The first batch of beer in Budweiser Budvar Brewery was brewed 115 years ago
As far back as seven thousand years ago, the old Sumerian used to prepare a fermented drink made from corn, which can be considered as beer. The history of the brewing industry in České Budějovice dates “only” to 1265. The beer brewed in České Budějovice was labelled as Budweiser Bier - in translation “beer from České Budějovice”, arising from the German name of the town - Budweis. The brewing industry ranked amongst the most important production industries in České Budějovice. The beer from Budějovice has always been characterised by high quality, eventually bringing fame to the town of České Budějovice worldwide. Following its founding in 1985, Budweiser Budvar Brewery took up the experience of many generations of local maltsters, continuing the long tradition of brewing until this day.
Founding of Budweiser Budvar’s direct predecessor - the Czech Joint-Stock Brewery
At the end of the 19th century, České Budějovice was a town of mixed nations; more than 11 thousand German national citizens lived there along with over 16 thousand Czech national citizens. Electoral regulations at that time differentiated voters in accordance to their wealth and the amount of tax returned. Regardless of being numerically superior, the Czechs had therefore no representation at the town-hall. For that reason, many new Czech companies were founded in České Budějovice during the last third of the 19th century. The first attempt to found a Czech owned brewery in Budějovice was launched in 1891 as a reaction to 1890 census. During the census, German employers put considerable pressure on Czech employees to indicate German as their spoken language on the census papers. The Civic Brewery represented one of the German patriotism embodiments in town. Many Czech brewers and employees opposed similar practice. The management of the Civic Brewery responded by pointing out that if the employees are not content in the brewery, they might as well found their own brewery. The initiative leading to the foundation of the Czech Joint-Stock Brewery therefore arose particularly from the ranks of Czech brewers, particularly August Zátka, Karel Čertík and Antonín Effmert. However, the first attempt to found a brewery was not successful after all.
Further proceedings about a Czech brewery were entered upon at the end of 1893. The first meeting of the subscribers was summoned on 21st January 1894 in the hall of Beseda České Budějovice. The meeting was attended by 61 subscribers, who elected a founding committee headed by the brewer August Zátka. The committee started to function on 22nd January 1894. The first difficult issue to deal with was to choose a suitable location for the building. Two locations were eventually chosen - one in the Prague suburb and second one in the Linz suburb. The Prague suburb was opted for, with regard to its location near the Prague road and the railway České Budějovice-Prague as well in consideration of the confirmed analysis of the underground water. The area land purchased amounted to 25,115 square fathoms (= 90,342 m2). The construction work itself was launched during August 1894 by excavating the foundations. In spite of that, the brewing house, cellars, fermentation rooms, mechanical room, packing room and one administrative building were roofed by the end of the year.
Due to a long winter, the construction works on the brewery started with a three-week delay in 1895, however continuing fast. Therefore, on May 1st 1895, the brewery’s management could move from the offices of České Budějovice Credit bank to a furnished administration building. The finishing jobs on the remaining buildings went fast and their equipping was ready on time. What was not ready yet was the malting room, whose construction started on 27th September 1896.
The constituent general meeting of the Czech Joint-Stock Brewery’s shareholders was summoned on 15th April 1895, approving of the existing practice of the founding committee and electing historically first administrative board as follows: chairman - Dr. František Hromada, Chamber of Commerce secretary, vice chairman - Dr. František Dlouhý, a lawyer and executive head - Josef Pillmann, farmer. Amongst other regularly elected members were: a former maltster Jan Břeský of Birkenfels, a property owner Bohdan Francko, a factory owner Augustin Hromádka, a retired staff doctor Dr. Jan Jirka, a restaurant owner František Karhan and a chaplain Martin Šrámek.
The first maltster of the Joint-Stock Brewery Mr. Antonín Holeček started on 1st April 1895. Following some trial and very promising batches the glorious day finally came along. It was 7th October 1895 and the first batch was to be brewed. This moment had been anxiously awaited by perhaps all Czech citizens in České Budějovice and from its surroundings. However, the only words put down by the first maltster into his diary were: “God willing, 1 x 7/10 95, 7/III 8 hours 10° - 1 - 4 - /200 hl”. The beer was to appear in retail during December before the Christmas period. Despite the fact that the brewery did not sell a single hectolitre during October and November, the brewery’s office was flooded will requests and orders not only from local retailers and pub owners. The brewery’s full take off was expected from the beginning of 1896.
The Czech Joint-Stock Brewery began to brew beer of top quality. The initial success surprised even the owners themselves. By the end of 1896, the total sales reached 51,100 hectolitres and the beer was awarded its first medals in short order: in 1896 a gold medal at a trade show and a silver medal at a pharmaceutical fair in Prague along with a gold medal at a foodstuff show in Stuttgart in 1897. By 1897, the brewery supplied its beer to Prague, Vienna and Triest. From the very beginning, the newly founded brewery used the word “Budweiser” in miscellaneous forms on its products, which originated from at that time the official (German) name of České Budějovice - Budweis, a town excelling in brewing beer from the 13th century generally designated as Budweiser Bier (= beer from České Budějovice). During the advancement of its trading activities, the brewery began to gradually register this designation with the “Budweiser” element as its trademarks.
Budweiser Budvar today
During the whole of its existence, the brewery has sold more than 42 million hectolitres of beer (exactly 41,490,203 hl - data from 1895-2009). A total of 10 maltsters kept close watch on the quality of brewing throughout the last 115 years. The brewery’s flagship product - Budweiser Budvar Premium Lager, belongs to the best known Czech products around the world. By 2009, Budweiser Budvar Premium Lager was exported to 58 countries, sharing the overall Czech beer export by 17%. Beer connoisseurs appreciate the unique flavour of Budweiser Budvar Premium Lager, with mild bitterness, quality ingredients and the traditional brewing procedure. Owing to its long-standing high quality, the Budweiser Budvar trademark has developed an extraordinarily strong position in the segment of premium imported lagers, particularly in Germany, Great Britain, Slovenia and Austria.