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Lovely Czech beer, and winner of the 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999 gold medals at the Beer World Championships in Chicago.

Available in the UK in most J D Wetherspoon freehouses (so, basically, everywhere there is civilization), it's a nice premium beer with a unique flavour, not 'harsh' to non-beer drinkers like others of its kind including Pilsner Urquell.

Famous before the First World War, the Popovice brewery became state-controlled during communist rule but since gaining independence in 1991 has grown to be the third largest brewing group in the Czech Republic - no small feat given the Czechs consume more beer per capita than any nation in the world.

Like many breweries, you can take a tour and sample it straight from the vats. The Czech Republic is a dream come true for a drinking holiday.

The famous goat logo was given as a gift to the brewery by a French painter as thanks for the hospitality he received during his stay in the late 19th century. This allowed the use of the now-sadly defunct slogan on bottles in the UK: 'Goat your act together'. Whether this is intentional or the best efforts at cross-language marketing is not clear, but it certainly adds a lot of charm. The brewery keeps a real goat as a mascot.

Sources: me, www.beer-kozel.cz

History

Acquired in 1870 by Frantisek Ringhoffer, Popovice Brewery was steeped in centuries of Czech tradition. Some of this tradition was passed into the brewery's first product - Velkopopovicky Kozel.

The beer (which is styled on a pilsner) entered production in 1874. Within a year, production reached 18000 hectoliters, and word of the beer started to spread from the village. Due to this substantial increase in business, the brewery underwent a substantial renovation in 1902 and production reached 90000 hectoliters.

The creation of the beer was also assisted by Czech beer purity laws. Much like German beer laws, all Czech beers must only contain hops, yeast, malt and water. It is these combination of ingredients - and nothing else, that has given Kozel its pure taste for over a century.

The beer's famous goat logo was supplied by a traveliing French painter at no cost, as a way of thanking the village for their hospitality during his extended stay.

The rapid progress of the brewery stopped due to the demands of World War 1, however once the war was over production quickly increased. Unfortunately this growth was stopped, production was once again stopped due to the occupation of Sudetenland during World War 2. The brewery was cut off from the raw materials required in the creation of their beer.

Due to the change in political regime after the war, the brewery became a state enterprise in 1945. Thankfully, the brewery retained its employees who maintained the traditional production methods, and didn't allow the products quality to drop due to the change in operating practices.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union the brewery once again became independent in May 1992. Production and sales rapidly increased, and output of the brewery reached a new high in 1994 with 931000 hectoliters produced.

In 1995 the ownership of the brewery changed again with it being acquired by the Radegast Brewery. The brand's international recognition continued to grow significantly, with over 10% of production being exported to Slovakia, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and the United Sates. To assist in this large demand, production has been licensed to sites in Russia, Hungary and Slovakia.

The brand also received professional recognition of its quality and taste gaining gold medals at the Beer World Championship held in Chicago in 1995, 1996, 1997 and 1999.

Kozel's parent company merged in 1999 with Plzeňský Prazdroj, a. s. and the new group was acquired by SABMiller in the same year.

Despite Kozel's turbulent history, the brand has managed to succeed beyond what could have been thought imaginable a century ago being the leading export beer in the Czech Republic. The brewery's output in 2004 was an impressive 1251705 hectoliters.

Varieties

  • Kozel Pale
  • Kozel Medium
  • Kozel Premium
  • Kozel Dark - which has been described by Dimiview as: Rather full-bodied and on the sweet side, but with lots of taste and sparkle around the tongue and all the way down.

References

http://www.kozel.cz/cz/home.html

http://www.viewlondon.co.uk/czech-beer_index.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kozel

http://www.prazdroj.cz/

http://www.sabmiller.com/

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