Gambrinus stunt aimed at reassuring consumers not converting snobs, says beer blogger

Illustrative photo: Alex Rosenzweig

One of the Czech Republic’s best-selling beers has just revealed an unusual marketing stunt. Its producers “set up” a bogus microbrewery supplying purported craft lager – only to announce that the brew had been their Gambrinus all along. The reason: A bid to improve the reputation of a beer many regard as bland.

Illustrative photo: Alex Rosenzweig
The makers of Gambrinus have just revealed a novel publicity stunt in which they attempted to pass the best-selling Czech lager off as a craft brew from a microbrewery in a village in West Bohemia.

Though no such microbrewery exists, for around a month Plzeňský Prazdroj hid behind the bogus craft brand Patron, offering 10- and 11-degree varieties of Gambrinus to specialised pubs. “Patron” got decent ratings on beer lovers’ websites.

Explaining the subterfuge, Plzeňský Prazdroj said many drinkers wrongly consider Gambrinus bland; from their perspective, selling it under a fake brand encouraged pub-goers to taste without prejudice.

But what to make of this stunt? For an informed opinion I called Max Bahson, who blogs under the name Beer Philosopher.

“If we leave the questionable ethics and [laughs] probably illegality aside, I find it brilliant in some way.

“It showed that Gambrinus, a beer that is despised by many beer drinkers these days, can pass as the product of a microbrewery without anyone even thinking that it could be from a microbrewery.”

Are you aware of any reaction from people who were duped, people who drank this so-called Patron and now know the truth?

Max Bahnson,  photo: archive of Radio Prague
“I’ve seen what people have said on the internet and social media and that. I’ve spoken only to a couple of people who actually drank the beer. They said, Yeah, I liked it. And they were surprised that it was Gambrinus, but they were not particularly mad at it.”

Is there a danger with this campaign that if Gambrinus are saying, People think we’re bland, this may cause people who don’t have a strong opinion about it say, Wait a second, maybe this is bland beer?

“In my opinion the endgame of Gambrinus is not to show the Gambrinus haters that they’re only a bunch of snobs. But it’s to reassure Gambrinus drinkers – hey, look, the beer you drink is so good that even the snobs take it as something good if they don’t know it’s Gambrinus.”

So in a sense Gambrinus are simply trying to cement their best-selling status on the Czech beer market?

“The thing here is that Plzeňský Prazdroj is aware of the image problem that Gambrinus has, which is nothing new. They are aware that it’s not considered as a good beer by a growing number of people.

“With this they wanted to show, Well, the beer is actually good, if you forget that it’s Gambrinus. The thing is more image than actual quality.”

Yesterday I put this story on Twitter and somebody wrote from Scotland saying, We would love to have Gambrinus – it’s much better than our lagers.

Photo: Kristýna Maková
“That’s the thing. We are really spoiled here. Because if I compare Gambrinus, the best-selling brand in the Czech Republic, with the best-selling beers in other countries, Gambrinus is really good. Even the světlá desítka [10-degree light beer] you find in bottles is much better than most of the stuff you’ll find anywhere, even in Germany.

“I don’t like Gambrinus too much. It’s something I tolerate but I don’t think it’s particularly good beer. But yes, I’m glad to be living in a country where I can say that Gambrinus is crap.”