New in our portfolio of cool brands: Budweiser Budvar, the original

Posted on 03/11/2017 by Eileen Schuch
Budweiser Budvar Influencer

Budweiser, Bud…. there is only one true Budvar and that is brewed in the Czech Republic, more precisely a little town called České Budějovice or Budweis (in German).

The uniqueness and originality of České Budějovice beer is recognized by the European Union, which entitled Budweiser Budvar in 2004 to use the “Protected Geographical Indication” logo, a seal that guarantees that the beer is genuine as it can only be granted to products strongly connected with their place of origin and produced using exactly specified, distinctive and traditional procedures.

Budweiser Budvar is brewed in accordance with the Reinheitsgebot law of 1516, using only virgin clear natural water, granules of selected species of the best Moravian barley and the gentlest heads of the high quality Žatec hop. The Czech Premium Lager is most enjoyed by lovers of pale beer.

Only the best barley, water and hop

Hop is the magic plant that gives beer its refreshing briskness. The common hop (Humulus lupulus) is a dioecious, perennial, herbaceous climbing plant in the Cannabaceae family, which is used in brewing. The female flowers (hop cones) contain bitter substances that provide beer with flavor and aroma. Since the flowers lose their quality after pollination, it is vital to make sure no male plants occur in the hop field. The first historical mention about using hops to flavor beer comes from a document by Pepin the Short, King of the Franks of 768. In all of Budweiser Budvar’s beers, only whole cones of Saaz hops (Žatecký poloraný červeňák, ranking amongst the best-quality and most expensive hops in the world) are used.

No beer can be brewed without water. In fact, the water used is substantial in the characteristic flavor of a beer. So, where to find pure and limpid clean water directly from the heart of the Earth whose flavor would perfectly match the malt and hops used in brewing the authentic Budweiser Budvar? Only in the depth of several hundred meters, where the artesian wells of České Budějovice are located… This water is ecologically immaculate and so clean that it needs no chemical treatment. The technology and principle of the artesian wells were already known in Ancient Syria and Egypt. However, only their common use in the former French province of Artois, where many artesian wells were drilled by Carthusian monks in the 12th century, gave them their name, which has been the synonym of a source of tasteful and quality water till today.

Good-quality malt is essential for the brewing of excellent beer. Budweiser Budvar only use pale malt made from the grains of the best Czech strains of spring barley, which is grown on the sunny stretches of the Moravian region of Haná. It is the malt that provides the beer with its inimitable golden color and impeccable full flavor. The production of malt is called malting and takes place in malt-houses. Malt actually means germinated cereal grains that have been dried. Malting grains develop the enzymes required to modify the grain’s starches into simple fermentable sugars later in the brewing house (mashing process).

Some insights into the long history of the brand

I am personally interested in the history of this brand. Growing up in East Germany, it played a role in my life. Shortly after the wall came down, I went to visit the brewery. That was in 1991… So forgive me for laying it out in detail, but I think it’s really interesting; particularly with regards to the trademark issues. here it goes…

The history of brewing in České Budějovice started in 1265, when Ottokar II (Přemysl Otakar II.) founded the town. He was the King of Bohemia, who granted the town with important privileges, the brewing right being one of them. On 4th May 1351, Charles IV., Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia, granted the town of České Budějovice with miscellaneous liberties, such as the mile right. From that time, no extraneous pubs could be located within a 10-kilometre radius from the town. On 20th June 1410, King Wenceslaus IV. extended the older mile right so that no extraneous malt houses, breweries, craftsmen and pubs were allowed within a mile from the town.

In 1464, Budějovice citizens enforced the mile right with power and eliminated all the extraneous malt houses, breweries and pubs in the radius of the local brewers’ mile right beyond the town’s fortifications and their surroundings. Following long negotiations with town citizens, the České Budějovice Town Hall managed to build its own large brewery. Under the arrangement with the town citizens, the town brewery brewed so-called white (wheat) beer, while individual citizens brewed dark barley beer.

Ferdinand I., Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia, praised Budějovice citizens for their especially good bread and beer. He therefore orders them to send the local maltster along with laborers to his imperial court in Augsburg to brew beer for him.

From the beginning of the 18th century, the town citizens endeavored to control the municipal brewery, reasoning it with the brewing right they had owned. The municipal council recognized their right in 1722, however they had to give up brewing in their houses. Therefore they bought the brewing house of Matěj Konvička, the maltster, thus giving rise to the so-called Small Brewery. Nonetheless, the municipal council pronounced this building its own building. From then, the town owned two breweries – the Large Brewery near the Rožnov Gate and the Small Brewery on the corner of Charles IV. St. and Kanovnická St.

