Beer Culture

Stories about great beer from the countries that invented it.

Tag: Anheuser-Busch

Heineken in Talks to Buy Staropramen


The St. Louis Business Journal is reporting that Anheuser-Busch InBev is negotiating with Heineken to sell its Czech brands to the Dutch brewer. The paper places Staropramen’s valuation between $255 million and $306 million.

We’ve seen this before. Almost exactly a year ago, Heineken’s takeover of the Czech Drinks Union brands was given the green light. That move pushed Heineken into third place on the Czech market, just ahead of the legendary Budweiser Budvar, but still lower than Heineken’s traditional market share. At the time, Ron Pattinson sagely noted that Heineken doesn’t enter a market to take third place.

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More from Prague’s Salesian Beer Museum


Here are a few more photos from Prague’s Salesian Beer Museum, an “accidental” collection of more than 2,000 bottles, 4,000 beermats and the weird, beer-themed collectibles known as breweriana, many of which come from the Czech lands.

Looking through the shelves, I was struck by how much evidence these artifacts provide for the way people here once lived, as well as a contrast to the way we live now. One of the most interesting items in the collection is the advertising placard (above) for the Měšťanský pivovar na Královských Vinohradech, the brewery in the Vinohrady neighborhood which ran from 1893 to 1943, along with scores of other beer makers once working in the Czech capital. In a sign of changing priorities, the Vinohrady brewery has recently been converted into luxury apartments.

So we don’t need historic breweries — we need plush digs. But our old beer culture had at least one advantage: much better graphic design, as witnessed by the museum’s collection of unusual beermats.

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Budweiser Budvar Privatization News


There’s more news in the Budvar privatization saga: the Czech government’s tender for an adviser is now complete, with the contract going to the Prague law firm of Kříž & Bělina, as the Prague Daily Monitor reported yesterday, via Hospodářské noviny (subscription required). Kříž & Bělina will help the Czech government take the initial step toward privatization, that of turning Budvar into a joint-stock company.

Though the path forward remains unclear, we now know four of the parties stumbling down it: the Czech government, Budvar, Kříž & Bělina and, inevitably, Anheuser-Busch, described in the article as “considered the most serious bidder in the privatisation.” The article also takes a stab in the dark at Budvar’s worth, suggesting 1 billion dollars or perhaps even 1 billion euros.

Why so much? Well, it’s not what Budvar sells, currently just 1.25 million hectoliters of high-grade lager per year. It’s what Budvar’s regional rights to the name Budweiser might keep Anheuser-Busch from selling.

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Czech Beer and Protected Names


Here’s an interesting bit from the Czech news wires: an article at notes that the term “Czech beer” is moving closer to protected name status. Much like the AOCs and DOCs of the wine world, the special status will mean that brewers in the EU can only use the term “české pivo” if the beer is, in fact, brewed in the Czech Republic, as well as if it meets certain requirements of ingredients and quality.

If the application is successful, “české pivo” will join 10 other Czech geographically protected names in the EU, including “žatecký chmel” (“Saaz hops”). The big one that’s missing outside the country itself (barring “Budweiser,” of course), is “Pilsner,” used all over the world for widely different beers of varying ingredients and varying quality, even though it originally meant a certain style of beer from a certain place: a clear golden lager from the west Bohemian town of Plzeň, known as Pilsen in German. I can’t remember how many times I’ve heard people say it’s too bad the Czechs didn’t retain control over the name.

Ah, but they tried.

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The Truth About Budvar


The great British beer writer Roger Protz has posted an update on the situation at Budvar on his blog. This echoes the news about Budvar that was posted here, but with more insight and opinion. Please read it. Now.

To me, Roger’s post shows Budvar’s firm place in the heart of beer fans outside of the Czech Republic, probably due to the easy-to-recognize David vs. Goliath story line in Budvar’s fight with America’s Anheuser-Busch over the name Budweiser. I do think that foreign beer lovers’ emotional attachment to Budvar sometimes tends to cloud their our judgment: it’s as if we are certain Anheuser-Busch is pure evil, therefore Budvar, as its opponent, must be perfectly righteous. Of course, this line of thinking would make sense only in a comic book — in real life, situations are generally more nuanced.

Roger’s been a great help to me personally, and I do agree with his basic premise. But assuming you’ve read the post, I’ll pick a few bones with it in order to present what I think is the truth about Budvar as it appears on the ground here in its home country.

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Budvar Sale Update


There’s a new twist in the Budvar sale story. As most readers of these pages are probably already well aware, Budějovický Budvar (pictured above) is the last brewery to remain Czech national property and its privatization seems to be proposed about every two years. Due to Budvar’s claim to the name Budweiser and its numerous ongoing legal battles with Anheuser-Busch on the issue, many argue that Budvar should not ever be privatized, lest it be bought by the maker of American Budweiser and shuttered — or worse, forced to brew bad beer.

Last month I mentioned that the current Czech government has announced a tender for its legal advisor in the sale of Budvar — a first step toward privatization. Yesterday, Forbes reported that the proposed sale of Budvar will not take place before the current government leaves office in 2010, contrary to what was suggested in December.

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Help Wanted: Selling Budvar


A few months ago, a friend mentioned that when he was just starting out as a young lawyer in the mid-1990s, he did some work at a law firm here in Prague. One of his projects back then was the contract for a possible sale of Budějovický Budvar to Anheuser-Busch.

That sale never went through, of course, and Budvar and Anheuser-Busch maintain a “frenemy” relationship today, entering into distribution deals for Budvar (only under its “Czechvar” pseudonym) in the United States while continuing international legal battles over the name “Budweiser.”

But talk of Budvar’s sale (subscription required) has returned, as the Prague Daily Monitor news desk reports, via Hospodářské noviny.

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