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.
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
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
"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
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.