Tweet Yesterday morning I was a guest at a radio show at Radio Česko. Together with Jírka Stehlíček, a.k.a. Bejček, owner of První Pivní Tramwaj and, it could be said, spiritual father of the čtvrtá pípa concept, we talked about beer (what else?), or more precisely, the boom of the micro breweries.
Since the show was going to be live, we had been sent the questions beforehand so we could prepare the answers before going on air. Four were directly for me, others where for Bejček, a few more were for both of us, and there were some others that had been answered by Aleš Dočkal, from Pivovarský Klub on a recorded interview.
The questions were in general pretty interesting and I thought I could share with you the answers I have on air and the answers I would have liked to give to some of the other questions. Let's start with the ones that I was asked on air. (translated from Czech).
"You've been living here for almost ten years, how do you see the development of the Czech beer culture? What did your think when you arrived, how has your opinion changed and what do you think now?
When I arrived here I thought that all Czech beer was excellent. With time that opinion changed and now I think that there are some Czech beers that are excellent, some that are good, some that aren't so, etc. Regarding the beer culture, six years ago, when I started to get interested in beer, almost nobody had heard of Svijany, now this and other regional brands can be found almost everywhere and many an average consumer has them as their favourite. There are also twice as many micro breweries and back then (there are around a hundred today) y words like "nepasterované", "kvasnicové" or "nefiltrované" have become familiar among the average consumers. However, this does not mean that the beer culture has got significantly richer. Just as it happens everywhere, for most consumers the concept "beer" still means only one thing, at most two.
Is the concept "Czech beer" seen in the world the way Czechs like to believe? (meaning the reputation)
Yes, no doubt. We must not forget that most people in the world drink only one kind of beer and when they come to Prague, or anywhere else in the country, and see that they can drink Pilsner Urquell everywhere, they love it. To some of us Urquell, and other like brands, might not be big deal, but compared to what people drink elsewhere, they are at a very good level.
Czechs are starting to discover beers that were unknown to them before, IPA, etc. (...) do you think that these beers can have significant commercial success? Won't stay like a niche product?
I believe that they will always be a niche product. This doesn't mean, however, that they can't have commercial success. That will depend on the brewers, how well they are able to brew and sell this kind of beers. There are already a couple of breweries that are doing pretty well thanks to specialising in untraditional styles.
Among the other questions, the ones I found most interesting were:
Couldn't the big breweries feel threatened by the success of the micros? No way. That's never going to happen. The so called "Craft Beer Revolution" is something that doesn't exist. Some macros might get inspired by this phenomenon, or might want to profit from a new market trend, but that's as far as it goes. On the other hand, on the Czech market, the big brewers are getting a bit nervous with the success of some of the regionals. They are able to compete with the macros no only on quality and price, but also on geographical reach.
Micro breweries are popping up like mushrooms. What are the reasons of this? I think it's because people are rediscovering traditions, are once again appreciating regional and local things, stuff that they can feel as their own and unique, and micro breweries can offer that better than anyone.
To close the interview we were both asked how we imagined and ideal situation in the beer market in 10 years time. I said that I didn't believe the situation was going to change much, that there might be more micro breweries that will bet on distribution as their business model (instead of the brewpub), but that, generally speaking, things will be pretty much like they are now. (Which, by the way, isn't too bad).
Bejček, on the other hand, said that it was something hard to predict, adding that ten years ago nobody would have imagined a situation like today's. What he believes will happen, though, is that all this will force the macros to start making better beers. And I couldn't agree more.
Anyway, speaking live on the radio, and in Czech, was a very exciting experience. I thought I would be more nervous, so just before the interview I stopped for a quick pint. I might have not needed, the moment the red light went on I focused on the questions and felt really comfortable speaking to the microphone.
But well, what do you think? How would you answer the above questions applied to your respective beer ecosystems?
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