Survey maps Czechs' relationship with golden beverage

Ask any Czech to name the country's most famous beverage, there's no doubt the answer, with only the fewest of exceptions, will be "Beer". Not only do Czechs drink more of the stuff per capita than anybody else, Czechs are also very proud of their brewing history, which includes the world's original Pilsner. For four years running the independent CVVM agency has been conducting polls mapping the Czechs' relationship to beer; the latest results were released on Wednesday.

Ah beer, what could be more "typically" Czech? This week the chairman of the Czech Beer and Malt Association Jan Vesely was among industry insiders who welcomed the latest independent findings by the CVVM agency, an annual survey on Czechs and beer. Among the findings: a number of revelations and as well as a confirmation of more long-term trends. Of the latter, the survey suggests, most Czechs value their beer history: a full 99 percent of the 1,000 or so of those polled agreed beer was an important part of Czech culture. 94 percent said it was something to show pride in abroad, and 78 percent were of the opinion Czech beer was the very best in the world. To a degree, many regular pub-goers here won't drink anything else. The CVVM agency's Jiri Vinopal:

A beer too far...
"In general, Czechs are very conservative beer-drinkers: they favour their one, two, or three major brands and are not very willing to change their habits: to drink something different, to taste new beers from smaller breweries or to try imported beers."

To a tiny degree, that is changing. According to the survey's findings, those with stronger purchasing power are growing more willing to experiment with different or lesser known-brands, both Czech and foreign, and breweries are taking notice: introducing more high-end products, like special dark beers. In all cases Czechs, both men and women cite "taste" as certainly one of the most - if not the most - important factor. Another interesting finding: an increase in the consumption of alcohol-free brew. Jan Vesely of the Beer and Malt Association:

Jan Vesely
"Alcohol-free beer ranks some 2.5 percent of total consumption. That's below the traditional rate in other western beer-drinking countries where the ratio is some 5 percent. So I think this is another 2.5 percent for us to grow, and I personally think that we will go a bit above the 5 percent level because our people are used to drinking more beer and miss it more when they need to drive or refrain from beer for professional reasons.

"Twenty years ago the quality of non-alcoholic beer was an 'argument' for not drinking it, but that has improved to the point where you practically can't tell the difference. Experienced beer-drinkers used to say 'Never' but now they've tried it and they say 'Okay, it's not that bad'!"

What Czechs call "liquid bread"
The survey was not without some negative results: despite general pride in their beer tradition, 67 percent of Czechs polled indicated that the high consumption of beer in the Czech Republic is not always something to be especially proud of: Czechs are also self-critical, realising that some probably drink "too much". On the other hand, the survey suggests that positives outweigh the negatives and no one doubts for a second that beer will continue to play a strong social role in everyday Czech life. Jan Vesely once again:

"I think it's very important: in Europe, the Atlantic area, Europe, the US, Canada, to meet with people, make contacts, within the ring of your friends."