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Labelling Czech beer

By: Martin Macourek

By: Martin Macourek

Beer Ambassador

Right, we all know that beer labels are a key prerequisite for selling beer. With contemporary Czech independent beer, the content speaks for itself, however, in most cases, the label designs lack behind. Compared to modern-day breweries from around the world, they are considered old fashioned.

It is fair to say the dark Communist period that ended in 1989 with the Velvet Revolution did not contribute much to label design culture…Breweries were integrated regionally so our Cvikov brewery, as an example, became nothing more than a plant within the mighty North Bohemian Breweries Ltd empire with headquarters in Liberec. The last thing on the mind of the management in Liberec was fancy labels. They just did not care. However, the situation was much worse for poor Cvikov brewery whose operation was closed down by the Communist management in 1968.

When Cvikov restarted again in the new millennium on the site of the original brewery workers found an inscription under a layer of old plaster saying “ 1968 “Vůl Vojta zavřel Pivovar”.  This translates as “1968 asshole Vojta closed the brewery”. Vojta was the then CEO of North Bohemian breweries.  

Can you imagine the frustration of brewery workers in those times? Brewing beer was their Holy Grail and brewing in Bohemia was so deeply rooted that it is difficult to find a similar country where people are so emotionally attached to their breweries and brewing culture. Bavaria would be a great example of a similar region.

So when the Velvet revolution came everybody was relieved and the priority in brewing was to primarily save these old beautiful breweries that suffered from a lack of investment – so with the exception of the big brewers such as Pilsener Urquell or Budvar less attention was dedicated to marketing including labelling. So frankly speaking some labels were very poor graphically and are sometimes used even as of now.

 However, as with some of their German brewing neighbours, many of those Czech breweries that revived heritage brands did so continuing to use variations of the original labels from the beginning of the 20th century. A good example would be Bohemia Regent established in 1379 with beer being brewed on the same premises continually. Some might think their labels are outdated but they perfectly convey their historical legacy.

Most Czech breweries can trace their history back to medieval times with some being established as Royal breweries whose logo is likely to feature a crown. Other breweries beer labels would usually indicate their affiliation to a noble family by bearing their coat of arms or ecclesiastic breweries or burgher (town) breweries (usually depicting the town in question). A good example of a contemporary design for a logo of a brewery established in a royal town is Kutna Hora.

Since 2013 Bohemia and Moravia have seen an explosion of new green field craft breweries that tend to copy the American and UK trend of imaginative fun illustrations on their beer labels that usually have nothing to do with where the brewery is located or who it has been established by. But seeing as they are mainly located in out-of-town industrial estates they have to be a little more creative!

The noble Albrecht brewery traces its history back to 1278 when they started brewing at the Friedland castle. The current brewery is from the 16th Century and located close to the castle amid beautiful countryside in the North Bohemian mountains. Clearly there is a strong historical heritage, yet the brewery owners have a modern and aspirational approach to their craft and are now reputed for producing some of Czech Republic’s most innovative beers. The new beer labels needed to reflect this bold modern direction whilst respecting their heritage.

Here you can see Albrecht has embraced modern design ideals by using distinctive colours yet the label is packed with history – you can see the emblem of the Reddern and Wallenstein´s families, Albrecht of Wallenstein´s illustrations, his sword, helmet and his castle.

What do think of the new logos? You’ll be able to see them very soon at PIVO in 2021! All of Albrecht´s bottles and cans will be available to drink in or take away 🍻

Author: Martin Macourek | Beer Ambassador

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