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Vysočanský Brewery

One of Prague’s oldest breweries stands in Freyová Street. The Land Register of 1749 does not mention the brewery; therefore it is assumed the brewery was founded after that date. In one of the old documents it says that through an exchange contract dated 1 June 1860 the Dominican Monastery of St. Giles in Prague obtained an Endowment House with a brewery in Vysočany bearing the number 1. From this text it is clear that the brewery existed long before that. The Dominicans kept the brewery under their direction and let it out.

In 1883, the brewer Karel Spurný leased the brewery and a year later he added a malting floor and malt-kiln, a cellar, stables and living rooms. In 1887 he received official authorisation to conduct the trade of an innkeeper in house no. 1 in Vysočany. After two years this inn was given permission to use a pressure pump. Karel Spurný held the innkeeper licence until his death on 23 July 1939. However, he didn’t run the inn personally, Antonin Houfek ran the restaurant for him.

On 20 June 1889 the Commercial Register of the Commercial Court in Prague had an entry on the company “Karel and Rudolf Spurný, a brewery in Vysočany near Prague”. The business side of the brewery was run by the older brother Karel, the younger, Rudolph, did the actual brewing. Rudolf, however, died at a relatively young age. For a while one of the brewery’s associates was the maltster Karel Němota, from 1883 - 1885 the position of associate was taken by Albert Pilát, who probably financed the company’s reconstruction.
Karel Spurný was known not only as a skilled professional but also for the fact that in 1896 he and Karel Němota filed a patent for a monitoring device for measuring the wort in the brewing kettles. Both the Austrian authorities and the Bulgarian State were interested in this patent. Spurný was a frequent delegate and representative of the various meetings concerning brewing interests and the interests of small breweries held at the Ministry of Finance in Vienna. He also wrote a series of treatises and articles, was a member of the Committee Vysočany Credit Bank in Karlín and a member of the Civil Credit Bank in Karlín.

On 6 May 1908, Karel Spurný bought the brewery, the garden, another plot, a pasture and a pond from the Dominicans for 180,000 crowns and started running it himself. Vysočanský brewery was originally a hand run brewery, when Spurný leased it he ran it on steam and a power drive. A single brew would come to 50 hl.

Next to the brewery was a large brewery garden, surrounded by a high wall. In the garden was a pond, into which a branch of the River Rokytka flowed. In the winter the pond supplied ice, which could be conveniently stored directly into the brewery ice house, so icing was very cheap. Part of the garden was landscaped in the manner of an English park, in another part many beautiful conifers and fruit trees were planted; in the middle of the garden was a large hexagonal pavilion and a brick building, where a puppet theatre played at the time. Prague residents would come here on a trip, there were even special trains to take them and on Sundays and holidays, there would be long lines of carriages in front of the garden to transport visitors to and fro. In the garden they would put on great shows and the beer flowed in vast amounts. The brewery’s former sub-maltster, Jaroslav Zajíček, spoke of Karl Spurný and his brother Rudolf and the shows they put on. He remembers one day, when they brewed a renowned dark lager that was too strong and was the cause of some rather unfortunate events: during the festivities organised by an association of butchers one of the butchers “hurled a glass at one of his adversaries with such force that he fell dead on the spot”. Mr. Zajíček added that “the people in the garden had never left so quickly as after this incident”. The garden also had a veranda and winter halls, where dances would be organised.

At the beginning of the First World War, more and more publicans found it hard to pay Mr. Spurný for his beer and the competition reduced its prices by so much that production became unprofitable. In addition the brewery’s horses and carriages were requisitioned, and so Karel Spurný decided to stop production. That was on 1 May 1915. Afterwards he took part in founding the Bráník brewery and was a member of its Board of Directors until his death. After the cessation of production in Vysočany the brewery’s inns were supplied by the Bráník brewery.

The brewery’s production was in the region of 4000 hectolitres of beer per year, its record was in the 1911-1912 season, when it produced 4973 hl. After the wars the brewery fell into disuse and slowly began to fall apart. In the mid-1950s part of it was demolished part and the building underwent changes. Various institutions were housed here – a people’s art school, modellers from the Association for Cooperation with the Army and in 1968 it even served as accommodation for the Soviet army.

With the Velvet Revolution in November 1989 came new hope for the brewery. Thanks to the changes in society, the brewery attained a new owner, the construction company ZUKR. It reconstructed part of it into a modern hotel and part into office space, but thanks to Jan Zupka, the owner of ZUKR, the brewery’s conversion was carried out with sensitivity. In several of the interiors the original ceiling beams have been preserved and the brewery is overlooked by a traditional chimney. Jan Zupka bought the object for nostalgic reasons. As a boy, he attended the music school for piano and spent unforgettable moments of his childhood in the garden and the swimming pool. He likes to recall the days when the Crazy Boys used the rehearsal rooms, they subsequently went on to become the legendary rock group Olympic.

In nearly 21 years ZUKR has done a lot. The new restaurant, Cortéz, is a consummate vision of a restaurant in which guests feel truly welcome. It is a place where you will find a pleasant atmosphere, polite and helpful staff and culinary experiences that will keep you coming back. Every weekday between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. the restaurant has an afternoon menu offering guests a choice of two soups and six main dishes. The daily menu includes salads, appetizers, pasta dishes, which have recently become very popular and, of course, several kinds of steaks, grilled meat and specialties of the chef. In addition to the normal kinds of beer, it offers wines, primarily from Czech and Moravian cellars. All of this is underlined by the beautiful surroundings of the original rooms that have been sensitively reconstructed. Visitors can see the old mudstone walls that have been beautifully preserved. Incidentally, in previous centuries mudstone used to be a very popular building stone and it is once again enjoying a renaissance. It always radiates warmth and pleasantly breathes old-world charm. The newly built fireplace adds to the family atmosphere of well-being. The Cortéz restaurant is open daily from 11 am to 11 pm and co-owner and head chef Jiří Havel or Jiří Vomela are always happy to greet and welcome guests. The premises are suitable for holding weddings, graduations and other social events.

In addition to the Cortéz restaurant, in the rear part of the complex guests can also make use of the original, newly reconstructed restaurant. Part of it is a large summer garden with mature chestnut trees, which offer an excellent place to sit in the summer enjoying a beer in the pleasant shade.

Currently (2013) construction work on a new reception and dining area is coming to completion as is work on the second floor where another 23 rooms will be available. In 2014 work should be completed on the last floor, where 12 luxury apartments will be available for guests. In the coming years repairs are planned for the outdoor parking lot, the facades on the old building and the entire grounds’ surroundings are set for a make-over.