Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Police, Brought To You By...

What to make of this juxtaposition, spotted in 2006 in České Budějovice in the new Czech Republic?

A quick history lesson might help sort things out.

The brewing tradition in České Budějovice dates back to the 13th Century when the king, sick of having to drink wine coolers whenever he came to town, granted the town the right to start brewing beer. (Some historians also believe that the king, thirsty as hell, told the people to hurry the f--- up.)

Unfortunately for the people of České Budějovice they had no idea how to brew decent beer. Being cursed at wasn't helping either. Finally they went to their Braumeister neighbors in Germany for some help. The Germans, already fanatically nationalistic, said "Ja, das geht" but then later demanded that the beer be marketed according to the German name for České Budějovice, which is Budweis. And like a sausage from Frankfurt came to be known as a frankfurter, as another sausage from Wien (aka Vienna) came to be known as a Wiener, and as JFK came to be known as a jelly doughnut (a 'Berliner' in German), this beer from České Budějovice became known, in 1785, as Budweiser.

For reasons unknown Anheuser-Busch named their beer Budweiser too - in 1876. Still, the American Way dictated even back then that the US was always right and invented everything, and a long, drawn-out legal battle ensued. The outcome of this malted circus is multi-layered and galactically stupid through and through. To wit:

- Czech Budweiser is sold in North America under the name Czechvar.
- American Budweiser is called Bud n all EU markets except Ireland and the UK, where it is called Budweiser or, alternatively, piss-water.
- Still, Anheuser-Busch owns the Budweiser naming rights in the EU for non-beer products - like Budweiser Orange Drink perhaps. Or Budweiser wine coolers in České Budějovice for the king's wife when she visits.
- It took until 2009 for someone with a robe, a silly wig and a gavel to tell Anheuser-Busch "F--- off, the České Budějovice brewers were already using the Budweiser name when your great-great-grandpa was still crapping his German immigrant diaper in St. Louis.
- To this day, in the UK, Ireland and Sweden, if you buy a beer called Budweiser it may have been brewed by Anheuser-Busch or the folks in České Budějovice as they can both use the name.

So what's up with the Budvar signs on the Police Department building in charming old České Budějovice? Well, Budvar was a state-owned company when this photo was taken, and the state puts up signs wherever the state wants. But in 2007, likely after drinking too much, Czech Agriculture Minister Petr Gandalovič, whose ministry had been lucky enough to be in charge of the state-owned company - and whose brother is lucky enough to be in charge of the police - announced that the Budvar brewery would be privatized.

Meaning the police will soon be getting paid to have beer signs on their building. Paid in free beer if Petr's brother has any say in the matter.

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