Bud vs. Bud: Travel and the Great Beer War of the Last Century

There’s not enough beer in Bohemia to ever help you pronounce Ceske Budejovice, a Czech town located in southern Bohemia, about 100 miles from Prague. But there is at least one reason why you should go there.

Why? Let’s go back to the early 1870s, when soon-to-be major beer magnate Adolphus Busch and his friend/business partner Carl Conrad decided to do a European beer crawl, hitting the great centers of all things beer in Central Europe. Bohemians have long been known for their prowess in brewing (just go to the town of Pilsen, or Plzen in Czech, if you’re in doubt). Busch and Conrad made a special point to go to Ceske Budejovice because the town had a reputation for producing exceptionally good beer and the hops that grew in the fields around the it were (and still are) world renowned. Busch and Conrad sampled the local brew and were duly impressed.

So impressed, in fact, that Conrad bought the trademark for the name of one of the town’s famed beers, which was named after the town. Not Ceske Budejovice, but its German name. Before World War II many towns in Bohemia boasted a sizeable German population and thus, each town had a Czech and German name. Ceske Budejovice’s German name was–wait for it–Budweis.
By now, you can probably see where this is going. But with that trademark for the name of the town’s beer not only was an American beer named Budweiser born, but a century-long legal battle as well. The Czechs argued that they’d been brewing a beer called Budweiser (and, in Czech, Budvar) for centuries. Even though the actual Czech Budweiser/Budvar was founded after the trademark, they argued they had a geographical right to the name. Anheuser-Busch, though, would simply wave the trademark document at the Czechs and say–and I’m summarizing–sorry suckers!

After the Velvet Revolution in 1989, Czech breweries were slowly privatized and then bought up by one of the three major multinational brewing corporations. Pilsner Urquell, Radegast, Velkopopovicky Kozel and Gambrinus were sold to SABMiller; Starobrno and Krusovice to Heineken; and the Prague-based Staropramen to InBev (which now owns Anheuser-Busch, by the way), and so on. But the Czech government never privatized Budweiser/Budvar, fearing Anheuser Busch would buy the brewery and dismantle it, paving the way for complete European domination.

But all that came to an end in 2007 when the two companies formed a loose partnership. In an unpredictable turn of events Anheuser-Busch now distributes the Czech Budwieser in the United States. You’ll never find it under that name, though. An earlier ruling stated that Czech Budweiser could never be sold in the United States because of the possible trademark infringement. So the Czechs did something quite brilliant. For the beer sold in the United States, they changed the name from Budvar to Czechvar (not a brilliant name, if you ask me, though).

So while beer drinkers of America can finally sit back and actually drink the original Budweiser, I say make a pilgrimage to the town formerly known as Budweis. Brewery tours, in my opinion, are dull, but nothing beats sitting in a big beer hall like Masne Kramy, located in a former meat shop hall from the 16th century in the center of Ceske Budejovice, a huge chunk of pork in front of you and a mug of golden, fresh-from-the-brewery Budweiser–Czech Budweiser, that is.

Oh, and if anyone asks, it’s pronounced Ches-kay Boo-day-yo-vit-say.

St. Louis enjoys a craft beer revival

There’s something new brewing in St. Louis these days. Best-known as the home to beer titan Anheuser-Busch, this Midwestern town is enjoying a different type of beer resurgence these days, thanks to a growing number of small breweries that have set up shop around town. A recent news article chronicles the rise of Saint Louis’ increasingly diverse craft beer scene.

Saint Louis has long had a close relationship with the beer industry. For decades, local taverns were dominated by hometown brews produced by Anheuser-Busch. Smaller brewers like Saint Louis Brewery, which opened in 1989, were nearly nonexistent. When they first started, the only place you could get a Saint Louis Brewery pint was at the company’s on-site pub. But the one-time niche craft brewer was a sign of things to come. Today St. Louis boasts 14 craft brewers, and appetite for quality beer continues to grow. When Anheuser-Busch was purchased by Belgian beer giant InBev in 2008, it was symbolic of the sea change that has ocurred in American brewing towards all things small-batch, independent and craft brewed.

Is Saint Louis witnessing the rise of a new age of beer tourism? The best way to find out is to sample a few pints on your next trip through town. Check out local favorites like Morgan Street Brewery, Six Row Brewing Company and Trailhead Brewing Company on your next St. Louis visit. Beer site Pubcrawler also has a good run down of other St. Louis brewers.