The town citizens declined to accept that and the dispute finished in 1795, when the town passed the administration of both breweries to the town citizens, giving thus rise to the so called Civic Brewery. The equipment as well as the premises of both Budějovice breweries soon ceased to meet the need for the increasing demand in beer. And so, both areas were reconstructed and rebuilt several times, but soon it was clear that no further development of the breweries in the inner town was possible. In 1847 it was decided to build a new refrigerator cellar at the Linz suburb. Later on in 1851-1852, a new brewery was built there.

Budweiser goes overseas: the trademark dispute

In this video, “Bierpapst” Conrad Seidl explains not only the taste profile but also, how the trademark issue around Budweiser came about: millions of people travelled from the old continent to America hoping to find a better life there. The emigrants also “brought” their thirst and love for European beer with them, which resulted in the start of importing beer to America, some brands of Czech beer being amongst it. In 1872, the import of Budweiser Bier from České Budějovice began, as well.

Thanks to the ever-growing popularity of European beer on the American market, C. Conrad, another emigrant, had the idea to imitate the beer in America. The problem occurred with choosing a brand for their product. Clearly, it had to be a well-known brand from Europe, its name being pronounceable in English. Consequently in 1876, another Budweiser Bier came into the world six centuries after the brewing of the beer began in České Budějovice. It was Anheuser-Busch brewery that Carl Conrad had chosen for his business plan.

In 1878, C. Conrad had the Budweiser Lager Bier trademark registered with the American Patent Office, signing it over to the brewing concern Anheuser-Busch in 1891, which thus got the right to sell this beer. The appropriation was not only unauthorized, but the owners of the American trademark passed the trademark off as an invented one. On the contrary, Budweiser beer from České Budějovice indicated specific information about the place of origin, which was derived from the official name of the town. The picture of the Anheuser-Busch’s label of 1876 contains information that this beer is brewed using a recipe from Budějovice and Czech ingredients.

Adolphus Busch himself, as the founder of the US-based beer giant Anheuser-Busch, testified before the South New York District Court with respect to the dispute over the mark Budweiser in 1894 as follows: “The idea was simple – to produce a beer of the same quality, color and taste as the beer produced in Budweis, or Bohemia.”

The Czech Joint-Stock Brewery (present Budweiser Budvar, N.C.) began to brew its famous beer on 7th October 1895. The circumstances preceding its founding were very dramatic in the nationally divided Budějovice. The Czech brewers were not satisfied with the situation in the local very German Civic Brewery and so supported by the leading representatives of the Czech bourgeoisie they decided to set up a new company.

On 20th May 1896, the “Joint-Stock Brewery Restaurant” was officially opened. The opening ceremony was set for Sunday, but the restaurant had been completely packed the day before and all the elegant rooms with electrical lighting were literally bursting with thirsty wanderers. From that moment, the brewery became the center of the Czech national life in the town. It is, of course, refurbished today but not less of a magnet for locals and tourists alike.

The good-quality beer from the Joint-Stock Brewery soon established itself within strong competition. As early as 1896, the first-class quality of the beer brought the brewery important awards at an agricultural and pharmaceutical tradeshow in Prague. In 1897, the brewery’s products were awarded a gold medal at the foodstuff trade-show in Stuttgart.

The ever-growing beer sales, which in a few years surpassed the rival Civic Brewery, resulted in extending all operations. In 1905-1908, a second brewing room and a machinery hall were built while the lager cellars were extended and other premises were modernized.

When the Anheuser-Busch concern registered the Budweiser trademark in the United Stated in 1907, both Budějovice breweries protested against it (the Joint-Stock Brewery began to import its beer to the USA in 1906). Following long disputes a contract was entered into in 1911, where the Czech Joint-Stock Brewery recognized the validity of the American registration in exchange for compensation; however, it did not give up its right to label its products with the word “Budweiser” and the specific “original” around the world.

In 1930, the brewery registered its Budvar trademark, which was used for the 12° export pale lager. The extraordinary international success of this trademark eventually drove the board of directors to include the word in the name of the brewery, which subsequently was from 1936 was: Budvar – Joint-Stock Brewery, České Budějovice.

At the beginning of 1939 on the eve of the World War II., both České Budějovice breweries were forced to enter into new unfavorable contracts with Anheuser-Busch under the threat of confiscation of all their goods in the USA. For an inadequate compensation, they undertook not to use the denominations of Budweiser, Budweis and other derivatives for the area of North American territory north from Panama.

