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European Themeroute Production and Manufacturing | Beer

Beer has been an enjoyable part of social interaction since ancient times and this fact is, naturally, reflected in the cultural landscape of Europe. In the Early Middle Ages, it was in particular monasteries where beer was brewed in volume; in fact, the remnants of beer production can be found in some ... more

Icon: BeerBeer - in many countries the most popular alcoholic beverage

Beer has been an enjoyable part of social interaction since ancient times and this fact is, naturally, reflected in the cultural landscape of Europe. In the Early Middle Ages, it was in particular monasteries where beer was brewed in volume; in fact, the remnants of beer production can be found in some monasteries still today. Later, at the end of the Middle Ages, in connection with the founding of royal towns, royal breweries, burghers’ breweries and later also joint stock breweries gradually developed. The turn of the 18th and 19th centuries was the golden age of beer, with several factors having played a role in this. It was mainly the then modern beer production technology, as described for instance by Louis Pasteur, which was based on beer filtration and pasteurisation, which helped stabilise both the beer’s quality and characteristics. This was the time when major breweries were established with the aim to brew large volumes of beer, such as the Guinness brewery in 1759. Worth mentioning is the founding of the Burghers’ Brewery in Pilsen (today’s Pilsner Urquell brewery) in the year 1842, which gave birth to the entire beer category of bottom-fermented lagers, known as pils, pilsner or pilsener. In the 19th century, beer production was increasingly concentrated in larger breweries, which, to a great extent, have remained a significant enrichment of the European industrial landscape to this day. Some of the very first industrial breweries still exist today, either fulfilling their original function or not. The majority of breweries can be found in Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland, Great Britain and Ireland – all these being countries which have retained their leading position as concerns beer production and consumption volumes. The landscape of Europe is not enriched with breweries alone; it is also hop fields that impart to the landscape a very interesting and specific character.

The history of beer

Mesopotamia, the area between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, is considered to be the place that gave the world beer. As early as around 7000 BC, the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians and Assyrians cultivated grains there. Apparently, beer was actually discovered by accident owing to the former way of storing grain in clay containers. Water got into some of the containers, which started the process of fermentation, and thus the very first “beer” was born; although, from today, it was rather water with a pleasant intoxicating taste. Later, fermented beverages began to be prepared from grains on purpose. The Sumerians called this type of beer kash, while the Babylonians called it Shikarum.

Unlike the beer we know today, the Sumerians used no hops (which were not known back then) when making their kash. Thus, to make kash, barley bread and malt were put in a large jar in which this mixture was left to ferment. Without hops, the taste of kash lacked bitterness, and an alternative process had to be used to impart a bitter taste to the beverage. Typically, bread roasted in hot ash was used, with green mustard seeds or sesame seeds added to it.

Following the discovery of the process of malt fermentation, many types of beer sprang up, each different in colour and taste. Around 3000 BC, drinking beer was a widely spread custom. Back then, filtration was not part of the beer-making process, which is why large quantities of solid particles were present in the beer, making it cloudy. Therefore, beer was drunk through a grain straw. A thousand years later, the Code of Hamurrabi, dated 2000 BC, referred for the first time to public establishments where beer could be purchased. Among other things, the Code of Hammurabi also established penalties for dishonest publicans.

Further records of a beer-making process come from ancient Egypt – a country considered by some to be the cradle of beer. To make beer, Egyptians used barley to produce malt and various types of wheat as a substitute for hops. Due to the absence of hops, the beer’s taste was rather sweetish back then. In Antiquity, people showed little interest in beer as it was wine which dominated in popularity in the Mediterranean, and mead which was popular in those areas of Europe inhabited by the Celts. Yet, the Germanic tribes continued to prefer beer, both in terms of production and consumption. Other countries in which beer was widely consumed included those parts of Northern Europe under the rule of the Vikings. There, people preferred to drink their beer warm; at the same time, a method of freeze concentration was discovered, during which beer was left to freeze and, as a result of the different melting points of water and ethanol, the alcohol content in the beer increased, making it stronger. It is believed that the alcohol content of the beer back then was close to that of today’s lagers.

Craft brewing developed as new royal towns were founded in the 13th century which were granted a number of privileges from the monarch. Later, the same privileges were awarded to nobility-owned towns by the relevant nobility. In the 14th and the 15th centuries, the newly rich burghers would put their funds together to jointly establish town breweries. The end of the Middle Ages and the mid-16th century saw the development of beer production in nobility-owned breweries, while, simultaneously, beer production continued or even expanded in monastic breweries, which were less impacted by politics or by economic changes. That was also where hops began to be grown and used as a beer-making ingredient.

