Archaeologists unearth rare Renaissance-Baroque brew house in ‘Czech Paradise’

The centuries-old brew house at Kost Castle, photo: Regionální muzeum v Jičíně

Archaeologists have unveiled a rare Renaissance-Baroque brew house in the depths of Kost Castle, itself an architectural jewel in the “Bohemian Paradise” region. The tiny brewery was founded in 1576 and in use for centuries, but the team of excavators had expected to find little more than rubble.

Český ráj, or Bohemian Paradise, was the very first area in the Czech lands to be designated as a protected nature reserve, back in 1955. But what self-respecting Czech could truly be in paradise without a brewery nearby?

The discovery of the well-preserved centuries-old brew house at Kost Castle is sure to please beer-drinkers of all stripes. But archaeologist Radek Novák says his colleagues specialising in historical breweries are over the moon, as precious few such pre-industrial sites remain.

“We never imagined that hidden here would be such intact remains of the old brew house, which was in use in the Renaissance-Baroque era of the brewery. This is one of the few sites where we can study the actual form of construction from that era.”

The centuries-old brew house at Kost Castle,  photo: Regionální muzeum v Jičíně
In medieval times in the Czech lands, only burghers officially had the right to brew beer, right up until the Treaty of Saint Wenceslas in 1517, which repealed the monopoly, and the nobility got into the game.

But it was not until 1576 that Krištof Popel of Lobkovic installed a brewery at Kost Castle, in the new palace bearing his name that he had built alongside the original fortifications.

Radek Novák says the excavation uncovered some vats in which beer was brewed, along with a kiln and foundations made of the sandstone abundant in the Bohemian Paradise region. Coins unearthed at the site confirm that the brew house ceased functioning in the early 19th century.

“This square, solid foundation once held a so-called ‘scrapping tub’, a vat where the water and malt was mixed… We found coins everywhere. The youngest are from the 1830s, which corresponds to the time of another major reconstruction, when a new brew house was built.”

The centuries-old brew house at Kost Castle,  photo: Kateřina Kohoutová,  ČRo
The last batch of beer brewed at the newer site was made sometime in 1942, in the midst of the Second World War. Up until 1946, beers from other sites were also bottled at Kost Castle.

According to Kost Castle administrator Jan Macháček, plans are to restore the foundations of the older brew house, and install protective glass walls around it within a new restaurant.

It’s all part of an ongoing complete reconstruction of the historic estate, which was returned to the noble Kinský family soon after the Velvet Revolution. The 100 million crown project began in April and is expected to last until 2021.