Beer Culture

Stories about great beer from the countries that invented it.

Tag: Velké Březno

Heineken’s Czech Takeover OKed

The news yesterday was that Czech regulators have given a big green light to Heineken’s takeover of the four Drinks Union breweries (Zlatopramen, Louny, Velké Březno and Kutná Hora). According to Reuters, the Czech anti-monopoly office has no problem whatsoever with the deal.

There’s a great quote at the end of the story: “The office came to the conclusion that the merger will not result into a substantial breach of competition given a relatively low market share of both competitors and the existence of significant competitors.”

In other words, “Since SABMiller already has 49% of the market, what difference does it make?”

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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?

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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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Březňák Doppel-Doppel Bock


Otherwise known as Březňák, Pivovar Velké Březno has one of the strangest and most tragic histories in the Czech lands. Located in the Czech-German border region that was once called the Sudetenland, for most of its early existence the brewery had a pronouncedly German clientele. Now, returning to its roots, the brewery has launched an excellent new beer for the German market: the so-called Doppel-Doppel Bock.

Of course, it’s never quite that simple when the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia and the Holocaust are concerned, and Březňák is so weirdly mixed up in the situation that as you hear the story it’s hard to remember which level of irony you’ve reached. For example, this brewery proudly supplied beer to Rommel’s Afrikakorps throughout the war. But the man who posed for the picture on the label, Victor Cibich, aka Zippich — the very image of a once-Nazi brewery — was actually a German-speaking Czech Jew. And yes, it gets even weirder from there.

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