Beer Culture

Stories about great beer from the countries that invented it.

Category: News and Rumors (Page 5 of 8)

Klostermann Amber Lager

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.

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Czech Beer Fest Update

Max Bahnson has an interesting post about the opening ceremonies and the first day at the Czech Beer Festival, along with some good insight and opinions on what works and what doesn’t. Please read.

From where I sat, the first day seemed to go very well, especially given the scale of the event and the fact that this year’s is the first. There were some great beers that are never seen on draft in Prague. There was a friendly, festive atmosphere with lots of catching up. Honza Kočka from Pivovar Kocour Varnsdorf dropped by. Tomáš Erlich from SPP showed up with friends from Poland’s Bractwo Piwne (still in town from the recent Days of Polish Beer at Pivovarský klub).

The most rewarding thing? To my eyes, the beers from small producers were by far the most popular.

But it turned out I wasn’t the only one who thought so. The next morning, I got a call from the festival organizers.

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30 Great Brews: The Czech Beer Festival Beer List

A couple of days ago, we wondered out loud what beers would be present at the first annual Czech Beer Festival, which takes place 23 May–1 June 2008. As we asked then,

Will Janáček serve its Comenius? Will Jihlava offer Jihlavský Grand? Or will it all be 10° and 12° světlý ležák, the pale lagers that dominate 95% of all local consumption?

We now have the answers: Yes, Yes, and No!

Color us at least slightly impressed: We’ve just received the finalized beer list from the organizers and not only are Jihlavský Grand and Comenius ready to be tapped, but several other great brews from small producers should also be waiting for you over at the Výstaviště exhibition grounds. (We also have a 3-D map diagram thingy you can print up to help plan your session.)

Here are the beers that are supposed to be there, organized by tent and/or brewing group.

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Days of Polish Beer in Prague

Other than industrial juggernauts like Stella Artois and Heineken, imported beers are not often seen in the Czech lands, with very few brews arriving from across the border to the north. Some non-spectacular Polish beers have previously shown up in bottles. But this week, Pivovarský dum is holding the Days of Polish Beer, with four brews from Poland specially chosen and brought in by the Bractwo Piwne, in conjunction with SPP, their cousins in the European Beer Consumers Union.

At the introductory event yesterday afternoon, a cellar full of Czech beer fans got ask questions about Polish beer culture (including Grodziskie) and try the brews, most of which will be around for the rest of this week. Here’s what’s on tap.

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More on the Czech Beer Festival

In just nine days, the first annual Czech Beer Festival takes its shot at establishing a springtime Oktoberfest in Bohemia. Not only are the first advertisements starting to show up, but I’ve just received confirmation that the beer list has expanded well beyond Pilsner Urquell, Budvar and Staropramen. In fact, it seems a slew of smaller producers will be represented.

According to the organizers, the beers on tap now include 16 brands. First, the usual suspects:

  • Budvar
  • Pilsner Urquell (SABMiller)
  • Kozel (SABMiller)
  • Gambrinus (SABMiller)
  • Radegast (SABMiller)
  • Staropramen (InBev)
  • Ostravar (InBev)
  • Braník (InBev)

That leaves us with nine smaller producers, some of which are rather unusual picks. (As in there’s no Bernard.) Witness the fitness:

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More Czech Beer News and Rumors

It’s the start of the travel season, and that means I’ve been on deadline for a handful of stories. Consequently, my thoughts are fairly well fragmented at this point. Here are some of the many beery notes that are bouncing around my cranium.

Yesterday I saw the first poster (at a bus stop) for the Czech Beer Festival. Considering the starting pistol is set to go off in just 10 days, you’d think there would be a wee bit more coverage — is the word getting out? Someone, at least, should follow-up on the fact that they told us they’re brewing and serving a beer for dogs.

I recently tried another Lučan Premium Tmavé, a once-great dark beer from Žatec, and found that it was nowhere near as dark — nor as flavorful — as it was in my earlier tasting notes. Max Bahnson came to a similar conclusion about the whole line of Žatec beers at Pivní filosof. It reminds me of how different beer (and beer writing) is from wine, given beer’s ephemeral nature: a great beer can become mediocre with the next batch, but a great wine often seems more permanent, or at least more permanently great, because everyone knows you’re talking about (at least if it were beer) the 2007 Lučan Premium Tmavé, not every Lučan beer ever made. This is different in the case of beers marked with a vintage, but how many of those are there, anyway?

I’m not sure if it had anything to do with our anti-Heineken email campaign (more on this later), but there’s clearly much less Heineken on display at my local Albert supermarket: it used to take up about a meter of shelf space, plus several grab-a-beer cases on the floor. Now it takes up half a meter of shelf space and that’s it. Did someone hear us?

In related news, I had a Starobrno Medium (owned by Heineken) yesterday and thought it was great. Not craft beer, but a good factory-made lager by any measure. So perhaps foreign ownership of local beers is not the end of the world — aside from the repatriation of profits, that is.

To judge by numerous recent tastings, Primátor’s Weizenbier is currently firing on all cylinders. Just in time for summer…

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The Historical Perspective on Saaz Hops

Stan Hieronymus has a note on the first use of Žatecký chmel (Saaz hops) as a protected designation of origin. According to a press release from the Hop Growers Union of the Czech Republic, the 2007-2008 vintage is the first hop harvest to use the term that is now protected by European Union law, the first such protection for a hop varietal in the EU.

Of course, several types of beer have protected designation of origin status within the EU, the most important of which (in Czech terms) is “Budějovické pivo.” I’ve written before about an earlier push for a protected name status on Pilsner, which failed.

Just to provide a little historical background, I wanted to mention that there was already a push for the use of “Žatecký chmel” as the correct term for Saaz hops way back in 1922, a move which caused quite a bit of controversy at the time. In fact, if you squint just a little, the use of that term can be seen as one of the many small events that brought about World War II.

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Heineken’s Czech Takeover OKed

The news yesterday was that Czech regulators have given a big green light to Heineken’s takeover of the four Drinks Union breweries (Zlatopramen, Louny, Velké Březno and Kutná Hora). According to Reuters, the Czech anti-monopoly office has no problem whatsoever with the deal.

There’s a great quote at the end of the story: “The office came to the conclusion that the merger will not result into a substantial breach of competition given a relatively low market share of both competitors and the existence of significant competitors.”

In other words, “Since SABMiller already has 49% of the market, what difference does it make?”

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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.

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Japanese Rats Prefer Czech Beer


Back to Czech topics, as the Prague Daily Monitor has an interesting-slash-weird story today, translated from the local newspaper Hospodářské noviny, on “drinkability” and Czech beer (subscription required). You have to puzzle your way through a confused plot before you get to the punch line:

“Japanese researchers once presented laboratory rats with a bowl containing water and another with Czech beer. ‘First of all, the rats went for the beer. But when the scientists replaced the Czech beer with a foreign brand, the rats preferred water,'” said a scientist at the Czech Research Institute of Malting and Brewing.

That’s right. According to Czech scientists, Japanese rats prefer Czech beer to water, though they prefer water to foreign beers. (Many thanks to OptaDesign for the illustration.)

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