Bleak future for small breweries following birth of beer giant

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Say 'the Czech Republic' to someone and you're most likely to get the answer - 'Oh yes - beer.' Beer is one of the country's biggest exports, and the country's big breweries - Plzen, Radegast, Budwar among others - have made themselves and their country famous throughout the world. Czech beer has long prided itself on its diversity - the country's small breweries have battled with the beer giants over the decades for pride of place at the bar. But, as Rob Cameron reports, things are not going in the small breweries' favour.

The Czech beer market has seen rapid consolidation over the last few years, with Britain's Bass buying Prague's Staropramen, and South African Breweries taking ownership of three of the country's biggest names - Plzensky Prazdroj, Radegast and Velke Popovice. SAB announced on Saturday that it was merging the three breweries to create one beer giant, to be called Plzensky Prazdroj. The superbrewery will continue producing the best-selling beers, Plzensky Prazdroj, or Pilsner Urquell as it's known in English, Gambrinus, Radegast and Velkopopovicky Kozel, and will control 40 percent of the Czech beer market. Not surprisingly the smaller breweries are looking on with some dismay, they believe higher production costs could price them right out of the market. Karel Hynst is from the Cerna Hora brewery, which won this year's Pivex prize for Best Beer. Mr Hynst told me that the Czechs, who consume more beer per capita than any other nation in the world, wouldn't be happy at the news either. But, he said, in the end it all comes down to economics. At the end of the day, he told me, people would choose the cheaper pint.