We visited two breweries during the recent trip I made to the Czech Republic and whilst they both made good beer, they could not have been more different. I have already written about the visit to the Bernard Brewery at Humpolec, but two days later, and on our last full day in the country, we had pre-booked a lunchtime tour of the Chotěboř Brewery, in the town of the same name.
Chotěboř is a brand new brewery, which began beer production in 2009. Despite its modernity, it follows classical Czech brewing practices, with a decoction mash regime followed by a full, ninety minute, hop-boil. The beer is then fermented in open tanks, before undergoing maturation traditional, horizontal lagering tanks. Only the finest ingredients are used to make the beer, with Moravian malt, quality aroma Saaz hops from the famous Žatec region, and spring water from the Czech Moravian Highlands of Vysočina.
We travelled by rail from Jihlava; changing onto a rather crowded local train at the important junction town of Havlíčkův Brod. From there it was a short 25 minute journey to Chotěboř, followed by a 20 minute walk to the brewery, which is sited just out of the town, on the edge of a forest.
There were several members of the party who, expecting a micro-brewery along the lines of Goachers, came in for a bit of a shock as we approached the brewery, and the size of the operation became clear. This was no one man operation, but a place where some significant investment had taken place. A plaque on the brewery gate indicated that some of the money had come from the European Union. The imposing new brewery building, with its outer glass wall, allows visitors to observe the brewing process at close hand. Inside the brewery uses modern production technologies for controlling and monitoring temperature stages during both brewing and fermentation, and also for the filtering and filling procedures, (both bottles and kegs).
|Financed partly by the EU|
Full marks to our organiser for persistence though, as after 15 minutes or so of what must have been quite terse negotiations, he emerged from the brewery office to announce that the tour would be going ahead after all. The arrival, by car, of a brewery worker who looked as though he had just been dragged out of bed confirmed this, and a short while later we were led inside for what turned out to be a very impromptu tour.
|Fermentation & maturation|
|Traditional open fermenting vessels|
I have drunk beer straight out the lagering vessel on only one previous occasion. That was at the end of a tour of the Pilsner Urquell Brewery, back in 2012. This time though, instead of a small, clear-plastic cup, I had a full half-litre, and after the beer had warmed up a bit, (it is kept at just 2˚ inside the tank), the taste began to come through. We were told this was the 12˚ Premium Light Lager (5.1% ABV), and very nice it was too, especially as it was unfiltered at this stage, and completely natural.
|Pouring the beers!|
Following an online search, I discovered that the yearly production at Chotěboř is 10,000 hl, with possible supplementary expansion of up to 25,000 hl a year. Six beers are produced; one of these though is a non-alcoholic beer. For a more details of these beers, see the brewery website here, and for a high-definition video of the brewery, click on this Vimeo link.
|Station refreshment room|
|Three beers on tap|
As for Chotěboř Brewery; do give their beers a try should you come across them, but if contemplating a brewery tour, double check you are still on the list before turning up!