Czechvar Premium Lager

Vincent's Market, 2400 South 12th Street, 314-772-4710

Sep 15, 2004 at 4:00 am
Ah yes, sitting in the wilderness, drinking a Bud with friends. Coals glowing in a pit. The chill of a late summer evening. Grilled peaches on the fire. Your ragged, fat fingers hanging onto a Bud. Barges sloshing by on the river below. A casino shuttle cruising past abandoned riverfront warehouses. Here, on the eve of the third annual Artica festival just north of the Arch, the crickets are chirping, the sparks are floating out of the grill, and a group of artists are celebrating the impending party during their weekly outdoor dinner.

Czechvar is the thorn in the ass of the world's No. 1 brewer. It's the other Bud, a Czechoslovakian beer called Budvar, which translates as "Budweiser" in German and has been brewed in a town called Budûjovice (née Budweiss) for the past 500 years. Our Fair Brewery has only brewed its Budweiser for 130-odd years, so the Czechs have history on their side -- and dibs on the name. They did think of it first. But our brewery has money and popularity on its side, and took the dispute to the courts.

The tally so far? Anheuser-Busch has trounced Budvar in Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Spain, Nigeria, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and all of North America. Most recently, A-B won rights to the name in the former Soviet republic of Tajikistan.

Budvar, however, recently prevailed in Japan -- a major upset -- and controls the markets in, among others, Austria, Taiwan and South Korea, as well the entirety of the European Union. In America, if the Budvar folks want space on the shelves, they can't use "Bud" or any variation thereof. They've opted for "Czechvar," which is fine, though not as good as what a friend suggested they call it: Resiewdub ("ree-sue-dub"): Budweiser spelled backward.

The central question, of course: Which is better? The answer, we're afraid to say, is very clear. Czechvar's better than Budweiser. It is, in fact, exquisite -- a golden lager with an incredible depth and a richness of body and flavor the hometown brand lacks. Czechvar is to Bud what an ocean is to a puddle. Sorry. Ironically, where Budweiser celebrates its freshness, Czechvar pushes for maturation; each batch is matured for 90 days to "enhance its uniqueness."

You have to hand it to Vincent's Market, which has the nerve -- some would say audacity -- to stock Czechvar Premium Lager. After all, the Soulard grocery is a mere five blocks north of Anheuser-Busch. We're surprised the brewery hasn't fired warning shots through the market's front windows, just to, you know, send a message. But it hasn't, so Vincent's sells Czechvar, along with a wide variety of beers from around the world: lagers, pales, stouts, wheats and so on -- in addition, of course, to a vast selection of A-B products. It's a convenient stop on the way to the riverfront, a good place to grab a six-pack of frosty Czechvar.