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Czech Beer

It is a widespread opinion that the Czechs are the greatest brew lovers and the heaviest beer drinkers in the whole world. And in many respects this is true. The Czechs used to brew and drink beer since ancient times and they mastered and perfected the art of brewing up to the highest standards. The secrets of such a craftsmanship are natural conditions ideal for cultivating hops, good water and loyalty to the old traditions and lore.

Czech influence over world’s brewing traditions is undisputable. Rare person has never heard of Budweiser (this naming originates from town named České Budějovice or Budweis in German) or Pilsner (town of Plzeň or Pilsen in German gave its name to this marque and then type of light beer).
The long and eventful history of beer brewing in the Czech Republic is closely interlinked with political situation and historic events that have been taking place in the country.

The exact date when the first brewery on the territory of the modern Czech Republic was founded is unknown, but the old chronicles report that as early as in the beginning of the 12th century a brewery existed in Brno and existence of facilities in Plzeň and České Budějovice in the 13th century is mentioned. For the long period of time only the Czech citizens were granted a right to brew beer in the country, most of them were allowed to brew only for personal consumption. This is the reason why microbreweries thrived there.

In the 13th century King Wenceslas cancelled Papal ban for brewing beer and thus was named by people the Good King Wenceslas. It was the first step towards founding national brewing industry. The real beer boom started in the time of European Renaissance. For instance, in the beginning of 16th century up to 87% of municipal income in some towns came from beer brewing. The Czechs even exported their beer giving Bavarians a hard time.

In 1842 a Plzeň brewery managed to employ a famous German brew master Josef Groll who was skilled in then innovative new method of cold fermentation and who was intended to improve quality of local beer, rather poor at the moment. Herr Groll invented a golden Pilsner sort of beer, the first light colored brew in the world, which had an immense success and rapidly spread all over the Austrian Empire. It was the first breaking through of a Czech beer on the way to the world’s avowal.

Throughout the Communist reign up to the late 1980’s the majority of Czech breweries were kept unchanged since the 1930’s. Communist authorities didn’t invest much into the industry and exploited the old facilities. The production numbers were rather low but enough to satisfy country’s needs. It should be mentioned that quality, especially of lager, was rather impressive due to following the traditional recipes.

When the Czech Republic became an independent state, a lot of changes occurred to the beer making industry, especially when major brewing corporations got interested in Czech facilities. There are about ninety breweries today mostly operated by large international players like SABMiller (owns Pilsner Urquell, Velké Popovice and Radegast brands), Heineken (Starobrno and Hostan) and Interbrew (Staropramen, Branik, Ostravar), but some of them – mostly little ones – are still independent owed. There’s also a variety of microbreweries in the country, either stand alone ones or functioning as a part of a pub or a restaurant (they are more financially successful and popular with tourists).

Many Czechs consider that beer is exceptionally good for health in general and prevent ageing if used every day. Mostly people prefer to drink beer in pubs where beer can be sold either bottled or draught served in half-liter mugs or tankards. There are three kinds of Czech beer: světle (light-colored brew), tmavě (more dark-coloured variety) and černé (very dark beer). Traditional meals served with beer in the Czech Republic are roasted pork, stewed or pickled cabbage and dumplings.

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