Thursday, 15 October 2015

Pivovar Eggenberg - Česky Krumlov

The Eggenberg Brewery sits on flat ground, overlooking the Vltava River in the heart of Česky Krumlov close to the town’s massive castle. With roots that go back to 1560, Pivovar Eggenberg beers can be found both in the town itself and villages within the surrounding area.

Many commentators have described the beers as nothing to get excited over, and whilst that description may apply to the company’s Světlý ležák 5.0% light lager, but the 4.2% Tmavý ležák dark lager was eminently drinkable, and reminded me of an English Porter. Eggenberg also produce several other beers, primarily in bottle form, but a draught, unfiltered version of the light lager is available in a few outlets, and also at the large beer hall, attached to the brewery.

A recent addition to the range is the Nakouřený Švihák, a 5.2% smoke or "Rauchbier". I enjoyed a bottle with my meal in a restaurant in the centre of the historic town, and have also brought a bottle home. Whilst not as smoky as the classic Schlenkerla beer from Bamberg, the Eggenberg version is still very drinkable, and is well worth looking out for.

Brewery Beer Hall
A tour of the brewery had been high on our agenda, so imagine the disappointment when we saw the notice informing visitors that tours were suspended until December, owing to renovation works. Nevertheless we still enjoyed a meal in the large beer hall, attached to the brewery, and also a quick “morning beer” from the tiny bar in the brewery shop.

The Eggenberg Brewery in Česky Krumlov should not be confused with the Austrian brewery of the same name. As mentioned earlier, the brewery dates back to 1560, when a new brewery was built in the town to satisfy the demands of a growing population. In 1622 the Eggenberg family gained control of Krumlov and between 1625 & 1630, they relocated the brewery to where it is today. The town remained in the possession of the Eggenberg's until 1717 when the last male heir died aged only 13. The Eggenberg’s Bohemian possessions then passed to the House of Schwarzenberg which began modernizing the brewery in 1719.

Brewery shop & bar
Production volumes increased dramatically during this period, reaching almost 35.000hl at the end of the 19th century, and the brewery remained in the hands of the Schwarzenberg family until 1940, when it was seized by the occupying forces of Nazi Germany.

Adolph Schwarzenberg, the last owner, had been an outspoken critic of the Nazis but managed to escape occupied Czechoslovakia. Fully expecting the return of his property after the war, he found himself on the wrong side of the notorious Beneš decrees of 1945, which led to the expulsion of around 3 million ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia. This was despite his strong anti-Nazi stance and his record of being a loyal Czechoslovak citizen. Back in 1937, he had even donated a million crowns towards fortifications for the defence of Czechoslovakia against invasion by Germany!

The brewery from across the river
After overcoming these preposterous allegations and proving, beyond doubt, his loyalty to the post-war state, Adolph Schwarzenberg still saw his estate confiscated by a Czechoslovak government, increasingly under communist influence. The final straw was the communist takeover of February 1948, which put an end to all hope for Schwarzenberg to return home or seek redress.

Today, the brewery is again privately owned, with its new owners naming it after the Eggenbergs; the founders and first aristocratic owners. Look out for their beers if you are visiting the Czech Republic, especially if you are fortunate enough to visit Česky Krumlov.


Stonch Beer said...

Karel, Prince of Schwarzenberg - an ethnic German, of course - got to the final round of the last Czech Presidential election, having previously served twice as Foreign Minister. Sadly he lost but the fact he got too far is really encouraging as to the reconciliation of the Czech populace with the German part of their heritage. He's still an MP. Wear a bowtie. Good lad.

Stonch Beer said...

Actually looking at it (having piqued my own interest, I'm self sufficient like that) , 5 of the 9 first round Presidential candidates had Germanic surnames, to four with Slavic ones. I'm not saying they'd all self-identify as ethnic German but still speaks volumes about the reality of modern Czech identity, even after the wickedness of the Benes Decrees.

Paul Bailey said...

The Benes Decrees are obviously still controversial to this day. Nasty things happen in the aftermath of war, as well as during it, and justice always seems to be on the side of the victors. Two wrongs do not, of course, make a right and it was totally unjust to tar all ethnic Germans living in Czechoslovakia, with the brush of Nazism.

The desire for revenge is a particularly unpleasant human trait, but having fortunately never having been in that position, who am I to judge? What has always puzzled me more is why the Czechs never seemed to show antipathy towards the British (and the French), who after all disgracefully sold their country down the river as a result of the 1938 Munch Agreement. The Czechs were ready to resist Hitler, and had some excellent fortifications prepared. These of course were rendered totally useless by the stroke of a pen which seceded the border regions to Nazi Germany. Definitely not this country’s “finest hour”.