The big news last week: pivni.info (and others) reported that Pivovary Staropramen, the Anheuser-Busch InBev powerhouse in the Czech Republic, was cutting Kelt.
Marketed under the tag line “[the] strength in us,” and said to be “born of the original Celtic recipe,” Kelt was one of many products that played upon the Czech Republic’s affinity for things Gaelic. (If you’ve ever seen the slightly confused, kilt-wearing hibernophiles in Prague, you know what I’m talking about.) Bohemia, after all, is named after the Boii, a Celtic tribe who were resident here in Roman times. The Czechs love beer long time. Why shouldn’t they have their own domestic version of Guinness?
So for about 10 years, they had Kelt, a beer that, head-to-head, often tasted much better than the Guinness you could buy in bottles in central Europe. At less than half the price, and that was for a full half-liter portion of Kelt, versus a 330-milliliter bottle of Ireland’s black blood.
Pay no attention to the fact that I completely ignored Kelt when I wrote about the arrival of Primátor’s excellent Stout: I actually thought it was pretty good. It seemed that others did as well, but recently interest has fallen: the beer achieved its greatest volume of sales in 2004.
The money quote from Staropramen: “We see greater potential in our other brands.”
Though production of Kelt was finished this spring (and the beer has already been de-listed from Pivovary Staropramen’s web page), the beer is still available in shops, and should be around for a while. The bottle I bought today is labeled “Good until October 23, 2009.”
I usually found it to be pretty okay, with a nice roasted barley note, though kind of thin in the mouth. Was that due to the ingredients?
Let your eye fall on “maltózový sirup,” meaning “maltose syrup” and probably made from corn, which is listed as Kelt’s second ingredient after water. The third ingredient is roasted barley, followed by “Czech” barley malt, meaning Pilsner malt, and caramel malt, then hop extract and nitrogen.
Not exactly a confidence-building list, but I would say that the beer itself transcended the sum of its parts. You could often find Kelt in crappy supermarkets that didn’t have a great beer selection. You could find it in pubs that otherwise only served Staropramen. It was at least something different, and yet affordable, that you could pick up when the only other options were boring (or bad) pale lagers. I often found myself feeling grateful to Kelt for just those reasons. Like Staropramen’s Millennium, later known as Granát, it probably helped break ground for other, better beers to follow.
Godspeed, Kelt. I’m raising a glass of Primátor Stout to you tonight.