Practical Brewing Learning in the Czech Republic

Bohemian Rhapsodies with Angels Dancing on the Tongue at the Home of Pilsner

A diverse team of more than 30 IBD members at all levels of their careers with a passion for brewing, beer and practical learning travelled recently to the Czech Republic to participate in the European Brewery Study Tour organised by the IBD Southern Section and their Secretary, Steve Wilkinson.

The learning tour started in Prague on Wednesday 24th, visiting Craft Mataska and Plzenka Plzen pub hosted by Lubos, continuing to Pilsner Urquell and its brewery cellars, Proud Brewery, Cezche Budejoice and finishing at Budvar Breweries on Friday, 26th May.  

This has been a trip to remember. Not just for visiting the birthplace of pilsner beer, experiencing the unique Czech beer culture (the country consumes more beer per capita than anywhere else in the world), and discovering that Czech beer has been brewed since 993 AD at least.

What has made this trip truly special has been the wide range of expertise and knowledge of the cross-section of IBD members attending, from apprentices and students starting in their careers and benefitting from the grants scheme that the IBD has started to roll out, to brewers in their mid-career and more seasoned and senior professionals keen to share their knowledge.

ibd learning tour to the Czech Republic

These are some attendees' comments:

"As a professional brewer, international beer judge, IBD Diploma student and someone passionate to always get deeper knowledge about beer/brewing (processes, ingredients, recipe development, beer styles, sensory, beer service, history...) I can say that the 3 days beer tour organised by the IBD in the Czech Republic was an amazing experience!

The tour not only offered extensive and interactive visits to some of the best small craft breweries in the country such as Pivovar Matuška but also the most famous historical breweries such as Plzensky Prazdroj (Pilsner Urquell) and Budějovický Budvar. And unlike many tours, the visits with the IBD were in company and guided by the beer production and quality control staff over the course of many hours. Thanks to this, our group could get rare and deeper insights into the ingredients, brewing techniques, beer parameters and history of the brewery/beers! 

For example, we learnt that Budvar Budějovický uses a small percentage of caramel malt, steam heating and double decoction to contribute to the flavour and colour of their Premium Czech pale lager Budvar 33. But the same objective of colour and flavour in Pilsner Urquell (a similar beer style as Budvar 33) is achieved from a combination of 100% Pilsner malt made in-house, steam heating and triple decoction. 

Pilsner Urquell Brewery matures the beer for 3 weeks in vertical/conical tanks and they aim for a small concentration of diacetyl around 80 ppb (above the threshold) in the final product. On the other hand, Budějovický Budvar practices a diacetyl rest, they mature their beer for up to 90 days in horizontal tanks and the brewery said of diacetyl: "We want none of it in our beers!". 

But the best part for me and what makes a beer/brewery tour world-class is when it combines the learning of detailed information on the beers with the rare opportunity of tasting them in their freshest state (straight from the wooden vats or stainless horizontal tanks behind the scenes in the cold cellars). 

And besides the day visits, the evenings were as good thanks to being in the company of many other passionate individuals and enjoying even more fresh beer and local food from quality restaurants. 

I really look forward to participating in such trips again in the near future, and I highly recommend IBD brewery tours." 

Thomas Sjöberg -  Fluid Boundaries Brewing ( Finland) - Freelance Brewing Consultant & Operator

ibd learning brewing tour to czech republic

“Remarkable experience. Spending a few days in the home of Pilsner lager, being surrounded by great people full of enthusiasm about brewing, sharing all we know and unlocking (or trying to) the secrets of decoction, and of course, sampling the Bohemian beers and gastronomy - the trip was amazing and a great opportunity to establish relationships between all levels of seniority and backgrounds.

The head brewer of one of the breweries we visited mentioned the importance of generational transfer, and I cannot think of a better way of doing it than through this kind of experience. I am very grateful to the Institute and the organisers for such a gift. I would do it all over again and cannot recommend it enough”.

Ana Maria Moya Garcia - Carlsberg Marston’s - Engineering Planner

ibd brewing learning tour to czech republic

“The IBD European Brewery Study Tour provided our group with incredible access to some of the most respected breweries in the Czech Republic. The hosts at Matuska, Pilsner Urquell, and Budvar were incredibly kind and welcoming, sharing as much information as our group could gather from them.

The array of breweries selected for the tour provided us with a great understanding of the larger landscape throughout the Czech Republic along with the technical detail that goes into producing the individual products. Additionally, the group of IBD members on the trip came from all areas of the industry and provided a great opportunity to learn more about brewing and distilling operations across the globe.

I am incredibly thankful to Steve Wilkinson and the IBD for the opportunity to join this group and feel that I gained so much from the tours themselves and the IBD members that made the trip!

Truly such an incredible time.

Graham Doherty -MSc in Brewing and Distilling Candidate at Heriot-Watt University

After such a successful tour, the IBD Southern Section is already preparing for next year's learning trip. So, stay tuned and if you need financial support, keep also an eye on the IBD Section grants. More information about this support scheme will follow soon.  

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