If you say Czech beer, many of you have brief idea about it, or at least the name Pilsner Urquell or Budweiser Budvar ring the bell 🙂 And Czech people are know to drink lot of beer and if I say a lot, it means one of the top in the world. Some statistics say that Czechs lead, some of them give them place below… However, it is a lot! 🙂 So what is so good about that beer? What is the history behind? Our Mexican visitors said: “you have a problem, guys”, how is it then? And what about that “burning” spirit? 🙂 Let me tell you something about it!
Czech beer – history and presence
Old Czechs saw beer not only as a refreshing drink, but also as a nutritious, tasty and inexpensive “liquid bread”. In beer, they also saw the cure for a variety of illnesses. The current market is right. The Czech nation is the first in world beer consumption and beer is a very popular national drink.
In the today´s territory of the Czech Republic the beer was already brewed by the Celts, but the brewing of beer is attributed to the Slavs. The earliest documentary evidence of beer production is the charter of King Vratislav II. Brewing beer in the early Middle Ages was not only a privilege of monasteries, but also cities. Every burgher had the right to brew beer and this right was recognized in royal cities by the king. In front of competitors, the was manufacturer protected by the so – called Mile Law which said that you are not allowed to import foreign beer to the city roughly from the area of 10 kilometers. Originally, everybody was making beer by themselves, but the concentration of production was gradually brought to the shape of city breweries and the emergence of independent crafts – malt and later breweries. At the end of the 15th century, however, the nobility also found out the economic benefits of beer production and disputes with cities about conservation measures. The Wenceslaus’ Treaty of 1517, by Ludwig Jagellonsky, wrote down the rules for the production of beer and were valid until 1869. From that time anyone could establish a brewery regardless of the state, even if the original brewing law remained preserved.
The raw material for beer was not at the end of the 18th century wheat, but mainly barley and Czech hops. An important achievement was opening of a new brewery in Pilsen in 1842, in which the Bavarian brewer Groll created a prototype of today’s bright lager, which became the dominant type not only in Czech country but later in the whole world.
The huge success was as well because of Czech raw materials – hops and malt, which, over time, have become important exporting commodities. The historical development of Czech beer and brewing itself, the quality of Czech raw materials, the hard work and expertise of Czech brewers, and perhaps the inability to invest in modernizing breweries have resulted in the taste of Czech beer somewhat different nowadays than abroad. Czech beer is much more fragrant and “drinkable” than foreign beers, which can be proven by the chemical analysis of beers. At first glance, the layman will recognize that Czech beer has a slightly darker color. A major difference from other beer types is the presence of the so-called no – fermented extract, carbohydrates that give the beer full taste, along with the saturation of CO2 and bring the taste for another sip. The residual extract is accompanied by polyphenols, which have an antioxidant function in addition to their fine bitterness and which presence is a subject of Czech research.
The Czech beer lover is very conservative. Czech breweries mainly produce draft beers, lagers and special beers. The latter ones represent only a fraction of their production. Last year, the production of Czech beer eceeded 20 milion hectoliters. Nowadays, Czech Republic has around 400 breweries and from that number 305 mini – breweries with 1,5% of Czech beer production.
My favourite Czech beers are Svijany, Velkopopovický Kozel, Dalešice and of course Pilsner Urquell and worth trying is Budweiser Budvar (not the american one 😛 ).
However, this list can be really long… It is definitely nice to try local beers and in
mini – breweries as we did as well – mini – brewery Lindr Mžany.
And when Czechs drink beer, they as well eat and you can check below what do we like – grilled vegetables, grilled Czech cheese with a coating og white mold called Hermelín or lot of types of sausages!
Slivovice – Czech spirit
Fruit spirit, most often plum spirit so called Slivovice, is currently considered one of the typical alcoholic beverages of South – East Moravia and Czech Republic itself and the gastronomic heritage of Czech culture. But what do we know about the production of brandy, mallard, slivovice and other spirits?
It was mentioned in the Lih’s Newspapers that the history of alcoholic beverages dates back to antiquity. Throughout the Middle Ages, European scholars have perfected themselves in the art of distilling with essences of various herbs, wines and beers or wine yeasts. The spirit was considered to be a great remedy, was produced in alchemical workshops and apathetic work during the 16th century. In South – Eastern Moravia, the spirit was made most of the time from fruit containing stone. The planting of fruit trees, the setting up of gardens and fruit nurseries supported the nobility and also the enlightened ruler of Maria Theresia. Sold fruits of Moravian farmers in 19th century were reduced, so they focused on another kind of processing of their crops, which was a home – made burning of slivovice, supported by legislation. In 1835 a decree was presented in Vienna, which allowed individuals to “burn 56 liters of 50% of their yards from their own gardens annually”, without taxes.
Slivovice is still famous and favourite spirit. My dad is preparing every year. However, the preparation of good one takes him 3 years. First year he collects plums, put them in big barrel and let them fermented for 3 years.
Afterwards, he take it for destillation and tadaaaaaa 🙂 slivovice is in bottles! 🙂 Properly marked with the year of production and percentage of alcohol (good one is mainly between 52 – 56%). The ratio between plums and resulted spirit is usually 10:1, however it depends on maturity and amount of sugar in collected fruit. If you want to try nice and smooth one, do not buy in stores and try it somewhere on farms or homemade, but recommended from someone. Sometimes, it does not mean that homemade one is better one 🙂
Vero and Canito