WE’VE ONLY EVER MADE OUR BEER IN ONE PLACE IN THE WORLD – THE HISTORIC BREWING TOWN OF ČESKÉ BUDĚJOVICE, OR BUDWEIS.
THIS IS THE STORY OF WHO WE ARE AND WHERE WE COME FROM.
ČESKÉ BUDĚJOVICE IS PUT ON THE MAP
It’s 1265. Dynasties rising, falling and expanding; the royal houses of Europe battling for territory. And one beer-loving ruler, Ottokar II (Přemysl Otakar II) King of Bohemia, founds the town of České Budějovice – our hometown. Ottokar was a man who had his priorities right. The first privilege he bestowed on the town was the right to brew beer.
And to this day we still only ever brew Budweiser Budvar right here. Every single drop of it.
GOOD KING WENCESLAS
LOOKED OUT…FOR US
On 20 June 1410, another King of Bohemia, Wenceslas IV – sadly not the famous one from the Christmas carol – became worried about the integrity and quality of our beer. Bohemia boasted the perfect climate and fertile soils needed for making great tasting beer and so respected was the České Budějovice brewing industry that other brewers from other countries were muscling in, hoping to attach themselves to our good name. Sound familiar?
Thankfully, King Wenceslas was a fan of excellence and he extended a law that meant no foreign malt houses, breweries or pubs could be located within a mile of České Budějovice and its surroundings.
By 1464, imposters and encroachers were everywhere. The quality of the brewing and the popularity of the beer from České Budějovice meant many people wanting to trade on the town’s reputation and natural resources flocked here. But the citizens had other ideas. They enforced their rights in an early show of quality over quantity, dismantling the malthouses, breweries and pubs that had sprung up in the mile radius of the town’s fortifications and surroundings.
1495 – 1895
Beer of the Gods
A large town brewery was founded in the fifteenth century that brewed ‘white’ (wheat) beer as opposed to the dark beers the citizens were free to brew themselves. What followed was a rapid rise in brewing consistency and reputation. České Budějovice became the most important brewing city of the Holy Roman Empire. So excellent was the beer that the Holy Roman Emperor himself, Ferdinand I, ordered our maltsters and brewers to brew beer for him personally.
In the following centuries, a second town brewery was opened. Soon the townsfolk petitioned for ownership of both breweries to pass to the citizens of the town. They became civic breweries, owned by the people. But these years also saw great upheaval. Czech lands were ravaged in the Thirty Years’ War, and the Kingdom of Bohemia became part of the Habsburg Monarchy.
THE BUDWEISER BUDVAR BREWERY IS BORN
In 1895, the Czech Republic was still part of Austria-Hungary. České Budějovice was referred to by the German name ‘Budweis’, and the reputation of our beer ‘Budweis-er’ was known across the world. But the citizens of Budweis were divided; the Czech brewers weren’t happy brewing under a German-run and German-owned civic brewery. So, in an early example of crowd-funding and national pride, the Czech brewers sourced the money to merge together and form a Czech brewery, owned by Czech people. The Joint-Stock Brewery was founded and began brewing Budweiser with quality Czech ingredients and new technology on the same spot we still do today.
Word of our expertly brewed Czech beer was spreading far and wide. Rich, deep, flavourful; sweet but with a crisp bitterness and floral hop aroma, Budweiser beer was in serious demand. Our brewery quickly established itself outside the Czech borders, grabbing attention across Europe. And as early as 1896, our beer was bringing home honours and awards from prestigious food and drink shows.
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
When American brewing corporation Anheuser-Busch registered a ‘Budweiser’ trademark in the USA, the two breweries actually located in the city of Budweis protested. It was 1907 and the Czech Joint-Stock Brewery had already been exporting Budweiser beer to the USA for five years. But eventually a contract was signed in 1911 and the Czech Joint-Stock Brewery agreed to recognise – for compensation – the validity of the US registration. It did not, however, give up the right to label our beer with the word ‘Budweiser’ or the word ‘Original’ around the world.
‘BUDVAR’ BECOMES A
PART OF OUR IDENTITY
In 1930, our brewery registered its ‘Budvar’ trademark for our 12° export pale lager. The extraordinary international success of this trademark and its recognition eventually led our board of directors to add the word to the name of our brewery. From 1936, it became: Budvar Czech Joint-Stock Brewery, České Budějovice.
THE WAR YEARS
At the beginning of 1939, the eve of World War II in Europe, both the Budweiser breweries still located in České Budějovice were forced into entering new agreements with the Anheuser-Busch corporation under the threat of confiscation of all their goods in the USA. This meant we were unable to use the words ‘Budweiser’, ‘Budweis’ and other derivatives in the area of North America, anywhere north of Panama. If you’ve ever wondered why we have to call our beer ‘Czechvar’ across America, even though we’re the brewery from Budweis, here’s your answer.
OUR BREWERY GETS OCCUPIED
During World War II, Czechoslovakia is occupied by the Nazis. Although our national spirit, resistance and sense of Czechness is never broken, a Nazi-party administrator is allocated to run the Budvar Czech Joint-Stock Brewery, České Budějovice. We had been exporting huge amounts of our beer across the world up to this point. But in 1942 all export of our beer is wiped out overnight. It would be a long time before we reached the pre-war export levels again.
