Asahi Group Holdings will boost the production capacity of its European flagship brand Pilsner Urquell (Plzeňský Prazdroj ) at its plant in Pilsen/Czech Republic by about one third to 3.5 million hectoliters annually. CZK 280 million ($12.8m) will be invested to raise brew house capacity from currently 18 to 24 brews per day, thus lifting the weekly output of the brew house to 88,300 hectoliters. The expansion project has already started and will be finished in April 2018.
Grant McKenzie, marketing manager of Asahi Breweries Europe, told the Czech News Agency that the investment, which was already planned by former owner SAB Miller, was well in line with Asahi, which acquired last year the iconic brewery together with other breweries in Eastern Europe from AB InBev for €7.3 billion ($7.8 billion). ( inside beer, 13.12.2016) McKenzie also stressed the fact that Pilsner Urquell as well as Velkopopovický Kozel, another Czech brand of Asahi, are of great importance to Asahi and have enormous potential in Asia and Europe.
Last year the Czech breweries of Asahi, which are bundled under the roof of Plzeňský Prazdroj sold almost 11 million hectoliters of beer, a jump of close to 1 million hectoliters on 2015. Largest brand of Asahi in the Czech Republic is Gambrinus, which is also brewed in Pilsen, followed by Pilsner Urquell, Velkopopovický Kozel, brewed in the namesake village, and Radegast, brewed in Nošovice.
Pilsner Urquell (Czech Plzeňský prazdroj) was founded in 1842 by both local Czech-speaking and German-speaking citizens in Bohemian city of Pilsen (Czech: Plzeň). The first beer was brewed in 1842 by Bavarian brewer Josef Groll, who created a new bottom fermented beer, which is characterised by its golden color and clarity in contrast to the top fermented brown and hazy beers of that time. The new pilsen type beer became an inspiration for much of the beer produced in the world today, many of which are named pils, pilsner and pilsener.
In 1869, a competing company was founded in Pilsen, later known as Gambrinus, trying to copy the success of the first Pilsen brewery. In order to differentiate the original product from its imitator, the name Pilsner Urquell was created. Both Urquell in German or Prazdroj in Czech mean the original old source.
In 1932 both breweries were merged and in 1946, shortly after World War II, nationalized. After the fall of communism in late 1989, the brewery was turned into a public share company and in 1999 taken over by South African Breweries which later became SABMiller. In the same year the company was also merged with two other Czech breweries, Pivovar Radegast and Pivovar Velké Popovice.
In 2016, following the sale of SABMiller to AB InBev (inside.beer, 28.9.2016), the company was sold to Asahi Group Holdings of Japan.
Pilsner Urquell is today brewed in two breweries; in the Pilsen brewery and in Kaluga, Russia. As part of a cooperation within the SABMiller group of that time, Pilsner Urquell was also brewed in Tychy in Poland between 2002 and 2011.