Stronger beer still preferred in industrial regions

The Czech Republic is famous the world over for its beer, and the Czechs drink more beer per head than any other nation in the world, with the average person downing over 300 half-litres a year. Even though most Czech pubs only serve one brand of beer, you are still offered two different strengths of pivo (beer) - ten degree or the more expensive twelve degree.

Interestingly, which strength a beer-drinker chooses can be related to where in the country he or she lives, says Alexej Bechtin, the spokesman for the most famous of Czech breweries, Plzensky Prazdroj, which makes the world-renowned 12 degree beer, Pilsner Urquell.

"Ten degree is more popular in western Bohemia, central Bohemia and the southern Bohemia and southern Moravia regions. Twelve degree is mainly popular in regions like northern Bohemia and northern Moravia, eastern Bohemia and of course Prague."

Alexej Bechtin explains that the reasons people in different regions drink different strength brews are rooted in history.

"These (industrial) regions were strongly preferred by the former Communist regime, so the living standard was higher than in the rest of the republic. (Now) there is a higher unemployment rate and decreasing living standard, but their habits remained and they still want to have their twelve degree."

Pilsner Urquell is roughly four percent in terms of alcohol content. The brewery also produces the 10 degree Gambrinus, and a special 10 degree Pilsner Urquell for Sweden, where they have strict laws on alcohol. But 10 or 12 degrees of what, you may be asking. It's all very complicated, but it's essentially a measure of thickness and taste. In the past weaker eight or even seven degree beer was produced for a very specific market, says Alexej Bechtin.

"It was perceived mainly like an employees' beer. In some heavy industry companies it was served as a beverage for workers during the working day, but it is no longer produced."

Was it free?

"Yes, it was free."