The unique beer culture of Czechia, the world’s thirstiest country

That the Czech Republic is at the top of yet another global beer consumption ranking comes as no surprise. Certainly not in the Czech Republic, a country where pivo is a matter of national pride.

According to the World Beer Index 2021, Czechia had no equal in the world in terms of average annual consumption of the drink last year, with 468 beers drunk per person.

The report was compiled by Expensivity, an American financial company. Spain and Germany round out the top three, with averages of 417 and 411 beers respectively, while Haitians rank last, drinking only four beers each.

“We consume more beer than any other country in the world, beating Ireland, Germany and Belgium. That’s no small feat,” rejoices Luděk Ohem, spokesperson for Prague Beer Museum.

However, Expensivity thinks that’s not necessarily the case, saying much of the beer drunk in Czechia runs down the throats of foreign visitors.

“Prague is the fourth most visited city in Europe and is infamous for its stag parties. Like sunny Spain in second place, beer consumption in the Czech Republic can be significantly inflated by visiting revelers the company said on its website.

And yet, given that the report relied on data from the 2021 pandemic, it seems fair to assume that Czechs themselves were driving the vast majority of consumption.

good tradition

According to Mher Arzumanyan, Director of Marketing at Prague craft housea popular multi-tap bar, the reason behind the numbers might be that Czech beer is just too good to resist.

“The Czechs brew the most delicious lager in the world”, says Arzumanyan Emerging Europe. “Even the Germans have confessed this to us on several occasions, and this is a very important recognition since Germany is another country with a strong beer tradition.”

According to Ohem, Czech beer brewing traditions are deeply rooted in the country’s history.

“These lands were settled by Celtic tribes as early as the 4th century BC. They brought the ‘know-how’ of brewing, but a few centuries later the Slavs arrived and mastered the art,” says Ohem. Emerging Europe.

“In 993 AD, the Břevnov Monastery was founded, and the monks there were the first to brew beer. Things just took off from there,” adds Ohem.

Nowadays, there are more than forty industrial breweries in the Czech Republic as well as seventy family breweries of medium or small size. The biggest names in the Czech beer market are Pilsner Urquell, Staropramen and Budweiser Budvar.

Czech breweries produced more than 20 million hectoliters in 2020 alone, but domestic consumption has seen a steady decline in recent years. Partly in response to this, the Czech brewing industry has increasingly relied on exporting beer, both within the European Union and globally.

Now one of Czechia’s most famous exports, Czech beer may soon be recognized by UNESCO. At the beginning of April this year, the Czech Beer and Malt Association included the Czech beer culture in the list of intangible cultural heritage of UNESCO.

Na zdravi!

The most common Czech beers are pale lagers from the pilsner variety, which is relatively light in flavor, golden in color and, last but not least, very frothy.

Poured the right way, beer in the Czech Republic comes with a dense head of foam that, according to the Pilsner Urquell website, “seals in the freshness, protects the flavor and creates the perfect balance in the beer.”

As Mher Arzumanyan notes, beer has also become an indispensable part of Czech culinary culture.

“A typical Czech lunch or dinner is served with a glass of beer, like in Italy and France where it is served with a glass of wine,” says Arzumanyan. Emerging Europe.

For an essential dining experience in the Czech Republic, visitors should pair beer with a dish of Czech goulash. When toasting each other, Czechs say N / A zdravi! (literally: “to health”), and they look into each other’s eyes while toasting.

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Helen D. Jessen