(Image: Flickr/Laurie Chipps)

19 perfect dive bars

We need dive bars more than we care to admit. They are the counterweight to a world overflowing with upscale lounges and designer “mixologist” cocktails, a way to keep it simple, hang out with friends old and new and tip back our favorite beverage. Gadling is a big fan of dive bars too. That’s why we’ve put together this list of 19 of our favorites. Where’s your favorite dive bar? Leave us a tip in the comments.

Crystal Cafe – Raton, New Mexico
The most remarkable thing about Crystal Cafe is the light up dance floor. That and the decor make you feel like you’ve traveled back in time, and that a disco maniac in a polyester suit will walk through the door at any moment. The bar is entirely retro, but not because they’re trying — the owners just haven’t changed anything since when the small town its located in was more happening.

Norma’s (a.k.a. the Domino Club) – St. Croix, USVI
is famous for two reasons: beer drinking pigs and a local brew called Mama Wanna. Animal rights concerns resulted in the pigs getting switched to non-alcoholic beer, but the patrons aren’t so restricted. Mama Wanna is some kind of wonderful spiced rum drink, and the local proprietress of this island hut tucked away in the jungle hasn’t even been tempted to sell the recipe yet. It packs quite a kick, so the locals use Elephant beer as a chaser.

Madam’s Organ Blues Bar – Washington, DC

With a slogan like, “Where the beautiful people go to get ugly,” how could you not love Madam’s Organ Blues Bar? Despite the popularity this bar enjoys, they haven’t managed to clean it up too much. There’s live music most nights, and more old couches upstairs than a used furniture store. After the bar closes, the local tradition is to grab a giant slice of pizza from one of the nearby all-night sliceries.Salty Dawg Saloon – Homer, Alaska
The buoys strung up on the outside of Salty Dawg Saloon, found inside a plain log and thatch cabin, hardly scream party time, but the partiers on the inside sure as heck do. The walls have thousands of dollar bills stapled to them, each one uniquely decorated by the patron who posted it. In true Alaska dive style, the floors are covered in sawdust. If you’re feeling frisky, you could even order a Salty Dog. The bar isn’t named for the drink, but they do serve them.

Neptune’s Net – Malibu, California
Despite this bar’s location in upscale Malibu, Neptune’s Net is a bit of a dive. You’ve got to fight (sometimes literally) for a table, it’s crowded with bikers, and the restrooms are of the portable variety. But it’s got some amazing fried seafood and beers a plenty. Plus, the outside tables have gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean.

Crossroads Bar & Grill – South Royalton, Vermont
It’s dark, it’s dank, and it’s darling. Crossroads is the perfect dive bar where you could wile away a night, or an entire winter, given the local weather patterns. Set in the small and idyllic town of South Royalton, this bar is a meeting place for long time locals and cerebral students from the nearby Vermont Law School. There’s even a collection of offensive bumper stickers posted behind the bar, if you forget your reading material.

Gentleman Jim’s – Gaithersburg, Maryland
It’s not often you get a dive bar with two floors of drinking, but they’ve managed to make it happen in this industrial complex tavern. Upstairs is a small, windowless bar with a bit of a Cheers feel, since the variety of the patrons tends to be limited. Downstairs is the restaurant area with a service bar open to the public. What makes this place worth mentioning is the pizza — square, with sweet tomato sauce and a swiss cheese blend. Try it on a Monday or Tuesday for half price, and the happy hours are competitive as well.

The Alley Cantina – Taos, New Mexico
If it weren’t for the local crowd, a ratty old games collection, and $2.50 margaritas every day from 5 to 7, the Alley Cantina might not have even qualified as a dive. But thanks to the shuffleboard, crooked pool table, and some old french game where you’ve got to flick checkers around with your thumb, this is the perfect place to hang out and have a beer, or five. They’ve even got food, if you’re into fried.

The Broken Spoke – Austin, Texas

The Broken Spoke has become legendary, perhaps regrettably to its loyal local clientele. It’s claim to fame is its long affair with country music, with legends like Willie Nelson having made regular appearances through the years. It’s got a country dance hall vibe, and they even offer blue plate special lunches to stick with the theme. Not a bad place to have a couple beers and get rowdy.

