The Dawn of Brewing in the Czech Lands

Send by e-mail

The Dawn of Brewing in the Czech Lands

Beverages of fermented grain that could be regarded as beer’s distant ancestors were prepared in the Czech lands by the ancient Celts. Most likely, though, it was the early Slavs who first began to use hops for its flavouring – the start of beer as we know it today. Yet before Czech beer could achieve its present world-wide renown, many centuries were to elapse. 

Where Beer Is Brewed, There All Is Good 

The earliest surviving written reference to the brewing of beer in Czech territory is found in the “Charter of the Vyšehrad Capitula” from 1088, in which the first Czech king, Vratislav II, assigned the monastic order a share of hops for the brewing of beer among their other privileges. Major growth in brewing then came in the 12th century. At this time, anyone could brew beer themselves; later, the “rights of brewing” were assigned by the crown and limited to monasteries or townsmen living inside town fortifications. As such, the holders of the brewing rights created the first taverns. 

Brewers of Title 

In turn, the rural nobility began to demand the rights to brew beer and establish breweries for their own estates. This right, among others, was enshrined in the St. Wenceslas Compact issued by King Ludwig Jagiello in 1517, which remained in force up until 1869. It was then that the city brewery of Plzeň first created a unique bottom-fermented lager: a new type of beer altogether, and later the most popular variety in the entire world, for which this city is commemorated as the “original source” (Czech: “Prazdroj” or German “Urquell”).


The Man Who Raised Brewing to an Art

Perhaps the one individual with the greatest influence on the craft of brewing in general was the Czech brewer František O. Poupě. In the second half of the 18th century, he reformed the production of both malt and of beer, and laid the foundations of a scientific approach to brewing. His most revolutionary contribution was the use of the thermometer to measure the brewing process. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that Czech brewing can be divided into two periods: pre-Poupě and post-Poupě.
It is thanks to this one person that Czech beer now has those qualities that we admire so much. And the legacy of Poupě’s ingenuity can be tasted today: it lies within every single brimming mug of good Czech beer, where the colour, the foam, the taste and the bite of the hops form a harmonious whole. Even with the first sip you can understand that the brewing of beer is a true art …

Subscribe for newsletter

Sign up for our newsletter and we will notify you whenever new articles are added