Brewers are among the Builders of Modern Bulgaria

The Czech Georgi Prošek proved to the world, that he was a man of a daring heart which would not let him watch indifferently the Bulgarians struggle for their National Liberation, that he possessed brains and knowledge which he contributed into the building of the young Kingdom’s economy, and last but not least, that he had the talent to make beer of European quality.

During the Russian-Turkish War Iři Prošek (who later changed his name to Georgi) showed with his deeds, that he cared about the fate of Bulgarians more than many others did. During the epic Shipka battles of August 1877 the 31-years old Georgi who worked then as an engineer for the building company of Count Hirsch, risked his life to sabotage the movement of the Ottoman troops dislocated to the south of the Balkan Mountains, which were sent to support Suleiman Pasha in his attempts to defeat the resistance of the guardians of the pass. Despite of the threats of the Ottoman Army commandment the brave Czech dismantled without any good reason a section of the rail road near Edirne. As a result, the backup for Suleiman Pasha was delayed with nearly 30 hours, which additionally helped the Russian troops and the volunteers’ formations to hold the pass … This action was just “the climax” of the revolutionary “career” of Georgi Prošek. He used to help the Bulgarian revolutionary organisations even before the War – he carried secretly the correspondence of the Bulgarian Revolutionary Central Committee (BRCC), he supplied arms to the rebels, he kept close relationship with  Vasil Levski and some other eminent activists of the BRCC.

After the end of the War Georgi Prošek rolled up sleeves and together with his brother Theodor (who also later changed his name to Bohdan) took active part in most varied spheres of the economic and cultural life in the young Kingdom. The Prošek Brothers initiated a number of projects – a brickyard, a porcelain factory, a kaolin factory, etc. They were the founders of the Royal Printing House“ – the first printing house in Sofia, which printed in the beginning all the newspapers, the journal of the Literary Society (nowadays Bulgarian Academy of Science), the State Gazatte, etc.  Georgi and Bohdan Prošek were also the authors of the conceptual design of the Varna Port, as well as of the plans for the urbanizing of the capital. The brothers took active part also in the cultural and in the scientific life in the country through the society Slavyanska Beseda 1880 established by them, as well as the Bulgarian Engineering and Construction Society which sponsored many Bulgarians studying engineering sciences abroad. After all said so far we can definitely class the two Czechs among the Builders of Modern Bulgaria.

The Royal Brewers

Undoubtedly, the Prošek Brothers left a trail in the economic history of our country mainly with their success in the brewery sphere. Before the Liberation the beer in the Bulgarian lands was brewed and stored in primitive conditions. Georgi and Bohdan were among the first to brew and pack the amber drink in a professional manner and to meet the European quality requirements and standards.

The brothers began their brewery business in a small factory in Knyazhevo – the so called “ale workshop” within the Dimitar Shishkov’s Millhouse, which was founded in the period 1881—1882 by Bohdan Prošek in the ground floor of the building. At the same time the brothers purchased a land parcel in Sofia and built a cellar where they stored the ale made in Knyazhevo. The cellar was named „ Dalbok Zimnik “ and the garden-restaurant which became favourite to the residents of old Sofia, was built in an annex to that, and that restaurant used to serve the famous Prošek ale. The construction of one of the most advanced breweries in the Balkans began in 1881 at 22 San Stefano Street (near the nowadays BNT building). The brewery opened in 1884. Immediately after its opening the Prošek Brewery received the highest recognition for quality – it became a royal court supplier. In the next 4 years the Prošek Brothers introduced a number of technological improvements which made their beer exceptionally popular. An example of the striving of the Czechs for innovations is the fact that the building of the brewery was the first one in Sofia equipped with an electric power station. The second similar station was installed in the Royal Palace. In 1926 the brewery was already at the top place in the country in the production of beer with its yearly output of 24 000 hectoliters. At that time the second and the third were the Macedonia Brewery – Sofia with an output of 15 500 hectoliters and Shumensko Pivo with an output of 16 800 hectoliters. The product range of the Prošek Brewery included light and dark beer, malts and artificial ice.

The Prošek Brewery benefitted from some advanced for its time systems for packing of the produced ale, which were installed in special departments for barrels-filling and bottling. The barrels were filled through a centrifugal pump, an eliminator combine and 4-tubes automatic filler with a maximum output capacity of 80 hectoliters per hour in a special cooling department. The glass bottles were filled in two other departments. Some new automatic systems for filling, rinsing, resin treatment and sealing of the barrels were installed in the brewery in 1918. With regard to the bottling of beer the Prošek Brewery continued to play an important role even after the end of its brewing business. After the opening of the Gorublyane Brewery in 1974 the old brewery was converted into a bottling workshop for the beer brewed in the new factory.

The series of international prizes and recognitions received by the Czechs in the years testify to the quality of the Prošek beer. In 1891 the Prošek beer was awarded an Honorary Diploma and a gold medal on an exhibition in Anvers, Belgium, and in the next year it received the praise of the Czechoslovakian brewers at the exhibition in Prague.

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