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Showing posts from July, 2010

Some victory

Last Thursday the European Highest Court issued their final verdict: AB-InBev can not register "Budweiser" as a European trademark for their beer, rejecting the giant's appeal against the ruling of the European General Court.

This, of course, means an important victory for Budějovický Budvar because, besides putting an end to more than a decade of judicial comings and goings, it reinforces their position in the many legal disputes both companies still have.

However, the people who are most satisfied with this are those from the Ministry of Agriculture. With this ruling they will be able to fetch a higher price once they turn the brewery into a joint stock company, the brand is its most valuable asset.

As I've already said, this will be a de facto privatisation. I've been thinking about it and this is how I imagine it: Once Budvar becomes joint stock co. the government will look for a strategic partner, just as they've announced. That partner will most likely …

Hmmmm?

Yesterday the portal Pivní Info reproduced an interesting article that tells how a Brazilian journalist tried to interview perhaps the most hated person in the beer community, Carlos Brito, capo di tutti capi of AB-InBev, to ask him about Budvar.

Unfortunately, the Darth Vader (Sauron, Lex Luthor or any other silly, nerdy, pop-culture reference) of the beer industry refused to answer any questions saying, through his secretary, that he felt the obligation to answer only to the American media, but not to questions from other countries.

Our hero did not let that discourage him and decided he would get his answers from people close to Brito, so, besides the man's secretary, he contacted other top managers from the multinational, all of them from Brazil and all part of Brito's inner circle.

Among the several questions he asked, there is one that stands out for the silliness of the answer, if Brito had ever tried Czech beer: "Yes, we've all tasted it", answered one ma…

Another surprise from Barcelona

It is very nice to see brewers (or anyone, actually) that will take a bad review for what it is, one of the realities of life, and will not be offended when someone publicly says that they didn't like their beer, or even that it was bad. One of those brewers is the Spanish Companyia Cervecera del Montseny, who are also very confident about their products.

Last year they sent me samples of three of their beers. One of them, +Lupulus, I liked a lot, another one, +Negra, I didn't like so much and the remaining one, +Malta, I didn't like at all. After publishing my review, we exchanged a couple of emails, and that was the last I thought I would hear from them. However, a bit over a month ago Julià, from the brewery, wrote me again saying that they wanted to send me a sample of their most special product +malta Cuvée, which arrived in the company of two bottles of +Lupulus (I still like it a lot) and +Malta (I still don't like it, even with the wheat out of its grist. But …

A nibble for thought

Arturo Bertona is a third generation wine maker from Argentina, who since 2002 runs his own, and already well renown winery. At the end of a short, but quite interesting interview for the Argentinean daily La Nación (in SP) he says: "90% of the quality of a wine is defined by how the grape leaves the vineyardThis brough up the following question: Is there anything that can define the quality of a beer in such a way?

What do you think?

Na zdraví!

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Things are getting ugly (but so much fun to watch)

Imagine the following, you are the biggest company on the market. Yours isn't a minor product, but one that is very important, very consumed and you have a lot of competitors. Still, you are the undisputed leader with at least 45% market share, while your nearest competitor has only around 15%.

2009 wasn't a good year for your sector. Global consumption fell by 5%, with your sales more or less reflecting that figure, as do the sales of both your two main competitors. This wouldn't be such an issue if it wasn't that some of your (much) smaller competitors had a wonderful year; in some cases, with growth that defies logic. As if that wasn't enough, for a long time already a small group of consumers have been critisising some of your practices and the quality of your products. They are still a niche, but their opinion is slowly dripping towards the mainstream.

No worries, you would say. Your leadership is out of any harm and on top of that, you have a very well tuned …

Some things I head and saw in Humpolec

Just as I promised the other day, here is some of the information I gathered during my visit to Pivovar Bernard.

It was the first brewery to be privatised after the fall of the Communist regime. Two of its current owners, Standa Bernard and Josef Vábra (who is also the head brewer) bought it at an auction. As most regional breweries back then, the facilities were in very, very bad shape and quite a lot of money was needed to put the brewery back on track. In 2001, Bernard and Vábra sold half of their shares to Duvel Moortgat. This resulted in a sad irony. A few years earlier Mr Bernard himself had successfully lobbied for a new beer tax law that would benefit the smaller producers, which is in force to this day. Once the Belgians bought half of the company, Pivovar Bernard stopped being eligible for those tax advantages. Anyway, you would never guess anyone but Mr Bernard is running things when visiting the brewery, nowhere in sight there is a sign of the Belgians.

