If products bear such labels as Parma ham, Emmenthal cheese, Cognac or Champagne, you know you're buying the real thing, produced only in one specific area of Europe under strict supervision. Soon a similar label could be attached to one very special Czech product: Czech brewers have filed a request with the European Commission to have the "Czech Beer" brand registered, ruling out the possibility of watery imitations flooding the market.
Beer-lovers worldwide agree that Czech beer with its long and unique tradition has a special place among the brews produced around the globe. Some Czech brands are legally tied to the place of origin, as in the case of Budweiser-Budvar which cannot be made anywhere else outside the town of Ceske Budejovice. Now Czech beer-makers have applied to be able to use a wider territorial brand for their products.
"This product, this commodity must be defined by four features, four characteristics. The first is some specific structure of raw materials used and the second is the specific different technological process, which is double or triple decoction in the case of Czech beer, slow, long fermentation under relatively low temperatures and specific use of bottom fermenting yeast,"
explains Jan Vesely, the head of the Czech Beer and Malt Association and adds that the label "Czech Beer" will not apply for the whole of the Czech Republic.
"The third feature is the territory, which is not the territory of the Czech Republic, it's not defined as a state. It is defined as a substantial part of this country and the frontiers, or boundaries of this area are defined by mountain ranges, rivers and so on, because it's relatively eternal. It cannot be changed by any decision of government or constitution and so on. And the fourth feature, perhaps the most important, is the characteristic of the final product and defining the differences of that product when compared with other similar products, other types of beer."
As Jan Vesely says, the principal reason for filing the application was an effort to maintain the special character of Czech beer, as defined by the four given qualities, history and the know-how of Czech brew masters, in a globalised world where cheaper technologies and labour enable producers to imitate all kinds of products. The Czech Beer and Malt Association wants to preserve Czech beer as part of the national heritage both on the Czech and international market.
"We don't say it's better, we are not that harsh or that arrogant. We just want to say it's different."
No one can tell now how long it will take the EC bureaucrats to process the Czech application, but it may be that in a year's time when customers in the Czech Republic and abroad come across a bottle labelled "Czech Beer", they'll know they are buying the genuine product.
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