Budweiser Budvar is celebrating 115 years from the 1st constituent general meeting

Budweiser Budvar

Budweiser Budvar, N.C. is celebrating 115 years from the 1st constituent general shareholders meeting today. The constituent general meeting of the Czech Joint-Stock Brewery’s shareholders was summoned on 15th April 1895. Having approved of the founding committee’s previous proceeding, the general meeting elected the historically first managing board as follows: chairman - Dr. František Hromada, secretary to the Chamber of Commerce, vice-chairman - Dr. František Dlouhý, counsel and managing director - Josef Pillmann, landowner. Other officially elected members included e.g. a former maltster Jan Břeský of Birkenfels, a property owner Bohdan Francko and a factory owner Augustin Hromádka etc. [1]. The following historical facts predated the brewery’s founding.

At the end of the 19th century, České Budějovice was a town of mixed nations; the town itself was, however, presented as a German one, despite the fact that the 1890 census confirmed the prevalence of Czech nationality citizens (16,271 of Czech nationality citizens versus 11,117 German nationality citizens). Regardless of being numerically superior, the Czechs had no representation at the town-hall. Electoral regulations at that time differentiated voters in accordance to their wealth and the amount of tax returned. In the face of these facts, e.g. the German speaking citizens returned nearly 70% in direct tax in 1900, the Czechs had no chance to succeed in the elections. In order to win recognition on the political level, the Czechs had to primarily intensify their positions in the economic field; therefore 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 as early as in 1891 as a reaction to the aforementioned 1890 census. During the census, German employers put considerable pressure on Czech employees to indicate German as their language of speaking in the census papers. Many Czech brewers and employees opposed similar practice. The management of the Civic Brewery - one of the German patriotism embodiments in town - pointed 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, e.g. August Zátka, Karel Čertík and Antonín Effmert. Despite the threat of not being paid the yields from the brewing rights, many brewers found the courage and directly subscribed for the first shares . [2]

The Czech side led by Dr August Zátka and Dr. František Hromada began the preparatory work to found a new company, as the provisional committee had gone through several meetings, having drawn up the company’s Articles of Association. Meanwhile, however, a nation-wide political conflict occurred amongst Czech political parties due to the imperial council elections. A certain division developed also amongst Czech politicians in České Budějovice, putting off the idea of establishing an own brewery. Further proceedings were entered upon at the end of 1893. Following the first meeting of the subscribers of 21st January 1894, it was recommended to continue the activities leading to the foundation of a brewery. At the same time, a founding committee headed by the brewer and prominent Czech businessman Dr August Zátka was elected.

The committee had to deal with numerous difficult issues, the first of them being the choice of a suitable location. The Prague suburb was opted for, with regard to its location near the Prague road and the railway as well in consideration of the confirmed analysis of the underground water. The construction work itself was launched during August 1894 by excavating the foundations. The job of construction was placed with the Czech company Dvořák and Fischer from Prague, whereas the production of machinery was ordered from the renowned Novák and Jahn Company. The supply of cooling and mobile machinery was provided by the Ringhoffer Company. By the end of the year, the brewing house, cellars, fermentation rooms, mechanical room, packing room and one administrative building were roofed. Two wells were dug in the premises in order to obtain water of good quality. Furthermore, in October 1894 the company’s Articles of Association were authorised by the Home Office’s decree No. 21884; they lasted with slight changes until 1940. Mr Antonín Holeček became the first maltster of the joint-stock brewery on 1st April 1895 and the first batch of beer - a mere 200 hectolitres- was brewed on 7th October 1895.

The Czech Joint-Stock Brewery is the direct predecessor of Budweiser Budvar National Corporation. This brewery has continued the historical tradition of brewing in České Budějovice established in 1265, when the town was granted the brewing rights. The name of the brewery as well as of its flagship product’s brand (Budweiser Budvar Premium Lager) is related to the place of origin - the town of České Budějovice. Since its 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). Logically, the product’s designation by its place of origin was also adopted by the Czech Joint-Stock Brewery, which took up the tradition of brewing Budějovice beer. During the advancement of its activities, the brewery began to gradually register this designation with the “Budweiser” element as its trademarks.

No longer than in 1897 the lager from the Czech Joint-Stock Brewery was known abroad (e.g. having received a gold medal at the food-stuff trade fair in Stuttgart). Since the 1920’s, the brewery further increased the export to distant countries, therefore registering the trademarks of Budweiser Granatbier (1922), Budweiser Crystal (1925) and finally in 1930 also the Budvar trademark, which originated by the contraction of two words - “Budějovický pivovar” (Budějovice brewery in English). Subsequently, the registration of the “Budvar - Budějovice beer” took place in 1934. The Budvar trademark has gained large popularity abroad, which was one of the main reasons for the 1936 change of the brewery’s name onto “Budvar - the Czech Joint-Stock Brewery”. The Budvar trademark was completed with the already previously used designation of the place of origin - Budweiser. Budweiser Budvar Premium Lager has gradually become the key and flagship product of the brewery. Nowadays, the Budweiser Budvar trademark ranks amongst the best-known and most valuable trademarks worldwide.

During the 115 years of its existence, the brewery has sold more than 40 million hectolitres of beer (exactly 40,214,932 hl - data from 1895-2008). During the first year of its operation, the brewery sold 35,223 hectolitres (fiscal period of 1895-1896). The first annual volume with the achievement of 100,000 hectolitres took place at the beginning of the 19th century (fiscal period of1905 –1906). In 1992, the brewery accomplished annual sales of 500,000 hectolitres, while in 1996 the brewery broke the record of 1 million hectolitres sold p.a. The 2009 beer sales reached the volume of 1,275, 000 hl, which is nearly three times higher volume than in 1991. As far as the size is concerned, Budweiser Budvar is now the fourth largest brewing subject in the Czech Republic [3].

On the occasion of the 115th anniversary celebration, Budweiser Budvar is planning numerous activities for its fans, such as special souvenirs and mainly a cultural programme within the Budvar Day, which this year takes place on Saturday 11th September.

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