Beer gained significant popularity in the 19th century when supplies of beer’s main competitor – wine – almost dried up due to a vineyard pest named Phylloxera. At the same time, throughout the 19th century, people were becoming more and more knowledgeable in the process of beer production, fermentation and filtration, which made it possible for beer production to expand. The mid-19th century saw the golden age of brewing. At that time, many prominent breweries were established that remain in operation to this day. Large brewing operations took over production from smaller brewers which gradually ceased to exist.

World War II was a disaster for the brewing industry. During the war, many breweries interrupted production or started making low-gravity beers. Unfortunately, quite a number of breweries decided not to resume operation after the war. The second half of the 20th century saw trends starting to gradually change, and this has continued to this day. Consumers seek variety in flavour; they want to try out new beers and new, interesting tastes. Beer produced in industrial breweries enjoys less popularity compared with that made in micro-breweries, the number of which has grown significantly.  This trend has been most apparent in Great Britain. At the same time, the beer category follows the trend of consumers inclined towards a healthy lifestyle, which is why we can see non-alcoholic beers, low-alcohol radlers and flavoured beer enjoying great popularity nowadays.


This Themeroute has been developed together with the ERIH Anchor Point Pilsner Urquell Brewery and Museum in Pilsen (CZ).



ERIH Anchor Points

Pilsen | Czech Republic
Take some malt from specially refined Moravian barley and bring the mash to the boil three times. Add medium ripe red hops from the area around Saaz each time, and leave the brew to ferment slowly at a low temperature. Finally store it for up to 30 days in cooled barrels. This recipe, written on 5th ...

Pilsner Urquell Brewery and Museum
Plzensky Prazdroj
U Prazdroje 7
304 97 Pilsen, Czech Republic

Amsterdam | Netherlands
Four huge copper silos stand side by side in the hall. Until 1988 this was the heart of the famous old Heineken brewery in Amsterdam. Now the world famous firm is using its historic building to present a highly modern interactive exhibition on itself and its products called “The Heineken ...

Heineken Experience - Heineken Brewery
Stadhouderskade 78
1072 AE Amsterdam, Netherlands

Tychy | Poland
The brew house in the Tyskie brewery in the upper Silesian town of Tychy makes a truly palatial impression with its blue glazed tiles adorned with flowers, richly decorated pillar capitals, a precious panelled ceiling, and an interior full of blank copper brewery kettles, valves and instruments, ...

Tyskie Brewing Museum
Tyskie Browarium
Ul. Mikołowska 5
43-100 Tychy, Poland

Żywiec | Poland
Feel it! Speak! Take a pic! Where have you ever heard such requests in a museum? In Żywiec, however, everything is a bit different. One of the most favourite traditional beers in Poland is brewed in this small pretty town, and the local Brewery Museum will tell you how this came about. On your visit ...

Żywiec Brewery Museum
Muzeum Browaru "Żywiec"
Ul. Browarna 88
34-300 Żywiec, Poland

Member Sites ERIH Association

Lobeč u Mšena | Czech Republic
The Lobeč Brewery, a significant technical landmark of czech brewing industry, is situated in Central Bohemian Region, some 60 km north of Prague. The village is located on the edge of Kokořínsko Natural Reserve and was declared a Rural Heritage Zone with the local Brewery and a Baroque castle as ...

Lobeč Brewery
Lobeč 34
27736 Lobeč u Mšena, Czech Republic

Berlin | Germany
Brewhouse, warehouse, cooper’s workshop, horse stables, canteen and children’s home: the preserved complex of the historic Schultheiss Brewery clearly illustrates how a company that once ranked among the largest breweries in Europe was organized around 1900. The renovated industrial monument ...

Culture Brewery
Schönhauser Allee 36
10405 Berlin, Germany

Burton upon Trent | United Kingdom
The man who invented clogs must have been a brewer. The robust shoes with thick wooden soles were ideal for keeping people´s feet warm and dry on cold, wet brewery floors. Once, the whole of Burton upon Trent used to echo with the clacking of these rough wooden slippers. For the small town in the ...

National Brewery Centre
Horninglow Street
DE14 1NG Burton upon Trent, United Kingdom


Dornbirn | Austria
The Huber family established the Mohren Brewery at Dornbirn near the Bodensee (Lake Constance) in the Voralberg in 1834. It specialised in particularly strong beers in which a small proportion of wheat was incorporated in the mash. The museum is located in a building alongside the brewery, and uses ...

Mohren Brewery Museum
Mohren Biererlebniswelt
Doktor-Waebel-Strasse 2
6850 Dornbirn, Austria

Leoben | Austria
The Gösser brewery is in an attractive group of buildings begun in 1860 by 28-year-old Max Kober. It became one of the biggest breweries in Austria. It started to export beer in bottles in the 1920s and by the 1970s it produced near a million bottles a year. The brewery museum – which they call the ...

