SABMiller's Czech subsidiary Plzenský Prazdroj has announced that it has taken the decision to license production of its Pilsner Urquell brand in Poland from its Tychy brewery.

The company said the decision only came after long-term testing and preparation of the preconditions for production in the Polish brewery.

"The licensed production is a step in the long-term strategy to build Pilsner Urquell as one of the brands of choice world-wide. As professional tests confirmed, the quality of licensed beer is identical with the original Pilsner. Beer is produced using the same process as in Pilsen," the company said in a statement.

The move to begin the commercial production of Pilsner away from its historical home will be seen as controversial as the brand plays heavily on its heritage as the first Pilsner beer, while the Czech company has long been proud of the fact it is still brewed only in its home town. Indeed in the Czech Republic only beer brewed in Pilsner may carry the name of this famous beer town.

"Licensed production is one of the ways to satisfy the growing demands for the Pilsner Urquell brand world-wide. The quality of the licensed production is the key precondition for the final success of this process. Therefore, the same ingredients are used like in the home brewery in Pilsen, as well as the same unique brewing process. Water used for licensed brewing is treated naturally and has the same qualities as that used in Pilsen. A Pilsen brewmaster is responsible for quality of the licensed production and will be based in Tychy," said Plzenský Prazdroj.

Tychy brewery is part of Kompania Piwowarska brewing company. Like Plzenský Prazdroj, it belongs to SABMiller. The company said that membership in the same brewing group will allow efficient co-ordination and supervision of the licensed production in Poland.

2001 sales of Pilsner Urquell in Poland amounted to 108,000 hl with year-to-year increase by 58%. Poland is currently the Europe's fifth biggest beer market.

"Pilsner Urquell is the flagship brand of the SABMiller portfolio. It belongs among the top international brands today and we are confident that our target to get Pilsner Urquell to the top five world-wide in sales is a realistic target," said Tony van Kralingen, CEO of Plzenský Prazdroj. "We appreciate Pilsner Urquell as a jewel with huge potential and our approach to its licensed production has been managed thoughtfully and professionally, ensuring each detail is covered," added van Kralingen.