Today is the birthday of Martin Stelzer (January 30, 1815-August 3, 1894). Stelzer was an architect, probably from Germany, who built a number of homes in Plzeň, Czech Republic, such as “the old (small) Synagogue in Pilsen, the Little Theatre (formerly on Goethe Street) and a stone Saxon bridge in the suburbs of Roudná which has one rare feature, a sweep middle.” He was also hired by the local Burghers (or citizens) to build the town brewery, which today is known as the Pilsner Urquell brewery. He is also believed to have hired their first brewmaster, Josef Groll.
This biography is from the Pilsner Urquell website:
When it comes to the founding of Pilsner Urquell, Martin Stelzer remains one of the most important figures, though he is also one of the most misunderstood.
Often mischaracterized as a brewer, Martin Stelzer was the most famous builder in nineteenth-century Plzen — something like the unofficial town architect. Born in 1815, Stelzer had constructed more than two hundred buildings in Plzen by the time of his death in 1894, including such important sites as Old Synagogue of 1859 and the Small Theater of 1869.
When he was first hired to create the new town brewery in 1839, however, Stelzer was just 24 years old — and, most importantly, he had never built a brewery of any kind. (Later, he would be seen as something of an expert on the subject.) One special demand: the new brewery was supposed to be a cold-fermentation or lager brewery, something that did not exist in Plzen at the time. To familiarize himself with the requirements of the project, Stelzer traveled to Bavaria in December of 1839, visiting several breweries there.
A common rumor holds that Stelzer befriended Josef Groll, the first brewmaster of Pilsner Urquell, during this trip, or even that Stelzer brought Groll back to Plzen with him. However, no confirmation of this appears to have been published during Stelzer’s lifetime. It certainly seems possible that the two were friends, however, given the closeness of their age: the original brewmaster was less than a year and a half older than the architect.
In addition to directing the expansion of the Burghers’ Brewery in 1849 and 1852, as well as the construction of a new fermentation room in 1856, Stelzer designed and built the brewery’s enlarged cooperage in 1870. Stelzer’s other projects included the next-door Gambrinus brewery in 1869 and the Dobřany town brewery in 1873. He remains part of everyday lore in Plzen today, having given his first name to the street Martinská in central Plzen as early as 1857.
Local businessmen and tavern owners in Pilsen committed to raise funds and build a new brewery, to be called Burghers’ (Citizens’) Brewery. A leading architect, Martin Stelzer, was hired to design the brewery and he toured Europe and Britain to study modern breweries that used the new technologies of the Industrial Revolution—pure yeast strains, steam power, and artificial refrigeration—to make beer.
He returned to Pilsen to design a brewery on a site in the Bubenc district with a plentiful supply of soft water and sandstone foundations where deep cellars could be dug to store or “lager” beer. He also brought with him from Bavaria a brewer called Josef Groll who had the skills to make the new cold-fermented style of beer. See groll, josef. The brewery was built rapidly and its first batch of beer was unveiled at the Martinmas Fair on November 11, 1842. The beer astonished and delighted the people of Pilsen. It was a golden beer, the first truly pale beer ever seen in central Europe, for the lager beers brewed in Bavaria were a deep russet/brown in color as a result of barley malt being kilned or gently roasted over wood fires. A legend in Pilsen says the wrong type of malt was delivered to the brewery by mistake but this seems fanciful. It’s more likely that Martin Stelzer brought back from England a malt kiln indirectly fired by coke rather than directly fired by wood. This type of kiln that was used to make pale malt, the basis of the new style of beer brewed in England called pale ale. A model of a kiln in the Pilsen museum of brewing supports this theory.
And here’s an account from Food Reference:
At the start of the nineteenth century, the quality of beer everywhere was often poor and standards varied wildly. This prompted some of the Plzen’s conscientious and passionate brewers to band together to find a way of producing a beer of a superior and more consistent quality.
Their first decision was one of their finest, to appoint a young architect called Martin Stelzer. Traveling far and wide to study the best of brewery design he returned to Plzen with plans for the most modern brewery of the age.
He chose a site on the banks of the city‘s Radbuza River, which offered a number of natural advantages – sandstone rock for the easy carving of large tunnels for cold storage, and aquifers supplying the soft water which would one day help make Plzen’s finest beer so distinctive.
But, most importantly, Martin Stelzer also discovered a brewmaster who would change the way that beer was brewed forever: a young Bavarian called Josef Groll.
The original gate, which still stands at the brewery.
The brewery today.