Beer Culture

Stories about great beer from the countries that invented it.

Tag: marketing (Page 2 of 3)

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.

Read More

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.)

Read More

Italian Craft Beer as a Gourmet Product


I’ve just about recovered from the eight-day, 2,400-kilometer (1,500-mile) drive through Piedmont and Lombardy, though the impact of seeing northern Italy’s wonderful beer culture firsthand is going to be harder to get over. A case in point: I can’t quite forget the outstanding beer selection at the Eataly supermarket in Turin, pictured above.

Eataly is surely a special case: most supermarkets in Italy don’t carry legends like Thomas Hardy’s Ale, as well as vast selections of local craft brews like Baladin, Grado Plato, Troll and Montegioco. Nonetheless, the fact that a high-end food store like Eataly has a entire craft beer department — as well as an on-site beer restaurant — testifies to how successfully Italian craft brewers have pushed for their products to be seen as an integral part of fine food and drink.

Read More

Heineken Drives On Deep Into the Czech Market


Heineken announced yesterday that it is taking over the four great brands of the Czech Republic’s Drinks Union brewery group (Zlatopramen, Velké Březno, Louny and Kutná Hora), which have an overall market share of 4%. The takeover will make Heineken the third-largest player in the Czech market after SAB-Miller and InBev, bumping Budvar to fourth place.

It’s not exactly a surprise — news of the proposed sale was floated last autumn — but it still caused ripples across the small pond of the beer world: within a few hours I was contacted by friends at CAMRA about the purchase, and EBCU members apparently all got the message via email. Back here at home, Pivní deník reported the story, posing some interesting questions.

To paraphrase: If Heineken decides to close some of its newly acquired breweries in the name of streamlining and efficiency, who will be the first? Louny, which is closest to Krušovice, which already has plenty of unused brewing capacity? Or Kutná Hora, which Drinks Union doesn’t actually own but only rents from the town? Or one of the twinned breweries of Zlatopramen and Velké Březno? Would two breweries in the same town really survive a takeover by such a major international brewing group?

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

Slovak Beers: Steiger and Kaltenecker


After the big breakup known as the Velvet Divorce, Slovak beers were rarely seen in this half of the former Czechoslovakia, and the old Czech prime minister once commented that Slovak brews weren’t even fit for cleaning teeth. So it seems meaningful that Slovak beers have started appearing in Prague recently, from Kaltenecker’s ginger and dark lagers at the Christmas Beer Markets to the bottles of Steiger popping up at Pivovarský klub.

These bottles, however, are not intended for Slovakia’s former federal partners here in the Czech Republic, but instead are designed to entice customers in the German-speaking markets. (Yes, that is a scratch-off bra and panties covering the model on Steiger’s “Premium Helles,” or světlý ležák to you and me. Lest you think that they’re playing upon Slavic stereotypes, not all of the labels feature blondes — there’s at least one redhead.)

Read More

Pilsner Urquell in Germany


Radio Prague has a piece on a story that made headlines here this week: Pilsner Urquell is now cheaper in Germany than in the Czech Republic. I performed the role of the talking head in the story, a complicated mess of pricing, market share and currency fluctuations which ultimately boils down to the following:

Pilsner Urquell is now cheaper in Germany than in the Czech Republic.

Not everything I said made it into the web version, and there were quite a few things I didn’t get to mention before the interview ended. One part that got cut off from my take on the German appreciation for Pilsner Urquell was the fact that German Pilsner-style beers use a place name as an adjective in connection with the word, such as “Bamberger Pilsner,” in homage and in deference to the original.

However, I did get to mention something that has been bugging me for a while: Heineken is being promoted in the Czech Republic at the expense of quality local beers.

Read More

News from Strakonice and Elsewhere


News roundup: my colleague Max Bahnson has a post on a few beers from Žatec, including the new Xantho (above). The label calls it a dark, but to me it seems more like a polotmavý (half-dark), aka jantar (amber), also known as granát (garnet), as well as “something like Vienna lager in the Czech lands.” Max will catch you up on pivo from the town otherwise known as Saaz, though he didn’t get to my current favorite from the brewery, Lučan Premium Tmavé, a chocolatey dark lager that my local corner shop usually stocks for just 8.50 Kč per half-liter, the equivalent of €.34 or about $.50.

Such low prices are on their way out, according to a recent article from Prague Monitor and Hospodářské noviny, who report that smaller Czech breweries are raising their prices (subscription required), following the lead of major brewers last November. Pilsner Urquell remains the most expensive, and if you want to know just how much your publican currently shells out for that half-liter of Urquell, the answer is 18.90 Kč (€.75 / $1.10). Smaller brewers, for all their quality, still charge far less, though last year’s 100% increase in the price of malt, the article says, results in a direct cost hike of about 30% for the breweries. At least some of that will be passed on to consumers in the near term.

Thirst is a powerful force, however, and the article notes that higher prices are unlikely to affect production. In fact, last year Czech brewers hit a record high of 20 million hectoliters (about 12.2 million barrels, if I’ve got the numbers right — feel free to check my math). The article concluded with more good news from the Bernard family brewery: Bernard’s production for January 2008 is up 28%, despite raising prices by 10% last year.

But wait, it gets better.

Read More

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.

Read More

Page 2 of 3

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén