The long history of the land today known as the Czech Republic provides many chapters relevant to the annals of brewing; from their prized hop growing regions that were at one point so revered that the penalty for removing the plant for purposes of foreign cultivation carried a penalty of death, to their current status as the nation with the highest per capita annual beer consumption. This is truly a region that has long recognized the value, both culturally and financially, of beer and brewing. Our first international beer selection comes to us from the Central region of the Czech Republic, in the town of Vysoky Chlumec, located about 25 miles due south of Prague. The Lobkowicz Brewery here was established in 1466 by one of the most inveterate aristocratic families in Europe; a family that has played an important role in Bohemian and European politics and culture for centuries.
The Lobkowicz family dates back to the 14th century, making them one of the oldest Bohemian noble families. Members of the Lobkowicz family have played hugely important roles, including Princes of the Holy Roman Empire, High Chancellors of Bohemia, Dukes of various Bohemian provinces, Princes of High Chlumec, and have repeatedly been bestowed the Order of the Golden Fleece, the highest honor of the Holy Roman Empire. They also have a long history as benefactors of music and the arts. Beethoven dedicated numerous works to Josef Maxmillian Lobkowicz (1772-1816) including the 5th, 6th and 3rd Symphonies (a.k.a. Eroica), which were performed at the Lobkowicz Palace in Vienna by the master himself. And their wealth and status over the centuries enabled them to develop extensive and unique collections of artwork, vast libraries, important musical manuscripts, and instruments, all compiled over the centuries.
Their brewery in Vysoky Chlumec, Czech Republic, was established in 1466. Though they were not the original founders of the brewery, the Lobkowicz family purchased the facility in 1474 and for nearly half a millennium (465 years to be exact) the family brewed their beers uninterrupted. It wasn’t until the 20th century that they began experiencing disruptions; with the Nazi invasion in 1939 and the confiscation of the brewery, the family was forced into exile. They fled to Great Britain until after World War II, where they held important official roles such as Ambassador to Great Britain for the Czechoslovak government in exile. After the war, they returned to their home Czechoslovakia to reopen their brewery, but experienced yet another major crisis. Almost immediately upon their return in 1948, the Communist Party seized and nationalized the brewing industry, including, of course, the Vysoky Chlumec facility. Once again, they were forced to flee.
After the fall of communism, Martin and William Lobkowicz, the eldest son and grandson of Maxmillian, returned to Czechoslovakia. Thanks to the results of the Velvet Revolution of 1989 and the passage of restitution laws designed to repair the injustices of the previous 41 years, the brewery was returned to the family in 1992, along with nine illustrious castles and chateaus. The brewery serves roles of cultural importance that are quite obvious, while the castles and chateaus continue the Lobkowicz family tradition of patronizing the arts by remaining open to the public, offering permanent collections as well as special exhibits.
For more information about the Lobkowicz Brewery, check out their web site at www.lobkowicz.cz.