Beer Culture

Stories about great beer from the countries that invented it.

Czech Winners at the World Beer Cup

One of the big events of American brewing is called the World Beer Cup, which took place last weekend in San Diego, California. Also known as the “Beer Olympics,” every two years the World Beer Cup hands out gold, silver and bronze medals in 91 beer categories, including one for the so-called “Bohemian-style Pilsener.”

Unlike the strangely named World Series, the World Beer Cup actually claims to have an international scope, noting that it had entries from 56 countries and judges from 18 different lands at the last event in 2006. At least a few Czechs served as judges at the 2008 competition, including Jan Šuráň from Pivo Praha / Pivovarský dům and Honza Kočka from Pivovar Kocour Varnsdorf and

The results are out. Two Czech beers won medals at the World Beer Cup.

For the world’s best “non-alcoholic malt beverage,” a gold medal — first place — to Radegast Birell from the Pilsner Urquell group.

For the world’s best “Bohemian-style Pilsener,” a bronze medal — third place — to Gambrinus Premium from the Pilsner Urquell group.

And that’s it.



If you’re a fan of Czech beer, these results are surprising.

How can I put this? I guess I could say that Gambrinus Premium is not widely thought of as our country’s best brew.

In fact, it’s not even thought of as the Pilsner Urquell group’s best brew. If Gambrinus Premium wins a medal for “Bohemian-style Pilsener” and Pilsner Urquell doesn’t even place, something is off: as you might expect, Pilsner Urquell is the brewery’s flagship, and widely considered the beer of the highest overall quality among high-volume Pilsner-style beers in the Czech lands. By contrast, it would be an understatement to say that Gambrinus has a less-than-glowing reputation here.

Was Pilsner Urquell not entered?

Were no other Czech beers present in San Diego?

Are we supposed to understand that Gambrinus Pilsner actually is the best golden lager from the Czech lands?

(What fools we are! All this time we’ve been drinking rich, luscious lagers from regional producers, when we could have been enjoying Gambrinus!)

So much for Bohemian “Pilsener.” (On that note, how can I trust a competition that claims knowledge over, for example, German brewing styles, but which has trouble using the correct German orthography? Forget the extra E on Pilsner, I’m talking about when the Brewers Association guidelines repeatedly spelled Leipzig’s great sour beer as “Göse” instead of Gose.)

And while Radegast nonalcoholic doesn’t have the same reputation, it’s hard to believe it’s the best such beer in the world when a couple of other Czech nonalcoholic brews taste better: mainly, those from Bernard. SPP, the Czech beer consumers’ organization, seems to agree, awarding Bernard the prize for nonalcoholic beer of the year at their awards ceremony in 2007. Even people who don’t like beer rate Bernard’s nonalcoholic above Radegast.

It’s hard to think much of the awards announcement without knowing more about who was present and who was judging. For now, it gets a big meh.

But I can add this: from Europe, the World Beer Cup does seems a lot like the World Series — another American event that claims a global perspective while reinforcing a widespread opinion of American myopia.

And when I say widespread, I do not mean “widespread in America.” I mean widespread in the world.


Japanese Rats Prefer Czech Beer


Czech Beer in Stockholm


  1. well,Evan, yes, I was there and I was judging both categories.

    But I start with few facts – there were about 130 judges, most of them non Americans. If you look at the numbers, nearly 3 000 beers, 60 countries, several hunderd breweries -yes, it is the biggest event of its kind. And I think to rate the whole event based on mistyping few letters is misleading…

    Ad non alcoholic beverages – we were judging all types together. Second came weizen and third came malt tonic with out fermentation. As far as I know, Bernard non alcoholic was not there. So to start with, you have judge whats avaible. And as you are complaining, there could be someone, let say from Canada saying…”how it is possible that our XX brand did not win?It is definitely better than YY”…

    Ad SPP- yes, the voted the BErnard as the best non alcoholic. But hey, VOTED this beer, they did not judge it. What would you write, if based on their judging came Birrel first?
    You know, I did quite few blind tasting with my readers, comparing let s say desitka – small, big, czech, moravian breweries. And there was always, I mean always, surprise in terms of final result.

