The investment meets the SABMiller-owned company's strategic objective to increase its presence in the key markets of Germany, UK and the US, as well as the more recent addition of the South African market. The beer has been rolled out as a premium bottled product in each of these markets, where it sold well and contributed significantly to the company's 8 per cent increase in exports in 2003.
Prazdroj's CZK 300 million (EUR 9.5m) investment entails the reconstruction and modernisation of the existing plant in four stages. With the first two stages of the investment now complete annual production capacity has reached 2 million hecolitres, but the next two stages of the development are set to double that capacity to 4 million hectoliters by 2009.
The first two stages of the project were begun in summer 2003, with completion now giving the facility an additional brew house constructed from glass, as well as the installation of new equipment and reconstruction to part of the existing brewery. The company said that throughout the project it has continued to operate the brewery production as normal, despite the fact that most of the old equipment has now been completely updated.
Vaclav Berka, Plzen brewery manager said: "The taste and profile of Pilsner Urquell beer will remain unchanged, with copper mash kettles, the triple-decoction process and direct gas heating used for the production also in the new equipment. There is an extreme portion of work done inside the technological process and outside the brew house, just to mention water plant, grain silo, hops dosing system, cleaning facilities as well as energy recovery systems. From the ecological point of view our new brew house belongs to one of the most advanced in Europe, bringing the highest level of environmental protection, as well as substantial energy savings"
Production equipment for the project has been supplied by German group Huppman, which has overseen the installation of new mashing-in equipment, energy recovery systems, an automatic hops dosing system and a new spent grain silo.
The final two stages of the construction will eventually include the total replacement of all the old brewery equipment, together with facilities for visitors that will include an exposition depicting the history of the company's brewery business. The visitors' facility is expected to be up and running in time for the 2005 tourist season.