Friday, September 3, 2010

A Dog Drank My Homework

Here it is at the last minute—Thursday night—and I still have to write my beer blog for Friday. Nothing like waiting until the last minute.

It’s actually harder than it looks. It is a school night after all, yet here I am, dear readers, sacrificing on your behalf and tracking down a Czech beer that I can sample and write something about it. Czech beers can be somewhat difficult to find, especially when you’re in a hurry because you just remembered that you’d promised to write this and here it is 9:00 at night you haven’t even started. This seems like the same pattern I had as a young student, except in those days I could usually talk my mom into typing my assignment for me.

Happily, a suitable selection was located and I can announce that this week’s beer selection is Czechvar Premium Czech Lager. (Given that I’m working on this at the last minute, can I just tell you how grateful I am that this beer doesn’t have any diacritical marks in the name?)

First I have to say that the color of Czechvar is absolutely beautiful, a rich yellow that is perfectly clear. The beer has a very clean smell—not a strong smell of fermentation, but just a light smell of yeast. It sort of reminded me of fresh bread. (Okay, this writing assignment isn’t going to be so bad after all.)

The beer is also very smooth with just a slight hint of pleasant bitterness at the end. The beer has a very lightly spiced flavor to the finish—maybe just a slight hint of clove. This beer has a very full body that I like quite a bit. I’m also glad to report that this beer was only sold in a six pack so on Friday night when we’re grilling steaks to start the holiday weekend we will have a beer that I think will be a perfect match for the food. I taste a certain amount of butter-like richness in this beer and I think it will hold up well with the beef.

Czechvar definitely has a lot more heft to it than a typical American beer, such as, say…Budweiser. This is interesting because Czechvar might be considered the original Budweiser. In fact, the beer is sold under the brand name “Budweiser Budvar” in Germany and Austria.

Czechvar, as it’s known in the U.S. and Canada, or Budejovický Budvar, as it’s known in many other countries, is brewed in České Budéjovice, a city in south Bohemia that is famous for, along with its beer, its Baroque buildings and for having the largest public square in Europe. The region’s German name is Budweis. This is why in Europe the beer has been known for many years as Budweiser—from the region of the Budweis.

The company that brews the beer has been in a battle with the Anheuser Busch company over the rights to the name Budweiser for more than a century. However the battle recently came to a head when Anheuser Busch, the world’s largest brewer, applied for an EU license to market their beer in Europe under the Budweiser trademark. The Czech company challenged this request. The legal battle began in 1996 and lasted for 13 years until the European Union rejected Anheuser Busch’s claim. The American version of Budweiser can still be sold in select European markets under the name Budweiser, but it is not allowed to sell it in at least four EU member states under that brand name because the name is already owned by the Czech brewery. By the way, the EU Court didn’t allow the American beer to go simply by “Bud” either—no fooling those Europeans!

So there you have it, a perfect example of how a simple task can escalate into something larger than you had ever anticipated. I started out just wanting to write about a beer and ended up in a European legal battle over trademark rights. Next time I’ll try to get a little more ahead of the game and get my beer tasting in earlier. After all, I really can’t write this on Friday morning at work. Beer is not just for breakfast anymore.

P.S. Here’s an article that I think highlights more of the subtle differences between U.S. beer culture and how the Europeans view it: read this article about deep fried beer at the Texas State Fair and enjoy your Labor Day weekend!

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