Brief History of Czech Beer

For a country so small, it is quite a feat to boast the highest beer consumption per capita in the world. With a history of brewing that dates as far back as the 10th century, it is no wonder that the country has become so well known for it’s beer. Back in the early days beer was brewed mostly in monasteries, the earliest evidence of this dating back to 993 at the Břevnov monastery in Prague. Today very few monasteries brew, however, the Strahov monastery in Prague is a popular destination amongst travelers as the monks there still hold that tradition, and there is a beautiful panoramic view of the city to behold while enjoying their delicious beer.

Beer has actually been in the area long before the Czechs came (not a surprise as beer is the oldest beverage that humans have produced), although it was made much differently than what we’re used to. In the mid 1840s the Czech city of Plzeň (Pilsen in German) began to shake things up. At a time when most bohemian beers were top-fermented, city officials in Plzeň created a city owned brewery to make beers after the Bavarian style, which was made with bottom-fermenting yeasts and kept in caves to enhance clarity and shelf life. This practice is known as lagering. Some experts say that the lagering originated from Bohemia and made its way to Bavaria somewhere in the second half of the 15th century, but regardless, eventually the lagering practice was soon lost in Bohemia and didn’t resurface until the mid 1840s.

Josef Groll from Bavaria was brought over and in 1842 created the first golden beer which became a sensation. He soon returned to Bavaria and inherited his father’s brewery. With the production of glass manufacturing becoming more efficient around the same time, glass became cheaper and more people began to prefer to drink the aesthetically pleasing golden beer that originated from Plzeň, which soon became the standard for the world as the beer was exported to other cities like Vienna and Paris in the early second half of the 19th century.

During Communism breweries began to produce essentially two types of beer- light lager and dark lager, thanks to the powers at hand. After communism, the beer industry continued to struggle in the Czech Republic, although many smaller breweries began to pop up. It wasn’t until the turn of the century when things began to turn around as well for the breweries in the country. Small brewpubs began to pop up all over the country. Top-fermented beers and wheat beers made their return as well and the country regained its dignity as a country that produces excellent beer. In 2013, the  Břevnov Monastery was reopened and began selling their beer as well. In 2017 under the brand Gold of Prague, South Korea will be producing their beer under close supervision the the monastery. It looks as though the future of Czech beer is a bright one.

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