Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Czechvar Glass

Quick language lesson: In German, the suffix -er is commonly used to denote that a person or thing originates from a particular place – for example, a "Berliner" is a person from Berlin. (It is also, though not necessarily, a jelly doughnut.)

Though few people realize it, this convention is responsible for the name of the world's most famous beer style: Pilsener (variably spelled "Pilsner"). This style was first created in the Bohemian town of Plzeň, in what is today the Czech Republic. The area then belonging to the German-speaking Austro-Hungarian Empire, it was commonly known by its German name, Pilsen, and hence the immensely popular and revolutionary beer style originating there came to be known, consistent with the language, as "Pilsener."

Beer lovers might know where I'm going with this. There is a city in the Czech Republic that was once, and in Germany still is, known by its German name "Budweis." In accordance with convention, the beer brewed there – and there are two major breweries that have since the late 1800s offered their version of Pilsener-style beer – has been known as "Budweiser." Predictably, and as many are aware, this has lead to a never-ending dispute between the brewing conglomerate Anheuser-Busch, owners of the American Budweiser, and the smaller Czech brewers who likewise have the legal right to this name. I won't rehash the history of that squabble here; Internet searches are very handy for that.

One of the breweries at the center of this ongoing spat is Budweiser Budvar, National Corporation, whose flagship product goes by the name "Budweiser" in much of the world and "Czechvar" in the U.S. Which, finally, brings us to this glass.

Budweiser a.k.a. Czechvar is a delightful Pilsener brewed in the Bohemian tradition. Thanks to a recent importation agreement with, of all companies, Anheuser-Busch, Czechvar has enjoyed increasingly strong availability here in recent years. Say what you will about the parties involved; this is a good thing for beer drinkers.

Befitting a beer of such historic and stylistic importance, not to mention its quality, the Czechvar glass is an elegant tulip-style piece of stemware with golden accents. The small text reads "Imported Original Premium Czech Lager" (doesn't that honor go to Pilsner Urquell?) while the seal of the city of České Budějovice, the Czech name for the home of Budweiser/Czechvar, sits above.

An attractive glass such as this one does well with equally lovely beers inside it – clear, golden, sparkling offerings like Pilsner, Helles, Golden/Blonde Ales. The combination makes for a striking, and mouthwatering, visual effect. Being the fine piece of glassware that it is, fun to look at and drink from, I've even put heftier fare like Bourbon Smoked Porter inside.

Beer aficionados tend to lament the arbitrary moniker Czechvar is forced to wear in the U.S. (and Canada too), rightly observing that if any beer should have access to the strictly descriptive label "Budweiser," this one sure qualifies. Nevertheless, it seems safe to say that Budweiser Budvar's naming status on our side of the pond is fairly settled – best to simply enjoy a world-class beer and the fine glass it's served in.


Bryan said...

I just picked one of these glasses up in a brewerania shop for $.99.

This is by far one of the most versatile glasses, save for the Boston Beer Perfect Pint, that I have ever owned. I love it, and use it often.

I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment.

Brad said...

Bryan, you got a pretty good deal. I bought mine at a local beer bar for something like $2.

It's a great glass and I'm glad to have it as part of my collection.

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