24 November 2023

Budweiser Budvar collaborates with Mikkeller for a new Czech-style lager

Czech Republic | State-owned Budweiser Budvar entered into three collaborations this year: with craft brewer Brlo from Berlin, Thornbridge from Derbyshire, and most recently with Mikkeller from Copenhagen. The plan was to share the Czechs’ brewing knowledge with selected craft breweries.

If, as a side-effect, craft beer aficionados in Budvar’s major export markets would try the original Budweiser Budvar too, they would not mind either. Far from it.

Budvar’s collaboration with Mikkeller for a Czech-style lager called #Yearofthelager, which was launched in October, is the third release this year. It follows Budvar’s collabs with craft brewer Thornbridge in the UK (called “Czech Mates”) and BRLO in Berlin (“OK, Czech!”). The project was launched to spread appreciation for properly brewed Czech-style lagers.

Not just a joke

At 4.6 percent ABV, #Yearofthelager beer has the aroma, crisp taste and balance that characterise a classic Czech-style lager. It also sports a contemporary packaging design - courtesy of Mikkeller -, the innovative Copenhagen-based firm, that has been at the forefront of the European craft brewing scene since 2006.

The promo says that the name #Yearofthelager refers to a running joke Mikkeller’s founder Mikkel Bjergsø has had with his team every New Year’s Eve since 2018 – that next year would be the Year of the Lager, when the world would begin to appreciate a properly brewed and matured lager.

Much obliged

Mr Bjergsø was quoted as saying: “Budvar is perhaps the most iconic lager brewery in the world. To be invited by one of the last state-owned breweries, from the homeland of lager, the Czech Republic, is recognition of what Mikkeller has done for beer over the past 17 to 18 years – especially the past four to five years with our focus on quality lager.”

These collab beers, brewed at the respective craft breweries only, must have helped raise Budvar’s profile and dispel prejudices that a state-owned brewer, by definition, is staid, rearguard, and bureaucratic. Mission accomplished.

Budvar hiked its beer output by 1.2 percent to 1.8 million hl in 2022. It is mainly consumed abroad, as its home market contributed less than 50 percent to its total revenue of CZK 2 billion (USD 87 million) that year. This may explain why Budvar’s collaborations got some press in the Czech Republic, but it was nothing earth shattering.

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