Czech Beer - Lifeblood of the Nation
20.05.2013 / 07:53
The Czech Republic is known for its beer production and the highest consumption of beer per capita in the world. Beer is regarded by the Czechs themselves as our national drink – whether dark, light, mixed, wheat – and there are over 470 different types of beer brewed in the country.
Beer in Czech is considered a ’Liquid Gold’ or ‘Liquid Bread.' The reason is obvious: Czech brewing has a long history and the country’s beer is among the best in the world.
The Czech love-affair with beer goes beyond just drinking it—we bathe in it, have festivals in its honour and are always looking for new ways of drinking it.
History of the Liquid Gold
Bohemian beers were originally top-fermented, dark and cloudy, and inconsistent in taste and quality. Beer was brewed in the kitchen, primarily through the effort of women and monks in monasteries, various types of beer were served in the form of soup or drink with meat dishes.
Czech kings had from mid-thirteen century endow the burghers with the Brewing Right. Bavarian brewers had begun experiments with the storage of beer in cool caves using bottom-fermenting yeasts, which improved the beer's clarity, flavour and shelf-life. The court decree from 18th century disposed of the brewing of beer in individual homes and ordered brewing to be at a common account in breweries.
It was 18th-centruy malster František O. Poupě who is credited with the fundamental reform in the way this beverage was produced, taking the first step towards the development of the typical properties of Czech beer we know today. He designed new equipment for malting and brewing, adjusted the quantities of hops, and in Brno he set up the first brewing school in Europe.
A landmark year was 1842 when the City Brewery opened in Plzeň (Pilsner) and produced the prototype of today’s pilsner lager, using paler malts, Pilsen's soft water and hops from Žatec. Soon, exports of “Pilsner” reached Paris and USA. From then on, Pilsner lager has become the dominant throughout the world and the term ‘Pilsner’ means any pale lager as a result of many imitations.
The people of Pilsen founded their own brewery in 1839 and employed Josef Groll who, using these new Bavarian techniques, newly available paler malts, Pilsen's soft water, Saaz hops from nearby Žatec and Bavarian-style lagering produced a clear, golden beer. This new beer was soon widely distributed throughout Central Europe and in 1859, 'Pilsner Bier' was registered as a brand name.
City of České Budějovice (known in German as Budweis) has given the world another dominant beer brand, Budweiser in 1785. Budweiser Bürgerbräu, or Budweiser Bier, was the original Bud, The U.S. company Anheuser-Busch borrowed the name for its Budweiser in 1876.
20th century added significant improvement in technology, machinery and automation. Tradition and local patriotism allow even the smallest breweries to survive along with world-renowned brands. Each and every one of the brands has its typical colour and flavour.
Beer in the Czech Republic today
Nowadays, there are about 150 different breweries in the country. Most popular Czech beers come in the 10° and 12° versions. Those are grade numbers and they don’t refer to alcohol but to the brewery method and to the share of hops.
Since the mid-1990′s many restaurants and pubs have been serving unpasteurized beer, called “tankové pivo”. The beer is kept in pressurized tanks that steady the temperature. The result yields more complex flavors that are full of hops and spices.
Some of the best-known Czech brands are Pilsner Urquell, Budvar, Staropramen, Gambrinus, Krusovice, Radegast and Kozel (which means Billy Goat in English).
You can visit many of the breweries and learn more about how all these different beers are made. Many breweries organize tours in which people may take a look directly behind the scenes and get a taste of what’s being brewed.
Healing power of Czech beer
A therapeutic and indulgent dip in a special beer bathing tub is the biggest surprise of the spa industry in the Czech Republic and even in the world. The beer spa offers not only bathing in beer, which contains many healthy elements, but also an all-day beer. You will find one of the best beer spas at the Chodovar family brewery in Chodová Planá in West Bohemia. It considers itself the first and largest beer spa in the world. There you can be treated with therapeutic procedures including hot baths in carbonated mineral water with special beer, malt draft remedial packs, massages and drinking cures. Other similar beer spas can also be found in Prague or Písek u Jablunkova in the Beskydy Mountains.
Czech Beer Brands
Czech beer is worldwide famous and people travel to the Czech Republic to taste its beer. There are many outstanding breweries in the Czech Republic, such as Bernard, Budějovický Budvar, Krušovice, Lobkowitz, Litovel, Primátor, Radegast, Starobrno, Staropramen, Svijany, Velkopopovický kozel, Vyskov Brewery - Praguell and Schnappsbeer RAFUN, Zubr or Zvikov brewery, to name only a few.
Stunning facts about the Czech Beer:
· In the times of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a special train of beer travelled from Pilsen to Vienna every morning
· The Czech Republic consumes more beer per capita than any other country in the world. In the year 2011, it was 132 litres per person.
· The world’s best beer is also the cheapest! For a half litre the usual cost is from 17 to 30 CZK (0.70–1.05 Euros)
· In Czech Pubs, the moment when you place an empty glass on the table is a sign for the waiter to bring another!
· The majority of waiters believe that there is always room for one more beer.
· Václav Havel, late former president of the Czech Republic, wrote absurdist play based on his experiences when he was working in a brewery in 1974.
· In Prague, the První Pivní Tramway, or “First Beer Tram”, at the end of the No. 11 line is a tram themed pub.
· Not only Germany is famous for its Beer festival. The Czech Beer Festival in Prague is the biggest beer festival in the Czech Republic and is held for 17 days every year in May.