If you want to figure out what’s happening — or not happening — with Czech beer, it might help to look at how some of the other guys do it. Take, for example, the Punk IPA from Scotland’s BrewDog.
But I don’t mean the beer itself. I just mean the packaging.
In contrast to most Czech beer labels, the Punk IPA label goes almost all the way around the 330-ml bottle, and as such it has room for a lot of information. (Also in contrast to most Czech beer labels: it contains a lot of information.)
Some of this will sound familiar to those who remember the thoughts on Pivovar Kocour Varnsdorf post which disappeared down the server wormhole. Indeed, many aspects of the BrewDog packaging are similar to Kocour’s, such as the use of a logo — “a symbol or small design adopted by an organization to identify its products” — beyond the brewery’s name. In Kocour’s case, it’s a stylized K that looks like a tomcat.
Similarly, BrewDog has its howling dog.
I can’t recall any Czech craft brewer beyond Kocour that has a functioning logo. Avar, maybe? (By contrast, think of Heineken. A certain shade of green and a red star, right?)
Another point from the Kocour post was “never miss a chance to talk about your beer.” Even the Punk IPA’s crown cap makes use of available space — you’ve got the brand name and the logo on top, with phrase “Aberdeenshire’s Mega Microbrewery” written around the side.
Other parts of the label tell us the brewers, Martin Dickie and James Watt, as well as “the BrewDog Promise,” which includes putting “no preservatives, additives or other junk in your beer.” This is a lot of information, and it represents a concept that is completely absent in Czech beer marketing: start a conversation with your consumers. This label even suggests that such communication could possibly go both ways: “Let us know what you think of Punk IPA: firstname.lastname@example.org.”
However, there are two suggestions from the Kocour post that the Punk IPA packaging doesn’t follow. The first is to tell consumers more about the ingredients and how you used them. We don’t know what kind of hops were used in the Punk IPA (Fuggles? Kent Goldings? Styrian Goldings?) and we aren’t told what kind of malt (Maris Otter? Weyermann?). Nor do most Czech brewers do this, though they certainly should.
The second aspect from the Kocour post that is missing here: don’t bullshit us. In fact, the BrewDog label contains a massive shovelful of BS, though in this case the bull comes off as the kind of funny and harmless joshing between good friends: “It is quite doubtful that you have the taste or sophistication to appreciate the depth, character and quality of this premium craft brewed beer.” (Really? Try me, ace.)
The overall impression, though, is really positive: the design, like it or hate it, is not an afterthought, as it often seems with most Czech beer packaging. Much like the Kocour typeface, BrewDog’s stencil-like block caps suggests street smarts and punk rock, not a bad image for an upstart brewery, and perfectly in line with a beer BrewDog calls “aggressive” and “post modern.” If this beer were made by a Czech brewer, it would probably have a dead baroness on the label and a name written out in some kind of ridiculous Baroque script.
And for the beer itself: it’s really very good, quite hoppy, nicely bitter in the finish, though not nearly as aggressive as it claims. N’est pas gourmand qui veut, as the man said, and the same holds true for punks.