Saturday, October 07, 2006

Budvar wersus ze Amerikan Budweiser

Soon after I arrived in Germany, I started a beer tasting notebook, to keep track of which beers I had already tried, what I thought they were made of and so on. Lost it at a pub. So I'll have to start over. Ts'ok.

One beer I will never forget is the Czech Budweiser. It is a true, whole Saaz hopped lager, clean and perfect and Saazy. I was so amazed by this beer, that I started to wonder about the trademark debates I had heard about, and thought I would read up.

The two companies, American Anhauser-Busch and Czech Budvar, have been battling over trademark issues for a long time. You have in one corner the biggest beer producer in the world, trying to sell his wares in markets where "Budweiser" means Czech premium lager. They actually agreed in a trade fair in 1911 that AB wouldn't sell in Europe, and Budvar wouldn't sell north of Panama. Of course, AB could not stay out of Europe forever, and thus came conflict.

In the other corner you have Budvar. The Czech town of Ceske Budejovice, "Budweis" auf Deutsch, has been brewing beer since 1260. About 500 years before the Declaration of Independance. Just down the road is Plzen, the town which developed the now world famous Pilsner beer style.

So far this battle has actually proven positive for Budvar. They have not sold out to the American company, and all the press has brought attention to the Czech brewery.

In the US, the craft beer industry has been thriving for the last 20 or so years. Much to the delight of beer nerds, they are able to taste five different IPAs from a single grocery store, all brewed by locally owned breweries. And each year more small breweries open up.

In Germany, the famed home of beer, the opposite is happening. The mega-corporations either buy up the little guys and shut them down, or smaller breweries are forced to shut down, out-competed buy economy of scale.

I could start to rant about Walmart and the decapitation of the entepenurial class by corporate America, but I think I'd rather have a beer. Cheers.


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