Wednesday, 23 June 2010
What My Visitors Liked - Budweiser Budvar
A number of my friends have asked what the members of the tour I organised liked most. The answer is that everyone seemed to like different things. I had designed the tour to offer something for everyone and to ensure that each day had variety, combining stunning Renaissance buildings with Gothic and Baroque, industrial history with fine and folk art. Feedback suggested that people were surprised by what they saw - we Brits have so little knowledge of this country outside Prague. They were surprised too by the quality of the food and hospitality.
One woman said that the surprise for her was the tour of Budweiser Budvar Brewery. She had expected not to enjoy it - it being a "man's thing". The brewery tour was included by special request of the (male) Chairman, quite rightly as how can you visit this home of beer and not go to a brewery. What made it a joy for her was the guide - a delightful middle-aged Czech lady (see picture on previous post) who just loved her subject. She would make comments about Czech men ("our men") and their love of beer and beam at us. Her grin would fill her face, so much so that her eyes disappeared.
And what she had to tell us was also fascinating. The water used to make the beer comes from huge artesian wells under Ceske Budejovice. The heat generated by the brewery is piped to local homes to provide heating - an advantage of having had a planned economy. The hops come to the brewery on their own trains and railway line. At the end we saw the huge bottling plant, including bottles being recycled (more of that in a future post). Of course we had a visit to the cellars and a chance to taste the amber nectar.
However a cloud hangs over Budweiser Budvar. It is still state owned and there are moves in the current climate of costcutting and savings to privatize the brewery. The workers are worried, as are many Czechs, that the company will be sold to a large international conglomerate. How long would Budvar's traditions last, not just in its approach to brewing (which takes more time than that of its competitors) but in its wider place in the community? Would our lovely lady guide still be beaming in her pride at working for a national institution?