DOCESNA - BASIC INFORMATION
Zatec was granted the status of the city and the right to brew beer as early as 1265. Last year it celebrated 740 years since it was granted privileges. Ever since it has become an important commercial and trade centre. Under Charles IV Zatec was one of the three biggest cities in Bohemia, and achieved fame even abroad. The hop-growing in Zatec and its surroundings has a tradition of more than 700 years. The 19th century is considered the golden era of the Czech hop-growing. The local kind of hop (semi-early red hop) has set the standards for the quality of the hop plant and its price on the European market. In the 20th century the Zatec hops were exported to 70 countries in the world, and has become internationally famous for its quality.
The hop-harvest festival is a major cultural event organized by the royal city of Zatec which was first mentioned in writing over a thousand years ago. The event is held regularly on the first Friday and Saturday in September. The admission is free of charge. Originally, the event was meant as a celebration of the last hops to be picked. Over the years it has undergone a number of changes. Today the festival takes place mainly in the Liberty Square. The main stage is just in front of the town hall, and this is where music of different kinds is played on both days. Beer-drinking contests and hop-picking competitions are part of the event. Manual hop-picking and dancing with a mug of beer on the head are great favourites with the audience. Dominating the programme is the promotion of the selected hop grower to the rank of a knight, and his decoration with a hop wreath, the opening of a keg and the picking of the very last hops in the smallest hop field in the world in the same square. There are special programmes on two other stages. The stage for the children is the place where different types of competitions are organized, songs are sung, and games are played with the children taking part and enjoying themselves until the end of the afternoon. They can win prizes as well. In the evening amateur rock groups and one or two rock music stars play here. The second stage is where folk and country music is played.
Breweries from the Czech Republic as well as from abroad present their products at the festival.
Since several events like that are held in this country, we try to make it less formal, and bring together mainly breweries that use the Zatec hops to make their beer. Usually 15 to 20 breweries present here as many as 30 types of beer. An expert beer-tasting which is done here is highly valued by breweries, and is one of 5 beer-tastings whose results are considered directly relevant to the quality of the beer. Taking part in the beer-tasting are 15 breweries presenting 40 samples, and 120 tasters, both laymen and experts. It is done in the Hop Institute by a jury of experts. The results of the beer-tasting are announced on the main stage and in the media on the following day.
The hop-harvest festival includes an exhibition of domestic animals and beer labels, a volleyball competition and an attempt at setting a new record in the length of beer containers joined together. Moreover, in recent years a lot of events have been organized by the Temple of the Hops and Beer, and the Museum of Homolupulus situated in the Hussite bastion where the relics of the oldest beer drinker Lojza Lupulin can be found.