1959 – 1966
THE SIXTIES AND STYLE
The Sixties saw our brewery scooping more international awards for quality, taste and our strict sticking to traditional brewing methods. But that’s not to say we were immune to the style revolution sweeping the world. Many of our classic, handcrafted design motifs came out of this vintage period for design, including a few that we still use on our labelling today.
BUDWEISER BUDVAR, THE NATIONAL CORPORATION,
In 1967, Budweiser Budvar became a national corporation. As successor to the original Czech Joint-Stock Brewery and the Civic Brewery in České Budějovice, we took over their trademarks too, and made a promise to carry on the long and proud heritage of the town: brewing the highest quality Bohemian pilsner in the world.
ONE CZECH BEER.
10.5 MILLION OWNERS.
In 1991, following the Velvet Revolution and the end of communist rule in Czechoslovakia, our brewery became independent. Although there were attempts to buy stakes and take ownership from investors and multinational brewing companies, we resisted. And we’re proud to still be independent and completely owned by the Czech people today. That means we have 10.5 million owners, and they really know their beer. Globally, the 1990s saw huge change in brewing production methods and the beginning of a decline in using more traditional ingredients like whole-cone hops.
But not at Budweiser Budvar. Our independence ensured our beer remained brewed according to German ‘Reinheitsgebot’ or purity laws, meaning only malted barley, hops, yeast, and water could be used. Even so, we still managed to double our production in a decade without any compromise on ingredients, quality or taste.
BRINGING THE BEST BOHEMIAN BEER TO THE WORLD (AGAIN)
In 1996 we were able to export over a hundred million litres of our beer around the world. It had taken us half a century to restore what the war took away, but we managed it. That’s Czech spirit for you.
WE KNOW WHERE
WE’RE FROM, DO EU?
In 2004, the European Commission awarded our beer ‘Protected Geographical Indication’ status, recognising that we only brew with the finest Czech ingredients: whole-cone Saaz hops from Žatec; malting barley from the Hana region of Moravia, a 125-year-old heritage brewer’s yeast and pure artesian water from an Ice Age aquifer 300m underneath the brewery. We’ve always known where our beer comes from; now everyone who drinks it knows too.
OPENING UP OUR HOME
In 2005, our historic brewery opened up its new visitor centre, including a walkthrough of the history of brewing in České Budějovice and tours of our hallowed brewery cellars where all Budweiser Budvar is still cold conditioned for around 90 days, longer than any other brewery of our size in the world. Being here, immersing yourself in our Czech beer culture, and tasting our unfiltered and unpasteurised beer straight from the maturation tanks is described as a near-religious experience for beer lovers. We’d love you to come and see for yourself. But dress warm. Our vast cellars are kept at a steady 2 degrees centigrade, so it can get a little cold.
TOP OF THE HOPS
We believe our hops are the finest in the world – noble, whole-cone Saaz hops, which still arrive in the brewery dried, packed and sealed with a wax stamp to guarantee origin and quality. In 2012, we decided we wanted to make use of the fresh, green hop flowers that come straight off the bine. Our special edition Fresh-Hopped Imperial Lager debuted in 2012, bringing the green hops and all their sticky goodness into the brewing process on the day they get harvested. This special beer is matured for four months creating an imperial-strength, sweet-tasting, burnished golden beer with an irresistibly hoppy foam.
WHO KNOWS WHERE
THE TIME GOES?
More than any other brewery, we understand that the best things take time. It’s well known that our beer matures and conditions for around 90 days, but actually the journey of its creation has taken far longer. In 2015, we celebrated the brewery’s 120th anniversary. It gave us a good chance to really reflect on our history and how far we’ve come.
BUDWEISER BUDVAR EXPORTS THE MOST BEER IN ITS HISTORY
Between 2017 and 2018, we broke new records. A rising demand for craft lager has seen a rediscovery of the beers that were the originators and the pioneers. Brands like Budweiser Budvar. We’ve always understood that sometimes revolution means staying the same in a changing world. And without altering a single thing about our unique taste, where we source our ingredients and how our beer is made and matured, we managed to deliver record beer volumes across the world – close to a million hectolitres of beer to 76 countries. All of it from right here, where it all began, in České Budějovice.
RECOGNISING OUR ROOTS
In a world where authenticity and honesty are sometimes hard to find, we redesigned our packaging to reflect our status as our country’s national beer. ‘Owned by the Czech Republic’, our cans and bottles now proclaim, letting the world know that we’re proudly independent and flying the flag for real Czech lager.
A WORK OF ART
When our lager’s this good, it’s vital that it’s served properly – and that ends with the glass. The thick shape keeps the lager cold for longer; the wide mouth releases the beautiful aroma of the foam. It’s the work of legendary Czech artist Rony Plesl, who drew inspiration from modernist 20th-century painter Josef Lada to create something that not only looks stunning, it ensures Budvar tastes the way the brewmaster intended.