    There were several czech breweries listed to send samples of their beers. If they did, I dont know.

    Ad czech lagers – same as above. There are people judging the category, if there were chosen different ones, the results might be different. But this is with every competition. We could start with your book. I think it is great one, covering deeply our liitle czech beer market, but I might disagree with few beer ratings …

    And what about weizen beers? Do you think that Michael Plank weizens are the best? He received several medals. You traveled a lot to BAvaria. What about other brands?…

    What I wrote above does not mean, that I dont agree with you in all topics. I just wanted to put few notes from someone, who was there…

    MAy be one day the European Beer Star will be bigger event. At least american brewers sent samples of their beers last year. And won medals too. And i was judging one round with EBS organizers. They did not seem to be upset wiht WBC competition itself…


  2. Well said, Honza.
    I really don’t believe too much in this international award events, of any kind, be it beer, wine or any other product. The reason, how well each country is represented, who decides what is going to be there and what isn’t. Are there some sort of qualifing rounds, as there are for the football world cup, for example? Or is it just brewers who independently go to present their products?
    That said, I don’t think Gambrinus Premium is the best Golden Lager in the Czech Rep, let alone the world, the same I could say about Radegast Birrel. Or should I say, they are not the ones I like best?
    To me these medals are totally irrelevant. I don’t doubt the transparency of the competition, nor the honesty of the judges. And I could say the same about any sort of ratings, be them in books, websites or specilised press.

  3. No need to revisit how strange the guidelines can be or the need for 91 categories . . .

    But who enters is certainly a factor. Michael Jackson wrote this years ago:

    At least Westmalle Tripel won something this year. The last two competitions it didn’t get off the first table. And judge’s comments included “too bitter” and “not bitter enough.”

  4. Thanks for the note, Honza. I know you agree that the medal for Gambrinus will come as a surprise to many people here. (As did some of the ratings in my book, I’m sure.)

    The European Beer Star is exactly what I’m talking about when I say it seems myopic. In other words, why does the European event calls itself “European” while the American event calls itself a “World” competition? Why couldn’t it be the American Beer Cup and the World Beer Star?

    Another observation: If I have it right, Sweden won as many medals as the Czech Republic. (Good news for me, as I’ll be in Stockholm tomorrow.)

    Stan, I think Westmalle is definitely too bitter and not bitter enough.

    I’m still very meh, but maybe it’s just because I didn’t get to be there… and am jealous beyond measure.

  5. Yes, it will be a surprise to many people, I agree.
    So may be we should do another blind tasting for readers:)
    There were also some gold medals for small, even tiny breweries – Alpine- some 500 hectos year:). And also Hoegaarden took golden medal…

    About the competitions – to make it “fair”, all the judges there would have to judge all the categories. But than it would take few weeks instead few days…

    Dont be jealous, come with us next time:)

  6. I wonder what the marketing people of Prazdroj will do now. Will they deservedly boast about the gold medal for Gambrinus Premium or will the shut up and pretend nothing happened?

    Might be a silly question, but, did you get to taste the beers from Otro Mundo, an Argentine brewery? I know they were at the comptetition.

  7. To Pivero – the PU guys already sent a PR story(and came third in bohemian pilsners, first in non alcoholic)

    I dont know – I have no idea which beers, I mean brands, I was judging. Just categories.
    But I did Latin American Sub Tropical Light LAgers. So if they have such a beer, I might.

  8. Thanks for the answer.
    Otro mundo competed in the Strong Ale category, but they didn’t win anything. There were other craft brewers from Argentina, but I don’t know what they presented, and they didn’t bring home any medals either.

  9. I just swa ratings of Orto Mundo Golden Ale, Strong REd Ale in last issue of BEerAdvocate mag:). The REd ALe did quite well…

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