Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Original Budweiser?

Regular followers of this blog will know that I love Czech beer, in fact I think Czech lager is the best on the planet by a long, long way. Even stuff that I wouldn't normally drink when I lived in Prague, such as Gambrinus or Staropramen, is better than many a lager from the rest of the world. From the ranks of the mass produced Czech lagers, Budvar has long been my favourite, so it may come as something of a surprise that I think the latest Budvar vs Budweiser stunt to be utterly pointless.

In case you haven't seen their tweets or Facebook page, Budvar in the UK are organising a taste test between "The Original" and "The Other", kind of like the Pepsi vs Coke challenge from the 1980s. I don't know why they feel the need to do a taste test, given the appalling nature of a palate that would be required not to be able to tell the difference.

My problem with the whole shenanigans isn't with trying to show that Budvar tastes far superior to Budweiser, that's pretty much a given. Rather, it is the use of the term "the Original" to describe Budvar, because it simply isn't true.

The dictionary definition of "original" includes the following:
  • belonging or pertaining to the origin or beginning of something, or to a thing at its beginning
  • arising or proceeding independently of anything else
  • created, undertaken, or presented for the first time
  • being something from which a copy, a translation, or the like is made
  • a primary form or type from which varieties are derived
I guess Budvar have definitions 4 and 5 primarily in mind with their claims to be the "Original", though they also claim an element of the first definition, as the term "Budweiser" pertains the place of origin. However, the claim to be the "Original" is entirely spurious.


A quick history lesson, the year is 1795 in the Bohemian town called Budweis and there is a new brewery in town, the "Bürgerliches Brauhaus Budweis", which translates as the Budweis Citziens Brewery. The sign above, which I have posted many times on here, reads "Budweiser from the Original Source", made by the Bürgerliches Brauhaus Budweis. I have also posted a sign for Budweiser Porter, suggesting that "Budweiser" is not a description of any given beer style, but rather than appellation (I have no problem with Budvar claiming the appellation, after all they brew in Budweis - different argument). Today, the Bürgerliches Brauhaus Budweis is known by it's Czech name Budějovický měšťanský pivovar, and sells most of it beers under the brand name Samson, though in the USA it is known as "B.B. Bürgerbrau".

In 1875, the Bürgerliches Brauhaus Budweis started exporting its beer to the USA using the name Budweiser. In 1876, Anheuser-Busch started producing their own pale lager in St Louis, apparently based on Bohemian brewing techniques and sold under the name Budweiser.

Skipping back to Bohemia about 20 years later, to 1895, and a group of mainly Czech brewers in Budweis decide to establish their own brewery, Budějovický Budvar was the result. A brewery that is 19 years younger than Anheuser-Busch and 110 years younger than the first organised brewery in Budweis.

I think it is a safe bet, given the post Pilsner Urquell brewing revolution that swept Central Europe, that Bürgerliches Brauhaus Budweis were brewing a pale lager a few decades before Budvar even got in on the act. As such, Budvar, while being superior to Budweiser, is far from being the "Original" beer from Budweis, that honour belongs to Budějovický měšťanský pivovar.

3 comments:

  1. Are B.B. Bürgerbrau and Samson the same beer? I've seen them both here, as well as 1785 lager.

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  2. I don't believe so, the B.B. Burgerbrau is 5% abv, the Samson Premium is 4.9%.

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