That the Czech Republic is at the top of yet another global beer consumption ranking comes as no surprise.
According to the World Beer Index 2021, the Czech Republic 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 written by High cost, 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 the Museum of Prague beer.
However, High cost believes this is not necessarily the case, saying much of the beer drunk in the Czech Republic runs down the throats of foreign visitors.
“Prague is the fourth most visited city in Europe and is infamous for its bachelor parties. Like sunny Spain in second place, beer consumption in the Czech Republic can be significantly inflated by the visit of 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.
Cheaper than water
According to Mher Arzumanyan, marketing manager at Craft House Prague, a popular multi-tap bar, the reason behind these numbers could 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.”
“Another reason is that beer in the Czech Republic is often cheaper than water. Yes, in stores the price for a bottle of water starts from 15 Czech crowns, and from 10 crowns for a bottle of beer,” adds Arzumanyan.
As Luděk Ohem points out, this fact did not go unnoticed by the authorities.
“By law, every menu in the country must now include a soft drink that’s cheaper than beer,” Ohem tells us.
A significant number of Czechs are considered high-risk drinkers, with a recent survey by Charles University in Prague putting the figure at 40% of the whole population.
something is brewing
According to Ohem, Czech beer brewing traditions are deeply rooted in the country’s history.
“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 the Czech Republic’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.
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 head of dense 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,” Arzumanyan said.