Beer Break Vol. 1, No. 38
Checking in with the Czechs
May 24, 2001
Representatives of the Czech brewery Ceske Budejovice were in California this week, meeting mostly with distributors and the sales force putting the beer known in the United States as Czechvar into retail outlets.
When Beer Break reported on Czechvar back in December it was just getting into the pipeline in California -- now the beer is in six other states -- and importer Kip Bruzzone was properly cautious. He simply said that Czechvar was brewed in Ceske Budejovice, home of Budejovicky Budvar, using the same Moravian malt, Czech Saaz hops and deep well water as the beer known in Europe as Budvar Budweiser.
What he didn't say was that it was the same beer as Budvar Budweiser, because he had no interest in a battle with American brewing giant Anheuser-Busch -- which has fought trademark battles around the world about who has the rights to the names "Bud" and "Budweiser."
After the first round went well, Ceske Budejovice went ahead to make it clear that Czechvar and Budvar are the same beer and announced it will try to expand its sales to the United States -- without violating the Budweiser trademark.
"Our biggest concern was to create a trademark that wasn't a conflict and could still be a good brand," Robert Chrt, the Ceske Budejovice export director, said during the tour of California. "The second question was how the consumers and accounts would accept this."
Clearly, they have. "It's getting a little bit crazy," said Bruzzone. "It has been growing exponentially and basically we're selling out..."
Sales have been aided by a number of newspaper stories alerting those already familiar with Budvar that Czechvar has moved into the United States. Interviews the Czechs did this week with Esquire, Playboy.com and Maxim are sure to help as well. But the Czechs realize to continue building sales they need to introduce the beer to an even wider audience.
Ceske Budejovice has been encouraged enough to make plans to add distribution in four more states -- Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Texas -- and to think about selling Czechvar in kegs as well as bottles. "I'm excited the way people have accepted our brand," Chrt said.
Chrt has also been impressed with the distributors. "They have a good knowledge concerning European beers," he said. Many European brewers have chosen not to export to the United State because they didn't think enough Americans could appreciate their beer.
Chrt is understandably gentle in talking about U.S. consumers. "The beers that they are used to are traditional American beers," he said. "I can't say that American beer is bad and European beer is good. There is a difference, though, and I prefer a European style."
He's found some Americans that do as well.
Brewed by Hofmark brewery in Loifling in Germany
Michael Jackson writes:
The brewery produces two Pilsener-style beers under the name Das Feine Hofmark. Both are firm, smooth, impeccably balanced and complex. Würzig Mild is beautifully flowery, with a lightly malt-accented palate and a gently perfumy dryness. The version (available to members of the Real Beer Tour) is Würzig Herb (meaning "dry" or "bitter"). It has yet more hop character, in both nose and firm finish, with a depth of malty flavors in the middle.
SINGLETRACK COPPER ALE
Brewed by Rockies Brewing Co., Boulder, Colo.
Roger Protz writes:
Spicy hops and dark fruit on the nose with a yeasty-bready note There is a winey fruit in the mouth with dark, almost roast, malt and bitter hops. The finish is a fine balance of dark malt and bitter, spicy hops. Well balanced, aromatic, and a good hop character. It would go well with strong cheese or pasta dishes.