Beer in Slovakia
Beer in Slovakia (Slovak: pivo) has been produced and consumed, at least since the 15th century. Together with the neighbouring Czech Republic, with whom it has a shared and intertwined history, Slovakia has a number of breweries and a rich beer culture. Brews in Slovakia usually range between 3.8 and 5.0% alcohol content, and are classified further by its appearance of colour with 10* (pale) 12.5* and 12* (lager) being the most common degrees, however dark beers up to 16.5 degrees and above are also available. Since the fall of communism most large commercial breweries are owned by either Heineken or SABMiller.
Slovakia’s oldest brewery was built in the year 1473 by members of the Knights Templar order in the Banská Bystrica region. This turned out to be a good choice of location, as the region was a centre for the mining industry and over the years the brewery would find success selling to the miners that dominated the work force of the area. Miners in the area often refer to beer as liquid bread and they often drank it while they worked.
During the years of the Czechoslovak republic from 1918 and onwards, the Slovak brewing industry lagged far behind that in the Czech lands. The communist regime built several large, new breweries in the 1950s and 60's in Slovakia to try to balance this. The five largest breweries in Slovakia are members of this group, however closures amongst the independents have left Slovakia with only 4 breweries founded before 1950. There are currently 18 active breweries in Slovakia.
Breweries and brands
Founded in 1967, Zlaty Bazant (Golden Pheasant) Brewery was built in Hurbanovo. The location was carefully chosen because of its warm climate (the warmest in Slovakia) and its altitude (about 115 metres about sea level). These conditions made it ideal for growing hops. Furthermore, the water in the area is plentiful and of excellent quality. Production began in 1969 and it didn’t take long for the brewery to build a market. Having the newest brewing technology and high quality ingredients, allowed the brewery to penetrate the global market. In 1971 they became the first beer company in Eastern Europe to package their beer in cans. This transformation required a lot of work and ultimately resulted in the decision to become a joint stock company. In 1995, the company merged with Heineken. This helped them expand further internationally and allowed them to update their malting house. Other Slovak brewers were purchased by Heineken and their productions was moved to the brewery in Hurbanovo. Today Hurbanovo has one of the largest malting operations in Europe with much of it being exported across the world.
In 1964, the Šariš brewery was built and it quickly became the largest brewery and the largest exporter of beer in Slovakia. As business boomed, Saris expanded. They started producing and selling soft drinks and even had their own race car. By 1983, they were producing one million hectoliters of beer per year. They continued to be Slovakia’s largest brewery, which drew attention from SABMiller (the brewing company behind MGD, Pilsner Urquell, Fosters, and many other successful brews).
In 1997 SABMiller purchased the company. Ten years later they were merged with Topvar, another successful Slovak brewery. They continue producing the beers that made them so popular, using the same recipes. Reflecting the brewery's location in the eastern city of Velky Saris, the company has promoted its beers around the Eastern Slovakian culture, using the eastern dialect in commercials, as well as using its main slogan "Srdcom Východniar" (Slovak: The Heart of the Easterner).
Since 1473, the brewery has undergone many rebuilds and changed owners several times. Production went up and down, depending on the times. During times of war, sales would increase, however, during the German occupation in World War II Jaroslav Raiman, the director of operations was killed and many of the workers were arrested. This put a halt on production until December of 1944 when the brewery slowly started making beer again. During the communist era, more people drank beer and business peaked. In 1958 they sold 280-300 thousand hectoliters. It wasn’t until 2004 that the brewery became what it is today. The name Steiger Pivovar was adopted in April of 2006 and it became the companies main brand of beer. In 2007, Stein brewery moved their production from Bratislava, the countries capital, to the Steiger brewery. Steiger Brewery currently represent only 6-10% of the beer sales in Slovakia.
The mining town of Banská Štiavnica had eight to ten breweries during the late Middle Ages. These, being run by the owners of the local mines, meant the salaries paid to the miners went straight back to the owners. Centuries later in 2010, a local mining engineer, Eduard Rada opened ERB (Eduard Rada Breweries) Brewery. Surrounded by his immediate family in senior management, he began to brew his own way. The beers of ERB was Lager 10% and 12%, ERB Special Dark 13% and ERB Weizen 12%, have been produced at the brewery since its opening. Later, ERB Smoked Lager 12% was added, which has become a forerunner for the ERB Limited Edition.
In 2011, Andrej Gašpar starts at the position of Brew Master, representing a new generation of brewers in Slovakia. Handing over the baton to Andrej Gašpar, was Ján Koma who leaves four decades of experience in the brewery business. In 2013 ERB rejected repeated offers to export beer to Japan, Norway, Australia and Austria. Owner Eduard Rada wants ERB beer to be linked to the country of Slovakia: "So tourists can say, I was in a country where they brew great beer.“
- ERB LAGER 10%
- ERB LAGER 12%
- ERB SPECIAL DARK 13%
- ERB WEIZEN 12%
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