Budweiser (made by Anheuser-Busch) is one of the most popular beer brands around the world thanks to corporate sponsorship deal with various sports leagues, heavy advertising, and product placement in movies and TV. What many people don’t know, is how Budweiser came to be, taking their moniker from two breweries based in the city of České Budějovice (Budweis), in the Czech Republic. Let’s take a closer look at this sordid tale:
Beer has been brewed in the city of Budějovice since the 13th century, evening holding the position of imperial brewery for the Holy Roman Empire at one time. The Czech Republic’s largest brewery is the “Pivovar Budějovický Budvar” (Budweiser Budvar Brewery), which was established in 1895. One hundred years earlier, the oldest Czech brewery was founded, under the name “Budweiser Bier Bürgerbräu.” Both companies sold their beer under the name Budweiser.
Budweiser Bürgerbräu crossed the pond and hit the United States in 1871. Five years later, in 1876, Anheuser-Busch began using the Budweiser brand and registered it as a trademark two years later, in 1878. The Anheuser-Busch version of Budweiser was originally an imitation of the Czech product, before carving out its own niche in the brewing industry.
The Budweiser trademark dispute has been fought since 1907, with Anheuser-Busch trying to worm its way into European countries, citing their trademark registration. To counter, the Czech breweries state that Budweiser is not just a generic name, but actually refers to beers made in the city of Budweis. The direct translation is ‘beers from Budweis,’ which Anheuser-Busch certainly can’t claim, unless there’s a town in St. Louis nobody has previously heard of, also called Budweis.
Regardless, an agreement between all three breweries was reached in 1938, allowing Anheuser-Busch to label their beers Budweiser in North America only. Anheuser-Busch has made numerous offers to buy out the Budweiser Budvar Brewery, in order to acquire the global rights to the name and beer, but the Czech government has stepped in and declined all bids. The Budweiser name is a matter of national pride and who doesn’t like sticking it to big American corporations every now and again!
With the fall of communism in the early 1990’s, the Czech breweries worked to regain the rights to their names, using international Protected Geographical Indication, to help with their fight. As of January 2013, the Czech companies had won 89 of 124 cases against Anheuser-Busch (eight ending in a draw), but there are many other actions pending, in jurisdictions around the world.
As a result of the litigation between the three companies, beers made by the state-owned Budweiser Budvar Brewery are labelled Czechvar in North America, while Budweiser America is sold as simply Bud across European Union markets. Today, Budweiser Bürgerbräu is known by “Pivovar Samson” or “B. B. Bürgerbräu” in the U.S. and recently regained the Budweiser naming rights for Europe.
Anheuser-Busch and the Budweiser Budvar Brewery have even worked in partnership with one another. Starting in 2007, Anheuser-Busch started to import the Czechvar beer into the U.S. Business certainly does make for strange bedfellows, although the agreement was terminated in 2012. The United Kingdom and Ireland are some of the rare places where all brands are able to use the Budweiser name.
As for Anheuser-Busch, they keep plugging along, hocking their water… er, I mean beer to hundreds of millions of people who just don’t know any better. Mrs. Sip and I hate it when a place we go to is featuring Budweiser as their daily deal. We’re not saying you have to be a craft beer snob or anything like that, but if you’re going to put anything in your system, it might as well be a decent brew!
Czech Republic: Beerly Legal
- 1 oz Campari
- Top with Czechvar Beer
- Splash of Orange Soda
- Garnish with a Maraschino Cherry
Sticking with brews, the Pilsner style of beer was also invented in the Czech Republic, this time in the city of Plzeň. Beer brewing is still a thriving industry in the Czech Republic, with countless breweries. Heck, the Czech’s even have the highest beer consumption per capita in the world!
Sip Advisor Bar Notes (2.5 Sips out of 5):
I love the name of this cocktail, but Campari has ruined (yet again) what should have been a great drink. If I make it again, I would completely exclude the Italian herbal liqueur. Thankfully, my bottle is almost empty and I can say without any hesitation that it will not be replaced. On a side note, I used Orange Soda in place of Tangerine Juice.