The history of exports of our Pilsner beer started in 1856 when exactly 65 buckets of beer (about 4 hectolitres today) were delivered for the first time across the borders of the Czech lands to Mr Josef Šedivý in Vienna. In the following years, the Pilsen Brewery had 950 customers in total and “the Pilsner beer from the Burghers´ Brewery”, as our beer was often called before its trademark Pilsner Urquell was implemented (1898), was exported to European metropolises and important cities: Berlin, Dresden, London, Paris, Strasbourg and others. The development of foreign sales was not long in coming and in 1873, the Pilsner beer was transported by ship from Bremen to America, and in 1901 the first shipment of beer to Australia took place.
1925 Prazdroj at the Poznań International Fair in Poland
Exposition of the Burghers´ Brewery in Poznań. Archive of Plzeňský Prazdroj, a.s.
1932 First export of beer by truck
A truck of the Dutch Pilsner Urquell distributor in the brewery. Photo 1932. Archive of Plzeňský Prazdroj, a.s.
1932 saw an important milestone when the first export of Pilsner Urquell was carried out by truck. The destination was the Netherlands and the Dutch distributor, G. W. Janssen from Arnhem, took his first test ride on a truck directly from Pilsen. In 1935, the brewery tested long-distance truck transportation in order to deliver 40 hectolitres of Pilsner Urquell beer to the World Expo in Brussels (Brussels International Exposition). A special refrigerated Tatra vehicle transported beer to its destination after several days in top quality.
1932 – 1933 With Prazdroj to the orient - “SPEXOR” expedition
The Pilsen Brewery helped sponsored two expeditions to the Orient undertaken by the local auto club. Thanks to this, Pilsner Urquell lager got to all the places on the expedition. The event was a huge marketing success.
1. SPEXOR expedition (31 March 1932 – 7 May 1932) – route: Pilsen – Marseille – Tunis – Alexandria – Cairo – Jerusalem – Damascus – Taurus – Ankara – Istanbul – Sofia – Belgrade – Budapest – Vienna – Pilsen. A total of six expedition members travelled in two white, air-cooled Tatra type 52 vehicles.
2. SPEXOR expedition (11 February 1933 – 25 March 1933) – route: Plzeň – Rome – Syracuse – Tripoli – Sebba – Sahara – Fezzan Murzuk – Fez – Casablanca – Gibraltar – Madrid – Pilsen. It was undertaken in three Aero 662 vehicles with two-cylinder, in-line, water-cooled engine. The vehicles wore the national colours – white, blue and red.
Start of the second expedition in Pilsen with Prazdroj advertisement. Photo 1933. Archive of Plzeňský Prazdroj
The demand for our beer has always been encouraged by the participation of the brewery in world expositions, where it built special restaurant pavilions (first in Vienna in 1873). In 1937 at the Paris World Expo, the brewery decided to build a pavilion like a cellar with prices available to all the visitors of the exposition with the emphasis on correct care for the beer and its correct serving. It was built in close proximity to the Czechoslovak pavilion and they were both designed by the Czech architect Jaromír Krejcar. The restaurant capacity was 350 guests. A legendary restaurant of our brewery was also part of the Brussels World Expo in 1958.
1937 Prazdroj restaurant pavilion at the Paris World Expo
The brewery´s pavilion together with the Czechoslovak pavilion at the Paris Expo. Photo 1937. Archive of Plzeňský Prazdroj, a.s.
1937 Pilsner Urquell – the whole town brews it, the whole world drinks it, smart places serve it!
Advertisement for a Prazdroj distributor in the USA. It was created by the artist Joe Loe. The poster was published in the U.S. magazine Night Life on its back cover. Photo 1937. Archive of Plzeňský Prazdroj, a.s.
After the end of WWII, immediately in May 1945, the Burghers´ Brewery in Pilsen and companies owned by the brewery (Plzeňské akciové pivovary; Pilsen Joint-Stock Breweries; now Gambrinus Brewery) were nationalized and merged into one national enterprise called Plzeňské pivovary (Pilsen Breweries). During the post-was era, namely in 1947, we renewed exports of beer to the USA. At that time, the biggest volume of beer was exported to France, followed by Belgium, then the United Kingdom, Switzerland and the USA. Pilsner Urquell was then the only foreign beer available on the market in the United Kingdom. In the 1950s, after the political regime changed and we moved to a socialist planned economy, the national enterprise Pilsen Breweries became one of the biggest export companies in Czechoslovakia. In 1966, the Pilsner beer was exported to Japan for the first time and became very popular there.
Pilsner Urquell advertising poster in two versions. 1991. Archive of Plzeňský Prazdroj, a.s.
“The world is thirsty for freedom” – said Pilsner Urquell´s advertising poster from 1992, responding to political changes at home and around the world when Czechoslovakia became a free, democratic country in 1989, whereas this year was the beginning of the end of the communist regime in the countries of the European Eastern Bloc. In 1992, our products were exported to 51 countries around the world.
At the end of 1994, the brewery was privatized and the business name of the company changed to Plzeňský Prazdroj a.s. Its owner since 2017has been the Japanese brewing company Asahi Breweries. At the moment, Plzeňský Prazdroj is the biggest exporter of domestic beers, which it delivers to more than 50 countries around the world.