The coopers from the Pilsner brewery are
building a new barrel. The last barrels were made in the 1950s’, majority being
only maintained for last 50 years. The coopers are making the barrel in the old,
traditional technique, which hasn’t been recorded in written and the only way
how to maintain the art of making a barrel from one generation to another is
actually by building one. Pilsner brewery is one of the last places in Europe,
where is this ancient craft still in use. It is, along with the original
cellars, one of the main tourist attractions of the Pilsner Urquell tour offered
by the brewery.
The coopers trade was an essential part of all breweries. Wooden vessels were
needed for the beer production, fermentation and maturation, as well as for the
beer distribution. In the Pilsner Urquell brewery cellars alone, 9,000 barrels
and vats were used at the beginning of the 20th century. The craft as such was
creatively developing up until the middle of the 20th century, when use of metal
vessels in households and industrial production caused its decline.
Thanks to the 10 Pilsner Urquell coopers, who take care of the barrels and
vats, the brewery can, in a small extent, maintain the traditional beer
production. The beer maturing in oaken barrels is not only an attraction for
visitors but it also serves as a basis for a permanent rating for the taste
stability and further properties of the Pilsner Urquell beer. Therefore the
coopers are very just as important today, in the era of cylinder-conic tanks,
keg barrels and cans.
The brewery is therefore training young coopers, who would be able to replace
the old masters and preserve this amazing ancient craft for future generations.
In comparison with the old times, when the tutoring of young coopers could
proceed during normal operation, nowadays it is much more time-consuming and
concentrated task. Plzeňský Prazdroj, a.s. is therefore looking for new recruits
among experienced cabinet-makers.