Žatec is an area which has become famous for its hops.
The first hops were grown in 1004 and the brewing followed shortly. The combination of the dark red soil, rich in ferrous oxide (which retains water) and climate allows the region to produce the award winning crop.
The Žatec brewery - built in 1800 - is situated inside the Žatec castle walls, overlooking the town and hop fields. Towards the end of the 18th century, the smaller Žatec breweries could not, between them, cover the demand for beer (at that time, Žatec contained 30 malt houses and 4 breweries, which were used to brew beer by 235 Žatec burghers holding beer brewing privileges). After 30 years of hesitation it was finally decided to build a new brewery in 1797, at a cost of 7,125 florins.
The brewery’s cornerstone was laid on June 20, 1798, on the site of the royal castle which had been destroyed. Lorenz Rott, who was a master architect, was commissioned for the project. After two years of construction the brewery finally commenced brewing on July 26, 1800, and the brewery was leased by privileged burghers to the brewer for operation. In 1801 the brewery brewed 840 kegs containing 4,200,000 liters of beer.
The brewery was gradually expanded and modernized. The beers brewed included delicious draft beers, special beers such as “Radniční”, “Maslivecké”, “Vánoční” and “Slavnostní”, in addition to the traditional beers “Samec” and “Kozel”. The remaining breweries in the town were gradually closed, the last one being vývozní Dreherův pivovar PRATOK, which closed in 1948.
It was important that the Beer from the Žatec brewery was recognized for the quality it strived for. In 1873 at the World Exposition in Vienna, the beer was awarded its first medal and diploma and in 1879, during the Trade Exposition in Prague, it was awarded a silver medal from the tasting competition.
In 1880 at the Agricultural and Industrial Exposition in České Budějovice, Žatec beer was awarded a gold medal in the professional tasting, thus one more acknowledgment of the quality of Žatec beer. This tradition was carried further with acknowledgements and certificates of merit from expert panels and professional tasting juries during the Žatec Hops Festival in 1995 (for light lager), 1996 and 1997 (for dark lager), and in 2000 and 2001 (light lager again).
The brewery suffered for lack of investment during the Communist years. In year 2001 Rolf Munding purchased the brewery from a local business man and began a program of investment which has rejuvenated the brewery and improved the lives of many of the local inhabitants.
Tomas Lejsek, one of Czech Republic’s leading and most innovative brew masters has master minded the changes, bringing together new technology, old brewing processes and pure ingredients.
From the day the brewery was established, the commercial presentation of the Žatec brewery always emphasized, in its name, both the traditional burgher ownership – “Měšťanský pivovar” (“Burgher Brewery”) and the location of Žatec. This distinguished label was required and necessary not only because of large number of breweries in the neighborhood of the famous hops district, but also in respect of the competing brewery, Pratok, built in Žatec by Viennese baron Antonín Dreher. The rest of the “newer” breweries in the surrounding region tried at least to sponge off.