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Oct 30, 2014

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Beer Break Vol. 1, No. 15
The Czech's for you

Dec. 14, 2000

You may have read about the worldwide legal battles between Anheuser-Busch of the United States and Budejovicky Budvar of the Czech Republic over the right to sell beer by the name of Budweiser. To recount the ongoing trademark conflict would turn this two-minute beer primer into a two-day Supreme Court brief. Do a search in the Real Beer Page Library and you'll find hundreds of articles to read.

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The bottom line for American beer drinkers was that they had to go overseas to sample one of the world's best pilseners. That's why last year the St. Louis Post-Dispatch hosted a blind taste-test to determine which beer drinkers prefer -- Budweiser brewed in St. Louis or Budweiser Budvar flown in for the test. There were four judges, two who brew their own beer and two who just like beer, with preferences for Bud Light and other Anheuser-Busch products.

The judges were asked to score each beer from 1 to 5 on color, aroma, bitterness, malt character and clarity. Budvar beat out its American competitor, garnering a third more points overall. The regular A-B drinkers gave it higher marks than the homebrewers. Although Budvar won the contest, the judges didn't appear to be ready to pay much of a premium for the beer. The two A-B drinkers said they would pay $4 -- at most -- for a six-pack of Budvar. That's 49 cents less a six-pack than the price of the Budweiser used in the test.

Now Northern Californians -- at a recommended price of $7.99 for a six-pack -- can try a pilsener brewed in Ceske Budejovice, home of Budejovicky Budvar, using the same Moravian malt, Czech Saaz hops and deep well water as Budvar Budweiser. Is it Budvar Budweiser?

"I can't answer that," said Mike Cechetini of Wine Warehouse, which distributes the beer called Czechvar. "You can try the beer and say what you want." Importer Kip Bruzzone's goal is to avoid any trademark wrangling that would put him in court instead of out selling a beer that tastes like the one he fell in love with more than 20 years ago.

"We're going to sell it based on the beer in the bottle, not the name," Bruzzone said. The first shipments of Czechvar arrived in November and Wine Warehouse began putting them on the shelves later in the month. Bruzzone, who runs World Wine Ltd., said the Czechs consider California a test market.

"They want to see how we do. They are very patient, very methodical," he said. If all goes well, then Bruzzone will distribute Czechvar in the western half of the United States and Czech Beer Importers Inc. of Connecticut will distribute the beer to the eastern half.

Bruzzone first approached the Czech government -- which then owned the brewery -- in 1980 about shipping beer to the United States. He continued to lobby four different Czech administrations, saw the brewery privatized, became friends with the brewers and learned the intricacies of the legal roadblocks.

"I knew that it was probably going to be a waste of my time, but I wanted to see it through," he said. "I believed in the beer and I believed in the project."

Tasting notes

BUWEISER BUDVAR
Brewed by Budejovicky Budvar of the Czech Republic

Michael Jackson's tasting notes from his 1984 Pocket Guide to Beer:

The Czech beer has a more emphatic hop character than the U.S. Budweiser, but it is still delicate by local standards. It is bigger than the U.S. brew, but by no means fat. The Czech beer has a faint underlying hint of sweetness where the U.S. beer is perhaps fruitier. Both are very firm beers, though the Czech Budvar is more so, and with a cleanness that suggests long lagering.

NEW BELGIUM TRIPPEL
Brewed by New Belgium Brewing Co. in Fort Collins, Colo.

Stephen Beaumont writes:

The nose has wonderfully fragrant florals (from the saaz hops) along with peppery spice, notes of orange oils and a distinct whiff of alcohol. In the taste, the Trippel continues its aggressive ways, with notes of tangerine up front and lots of spice and red apple in the middle. The alcohol that is so evident in the aroma shows up about half way through the taste and lingers right through the finish, giving the New Belgium Trippel more in common with a double shot of whisky than, say, a Belgian white. In fact, so intense and warming is this beer that I was prompted to describe it in my tasting notes as "a formidable 'barley wine' of a tripel." A good dose of finishing hops dries and bitters the long aftertaste.

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