15 Jun 2009

Staropramen's future

Well, in the end it seems that Heineken won't be Pivovary Staropramen a.s.'s new onwer, so forget everything I said here (actually, I think you have forgotten already, but just in case).

According to news reports, AB-InBev has put up for sale (or at least is very seriously considering doing so) their business units in Central Europe, the Czech one included, because they don't consider them strategically important and they need as much cash as possible to pay debt incurred when buying AB.

It looks like 11 breweries in 6 countries will be sold as one package and, though there isn't anything official yet, the private equity firm CVC Partners are the ones who have shown the biggest interest.

If this goes through, what will be the future of Staropramen? Several people have told me about how well the beer is being exported, it is rather well positioned in England, for example. That is, I'm sure, thanks to belonging to the biggest brewing group in the world. With them out of the picture, will the brand from Smíchov be able to keep that presence in those markets?

And what will mean for the brand domestically speaking? I've got no figures to back this claim, but I am of the idea that Staropramen has lost market. The reasons are several, the huge drop in quality (it is undrinkable now), the growth of the regional breweries and of the several spread in the country that belong to Heineken.cz. Staropramen does have a strong position in Prague, there is no doubt about it, out of the Capital, though, things change considerably. And when was the last time you saw a hospoda selling Ostravar out of the Ostrava area? If it wasn't that Braník is the second best selling bottled beer in the country, I don't know what would be of the company.

Anyway, the likely new owners seem to be an even more fundamentalist strain of accountants than the current ones, so an improvement in quality is something we should not hope for. However, the possibility of the insulting Stella Artois leaving this market is, by itself, a small reason to celebrate.

Na Zdraví!

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9 comments:

  1. I wouldn't say Staropramen is undrinkable - after all it is less than a week since Evan and I had a pint at U Rotundy, and sure it isn't going to rock the world these days, but it isn't THAT bad - compare it to some of the best selling lagers around the world and it would probably be better than most.

    On the sale side, it is a shame someone like Scottish and Newcastle wouldn't be interested - it really is a shame when companies get bought up by people who insist on having the word "investment" in their name, usually it spells doom for the quality of the brewing as they are not interested in beer, just money.

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  2. I had Staropramen světlý not long ago and it was THAT bad. I only managed to drink one pint. The rest of the evening I either refused the offer or had to pretend I was drinking it.... Awful, awful beer by any standards

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  3. You should try the Tesco Value lager then!!! I did that for a dare and most of it went in the sink. Or get a can of Carling, that'll really turn your stomach.

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  4. Oh! I'm not saying that Staropramen is as bad as those, but it is certainly among the worst the is brewed in CZ.

    What I would like to do one day, for no other reason than to punish myself, is a blind tasting between Staropramen and Braník Světlý. I suspect it is exactly the same beer with different label....

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  5. I think I'm with the Philosopher on this one. Staro definitely ranks far below the likes of Plzen and Gambac for me; while I'll willingly drink either of those if the situation's right, I'll invariably order a glass of wine or some non-alcoholic drink rather than Staro. Having said that, the Cerny's not too bad whenever I have it.

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  6. The dark is alright, in the right circumstances. When they first re-introduced the Granat, as Millennium back then, it was a lovely 14 degree beer. I really hope someone with brewing interests buys Staropramen and gets them back to making proper Czech lagers.

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  7. I liked Granát a lot when it came out (I had missed Millennium) and it was a 13 or 14° beer. Now, not only isn't any good, but it's an 11°.... And I don't see the new owners fixing things quality-wise. As bad as those beers in general are, they still sell rather well, so, why bother? And frankly, I don't think anyone would be able to fix Staro's image among domestic beer enthusiasts.

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  8. I'd say Granát's the most drinkable Staro beer for me, I just find it a bit monotonous - I only started really enjoying polotmavé when I started getting a bit more adventurous and trying stuff from smaller breweries.

    Shame with Staro really, because when I was still in Glasgow it was one of my favourite lagers (along with Fürstenberg). Nowadays I just stick to the ales...

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  9. I used to like Staro, too. Their světlý specially (never was a fan of their ležák). I would drink it almost daily at this pub in Dejvice/Bubeneč called U Pětníka. They had it really nice there, tanková, if I'm not wrong. But then, InBev took over and the rest is history....

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