Anti-monopoly office gives green light for Heineken Krusovice takeover

The Czech anti-monopoly office announced on Tuesday it was giving the green light for Dutch brewing giant Heineken to buy the Czech brewery Kralovsky Pivovar Krusovice, making Heineken the third largest player on the Czech beer market. But will a massive injection of cash and technology help improve the image of Krusovice, a brew many beer drinkers turn their noses up at?

Heineken already owns one Czech brewery - Starobrno, in the Moravian capital. It's about to add a second Czech label to its portfolio of over 120 breweries around the world. In Brno, Heineken modernised the production line, built a visitor's centre and opened a shiny new bar. The brewing giant's exact plans for Krusovice are still unknown, and unfortunately there was no-one at Krusovice available for a full interview on Wednesday. The brewery's managing director said that the takeover "would definitely contribute to Krusovice's development".

Many beer purists deride Krusovice as an industrial, rather bland brew. But is that reputation deserved? Evan Rail is a Prague-based journalist and author of the "Good Beer Guide to Prague and the Czech Republic", published by the prestigious beer consumer's group CAMRA:

"I'm not a fan of Krusovice. It can taste great in the right circumstances, but I don't think it's one of the country's best beers. Krusovice is famous for being one of the first breweries to modernise and convert to cylinder conical tanks, which for connoisseurs usually marks a brew that is more industrial and less flavourful."

Krusovice is currently in the hands of Germany's Radeberger Gruppe. Evan Rail says Heineken's takeover might improve the beer's image, but the brew will remain much the same:

"Krusovice is a brewery with a fantastic history. Krusovice was bought as a brewery by Rudolf II - Holy Roman Emperor. Rudolf owned that brewery, for a short time, during his reign. This isn't a small brewery that you can just dismiss, this is a historic place. And yet, the beer - is it going to be much better? No, it's probably going to taste more or less the same. It's going to be brewed by a large international concern making beer around the world."

Heineken plans to produce more than 1.85 million hectolitres of Krsovice and Starobrno a year after the merger, and become a leading exporter. The Czech Republic currently has about 50 industrial breweries, and last year produced almost 19.8 million hectolitres of beer. And as every Czech schoolchild knows, Czechs drink more beer per capital than anyone else in the world.