Devilish Special, Winter’s Fourteen and Christmas Star – some of the names of non-traditional beers being marketed by industrial-size breweries as they strive to bring consumers back to tapped beer and reverse the trend of the past several years in which bottled beer has been getting the upper hand. Another motive also lies behind the growing presence of special beers produced by large breweries.
The big players want to reclaim some of the territory seized by small-sized competitors. According to web server pivovary.info, the small breweries have come up with more than four dozen Christmas specials to help their consumers lubricate the end of the year.
The small breweries know that this time around they are certainly not the only producers making unconventional beers. Plenty of their more muscular rivals have embarked on the same route. These include Starobrno, which is owned by Heineken, Staropramen’s Ostravar, PMS group member Zubr, Rebel Havlíčkův Brod and Lobkowicz’s Jihlava brewery.
“The reasoning is three-pronged: the big breweries are battling for the consumer, competing with the small ones and attempting to stem the beer consumption decline. They are thus being forced to come up with something novel on top of their traditional 10-degree and 12-degree beers,” said Jan Veselý, an expert on the brewing industry who is the former head of the Czech Union of Breweries and Malt-houses [ČSPS]. “Industrial-sized breweries have gone into making unconventional beers in an attempt to lure consumers back to restaurants and pubs with something unusual,” he added.
Zubr, one of the big breweries based in Přerov, Central Moravia, has for example produced 1,400 hectolitres of its holiday-season special Maxxim, 20-percent more than last year. “The trend that sees consumers giving new beers a try started about a decade ago. It has developed in recent years into an outright demand for a broad range of non-traditional beers,” said Tomáš Pluháček, CEO of Zubr.
But the season’s specials don’t always come cheap. Some of them, as well as Christmas editions of traditional products, can cost as much as CZK 100 a go or more. Reserva, brewed by Starobrno, costs CZK 100 for a 0.75-litre serving. Although Pilsen’s Prazdroj has produced a special brew for this winter season, it offers its lager in an unconventional one-litre bottle designed by Maxim Velčovský. And it shows in the price tag: CZK 179.
Family brewery Bernard has joined forces with 40-times winner of the country’s Singer of the Year poll, Karel Gott. On top of his vocal prowess, he is also a prolific painter. The brewery can thus boast of its season’s special, Bernard Ale, being adorned by a reproduction of one of its star artist’s paintings.