AUTHOR’S NOTE: It now appears that Heineken did not apply for the “Czech Beer” designation for its own brew, but rather on the part of Krušovice. This post has been corrected.
Today’s Prague Daily Monitor has a translation of a story from the Czech newspaper Hospodářské Noviny on the first beers to use the České Pivo (“Czech Beer”) label. Officially approved by the EU last autumn, the label is a mark of Protected Geographical Indication that indicates minimal levels of local products, traditional methods of production, and the beer’s place of origin.
And the first brand listed in the story is Heineken.
That is to say that Heineken, virtually synonymous with Holland, is said to be among the first brewers to apply for and use the official EU designation of “Czech Beer.” While an earlier version of this post assumed that Czech-brewed Heineken would qualify as “Czech Beer,” it now appears that Heineken has only applied on behalf of its Krušovice subsidiary. However, problems with the designation remain.
When we first reported this story, Honza Kočka commented that his brewery, Kocour, apparently wouldn’t qualify for the designation, despite traditional methods of production and Czech ingredients, simply because its location — inside the Czech Republic but very close to the country’s northern border — lay outside the area described by the regulations.
If my reading of the “Czech Beer” regulations is correct, a highly hopped pale lager with more than the upper limit of 45 EBC units of bitterness will not qualify for the “Czech Beer” label, no matter where it is made.
Also interesting: the designation will include a range of beers from 2.6% to 6% alcohol by volume. Meaning if a beer has 6.5% alcohol, it no longer qualifies to call itself “Czech Beer,” despite having 100% Czech ingredients.
However, the beers that do qualify as “Czech Beer” don’t technically have to use 100% Czech ingredients — nothing close to it. Take wonderful Czech Saaz hops, for example, which might be considered a key element of Czech beer. The regulations state:
The minimum quantity of Czech hops or products processed from them is 30 % for pale lagers and at least 15 % for other types of beer.
That is to say: if a pale lager uses 30% Czech hops and 70% Chinese hops, it can still be “Czech Beer.”
Of course, Krušovice and other famous dark lagers can get by with up to 85% Chinese hops and still call themselves “Czech Beer.”
If there was any doubt about the efficacy of the label before, it is now clear exactly how much sense it makes.
By all means, have a Czech beer. But there’s no need to look for the “Czech Beer” label to do so.