About half a year back, we had a tasting of beers from Pivovar Strakonice, a complete run-down of the brewery’s lineup in the cellar of Pivovarský klub.
Afterwards, a few of us — ah, who am I kidding? It was just me and Max Bahnson — started grousing about the event, especially regarding the company’s marketing. Later, we were told that our comments had been reported to the directors of the brewery.
Six months later, it almost looks like they listened.
At the time, our big complaints about Strakonice beers were the following:
1) The brewery had no clear brand identity. Some beers were labelled “Strakonice,” some were labelled “Dudák,” and some “Nektar,” with one oddball (the 10° pale lager) not bearing any of those names. Our question: how can you hope to build brand loyalty when the consumer doesn’t know what brand it is he’s buying?
2) Unpasteurized beers are big now: Bernard and Svijany, for example, are basing entire advertising campaigns on the fact that their beers do not undergo pasteurization. And even though all of Strakonice’s beers are unpasteurized (as we found out once we asked), somehow the brewery had forgot to put that on the label.
3) The brewery was producing three virtually indistinguishable pale lagers at 10°, 11° and 12°. And while polotmavé pivo — “half-dark” or amber, our vestigial descendant of Anton Dreher’s legendary Vienna lager — is one of four brewing trends in the Czech Republic, Strakonice didn’t offer one. How hard would it be to put out an amber?
Well, we got the answer to that question with the arrival of the brewery’s new Klostermann polotmavý ležák (half-dark lager), named after the bilingual Czech author Karel Klostermann, a resident of the area around Strakonice and nearby Písek. Since I’m spending a lot of time in the area this summer, I stopped by last week to check things out.
Coming in with 5.1% alcohol, Klostermann pours a beautiful clear amber with a light tan head. The nose is malty and nutty; the body is surprisingly light for a malty beer, and there are some lovely semi-sweet maple notes before the slightly bitter finish.
While it might not be the country’s best amber, it strikes me as an ideal brew for this summer. And once again, it’s proof that state- (or city-) owned breweries can innovate: much like Pivovar Primátor and the city of Náchod, Pivovar Strakonice is apparently still owned by the city of Strakonice.
In fact, Klostermann answers two of our marketing complaints in one swoop. Not only is it a polotmavé, but the label proudly says that this it is also nepasterované pivo.
All that we need is for the label to actually say Pivovar Strakonice on it and we’ll have a hat trick.