The Czech Republic (Czech: Česká republika, short form in Czech: Česko), is a landlocked country in Central Europe and a member state of the European Union. The country has borders with Poland to the north, Germany to the west, Austria to the south, and Slovakia to the east. The capital and largest city is Prague (Czech: Praha), a major tourist destination. The country is composed of the historic regions of Bohemia and Moravia, as well as parts of Silesia.
Beer brewed in the Czech Republic has a long and important history. A brewery is known to have existed in 1118, the city Brno had a right to brew beer from the 12th century, and the two cities most associated with Czech beer, Plzeň and České Budějovice (Pilsen and Budweis in German), certainly had breweries in the 13th century.
Hops have been grown in the region for a long time, and were used in beer making and exported from here since the twelfth century. The Czech Republic has the highest beer consumption per capita in the world.
In 1842 a brewery in Plzeň employed Josef Groll, a German brewer who was experienced in the new cold fermentation lager method. Their beer at the time was not of very good quality and they needed to compete. Groll developed a golden Pilsner beer, the first light colored beer ever brewed. It became an immediate success, and was exported all over the Austrian Empire. A special train of beer traveled from Plzeň to Vienna every morning. Exports of Czech beer reached Paris and the U.S. by 1874.
Originally Pilsner was a specific term for beers brewed in Plzeň (with Pilsner Urquell being registered as a trademark by the first brewery), and Budweiser for those brewed in České Budějovice (the most famous being Budweiser Budvar today). Both terms have lost their original meanings by different means, Pilsner because all the imitations of the original style (especially in Germany where the style became extremely common) used the name, Budweiser because of the American Budweiser brewery, set up by a German immigrant. The problem is that the name Budweiser Bier does not historically belong to either of them, since it was used for the first time in 1802 by the "Burgess Brewery", which exported its beer under that name to the U.S. in 1875 while Anheuser-Busch started operation in 1876 and their first trademark registration is from 16th July 1878 (made by C. Conrad as Budweiser Lager Bier and transferred to the company on 27th January 1891). In 1911 an agreement was settled that Anheuser-Busch may use the Budweiser name in North America and in 1939 it was banned to use Budweiser by Czech breweries there. Nowadays, Anheuser-Busch is trying to extend this to the rest of the world by various lawsuits.
The German Reinheitsgebot was imposed when under German rule, and has been retained. Communism meant that the breweries, while nationalised, were not given funds for modernisation, so traditional methods were retained. Since the reintroduction of a full market economy, however, production methods of most mainstream Czech beers have been altered to take advantage of new technology. Lagering times have been, on the most part, reduced, and the quality of the final product is increasingly being questioned. Some Czech breweries have even begun to allow their trademark beers to be brewed abroad in Poland, Russia and other countries. Most beers are Pilsners, but some wheat beers and a large amount of dark lagers are produced.
Beer in Moravia
Although the Bohemia region is known as the one making good Beer and Moravia is rather a winemaking part of the country, there are few traditional breweries and several interesting brands have emerged in the 2000s.
Most interesting microbreweries include Dalešice, Oslavany, Janáček Uherské Hradiště and Valášek Vsetín (both Janáček and Valášek breweries are focused on strong beers). Pegas Brno and Richard Žebětín are two of the few makers of wheat beer in the Czech republic.
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