History of beer
The genesis of brewing in the Czech Republic
The tradition of brewing beer on the territory of what is now the Czech Republic stretches back to the Celts. The first written mention dates back to 993 AD and proves that the Benedictine monks in the Břevnov Monastery brewed beer. A number of other monasteries brewed beer too, but no detailed accounts of the period have survived.
The first historical evidence of beer making on the territory of the Czech Republic is King Vratislav II’s foundation deed of the Vyšehrad Cathedral. This deed was issued in 1088 AD and granted the canons of the Vyšehrad Cathedral a tithe of hops for brewing beer, in addition to other allowances.
Brewing in the 12th century was not the privilege of monks; it was a generally popular activity among the population all over the territory of the Czech Republic. However, the people had to surrender a tithe from their produce to top ecclesiastics , as evidenced by Prince Soběslav I’s deed from 1130 AD, which applied to the inhabitants of the settlement round Prague Castle.
Independent malt shops and breweries developed from privileged burghers’ brewing houses in the 14th century. The gentry started brewing beer on a large scale at the beginning of the 16th century. Towns also founded breweries, intending to use their revenues to cover public expenditures. Competition between breweries started growing primarily after the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) and led to diminished production. The number of private beer makers gradually decreased and, by the beginning of the 18th century, only maltsters were brewing beer.
The industrial revolution in the first half of the 19th century in brewing terms was characterized by the transition to the new bottom fermentation technology, the introduction of new machinery, and the rise of large industrial breweries with high production capacities.
The brewing tradition in České Budějovice
The history of brewing in České Budějovice dates back to 1265.In that year King Přemysl Otakar II founded České Budějovice, formerly Budiwoyz or Budweis, and granted the town the right to brew beer. České Budějovice was awarded the “mile privilege” by Charles IV in 1351. This privilege gave the town burgers a monopoly on all brewing activities within a certain radius of the town.
Burgess breweries developed from burghers’ brewing houses during the 15th century. There is incontrovertible evidence that the town council founded its own brewery in 1495 in order to cover municipal expenditure out of the brewery’s revenues. Other breweries making beer in České Budějovice from the 16th century included the Poyssl Brewery, the brewery now known as U černé růže (Black Rose), the Schenauer Brewery, the brewery in Kanovnická Street, and the brewery in Kněžská Street, which is now the site of the Hotel Malý pivovar, owned by Budějovický Budvar.
Burgess brewing activities dwindled after the Thirty Years War (1618 – 1648) and the number of private brewers continued to fall steadily during the 17th century. By the beginning of the 18th century, only maltsters were brewing beer.
At the start of the 18th century a row broke out between Budějovice holders of brewing-privileges and the town council concerning the management of the municipal brewery. The dispute took a long time to resolve, and was finally settled in 1795 when the town sold its claims in the Great and Small Municipal Breweries to the burghers. This transaction paved the way for the establishment of the Burgess Brewery (Měšťanský pivovar). The agreement also included the provision that brewing privileges only extended to 387 houses in České Budějovice’s inner city, whose owners became shareholders in the new brewery.
The industrial revolution in the first half of the 19th century was characterized in brewing terms by transition to the new bottom fermentation technology, the introduction of new machinery, and the rise of large industrial breweries with high production capacities.
In České Budějovice, this process peaked in 1895 when the Český akciový pivovar was built in the Pražské předměstí area of České Budějovice and started brewing beer. Český akciový pivovar was the direct predecessor of Budějovický Budvar, which is a worthy upholder of the Budějovice brewing tradition today.
It was actually by a fluke that beer came into existence. Water leaked into a vessel containing grain harvested from some wild crop, and the result was a fermented drink with a pleasant and intoxicating taste. The inhabitants of ancient Mesopotamia discovered it and they were quick to appreciate it.
It is assumed that a fermented cereal drink similar to beer existed in Sumer, Akkad, Babylonia, and Assyria as early as seven thousand years before Christ.
The Sumer people in Mesopotamia brewed a fermented cereal drink called Kash. The Babylonians brewed three types of beer: dark, red, and thick. Their beer, called Shikarum, was based on fermented bread. Thanks to the financial yields generated by brewing, beer enjoyed royal protection. King Hammurabi’s Code imposed the death penalty on innkeepers who adulterated their beer.
For the Egyptians, beer was a divine drink. Brewing flourished most under the Ptolemies, when the state became the monopoly beer producer.
Ancient Celts, Teutons, and Slavic nations liked beer too. They made the drink from barley, wheat, oat, millet, and even lentils, and they flavoured it with sage, wormwood, peppermint, cinnamon and other herbs and seasonings.
According to historical sources, the ancient Teutons were avid beer drinkers, although their beer did not enjoy the best of reputations. Finns were also renowned for their partiality for beer. Their national heroic epic, Kalevala, recounting the tale of twelve heroes who founded the Finnish nation, contains more verses on the creation of beer than it does on the creation of the world.
Slavic nations did not lag behind their neighbours when it came to beer production. They were the first in Europe to flavour beer with hops. Latvians also excelled in making beer, using barley malt and hops for brewing.
In the Middle Ages, brewing developed in monasteries, in the breweries of the gentry as well as amongst ordinary people. In fact the petit bourgeois brewers gradually took over. As socio-economic relationships developed in the later Midle Ages, maltsters separated from the beer-making burghers and formed their own guilds. Therefore, from the 15th century commercial brewing was concentrated in malt houses and breweries. Municipalities also founded breweries to finance municipal expenditures out of brewery revenues.
The industrial revolution in the 19th century was characterized by in brewing terms by the transition to new bottom fermentation technology, the introduction of new machinery, and the rise of large industrial breweries with high production capacities.