Norton Rats – Cusco, Peru
You might not guess that you could find a biker bar in a South American town at an elevation of 11,000 feet but, lo and behold, you can. There is simply no explanation for Norton Rats other than divine providence. They offer a wide selection of beer, and a view of the main plaza in Cusco from the narrow balconies. Flags from a hundred countries are nailed to the ceiling, giving you something to look at when your drinks get to you early due to the altitude. Even if the place has a bit of a divey vibe, its a welcome respite for travelers who have made it this far into the wild.

— The above was written by Writing Kimberly, Seed contributor.

Malachy’s – New York, New York
Malachy’s might be the most miserable place on Earth. Horrendous lighting, depressed staff, despondent clientele and a perfect Guinness every time. The fat, juicy 1/2 lb. burger is real good too. Somehow, the cook has been spared.

Nolan’s – Long Beach, New York
A free standing shack made of old cedar, Nolan’s looks like even the faintest ocean breeze will knock it over. Trashed motocycles and cars litter the adjacent lot. Every lifer in the place is crusty and pissed off. Coldest bottle of Bud ever served. Step out into the sun, across the street and stumble to the beach.

The Goat Hill Tavern – Costa Mesa, California
The Goat Hill Tavern, an out-of-the-way hole in Los Angeles Southern California, might be the region’s greatest anti-attraction. Hundreds of tap beers, cramped quarters, stale smoke and that God awful dive bar smell. Top it all off with the wannabe screenwriter next to you stirring his vodka with his finger while plotting his next “murder the movie exec” thriller at one in the afternoon. Lights, Camera, Misery!

PJ’s Pub – Baltimore, Maryland
Is PJ’s Pub the best daytime watering hole in history? Homemade Bloody Mary’s and baskets spicy Old Bay dusted steamed shrimp at noon chase away any hangover. Hours pass effortlessly until the Johns Hopkins engineering geeks and Lacrosse studs start to file in for their nightly revelry. Guys, if you’re lucky, maybe a girl will even show up.

Mission Hill Saloon – San Francisco, California
Mission Hill is the “Cheers” of dive bars. Dark, dingy and depressingly plain – but the misery stops there. Ice, ice cold beers served by good people. Excellent jukebox and locals that have no problem making you feel like a local.

The Cat’s Eye Pub – Baltimore, Maryland
Ah, the Cat’s Eye Pub. You can’t move, you can’t breathe. Old salts stare you down and threaten with daggers. Old cougars troll for new meat. Killer blues bands play way too loud, right in your ear. The lost leg of a dead sea captain hangs above the men’s urinal. Fun!

The Bronx Bar – Detroit, Michigan
The Bronx Bar is in the “happening” part of town, whatever that means. Great tunes, cold beers. Ultimately, it just looks real cool and divey from the outside. Pure American depression. Rejoice!

Catacombs Bar – Boulder, Colorado

Catacombs Bar is huge hole in the ground – literally. On a weeknight, it feels like “Land of the Lost.” Spacious and desolate, an alcoholic paleontologist’s dream. Tunes echo from the juke, drinks are served by pretentious, cruncher wannabes who are too cool for school. “Is there anybody out there?”

McSorley’s – New York, New York
Step down off street level and into history at McSorley’s. The oldest operating saloon in New York. Dingy, quiet – reverent even. Don’t go for the music, the TV, the pool table. Go there to drink, lament and repent. That’s what you do in a dive bar.

— The above was written by Drew Moss, Seed contributor.

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Battles over Budweiser

Yesterday was a good day for beer lovers. After almost a century of disagreements between Anheuser-Busch and the Czech brewer Budejovicky Budvar (BBNP) over the name for their beers, the two brewers have formed an historic alliance in which Anheuser-Busch will become the U.S. importer of Czechvar Premium Czech Lager. Now that both parties have figured out a way to make money, pride suddenly went aside.

The new alliance does not stop any existing legal proceedings, but it is a step towards a reasonable agreement. Budvar cannot legally use the name “Bud”, “Budvar” or “Budweiser” (which they use throughout Europe) so they use the brand “Czechvar” in the US market. Czechs are claiming that Americans “stole the name” from the centuries-old brewery in Budweis (town in southern Bohemia). Americans, however, have invested too much into the brand to give it up. Maybe it is time that Anheuser-Busch started investing in the taste of their beer, not the name.