Beer Culture

Stories about great beer from the countries that invented it.

Tag: Primátor

Czech Beer Festival and More


On Friday, the Czech Beer Festival kicked off at Letňany exhibition grounds (last year’s version is pictured above). It’s fair to say that there was some chaos at the opening: when Velký Al from Fuggled and I arrived a half hour after things got started at 3 p.m., there was only one beer available on tap. Tent #6, which was supposed to have Kout and other indies, had nothing going. Nor did any other tent besides #3. It sounds impossible: at a beer festival, beer fans were going thirsty.

But within an hour or so, the situation righted itself. Several great beers from Náchod’s Pivovar Primátor started flowing, including the brewery’s new 11° pale lager. Within a short while we were even sampling Kout na Šumavě 10°, a desítka with as much character as most 12° beers in these parts.

It’s very different from last year’s festival in that there is no entry fee. Most beers are 40 crowns, though this year the strong beers, like Jihlava’s 18° Jihlavský Grand, are served in .3-liter glasses, which makes far more sense than serving them by the pint. You definitely should check it out before the festival closes on May 31.

But there’s more.

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While You Were Out: The Return of Herold’s Wheat Beer

You hit the road for a few days of peace and solitude in South Bohemia and what happens? A great beer that has been AWOL for years suddenly returns to the scene.

The brew in question is the very nice wheat beer from Pivovar Herold, a brewery I pass each time I drive down to my wife’s family’s summer home in Písek. As I’ve mentioned before, the history of the brewery in the town of Březnice is covered in Ludvík Fürst’s monograph “Jak se u nás vařilo pivo” (or “How we used to brew beer”). In that book, Fürst quotes documents mentioning the production of wheat beer at Březnice in the sixteenth century. When Herold reintroduced its modern wheat beers in 2002, they were the only Czech wheat beers available in bottles at the time.

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The SPP Czech Beer Awards: Budvar’s Tolar Wins Brewmaster of the Year

On Wednesday, November 19, the Sdružení přátel piva held its annual awards ceremony for the greatest beers, breweries, and the best brewmaster in the Czech Republic.

Often rendered in English as the Union of Friends of Beer, the SPP is the Czech beer consumers’ organization, a counterpart to the Campaign for Real Ale and other fellow members of the European Beer Consumers Union, similarly working to promote quality beer and preserve local beer traditions. Though there are many beer awards in the lager-loving Czech Republic, the SPP awards are among the most prestigious and most anticipated such ceremonies on the Czech beer calendar.

The awards, handed out this year inside the cozy beer hall on the Budweiser Budvar brewery grounds, went to the following:

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Lagerland’s First Real Stout: Primátor Stout

The Czech Republic isn’t home to a terribly trendy beer culture: as I mentioned to Andrea Turco at Cronache di Birra, the very strong lager traditions here make the Czech palate quite traditional, even inflexible.

For years, the most innovative Czech brewery has been Pivovar Primátor, currently the property of the city of Náchod, which earned its title by putting out three very good strong lagers and one of the first widely distributed Hefeweizens, followed by a decent take on a pale ale. Though the newer (and much smaller) Pivovar Kocour is trying even more new things, Primátor still puts out the most interesting beers in Prague supermarkets. And as of last month, the Náchod city beer maker is offering a further innovation: the country’s first real stout.

To skip to the chase: it’s excellent. And when you consider that East Bohemia is fairly removed from the traditional sources of stout in London and Dublin, you’d have to call it outstanding.

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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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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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Náchod’s Pivovar Primátor


Just a quick post on the wonderful city-owned Pivovar Primátor, which I mentioned a couple of days ago in my contrarian take on Budvar as a good example of an innovative brewery outside the private sector. Last night Primátor held a tasting at Prague’s Pivovarský klub, showing off its full line of beers (pictured above with deservedly happy brewmaster Pavel Kořínek). Although all the beers were worth trying before, last night at least a couple gave the impression of having improved considerably.

To start, Primátor’s excellent 13° polotmavý (5.5% ABV) seemed much sweeter and more richly caramel-flavored than I remembered, well-worth its award for SPP’s semi-dark beer of the year for 2006.

And Primátor’s unusual strong lager, the 24° Double (10.5% ABV), seemed to have a fuller, stickier mouthfeel than before, followed by more lush notes of maple syrup, toasty malt and with a bright, peppermint-like hoppy spike in the finish. This is a deep amber lager, brewed from a mix of Bavarian and caramel malt and a small wheat adjunct, and it’s recommended as much as an ingredient in the kitchen as a beverage on the table. (A slice of bůček, or pork belly, glazed with 24° Double could be an absolute dream.) I’m not sure I prefer it to Březňák’s Doppel-Doppel-Bock, but it’s close.

As he introduced the beers, Mr. Kořínek explained a bit more about the offerings from the brewery.

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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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