24 Mar 2010

Now, this is just stupid

There's nothing wrong in a company looking after and protecting their brand, or brands. Quite the contrary, I think it's something very important that every company should do. After all, brands are among the most valuable assets they have.

Whatever I might think about the beer (and I still like their tanková), I've always liked the way SAB-Miller takes care of the Pilsner Urqell brand. It's known that the company employs quality inspectors go on undercover visits to their tied pubs. Their job is to see that the beer is well taken care of, properly served and some of them check the hygiene and maintenance of the tap system. This might look like something out of an urban legend, but I believe it's true, walking around the Czech Rep. you will come across many pubs with stickers, plaques and other certificates that prove it.

Certainly, another one of the tasks of these inspectors is to make sure that no beers other than Pilsner Urquell are sold as such. Nothing wrong there, either. However, sometimes things can get a bit out of hands, or better put, can become really stupid.

Last Week Plzeňský Prazdroj pressed criminal charges against the owner of Pivovar Kout na Šumavě, Jan Skala, for unfair competition and misuse of the Pilsner Urquell brand.

Yeah, you've read well. A brewery that last year produced 10.5 million hl filed a complaint against another that brewed 8 thousand hl for unfair competition.

The reason? Somehow Prazdroj found out that Kout was using Pilsner Urquell kegs to distribute their own beers. Yeah, you've read well.

I'm not familiar with the law, but I do know that this is common practice among micro breweries and not few wine makers as well. New kegs aren't cheap and many of micros can't afford to buy enough of them, so they end up using someone else's. Breweries aren't too happy about this, of course. They never get back many of those barrels and that means a financial loss since the deposit they charge for them is only a fraction of the price of a new one. But thus far, they've never seemed to have fretted to much about it, either.

There are times, though, when the use of someone else's kegs isn't something a microbrewery does on purpose. It can happen that pub owners go to a micro to buy beer bringing with them empty kegs, which get washed and refilled without any further questions. What happens with the beer after that once it's paid is something the breweries don't, and frankly shouldn't, care too much about.

Now, does this really mean unfair competition and misuse of a brand? Do the people of SAB-Miller seriously want us to believe that Kout na Šumavě want to sell their beers as Pilsner Urquell?

To whom? Why?

In just a couple of years Kout has earned a very well deserved reputation in the beer community thanks the the outstanding quality of their product. It doesn't make any sense at all that someone like them would want to pass any of their beers as something of a lesser quality.

Another thing that should be mentioned as well is that kegs aren't like bottles, people never see them. Everyone trusts that the beer they have in the glass is the one they've ordered and will pay for later. In other words, if I go to a hospoda to have a pint of Pilsner Urquell and an unscrupulous owner pours me, in a glass of Pilsner Urquell, say, Kout coming from a tap with a Pilsner Urquell clip, there's no way I'll find out.... Wait a second!!!

Can it be that Pilsner Urquell is afraid?

This reminds me of a story someone told me the other day. There was an owner of a hospoda who was tired of selling Gambrinus. He wanted to change it for another brand, but the štamgasty would have none of it. For them, Gambáč was the best and nothing could replace it. The owner then decided to take drastic measures. He contacted the representative of that other brewery and asked if there was any problem if their beer was sold in Gambrinus branded glasses. No problem at all, certainly not. So, for several weeks he served the new beer to his regulars without telling them about the change. One day he asked them how they liked their pints and all agreed that the beer was great, better than usual. The owner then showed them the plastic cap of the keg and said: "Gents, this is what you've bee drinking these last few days, so shut the fuck up and forget about Gambáč, because this is what you will keep on drinking from now on". No complaints were ever heard again.

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4 comments:

  1. And that other brewery was?

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  2. The last story there simply proves what I have long thought, and was once guilty of as well, most drinkers don't know what is in their glass and are simply being sheep in following the crowd.

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  3. I can't remember. It was mentioned, It could have been Kout, or Svijany, but I'm not sure, what I know is that it was from a smaller brewery

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  4. Our local pub has just pulled its Svijany and Rohozec because the locals were insistent that it gave them the shits and gone for Gambač. Admittedly the beers were kept and served badly but the replacement is treated with equal contempt. Everyone seems happy now!

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