Tweet Many people have told me that in the past, the beers from Krušovice were considered among the best in the Czech Rep., comparable even with what Pilsner Urquell brewed at the time.
Things started to change in the 1990's, and not for the better. Like most of the breweries in the country (that had not been given back to the owners of the pre-Comunist years) Krušovice was privatised and from then on its production increased tremendously, trebling its volume in only three years. By the middle of the decade, and after a few comings and goings, the German company Binding Brauerei, itself part of the Radeberger Gruppe, itself property of the multinational Dr. Oetker (people who I'm sure care about beer as much as Budvar care about frozen pizza), became the majority shareholder. This all resulted in, well, when I moved here in 2002 the once admired brand was now considered among the worst, a bit like Staropramen today. And that's not it, it is said that the Germans would mix some of their Radeberger Pils with Krušovice in order to increase volume, great...
In 2007, the Dutch giant Heineken became the new owner of the brewery and decided that Krušovice would be the flagship brand of their Czech portfolio, so they were left with no other choice but to start repairing the brand's image.
The most significant step in this process has been the relaunching of Krušovice Světlý (výčepní) and Krušovice Imperial (ležák) as "Pořadná 10° y 12°" (proper 10º y 12º - Balling). This is not only about a rebranding, but also about an interesting rhetoric touch. If we are speaking about the products of the macros (including Heineken), and not few regionals like Bernard or Primátor, what people usually call desítka (10) or dvanáctka (12) are actually výčepní o ležák, which are legal categories defined by respective ranges of Balling graduation, 8-10.99 for the former, 11-12.99 for the latter. This is important because many of those beers are brewed with a lower graduation than many people believe or in some cases, like for example Gambrinus, the High Gravity Brewing system is used. So, what Heineken is telling us with this is that they make these beers the proper way (regardless that they never mention how much time they are given to ferment and lager).
That's all very nice, yeah, but the most important thing is the beer, and if I like it (or not) I really don't give much of a toss about what the label and the rest of their marketing say.
I had already tasted the 10º when it was launched and I didn't like it that much. The 12º was launched this year and as soon as I came across a bottle I bought it to taste it in the comfort of my home (in the picture, together with what would soon be a pivní sýr).
But I like being fair, to really be able to appreciate a desítka and dvanáctka you have to drink it draught. The bottled version can give you an idea, but it is from a well tapped půl litr that beers like this express themselves best. With that goal I went to what I believe is the best place in Prague to drink Krušovice, Krušovická Pivnice Šalanda, in Nardoní.
The 10º improves, it's got a nice malty base and a mild, but pleasant bitterness. If they had it in my village I would happily drink it. The 12º starts well enough, the first sip surprised me, well built and quite "Urquell", very tasty indeed, but halfway down the glass it runs out of steam, it's as if all the taste and character were packed in the head. Disappointing.
But back to the marketing thing. After both beers had been relaunched, Heineken took the streets to carry out the Krušovice Referendum, aiming to confirm the beers' new slogan "Chutná jako tenkrát" (It tastes like back then). The campaign consisted of a small tank lorry going around different towns offering both beers on tap and asking the people if they were as good as they used to be.
The result can't surprise anyone, 97% of those "polled" said that yes, the beers are like 15-20 years ago. Regardless of the fact that many of the blokes that appear in the TV ad don't look old enough to have been beer drinkers two decades ago (although...) or that it isn't known how many of the rest where actually regular consumers of Krušovice back in the good days, how many people can are really able to remember what a beer they drank so long ago tasted like?
But well, the important thing here is that we have a multinational that is trying to do at least something well, or better than before. Time will tell whether this drive will be successful or not. And honestly, I hope they will. Not because I have any kind of sympathies for Heineken, but because, if this works out it might result in other big brewers giving more emphasis to quality, which in the end is good for everyone.
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