28 Jan 2011

Drink for thought

A bit on the topic that Stan dealt with the other day is this article from an Argentine newspaper "Five qualities from wine that beer watches and envies". (in Spanish)

The headline might be quite silly, but it still makes a bit of sense. The author claims to have had access to a study that was based on marketing surveys from several countries, which had been commissioned by breweries.

For those who don't read Spanish here's a summary:

1- Frequency: People drink more beer, but they drink wine more often, and they drink it at home with meals. In Argentina people drink beer 5.6 times a month and wine 9.4

2- Food: Beer is drunk mostly with fast-food, while wine will wash down "proper" meals.

3- Attributes: Wine is associated with God, the land, tradition, history and even country, as well as variety, knowledge, exploration and prestige, while beer is associated with parties, nightlife, young people (i.e. inexperienced consumer), etc. Something in the lines of what I've talked about almost a year ago

4- Stereotyped consumption: Beer is seen as a refreshment with alcohol.

5- Concentration: Brewing is in the hands of a few large companies, while wine is made by many small ones, or so says the author, who bases his claim on the difference in the advertising budgets of both industries. In 2009 the advertising expenses of breweries in Argentina represented 21.5% of the total for the country, while wine's were only 7.7%. For example, the country's biggest brewer, Quilmes (property of AB-InBev and second largest beberage advertiser) spent 661.53 million Pesos and in comparison the largest winemaker, Grupo Peñaflor spent 116.76.

Before you scream "Bollocks!" you should be aware that this is not the way we see beer, but the way the average consumer does, and that, although the article speaks about Argentina, it could be very well applied to many other countries.

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26 Jan 2011

A Star is Born (take 3)

Do you remember that trip I made last November with the people of the web portal Viamedius?

Well, the video we shot is already available. Looks quite alright, specially the parts of Krumlov and beer. Originally, it was planned as a 20 minute documentary, but it ended up being almost 30 minutes long, those extra 10 are dedicated to pivo. Cool!

I hope you like it (even if it is in Spanish)

REPUBLICA CHECA con Max from Viamedius on Vimeo.
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21 Jan 2011


The other day I asked whether setting up a Facebook page was worth it. Many of you left comments or sent e-mails giving your opinion, and I thank you for it.

After having meditated on the matter, and weighing the opinion of everyone, even of those who don't have a profile in the social network, I've decided to listen to the majority and set up the page.

Besides the posts I publish here, I will also link to what I find most interesting from what is posted in the many beer blogs I follow in English, Spanish and, why not, Czech, too; the idea is to do it on a daily basis, but that will depend on the material. I will also share news and other beer stuff that I believe are worth reading and, if I feel like it (I've been quite lazy for that lately) I will post the odd beer review.

If you want to "Like" the page, you can do it with the plug-on on the right. Once there, you are more than welcome to share whatever thing you may find interesting beer-wise. Also, those of you who have your own beer blogs are free to link to them. I would like Pivnví Filosof's page on Facebook to be more a forum than a monologue.

Needless to say, that page will be no more than an accessory to this blog. I will keep on posting the juiciest things here, at a slower pace than before, yeah, but that is something I've already explained here. To those of you who don't have, neither want to have, a FB profile (and I don't see why you should), I'm still thinking of what I can do so you won't be so left out.

Thanks everyone again for your comments and suggestions.

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19 Jan 2011

To PET or not to PET

Polyethylene Terephtalate bottles (PET, for friends) seem to have been the only segment that has shown any growth for the multinationals. Some would go as far as to say that if it wasn't for these 1.5 and 2l plastic bottles PrazdrojHeineken and Staropramen could be in some serious shit.

But beers sold in this kind of bottles are nothing new on the Czech market. The first one I remember seeing in a PET bottle was Sladkův Měšťan (Staropramen's cheapest brand) and that must have been six or seven years ago. I've never bought it, I've always found Měšťan awful and didn't think plastic would improve things. Later there was an attempt by Staropramen to sell their Světlý in a 0.6l plastic bottle. It was very expensive, more than the cans, and didn't enjoy a long life. Also, in some supermarkets you can see to this day PET bottles from a couple of regionals whose products I've never been too keen on, so I've never bought them, either.

When I started visiting microbreweries from out of Prague I saw that most of them sold their products in this kind of containers. I've never had any problems with them, the bottles are filled right from the lagering tanks, and then go straight to fridges. Freshness in guaranteed, something that can be said about supermarkets.

It wasn't until 2009 that PET bottles got into the mainstream. That year Heineken came out with a strong advertising campaign promoting Zlatopramen 11º in a 1.5l container. This time things worked out very well. At first the beer was bottled in Slovakia (if I remember correctly), but thanks to the high demand, the Dutch decided to set up an ad-hoc bottling line at least one of their breweries here in CZ. By that time, they were also selling two more of their brands, Starobrno and Březňák, in PET bottles.

It didn't take long for the other two multinationals to follow Heineken's steps and now they all offer their cheaper brands in PET. Something nobody would have believed a few years ago.

Even though there are quite a few beer enthusiasts who aren't too happy with this, it must be said that plastic bottles do have their advantages. They are lighter, less bulky (in the sense that a 1.5l bottle will be a lot easier to carry than 3 0.5l ones), they aren't fragile and you don't have to return them. On the other hand, the conditions in which they are distributed, stored and sold at supermarkets are not the best.

But all this is theory, spiced perhaps with a bit of prejudice. I wanted to see if the container's material, including the can, had any noticeable effect on the quality of the beer, and the best way to do that was through a blind tasting.

