30 May 2010

WTF?

The Prague Food Festival is arguably the most important gastronomic event in this neck of the woods. It's organised by the prestigious and influential Mauer's Grand Restaurant Guide and every year gathers the best chefs and the most renown food and drink experts of the country. The aim is to bring high end gastronomy to a larger audience in an open air space (this year it was held in the South Gardens of Prague Castle) away from the, for many, intimidating environment of the luxury restaurants.

On the advertising posters for this year's edition I saw that beer was going to have a more prominent role, beer tastings and food pairings were promised. However, with so many things going on in my life right now (and also because I didn't think I would attend), I completely forgot about it until I saw report on the local TV. Believe me, I wish I had remained ignorant.

Guess which is the official beer of the festival (and one of its main sponsors). STELLA ARTOIS!!!, touted as a "Premium Belgian Lager".

Are they idiots or liars? I don't know which is worse, really. The Stella Artois you can buy here is as Belgian as Branik (and every bit as good). It's brewed under license in Smíchov for fuck's sakes!

Yet, according to them "Top gastronomy and premium quality beer is the name of the game here". They can't be serious. Give me a break!

Perhaps they haven't realised that they are in the Czech Republic, a country with one of the richest brewing traditions in the world, and with a beer scene that has now become very dynamic. I'm sure they could have chosen something from the many superb beers brewed by Czech regional and micro breweries. And if the local diversity in terms of styles is not enough, there are some companies that are importing a very interesting range of quality beers from several countries. It's incredible that they have chosen a brand like Stella Artois as one of the faces of an event that aims to promote quality gastronomy.

It also seems that they are not very aware of what is happening elsewhere. According to what Stephen Beaumont told me on an e-mail, there are more and more high end restaurants in the world that have started to offer proper beer lists to their clients. But well, the organisers of PFF and the great local chefs are more interested in scallops, sushi, seared tuna and the proper kind of rice for a risotto than in showing the world how one of the products that have made this country famous and that brings thousands of visitors every year can pair with what they believe is good food.

All this is no more than an extension of something I've already discussed, how little those who dictate what is good and bad in the local restaurant sector care about beer.

But, who knows. Maybe next year the new partners McDonald's and Lidl's Finest Tetra-Pack Wine Selection will offer their delights to the most demanding palates.

Na Zdraví!

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12 comments:

  1. One word. Marketing. I remember watching an ice hockey World Cup final in Mlada Boleslav in a bar full of Czechs chanting "cesko, cesko" and every one of them drinking Stella. When asked why they weren't drinking Czech lager, they replied that Stella was trendy. You know as well as I do that the majority of people simply follow the herd, and Stella was (perhaps still is) cool, and perceived as foreign and thus in some way sexy and exotic. I am slowly getting to the point where I can't be bothered trying to convert the masses to decent beer, and am happy to let them wallow in their ignorance simply because I know what they are missing. The acronym SEP comes to mind, Someone Else's Problem, let the masses drink their pleb juice.

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  2. But you know what? That rubbish is offered as a quality product by the same people that want to show the pleb how to eat properly. What would they do if next year comes a fast food chain and wanted to have a stand there? I doubt they would accept the offer, no matter how much that chain wanted to pay them, and very right they would be. But crap beer? Oh! We see no problem that.

    What are they? Ignorants, hypocrites? Either way, they've lost all credibility they might have had. But of course, I doubt the local food writers will mention that, they are more likely to complain about their tuna steak not being rare enough than about the pathetic choice of beer.

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  3. I was amazed that they really went with the brilliant plan ''ok we have oysters and champagne all we need now is Stella...'' (part of me thought that it was just an elaborate joke and then it became reality).
    So the beer selection: Stella Artois, Hoegaarden, Staropramen in all its bizzare variations and Leffe Brun plus they had Japanese bottles at the sushi tent (Asahi, Kirin and Sapporo). I tried Asahi and well it was pretty horrible so I stuck to Hoegaarden. All in all I was dissapointed that the beer selection couldn't be compared with wine selection (which was quite decent), they should have chosen something drinkable (if they were afraid to try micros) like Bernard, Černá Hora or at least Pilsner.
    btw. the Asahi was too brewed here in Czech republic, but the bottle didn't say where exactly...

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  4. Asahi. Like Stella, a better dressed Branik.

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  5. I'll agree with Al here and see the hot, sweaty hand of marketing in all of this. If we also take the point that the people organising it didn't actually give a toss about beer, but wanted a token presence at the festival anyway, then the fact that they did a deal with Stella makes total sense: a 'brand' with the necessary posh/trendy 'image' to fit in with the rest of the event, and which could also provide large wads of cash.

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  6. Sounds bad, glad i passed like every year.
    But in all honesty, Czech beer has gone so far down hill in the past 20 years, I'm willing to try GOOD foreign beers, none of the crap mentioned here.
    Maybe they'll have Bud Lite next year?
    But Cerna Hora is hardly a micro. If you live in the area, it's everywhere. Just because it's not so available in prague, doesn't make it a micro.

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  7. Anonymus,

    That is quite relative. The bigger breweries have gone down in the last 20 years, yes. For what I know, many of the regionals have improved dramatically since the fall of Communism. And nobody said here Černá Hora was a micro, it's a regional brewery.

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  8. Agree with every thing you say about Pivo at the Food Festival. Just got one in Sheffield. Really hot day !. Saw CZ Budver, but in a Plastic glass, and over the top prices. Must have Pivo in a proper Glass !.

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  9. Man, if you are going to charge over the top prices, at least have the decency of serving in proper glasses. BTW, Terry, just wanted to thank you for the DVD and the notes.

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  10. Stella is partner of this event as Prazdroj was last year. So there are no other beers. When beer will be taken seriously here, than we might see paring beer and food, more brands...

    Honza. www.svetpiva.cz

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  11. Honza,

    You are right. But in past editions, Pilsner Urquell was there, also as a partner, but just for those who wanted to drink beer. What bothers me the most here is the pretentiousness of the whole thing, and the lie as well.

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  12. You forget thought hat we live in a pretentious age, where the name on the beer glass is more important, and more valued, than the beer in the glass itself.

    This is kind of one of the reasons I don't chase fame, I can't be bothered with the keeping up appearances and being relied on for a comment to every tiny little thing.

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