Beer Culture

Stories about great beer from the countries that invented it.

Tag: Saaz

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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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.

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