For it I chose Březňák Světlý, which is the only beer available in all three kinds of container that I actually like drinking. I bought all of them at the same supermarket and found another advantage of the PET bottles, the price. The can cost 12.90CZK, the glass bottle, 8.90CZK (+ a 3CZK deposit), both in 0.5l, and the 2l PET bottle cost 36.90CZK; basically the same, but without the need to leave any deposit.
Another detail that surprised me about the big bottle was it turned out to be much easier to handle than I expected. The plastic is pretty hard and I was able to serve a glass using only one hand.

Once the beer were in their glasses, I asked me wife to assign them a letter, make a picture, and bring them to my table. The result was paradoxically unexpected.

The beers were served at room temperature. That wasn't because of any technical reasons, I had forgotten to put the bottles to chill in the morning. With the can or the glass bottle it wouldn't have been a problem, a few minutes in the freezer and that's it, but the 2l monster would have taken much longer and I doubt it would have fit in the freezer to begin with. Point for the can and the glass.
None of the samples looked very pretty. 0 head retention and one of them, B, had furious carbonation, while the other two had large and lazy bubbles going up the glass.

Nothing to remark in the aromas, either, but there were some substantial differences in the flavours. I didn't taste with short, careful sips, I took proper swigs that filled my mouth, that's the way you drink this kind of beer. Once the tasting was over and just for the fun of it, I told my wife where I thought each sample had come from:
A: Can, B: Glass, C: PET

I was right! I had felt a metallic note in the finish of A (I might have to reassess once again my position towards cans); B had been the cleanest of the three (high carbonation aside) and in C I felt an off note, not very intense, but still easy to pick. The best way I can describe it is "cheap, artificial vanilla flavouring", I guess it is a sign of oxidation, but I'm not sure and I'll be happy if anyone out there can confirm or correct this.

To be honest, that off note is something I've felt in other pale lagers that had spent a bit too long in less than ideal conditions. I thought that in this case the plastic was partly to blame. I believe that the material offers less protection than the glass, but, once again, I might be wrong here.

So that's it. The glass offered the best drinking experience of the three. Well, it did in those conditions, but the story doesn't end here.

The can and the glass bottle were polished quite quickly and the PET one went to the fridge, where it would stay until it was time for me to cook dinner. By then, the beer was at a proper temperature and the experience was pretty different. Less carbonation, good head retention (though the carbonation part could also be because the bottle had already been opened and it doesn't matter how tight to screw the cap, the gas will steal leak), but the most remarkable, and nicest, thing was that I couldn't feel that off note. I looked for it, and I knew exactly what I was looking for, but obviously the temperature (which must have been 6º, at most 5ºC) had covered it. What I ended up having in my glass was a very good session beer, tasty, smooth, refreshing, with mild bitterness and a nice malty base. I would have never imagined that it had come from a plastic bottle.

The verdict then?

If I was a regular consumer of Březňák Světlý I think I would still buy the 20 bottle case. Returning them wouldn't be a problem, we always do this kind of shopping by car, so price wouldn't be an issue here. Besides, with 0.5l measures, I can dose my intake much better than with a 2l bottle that once opened has to be emptied quite quickly.

On the other hand, if I was organising a garden party or a BBQ I guess I would go for the PET. I would buy enough of them, put them in a tub with iced water and let people serve themselves in plastic cups. Less hassle the day after with picking empty bottles and taking them back to get my refund.

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12 Jan 2011

Bollocks, darling, just bollocks

It seems we didn't have enough bollocks with those "Beers for Women" and "Beers for those who don't like beer". Now we have "Gay Beer"!

This article from a Mexican web page announces the launch of Purple Hand Beer and Salamandra Cerveza Artesanal. According to Bodega Doce, the company behind them, they are the "the first beers exclusive for the gay and lesbian community".

"Beers for women" tend to be quite pathetic products, not much different in concept to "Beers for those who don't like beer". Both take advantage of the image of beer as a "mildly alcoholic, yellowy fizzy beverage that should be drunk really cold". The reality is, though, that there are beers for absolutely everyone, it's only a matter of knowing what to choose. But I don't know, maybe this beers do have something different.

Well, unfortunately, doesn't go into much detail about the characteristics of the beers (colour, AVB %, etc.). They only say that they are brewed with organic honey (is there any other kind?).

I like some beers with honey and my wife loves them. Does that make me gay and her a lesbian? What makes these beers any different than every other brewed without distinction of the sexual orientation of the drinker? Are gays less gay or lesbians less lesbians if they like drinking a Double IPA or four or five desítky?

I understand that in this day and age some companies try hard to differentiate their products from the rest, and the best way to do that is finding a market niche. But this one is an example of lazy marketing, which happens also to be insulting, not as much perhaps to homosexuals as it is to our intelligence.

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PS: If there are any gay or lesbian readers out there, I would like to know what they think about this.

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6 Jan 2011

One question

Some time ago one of my clients told me that I should set up a Facebook page for my blog. At first I simply dismissed the idea, but then I started thinking about it. The main issue I have with it is the contents.

Setting up a Facebook page just as a mirror of this one is a waste of time, really. If I'm going to be bothered with it, I would like to offer something extra, besides keeping it active and updated, not like some I've seen around. But what? So, my dear readers and friends, what sort of contents would you like to see in an eventual Facebook page? And, perhaps more important, is it really worth the bother?

Thanks for your advice.

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