Gösser Brewery Museum
Brauereimuseum "Gösseum"
Brauhausgasse 1
8700 Leoebn, Austria

Styria is the centre of the iron trade in Austria, and, as in other ironworking areas in Europe, beer was at the centre of the region’s social life. It is claimed that the Gősser brewery in Leoben originated in 1010 ad when a Benedictine abbey was established in the city. Certainly brewing has a ...

Gösseum. Gösser Brewery Museum
Brauhausgasse 1
8700 Leoben, Austria

Salzburg | Austria
Stiegl beer is one of the symbols of the city of Salzburg. Stiegl-Brauwelt which forms part of the brewery is a 10-minute bus journey from the centre of the town. It was opened in 1995 in a former malthouse. Visitors are able to explore displays illustrating all aspects of the history of brewing, ...

The Stiegl Brewing World
Bräuhausstrasse 9
5020 Salzburg, Austria

Bocholt | Belgium
The brewery at Bocholt, 38 km north-east of Hasselt, was opened in 1758, and the museum, established in 1979 by Jean Martens (1919-2008), a member of the family who owned it, in a mansion opposite the brewery, is claimed to be one of the largest museums of brewing in Europe. Displays illustrated all ...

Bocholt Brewery Museum
Bocholter Brouwerijmuseum
Dorpsstraat 53
3550 Bocholt, Belgium

Itterbeek (Dilbeek) | Belgium
The Mole brewery at Itterbeek was established around 1700 by Jan Vandermeulen and re-named in the early twentieth century when Gerard Timmermans married a daughter of the owner. The adjacent museum opened in 2009. It can be seen by appointment and features on the 7 km Breughel trail. In the brewery ...

Timmermans Brewery
Brouwerij Timmermans
Kerkstraat 11
1701 Itterbeek, Belgium

Roeselare | Belgium
The Rodenbach brewery south of Roeselare is one of the best-known in Belgium and provides an enlightening introduction to that country’s notable brewing heritage. The tour includes the malthouse and a vast hall in which there are 300 oak casks for maturing beer, which is sometimes used for banquets. ...

Rodenbach Brewery
Brouwerij Rodenbach
Spanjestraat 131-41
88-00 Roeselare, Belgium

Romedenne | Belgium
Romedenne is a small community within the municipality of Philippeville in the province of Namur, not far from Belgium’s border with France. The Gambrinus Drivers’ Museum is one of Europe’s most specialised industrial museums. Located in a nineteenth century malting and brewery complex, it is ...

Gambrinus Drivers’ Museum
Musée des Camions de Brasserie
Fontaine Saint-Pierre 2A
5600 Romedenne, Belgium

Zatec | Czech Republic
Bohemia has been famous for centuries as the source of some of Europe’s best hops, and particularly for the Saaz Noble variety, grown around Zatek, a market town of about 20,000 inhabitants some 70 km north-west of Prague. The hop museum is located in a three-storey building of the late 19th century ...

Hop Museum
Chmelařské Muzeum
Námĕsti Prokopa Velkého
43801 Zatec, Czech Republic

Beer is not simply beer. The huge visitor centre in the historic Carlsberg Brewery covers an area of around 10,000 square metres and as such seems to be a complete brewery universe. Today more than 500 different beers are linked with the name Carlsberg. A tour of the museum leads you through the ...

Visit Carlsberg / Carlsberg Visitors Centre
Gamle Carlsberg Vej 11
1799 Copenhagen, Denmark

Tartu | Estonia
The A. Le Coq company was started in 1807 and in 1912 moved to Tartu, which had a long history of brewing. The company was nationalized in the Soviet era but relaunched with the A. Le Coq trademark in 1999. It is now the largest drinks manufacturer in Estonia, making beer, cider and soft drinks.  ...

A. Le Coq Beer Museum
Õllemuuseum A. Le Coq
Laulupeo pst 15
50050 Tartu, Estonia

Saint-Nicolas-de-Porte | France
Saint-Nicolas-de-Porte is in Lorraine, on the banks of the River Meurthe, south of Nancy, and notable for the basilica dedicated to Saint Nicholas, patron saint of Lorraine, which houses some of his relics. The museum is based in a four-storey brewery of 1931 designed in the Art Deco style by ...

French Brewery Museum
Musée français de la Brasserie
62 Rue Charles Courtois
54210 Saint-Nicolas-de-Porte, France

Stenay | France
Stenay is an historic garrison town on the River Meuse between two places that resonate in French military history, Sedan and Verdun. The food store of the citadel which dates from 1609-15 was adapted as a malthouse in 1879 and now accommodates the museum of beer. The malt kiln remains at one end of ...

Stenay Beer Museum
Musée de la Bière
17 Rue du Moulin
55700 Stenay, France