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The Czech love affair with beer

The "Institute of Beer" is trying to prove that Czech beer is the most "drinkable" in the world.

Clearly there is room for export growth. And while liquid amber consumption has declined in other prominent beer-drinking countries, Honigova says it has held steady here. But she worries that the country has reached a saturation point.

“We are the biggest drinkers, still,” she said. “We don't see any tendency towards decline. Beer consumption in the Czech Republic is stagnating because we cannot drink more, I guess.”

While she says their exports are growing there is a desire to accelerate that growth.

Beer is one thing, but beer culture is something else. And in considering why Czechs love their beer, it can't be overlooked.

In addition to running an engineering and consulting firm for breweries, Petr Janik is co-owner of a microbrewery/restaurant called Pivovarsky Dum. One of only a handful of microbreweries in and around Prague, Janik's brewery doesn't export abroad. It doen't even bottle the beer for domestic consumption.

One has to walk into the restaurant to get a fresh taste of one of the 600 pints per day that come out of the tap. That's just 211,000 pints per year, a fraction of the 422 million pints produced annually by Staropramen, one of the country's largest breweries.

For Czechs a local brewery is kind of like a local sports team — the community identifies itself with the proverbial home team.

“If I sell this beer in other pubs it has no contact with this brewery,” Janik said. “And they can buy beer from other breweries, so I think it's necessary to sell it here.”

Plus, bottling and transportation costs quickly become onerous for a microbrewery, especially in a country where most of the drinking is done in public.

“The historic culture is that we drink a lot of beer in pubs, not from bottles, and cans,” Janik said. “We drink a lot of draft beer with our friends. If I bring beer home in a bottle I drink one. If I'm out in a pub with friends I drink five or six.”

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