Bernard keeps their…

A star is born (take 2)

Just as I told you the other day, my TV experience is not limited only to my incredibly popular appearance in an Argentine TV show (together with a short cameo on CNN). A couple of weeks ago I was part of the shooting of a new TV show that will air this Autumn on Prima, a local TV station.

It was a completely different kind of thing that the previous one. With the Argies, I went around Prague followed only by a camera and the host of the show, but with the Czech project I had to get up at 5:30 in order to meet the person that was going to take me to the place of the shooting. There we were met by the rest of the team, which included a cameraman, director, one bloke taking care of the sound, another for the lights, two more from production and the host. It was all very professional, perhaps a bit too much for my taste.

This show will also be a travel show, but with beer as the central topic. Each episode will go to a town that has a brewery and will visit both while interviewing the pe…

Appropriately Sour

The other day, at the end of my review of Espresso Oak Aged Yeti, I told you that my friend Todd had brought me another two beers, which, like the one from Great Divide, were waiting for their respective appropriate moments. And one of them had it.

After the debacle that was Argentina's elimination from the World Cup, the situation and the mood called for a sour beer, and there was Russian River Supplication.

I approached it with some wariness. I still haven't fully developed the taste for these beer family and Todd had told me that this one was really, really sour. On the other hand, and just like Yeti, Supplication looked quite interesting on paper. According to the brewer, it is a Sour Ale aged 12-15 months in oak barrels formerly used for Pinot Noir wines in company of sour cherries, brettanomyces, lactobacilus and pediococcus (if you want to know what these bugs are, look them up).
What a nice surprise Supplication was! Perhaps it was the bad taste I was left with after th…

Where do they get it from?

"Ales are usually stronger and darker than lagers."

With some variations, this is a statement I've seen mentioned countless times. Where do they get that information from? Is it something those authors repeat like parrots, without thinking, or is it based on personal experiences (buying a bottle of lager and a bottle of Ale at a shop)?

This nonsense is so widespread that I've even read it in a press release from an Argentine microbrewer. And it's not only limited to the Spanish speaking press, as shown by this quote taken from an article in the website of an American network:
"But an easy rule of thumb is that lagers are like white wine (lighter, crisper), and ales are like red wine (bigger, richer, more powerful)Very nice, but not close to reaching the heights of this pearl of wisdom by Colombian celebrity chef Harry Sasón:
"... lagers, a kind of pale beer with moderate flavour, very common in the US"Once again I have ask, how do they get to this no…

Simply German

About a month an a half ago I had lunch with my good German friend, and fellow beer enthusiast, Stefan. Unfortunately, the speed of modern life did not allow us to spend together as much time as we would have wanted, but we still had the chance to exchange a few beers.

Stefan brought me six samples from microbreweries from the Black Forest region. With the exception of one, all of them promised to be simple beers, you know, those that deserve more praise, without any gimmicks or imperial pretensions, and all with an ABV of around 5%.
I kicked the session off with Königsegger Edelpils. It pours a very, very pale yellow, something very unusual around here, but that I've already seen in other German equivalents of světlý ležák. Not much, if anything, to say about the aromas (though the glass might not have been the most appropriate to evaluate them) and with a taste as mild as its looks, where I felt notes that reminded me to grass, some resin and maybe a bit of fruit. After an aftern…

How to tame a blue sheep

The other day I bought a piece of sheep's blue cheese. Very good, but very strong and intense, nice for a sauce, for sure, but I wanted to eat it alone. What beer could match this little beast?

During the presentation of BrewDog en Zlý Časy (BTW, 5AM Saint and HardCore IPA on tap are wonderful!) someone, I can't remember who, gave me a bottle of Döllnitzer Ritterguts Gose. Brewed with the impure ingredients of coriander and salt and, if I remember well, also infected with lactobacillus, it's not an easy beer to drink, at least not for me, so I thought it would get along just fine with a cheese that is not so easy to eat.
Not bad, not bad at all. Although the cheese proved to be a bit too much for the Gose (that only has 4.2%ABV), the beer was still able to tame the wilder bits, while the cheese took care of the beer's rougher side leaving it tasting almost like a refreshment made with brine (tasted better than it sounds, believe me). I would have preferred a stronger pr…