A. Le Coq

1461 ‒ The beginning of beer brewing in Tartu


Tartu (Dorpat, Дерпт, 1893–1917 Jurjev) became the centre of an agricultural region and the passing trade routes as early as in the second half of the first millennium. And people have probably been brewing and drinking beer there for as long as they have been baking bread.

In the 13th century, a settlement spread around the bishop’s stronghold and the German tradesmen and craftsmen of this town cooked and brewed their favourite drink in the brewing kitchens by their homes.

Everything related to beer as the source of income was strictly regulated in towns. The malt had to be ground in the malt mill (Meltsiveski, Malzmühle) that belonged to the town. According to the privileges given to the town first by bishops and later by kings, the right to brew beer for sale belonged for a long time to tradesmen of the Great Guild. Craftsmen of the Small Guild were allowed to brew beer only for their own use. The required order was established in the brewing statutes of the Big Guild (Brauerschragen), which were first mentioned in 1461.

In 1783, Russian Imperial powers ordered the establishment of Tartu Brewing Company (Brauer-Compagnie), which was basically a social welfare body which could have an equal number of members both from the Big and the Small Guilds. These had to be without exception widows who had lost other sources of income, orphans or town citizens who had lost everything by no fault of their own. All others were banned from brewing beer and a brewing house was built for the brewing company on the banks of the Emajõgi River. The beer made there was sold in 30 pubs owned by the town.

This order lasted until the end of the regency, when it was realized that the primitive brewery of the Brewing Company and the quality of beer did not meet the expectations and demand of the townspeople. Better beer was transported to the town from nearby manors and this situation made it hard for the town to collect beer taxes. As a result, the company started leasing its brewing rights to private tradesmen.

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