Where exactly is the Staropramen we get in 330ml bottles in UK supermarkets brewed? Probably not Prague, but good luck pinning it down any more precisely than that from the packaging.
We don’t dislike Staropramen (or haven’t disliked it, of which more in a moment) and have drunk a fair few pints and bottles of it over the years, despite knowing that it’s not generally highly regarded by experts in Czech beer. If we want a lager to drink at a barbecue or to swig from the bottle at a party – come on, this is one of life’s great pleasures! – we’ll sometimes pick up a four-quid four-pack at the supermarket. That’s how we ended up holding bottles in our hands on Sunday and, for the first time in ages, really looking at the packaging.
Established in Prague. Proudly brewed since 1849. #1 Prague beer in the world. The spirit of Prague. Then, in tiny print, “Brewed and bottled in the EU for Molson Coors Brewing Company (UK) Ltd.”
That all reads to us like the most weaselly possible way of saying NOT ACTUALLY BREWED IN PRAGUE.
So, where is it brewed if not there?
Molson Coors has brewing plants elsewhere in the Czech Republic, and all over the EU, from Bulgaria to Burton-upon-Trent. But we have a suspicion if this version of the beer was brewed in the UK they would be less shy about it, on the basis that they’re reasonably open about the fact that Pravha, the 4% draught variant, is brewed here.
Our guess as to what’s going on, at least in part, is that there is no single point of origin, and that they’re keeping their options open with regard to logistics. Perhaps some of the Staropramen we get in the UK is sometimes brewed in Prague, or at least elsewhere in the Czech Republic, but there might be occasional periods when additional demand is fulfilled by plants in, say, Croatia. Being more specific on the labels would make this kind of flexibility difficult.
So, who can say for sure? We’ve emailed to ask this specific question and will let you know if we hear back.
As to the quality of the beer… Well, we’ve stuck up for it longer than some but it really did taste a bit rough to us this time; harsh and nasty, with the same odd hot, plasticky tang we also pick up in Stella Artois and San Miguel in particular. Perhaps that’s the result of the brewing taking place away from home; or because the beer now only uses “ingredients including Czech hops” (our emphasis); or because the lagering time is a mere “couple of weeks”. Most likely, it’s a combination of these and a lot of other smaller corner cutting exercises, themselves the symptom of a lack of respect for the beer, even if the brand continues to be worth milking.
And why is the brand valuable? Because people think they’re buying something from Prague – a genuine import, a reminder of adventures past, something for which it is worth paying a (small) premium – just like we did on Sunday afternoon.
Where a beer is from, or appears to be from, does matter, at least to the marketing people whose job it is to persuade consumers to buy it.