Become a fan of h2g2
Lager first emerged in central Europe, within the geographical triangle of Munich, Pilsen and Vienna. The last of the barrels of beer brewed each year were stored in cellars, dug deep into the Alps, by Benedictine monks so that they could be self sufficienct through the winter. What with it being cool and damp in the storage cellars, at these low temperatures the beers fermented really slowly and the yeast sank to the bottom of the barrel. In addition the beer absorbed the naturally-produced carbon dioxide, making it a more gassy drink. Over the generations, the monks cultivated the best batches of this yeast and unknowingly developed a whole new style of beer.
For a long time lagers were not pale in colour, as they are today, but were brown. Pilsner was the first pale lager and appeared in 1842. It was brewed by a chap called Joseph Groll who made it with the same sort of malt that was being used for pale ale production in England. The style became so popular that by 1874 it had even reached the US.
In the German-speaking Bohemia region Pilsner means 'from Pilsen'1, just as Frankfurter means 'from Frankfurt', Hamburger means 'from Hamburg' and Budweiser means 'from Budweis'2. The German-speaking nations played fair with the descriptions given to beers but other nations weren't so meticulous. The Burghers brewery in Pilsen had to register the name of its beer as Pilsner Urquell meaning 'original source Pilsner'. The American brewer Anheuser-Busch started brewing its Budweiser in St Louis in 1876, claiming in its adverts and promotional material that its beer was the 'original'.
However, back in the 15th Century, there were 44 breweries in the town of Budweis. In 1547 King Ferdinand I summoned a Budweis brewer to make a beer for him, and by the time of the Industrial Revolution, Budweiser was a generic term for the beers produced in the town's two remaining breweries. In 1847, these two breweries merged and started selling Budweiser as a beer in its own right some 29 years before the 'original' American offering. It was in 1895, however, that a rival brewery was set up in Budweis and started selling the beer known as Budweiser Budvar.
The American Anheuser-Busch and the Czech Budweis breweries have been in court for the majority of the 20th Century arguing over who has the right to the name 'Budweiser'.