Pilsner Urquell is one of the last places in Europe that still preserves and develops the traditional brewery craft of coopering
The tradition of brewery coopers has been preserved by the Pilsner Urquell for a long time. It is the only brewery in the world keeping alive the profession and employing coopers. Their handcraft is unique; therefore there is no wonder that the trading was enlisted into the national heritage list. It is an important step to reach the main goal – enlisting the Pilsner Urquell coopery into the UNESCO and maintaining the brewery tradition for next generations.
Pilsner Urquell brewers make oak barrels using the original method. However, this has not been recorded in any textbook, and the experience is passed down orally from master to journeyman. The highest quality oak wood is used for the barrels. The wood is knot-free and dried in a natural manner, which takes at least eight years. Beer barrels, unlike wine barrels, must be pitched with resin repeatedly before every use. The layer that the pitch forms – at a temperature of 200° Celsius – prevents contact between beer and wood and disinfects the inside of the barrel at the same.
At present there are eight coopers in Pilsen. Thanks to them, a small part of Pilsner Urquell’s production can be done in the traditional manner and its quality can be compared with the beer fermenting in modern tanks. Brewery coopers manufacture and maintain large lager barrels of up to 46 hectolitres in volume and up to 800 kilograms in weight. They also make smaller transport barrels with 17, 25 and 50 litre volumes used by the brewery to deliver unfiltered and non-pasteurised beer for special occasions. You can admire the art of coopering year-round at special brewery events.