The history of beer in the modern Czech Republic, historically Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia, goes back a lot further than the creation of Pilsner Urquell in 1842. Bohemia was famous for its wheat beers, known in Czech as “světlé pivo” or “light beer” – the same term used in German “weissbier”. Most towns had at least one brewery, but the most famous brewing cities in Bohemia were Budweis, Pilzen and Prague. Other towns with notable breweries are Rakovnik, Zatecand Trebon.
Beer in the Czechia (Czech: pivo) has a long and storied history. The first brewery is known to have existed in 1118. The city of Brno had the right to brew beer since the 12th century. The two cities most associated with Czech beer, Plzen and Cesky Budejovice (Pilsen and Budweis in German), 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.
The city of Ceska Budejovice was for centuries known by its German name, Budweis. Brewing is recorded in the city since the 13th century. The modern Budějovický měšťanský pivovar was founded in 1795 as the Bürgerliches Brauhaus Budweis, as such it is the oldest brewery in the world to use the term “budweiser” when referring to its beer. In 1895 the Budějovický Budvar brewery opened as an ethnically Czech alternative to the German dominated Budějovický měšťanský pivovar. In 1876, the US brewer Anheiser Busch began making a beer which it also called “Budweiser.” This led to the “Busweiser Trademark Dispute” between beer companies claiming trademarks rights to the name “Budweiser.” In the European Union, Budějovický Budvar is recognized as a product with Protect geographical location. Because of such disputes, Budvar is sold in the United States and Canada under the label Czechvar and according to the verdict of Court of justice for the EU in July 2010, Czech Budweis Budvar has exclusive control over the Budweiser brand name in the whole European Union.
Nearly all beer brewed in the Czech Republic is pilsner lager. This varies in colour from pale (Světlé), through amber (Polotmavé) and dark (Tmavé) to black (Černé) and in strength from 3-9% abv. Top-fermented wheat beer (Pšeničné pivo) is also available.
According to Czech law, categories of beer, regardless of color or style, are:
- lehké – a “light” beer brewed below 8° Balling and with less than 130kJ per 100ml
- výčepní – “tap” beer, though it can be bottled, brewed between 8° and 10°
- ležák – “lager” beer, brewed between 11° and 12.99°
- premium – “special” beer, brewed above 13°
Pilsner Fest is a two-day beer festival held each year by the brewery in Pilsen with music by local bands on four stages in the town.
The Czech Beer Festival (Český pivní festival) iPrague is the biggest beer festival in Czech Republic held for 17 days every year in May. Festival goers can taste more than 70 brands of Czech beer.