19 Nov 2009

Flagship

A few months ago I spoke in some detail about K Brewery Trade, for those of you who don't remember and/or can't be arsed with reading this post, I'll make a summary. This Czech company came pretty much out of nowhere and bought several regional breweries. Today they own seven and have quite important stakes in at least two more.

Even though their slogan is "Navrát k tradici" (Back to tradition), many are those who don't trust the real intentions of these people. Some believe they are a proxy of Heineken, which, as you might remember, was neither denied, nor confirmed by the Czech subsidiary of the Dutch concern.

I've got serious doubts that the rumor is true. I really don't see what interest Heineken could have in this bunch of regional breweries, most of which (unfortunately) aren't even very valuable as brands.

Needless to say, KBT (as they are known in the street), has been categorically denying all that to anyone who asks. Still, even if we take them to their word, that they are really interested in beer and brewing, they are and will always be business people. So, if some day in the future someone, be it Heineken, Carlsberg, Diageo or Jack Mehoffer, offers them an interesting enough figure, how much could they be blamed if they accept it?

But let's leave the realm of speculation and come back to the present. Whatever their future plans are, there is no doubt that KBT have decided to take things seriously. Last month, at the Prague Oktoberfest, they presented their flagship beer. It's packaging, a green bottle with long neck wrapped in golden foil, and its price range make very clear where those guns are aiming (Pilsner Urquell and Budvar, for those of you who don't have it so clear). The beer is called Lobkowicz Premium, and it's being marketed with the slogan "Šlechtic mezi pivy" (A noble/aristocrat among beers).

For reasons hard to understand the beer isn't brewwed in Vysoký Chlumec, as the rest of the Lobkowicz beers are, but in Protivín, home of the Platan beers*. Not that you will know that by reading the label. For reasons that are still harder to understand (well, not so, but it sounds nicer this way), the good people of KBT have decided not to divulge that information.

I think I've made myself very clear about the importance of origin when it comes to selling a beer. Hiding that piece of information is to me a pretty big mistake coming from someone who claims to be a champion of tradition.

But let's cut all this bollocks. I always say that the only thing that matters is what you've got in the glass, so let's see what the beer has to say.
I wish it would shut up. Lobkowicz Premium is awful. All that stuff about the ingredients and the tradition and what have you doesn't matter at all, it's awful. It shows it's been brewed in Protivín, it's got all the things I don't like of some of the Platan beers and more. It's very thin, with a totally unbalanced bitterness and not enough malt to put those hops in line. At times it gave me the impression that they wanted to make something hoppier than the rest (which is something any idiot with enough hops could manage) and it also felt as something that is not quite finished yet. It might be that those 35 days the beer is said to be lagered aren't enough (incidentally, other KBT beers are lagered longer and they don't make such a big fuss about it), but even if they left it a month or two longer, I don't think it will be that much better.

Whatever. Given the choice, I would pick Pilsner Urquell, Budvar or even Krušovice instead of Lobkowicz Premium. Having so many good beers in their portfolio (some of which, with a bit of tweakin,g could be great), it's impossible to understand (and now I mean it) why they chose as their flagship a new product that is so flawed.

Na Zdraví!

A curiosity for historians. Pivovar Vysoký Chlumec was for a very long time property of the Lobkowicz family. Pivovar Protivín, on the other hand, was until 1947 or so, property of the Schwarzenberg family. I would love to know what the relationship between this two noble families was and what's their opinion of a beer with the name of one being brewed at the former property of the other.

Reserve yourPrague hotel and win a walking tour.

5 comments:

  1. Wow, that is a weird choice. Is this beer hitting the supermarkets or something, I haven't seen it anywhere? I personally don't mind Platan, but that probably has a lot to do with the fact that it's one of the cheapest beers on the market. I doubt I'd feel the same if it was pushing itself as a premium. And really, as much as I'm an automatic sucker for any smaller brand, Lobkowicz has always been a beer I could take or leave. I remember they carried it at Norma for a while (or maybe Plus?). I would buy it as something different, but it was hardly anything special to drink.
    Compare that to Klaster, which is a great beer to drink. I guess maybe Klaster already has a presence on the market though and they couldn't present it as something new? I recently spent a weekend drinking Janacek, and compared to the other beers available where we were (watery Zubr and Radegast), it had delightful character. They may be going for mass-market with Lobkowicz Premium, but let's not forget that Plzen and Budvar are special because they do have a particular character tastewise.

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  2. Majk,

    I bought it at Billa in Dejvice, so I think sooner or later it'll be relatively easy to get.

    I agree with you on the Lobkowicz brand, nothing special, but still quite dependable beers, which, perhaps with a tweak here and there, could become really good. I don't know why KBT didn't do that.

    IMO this beer is a complete fail. I just hope they find a way to correct it, otherwise it's not going to go very far.

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  3. More fucking green bottles??? Obviously they have no idea on an export market - Pilsner Urquell here is dishwater compared to CR, and largely it is down to the bloody green bottles.

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  4. Hey PF,

    Like the blog...

    On Sunday, I ran into Lobkowicz in the Albert arouund the corner from my flat and was taken aback by the relatively audacious price. Wow, 18.90 Kc for a an obscure beer (here in S.Moravia at least) that is clearly looking to arrive at a top-tier status. Clearly, KBT is taking a ballsy strategy here, perhaps trying to fall in between Pilsner Urquell (my golden standard) and Bernard. Anyhow, I said, "fuck it" and bought two bottles. I think the lofty aspirations of the back label played a role in my purchase as well as the slight affront I felt at finding this newcomer (to the premium segment) askinng for 18.90 Kc. The last time I had Lobkowicz was in '98 in Cesky Krumlov. I had always lumped it in with the S. Bohemian beers that I don't particularly care for (Budvar, Regent, Platan etc...) My question is, were we drinking the same beer? I enjoyed it well enough. While I am not exceedingly proficient in beer-speak, I found it crisp, clean tasting with a slightly bitter tail and perhaps a little thin when I compare it to the more robust Pilsner Urquell or Bernard (again, two beers that I really enjoy).
    I agree with you on the importance of origin and know that Gambrinus 10 had to change their label when they started brewing in Novosice.

    Na zdravi z Brna,

    t

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  5. Now that you mention it, the other day I had a bottle of PU after a very long time. Compared to Svijanský Rytíř, Bernard and others I found it very one-dimensional. Not bad, but that hoppy bitterness for which it is famous was not there at all...

    Anyway, Lobkowicz Premium is certainly not worth the price they are asking.

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