Beer Culture

Stories about great beer from the countries that invented it.

Tag: Gambrinus

The New Gambrinus 11° Excelent Pale Lager

Beer aficionados tend to go for extremes: the highest-rated and most sought-after beers listed on sites like BeerAdvocate and RateBeer are often extremely high in alcohol, extremely bitter, extremely sour — or some combination of all three.

But your average beer drinker isn’t into extremes. Most people who want a beer — here in Prague and elsewhere — pretty much want “just a beer.” In this country, the pint they reach for most often is Gambrinus, which occupies 25% of the Czech market between its two brands, Gambrinus Světlý and Gambrinus Premium, equivalent to 10° and 12° pale lagers.

Now the country’s most popular brand has expanded its lineup to a full troika with the new Gambrinus Excelent, also a pale lager, albeit at 11°. However, this beer is much more of a departure from its two stablemates than it sounds.

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What We Learned at Pilsner Urquell

When you spend all day at Pilsner Urquell, you learn lots of things.

Above is a shot of senior trade brewmaster Václav Berka in the maltings with the crew from the Discovery Channel. During a full day of shooting, I had time to ask a number of questions about the brewery and how it operates. The malt house is a case in point: it’s not on the standard tour at Pilsner Urquell, so few visitors get to see it. And yet it’s a rather special feature: Pilsner Urquell is the only major Czech brewery which still has its own maltings, buying raw barley from Czech and Moravian farmers and producing just one type of malt which constitutes 100% of the grist of Pilsner Urquell. Any extra malt is sold to Czech homebrewers and small producers, or used to make Kozel.

And while many people assume Pilsner Urquell and Gambrinus to be the same brewery, there are enough differences to consider them as separate entities. To start, the Pilsner Urquell brewhouse is only used for that beer; Gambrinus has its own, separate brewhouse.

More factoids gleaned during a day at Pilsner Urquell:

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Czech Beer in Stockholm

There’s a fair amount of beer in the Swedish capital, and much of it seems to be Czech. Step into a bar in the trendy neighborhood of Södermalm and you’ll probably see Krušovice and Pilsner Urquell as often as anything else. Czech lagers seem to be frequently sold as premium imports here, an in the case of Starobrno’s position at the top of the list at Pet Sounds Bar, a chic offshoot of a legendary local record shop. A few other Czech brands — including Primátor — show up at the many outlets of Systembolaget, the Swedish government’s alcohol monopoly.

And then there’s Stockholm’s Švejk pub.

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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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Czech Beer in Vietnam — Kinda


Czech beer has inspired imitations, reproductions and outright ripoffs around the globe. There’s the world-wide use of the term Pilsner, which is only applied to one beer in the country of its birth. At least two beers from Anheuser-Busch have taken Czech names, only one of which is Budweiser. (Who’s quick enough to tell me the second?)

Way out in Utah there’s the Bohemian Brewery, founded by a family of Czech émigrés, which joins National Bohemia from Maryland, Bohemia from Mexico, and Sagres Bohemia from Portugal. And then there’s this.

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