers were thriving and joined forces and started establishing burgher breweries. A typical example would be the Kutna Hora brewery, established in a very rich silver mining town not too far from Prague.

In late middle ages, in the 14th and 15th centuries, burghers were thriving and joined forces and started establishing burgher breweries. A typical example would be the Kutna Hora brewery, established in a very rich silver mining town not too far from Prague.

Malting in Bohemia and how it impacted on quality of Czech beer

Malting gilds had key influence on brewing in Bohemia. The first one was founded in Brno in 1353. Guilds stipulated the quantity of beer to be produced per burgher house and the respective malt content. They also controlled malt and beer quality, the members morals and unlike foreign countries they strictly limited the malting job to properly educated individuals. This is a key factor that made Czech beer of a very high quality as early as in the Middle Ages – It was already widely exported to a number of European royal courts.  

MALTER'S GUILD

FLOOR MATLING

Modern Ages and famous Masterbrewers

In the 16th century, beer brewed in Bohemia were either wheat beers (called white beer) or Barley beers (called red beers) and all were top fermented beers.

In the 17th century, Bohemian and Moravia recorded 3000 breweries but the 30 years war (1618 – 1648) devastated the local brewing.

However, it is worth mentioning the Czech Masterbrewer Ondřej Poupě (1753 – 1805) who published the revolutionary book „Die Kunst des Bierbrauens” (the art to brew). He designed a number of new malting and brewing equipment and was the first person who used a thermometer when brewing. He was advocating barley malts and bottom fermentation. He used to put “Rye for bread, wheat for cakes and barley for beer”. His final legacy was the foundation of the very first modern brewing school in Europe frequented by Czech and European brewers.

František Ondřej Poupě
(1753 - 1805)

The rise of capitalism
and golden age of Czech beer

In 1788, the mile right ways finally abolished and in 1869 the same happened with the beer brewing exclusivity for royal Burghers, church and nobility, opening the way to capitalism.

This led to the golden age of Czech brewing, fuelled by new technology (industrial propulsion, steam, bottling lines, industrial cooling and yeast cultivation). Indeed, Bohemia was one of the very first countries in mainland Europe to enter the industrial revolution. Technology, brewing education and expertize in hops sand barley cultivation catapulted Bohemia and Moravia to the top brewing league in the world.

New industrial breweries were established by rich capitalists which translated in closures of a number of old nobility and burgher breweries. A good example would be the Holba brewery, established in 1874.  By 1900, we the numbers of breweries fell to 649 but the Czech Brewers were exporting their reputed bottom fermented beer to the whole world.      

New industrial breweries were established by rich capitalists which translated in closures of a number of old nobility and burgher breweries. A good example would be the Holba brewery, established in 1874.

New industrial breweries were established by rich capitalists which translated in closures of a number of old nobility and burgher breweries. A good example would be the Holba brewery, established in 1874.

Brewing Revolution:
Pilsen, 1842

Finally, Bohemia put its decisive mark in the history of brewing again in 1842 when the Pilsen Burgher Brewery produced the first batch of the bottom-fermented lager of unprecedented taste. The lager soon became a model and prototype of its kind imitated all over the world.

The new revolutionary product was a masterpiece of Josef Groll (1813 – 1887), a Bavarian Masterbrewer, hired by the Pilsen brewery. It is reported Josef deliberately diverged from the traditional process without knowing what the final product is going to be. His beer has not enjoyed a complete fermentation and ingredients differed as well: Saaz hops, soft water from Pilsen and a much paler malt, malted according to British technology.  The new beer was an instant success and all other breweries in Bohemian and Moravia very quickly followed suit. The last brewery in Bohemian to brew top fermented beer, the Krupka brewery, closed down in 1884. 

Josef Groll (1813 - 1887)

pilsner brewery

The second world war and the dark communist period

dobris

THE OLD BREWERY IN THE TOWN OF DOBRIZ - CLOSED IN 1975

The second world war resulted in 121 destroyed breweries, 63% of lost hop fields and nearly 30% of lost barley cultivation. 252 breweries and 45 malthouses survived, only to be commercially concentrated in larger units under the rule of Pilsen brewery (Pilsner Urquell), Staropramen, Kozel, Starobrno and Budvar. The only brand new brewery was Radegast, built in 1971 which is brewing up until now. The communist time brought no innovation and low investment in general as the regime concentrated on heavy industries, but at least the traditional high quality Czech way of brewing was retained as Czechs simply loved their national drink. After the velvet revolution and the fall of the regime, the country had about 100 breweries. This number fell down to an alarming 50 at the beginning of the 90s.

The Velvet Revolution and the big brewing revolution in the new millennium

cvikov brewery established in 1590beer mashing tun

The Velvet revolution in 1989 led to the fall of the hated communist regime and Bohemia and Moravia became capitalist countries again, picking up their pre –war excellence in manufacturing.  Despite small and medium breweries difficulties in the 90s when big foreign PLC s took over a number of Czech breweries, the remaining traditional breweries fully recovered by 2000. This was fuelled by renewed interest in the Real Bohemian Lager which most PLCs stopped brewing but also in Craft beer and in general innovations in Czech brewing such as new Czech hops varieties or the tank beer phenomenon.   

As a result, a totally unexpected think happened: The total number of breweries rised from 50 to 500 as of 2019 with on average of 50 opening every year and just 4 closing. Jan Šuráň, the president of the Czech Microbreweries association, believes we can soon get to 900, levelling the number of existing breweries in 1900!

Traditional Bohemian breweries are being mostly reopened in original historical premises adding to the romance and authenticity of Czech Beer. This has seen the Czech Republic become the country with the biggest number of breweries per inhabitant in the world!

The brewing revolution in the Czech Republic now translates in 21, 3 million hectolitres of beer produced per year. Of this, 5,3 millions are exported globally, making Czech brewing a real success story again.  

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— PAST EVENTS

Past event

Czech beer mission 2019

We had a fantastic time in the Czech Republic visiting not less than 6 different breweries with fantastic UK beer professionals including representative s from Euroboozer and other high quality specialist.

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“CZECH BREWING IS ABOUT BALANCE OF INGREDIENS”
– Martin Macourek, CzechTrade UK

— PARTNERS

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Real Bohemian craft ale, lager or pilsener is as quintessentially Czech as real ale in Britain is quintessentially British. Czech brewing methods are perhaps unparalleled compared to anywhere else in Europe or beyond, deploying a double or even sometimes triple-mashing process, longer maturation and the use of high quality hops, barley and soft water (ideal for lagers) across the Czech Republic. No wonder it's Czechtastic!