The first signs of beer in Europe are from about 800BC in Bavaria, Germany. But if you made a list concerning the first formal breweries to begin operating in Central Europe, you would see the Weihenstephan Brewery near the top.
In the mid-11th century, the brewery began making what would become traditional wheat beers coming from the area. Heading south, the first indications of brewing here in Bohemia are from 993 AD in Monastery Brevnov right here in Prague, which today is accessible as an innovative craft brewery within the city!
As rights to brewing beer spread throughout different towns as time went on (to the Middle Ages), so rose the likelihood of finding your average household to be brewing beer right in their cellar. It wasn’t because anyone was particularly passionate about brewing; instead, the fermentation of water while making beer cleared it of a lot of dangerous bacteria. And during a time when the normal water source could be incredibly unhygienic, this was an advantageous way to have a clean drinking source coupled with the nutrition added to the beer by the grains.
Most famously monasteries were led to be self-sustainable, and so they also brewed their own beer (and are typically found to be some of the first brewers throughout European brewing history). And despite varying brewing styles, everyone was joined together in the spirit of constantly trying to improve their local beer.
During hot summer months, beer was more prone to bacterial infection. Since it could be difficult to figure out if the haziness within your beer was just from unfiltered grains or viral bacteria ready to make you sick, a law came about declaring that beer could only be brewed through the cooler months of the year. It was common in Bavaria to store the beer in stone cellars full of ice (lager meaning storage in German), where beer did not get infected by bacteria.
Ultimately the Industrial Revolution brought about the biggest innovation in beer. Thanks to steam power, people could travel faster and more frequently, being able to see how beer is made in other places. Bavarian brewer Gabriel Sedlmayr II (from the Spaten Brewery) learned techniques from England and returned home to share their style of Pale Ale brewing techniques.
A year later, the Vienna-style lager, an amber beer that gained incredible acclaim, helped prepare Central Europe for the introduction of the very first golden lager in 1842. It was then that Josef Groll presented the first Pilsner Urquell, the very first golden lager in the world. This lager was light in colour, clear, crisp and straight away an instant success. No wonder over 600 breweries switched over to brewing light lagers within just a 10 year period!