Greetings From The Republic of Beer
he Republic of Beer is a place where beer reigns supreme. It is a land where beer courses through the veins of all its people (sometimes quite literally!) It’s a nation where beer can be found at every table, rich or poor, man or woman, simple food or fine dining. Wine is definitely playing second fiddle to beer in this republic.
This is the country where a revolutionary beer that changed the face of brewing for ever was made after all! The world’s very first golden, pale lager – the Pilsner. A combination of Czech ingredients and passion for beer, a German brewmaster from Bavaria and British malting know-how to get the golden malt was the perfect collaboration that gave birth to the style that spawned every modern-day pale lager we drink.
There are great brewing nations that would love to lay claim to this title but Czechia, better known as the Czech Republic or simply Česko to its own people, puts beer fairly and squarely front and centre of its identity. Beer here isn’t just for tourists, although visitors to the Republic of Beer will be gratified to see the pride and passion for this humble beverage and find themselves unable to refuse a refreshing glass or two of Pivo. Beer is a staple for the Czech people, with more beer consumed by the average Czech than in any other country bar none. Did I mention bars? Prague, the capital of the Republic of Beer, has the highest density of bars or pubs in Europe. You won’t go thirsty here!
Eating out in Prague, local beer is the drink that’s found in the hands of its diners. I looked around and wine was a rarity. Men and women, young or old, are seen with a foaming mug of golden beer, or perhaps a darker tmavé, in their hands to accompany some hearty local fare.
A SIP OF
zech beer has a storied history and Budvar and the city of Budweis in Bohemia has had their part to play. It was in 1265 that the town of České Budějovice, better known to the world by the German version of its name – Budweis – was founded by Dominican Monks and given the right to brew beer by King Ottokar II, the King of Bohemia.
Over the centuries, the town of Budweis became famed for its beer brewed by its burghers (full citizens) and as in the German way, beer from Budweis was known as Budweiser Bier (or Budějovicky Pivo in Czech), in the same way that Pilsner Bier was a beer from the Czech town of Pilsen. After the 1840s there were two main Czech pale lager styles. The fuller, richer Pilsner style and the lighter, crisper Budweiser style. Guess which style the Americans at Anheuser-Busch used to influence their new pale lager in the mid-1870s?
Yep you guessed it – the lighter, crisper style known in the city of Budweis. Anheuser-Busch named its beer after the one that inspired them: Budweiser. Confusion has reigned ever since. Of course, the brewers are flattered that a famous American brewery named its beer after the Bohemian classic, but in their opinion, you just can’t beat the original!
In 1895 the town brewers of the famous Bohemian Budweiser beer banded together to brew in one brewery and founded the modern company we know and love today.
They’ve been through a lot over the years. After founding the brewery as the Czech Joint Stock Brewery, set up by the proud Bohemian brewers of Budweis in what was the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the First World War loomed. Shortages and turmoil made sure that by its end only 28 breweries survived. The large majority of breweries in what is now the Republic of Beer never turned their taps on again, but the brewers of Budweis carried on and in 1930 saw the creation of the name “Budvar” – a contraction of Budějovice Pivovar into one word. A classic was born.
The Second World War saw yet more turmoil, with the brewery being taken over and run directly by the occupying forces. After the war, the brewery was nationalised in 1946 and has been owned by the people ever since. Budvar truly represents the people of the Czech Republic and their determination to brew beer whatever the challenges. Budvar was the anchor brewery in a new state-owned partnership known as the South Bohemian Breweries. In 1989 another huge change happened – the Velvet Revolution that brought democracy to Czechia. Budvar was one brewery that was never re-privatised and remains a brewery owned by and for the people today.
This special status means that Budvar can focus on doing things the right way. The Czech way. Their beer is cool-conditioned in vast underground lagering tanks for many months, until it tastes exactly how the brewmaster wants it to.
Perfection takes time.
Budvar Original only uses 100% pale Moravian malted-barley and whole-cone Saaz hops from Zateč, 160 km away just north of Prague, to achieve a lager of fantastic balance. Not all beers are born equal and Original Budvar has stood the test of time. It is no ordinary lager, this is one of the great beers of the world and taking a sip of this Bohemian classic, you are tasting the pure water from the artesian well, drilled down over 300 metres under the brewery. You are tasting 850 years of brewing tradition, the best local ingredients from the smooth, rounded malt to the spicy floral hops. Best of all you are tasting a delicious brew that has been crafted by passionate, dedicated brewers into a beer of quality and distinction.
THE REPUBLIC OF BEER
STANDS FOR FOR ALL ITS BREWERS
f course, Budějovický Budvar or Budweiser Budvar isn’t the only brewery in this great republic. The Czechs can lay claim to about 500 breweries, big and small throughout the land – brewing not only the classic Bohemian lager but embracing a brave new world of beer. Breweries like Pivovar Antoš are a great example of how Czechs are just as interested in the flavours of beer from further afield.
I met Slovak, the head brewer, recently to get an idea of what some other Czech brewers are doing and the beers that make them tick. In the Republic of Beer, sharing is caring, and Budvar share their lager yeast around to a number of independent breweries and Pivovar Antoš is one of the lucky recipients, using it in their version of a classic Bohemian lager. This generosity of spirit (and yeast!) makes Budvar the elder statesman of the independent brewing scene, helping newer and smaller brewers develop and grow.
Slovak seems to get inspiration from beers from far beyond his home nation. One of their latest offerings is a New England IPA made with cryo-hop extract that packs a fruity yet balanced punch. Innovation isn’t far away from their thoughts either. I had their summery strawberries and cream sour beer, based on the regular post-church snack the owner had as a child for sitting quietly through a Sunday service! It’s brewed with fresh strawberries along with lactose and oatmeal to give the sour strawberry notes a subtle creamy sweetness. Watch out Wimbledon – the Czechs are coming with their own Summer treat!
he brewers from all around the nation would love you to come and visit the Republic of Beer and taste their delicious pivo, enjoy the hospitality of its people and eat some fabulous food. Don’t worry if you can’t make it though, you can easily taste some glorious beer right here in Old Blighty. Original Budvar truly is a beer to toast your health, so look your friends in the eye (it’s bad luck not to!) and say “Na zdraví”, as with every sip, the people of this great nation are saying – “Greetings from the Republic of Beer!”