During the occupation a Nazi administrator was appointed to the Budvar – Joint-Stock Brewery and the brewery became a part of the Protectorate breweries network. During the war, the export literally perished, although the Joint-Stock Brewery had exported to a larger extent until 1942.

The post-war period brought many changes to the brewery. It was nationalized in 1946 and changed its name several times while the confiscated Civic Brewery was incorporated in it. Finally, it was made into South Bohemian Breweries National Corporation. When other regional breweries were incorporated in South Bohemian Breweries, the original Joint-Stock Brewery began to use the name Budvar to distinguish itself.

In 1959, the first label with the design elements that still feature on it today was created. In 1967, Budweiser Budvar, N.C originated as the successor of the original Joint-Stock brewery and the Civic Brewery, taking over its trademarks to a large extent. It was put on the same level as South Bohemian Breweries and as far as the management was concerned, both companies had a joint management.

In 1973, Budweiser Budvar launched a novelty – canned beer. The efforts to mechanically rack beer into cans directly in the brewery were, however, met with technical difficulties (low output) and eventually failed. For that reason, the brewery management decided to cooperate with the Zlatý Bažant Brewery in the Slovakian town of Hurbanovo, which had an automatic can-filling line.

Budweiser Budvar Canned Beer

A new stage of the brewery’s history came after the Velvet Revolution in 1989, when Budweiser Budvar became physically independent on 1st January 1991. Owing to another overall modernization of all the operations, establishing direct business relations with both local and international business partners and building its own distribution warehouses the brewery increased its production two and half fold.

Thanks to an extensive modernization, Budweiser Budvar, N.C. surpassed the 1,000,000-hectoliter milestone in 1996. In 2000, the brewery exported its beer to 56 countries worldwide, starting to set up subsidiaries on some markets. Germany represented the largest market at that time, with 200,000 hectoliters of beer going there every year.

The first original beer restaurant Budvarka was opened in the Small Brewery Hotel in České Budějovice. The conception of the original beer restaurant chain is intended for everyone who likes the environment of a traditional but at the same time modern beer restaurant with a pleasant ambience, where excellent well-treated beer along with a delicious Czech and international cuisine can be savored.

In 2003, Budweiser Budvar, N.C. launched a reliable and modern technology of beer tapping on the market. It is a system of stainless steel tanks that guarantees the best quality and freshness of the beer. The European Commission granted Budweiser Budvar N.C. with the right to use a Protected Geographical Indication “Budějovické pivo” and “Českobudějovické pivo”. This decision became effective on 1st May 2004.

In 2005, the brewery opened a new Visitor Centre and a multimedia exposition called The Tale of Beer from Budějovice, which graphically depicts the history of brewing in České Budějovice. A souvenir shop selling promotional items and articles connected with beer is a part of the Centre. It was also the Budweiser Budvar Brewery introduced new 0.5 liter bottles in order to complete its product range.

Since July 2006, customers in the Czech Republic have been able to purchase Budweiser Budvar Dark Lager in bottles. The brewery thus extended its range of dark lager, which had only been available in small kegs until then.

In 2009, the beer sales surpass the annual limit of 1.25 million hectoliters. In 2011, Budweiser Budvar launched 20 and 30-litre non-returnable (one-way) kegs for draft beer, which were quite uncommon in Czech circumstances. The KeyKeg system basically works on the same principle as the popular beer tanks – the beer is filled into an internal sack made from a special foil that is completely impervious to air, thus providing the beer with top microbiological and sensory quality.

Budweiser Budvar Canned Beer

In August 2012, the brewery began to completely change its glassware for draft beer of the Budweiser Budvar brand. The entirely new glassware set includes glasses, goblets and jugs. On 14th February 2013 a new can-filling hall was put into operation, having the hourly capacity of 16,800 cans.

In 2014, all the packaging was redesigned. The main objectives of the project were to harmonize the look of the packaging with the brand’s values, enable a better recognition of the products, decrease the number of label versions and increase the output of the bottle filling rooms.

Since 2015, our partner Introdrink markets Budweiser Budvar in Switzerland and we will kick off our story with a first event this November. In 2018 a blogger trop to Budvar is planned. IF you are interested to be part of it, send us an e-mail >>>









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  1. Pingback: Save the date – 24.11.17 – Czech It Out 10th Birthday Bash @ Moods Jazz Club, Zurich

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