25th November, 2014 by Rupert Millar
Milos Zeman, president of the Czech Republic, has branded American beer as “filthy water” during a business summit in Kazakhstan but US brewers needn’t pay too much attention.
During the trip, Kazakhstan’s long-running president, Nursultan Nazarbaev (who has run the country since 1989), asked Zeman (pictured above) which beer he thought was the best in the world.
According to Reuters Zeman replied that, “Czech beer is the best in the world. No American company that offers filthy water instead of beer can compete with us.”
Zeman is used to controversial and often profane statements, the 70-year-old even calling Russian protest band “Pussy Riot”, “c***s” live on Czech radio.
Meanwhile, earlier this month on the 25th anniversary of the fall of Communism in Czechoslovakia he was pelted with eggs after claiming the police did not use violence to suppress the “Velvet Revolution” of 1989 (Zeman himself was a member of the Czechoslovak Communist Party from 1968-1970).
His approval ratings have fallen from 58% to 37% in little over a month and last week some 71% of Czechs polled said they thought his public statements were harming the country’s image.
The Czechs are indeed Europe’s biggest beer drinkers with a per capita consumption of 148.6 litres.
The comments may cause some offence to Americans but they also come as other headlines from the US claim that Americans are drinking more craft beer than Budweiser (a US brand that had an extremely long legal wrangle with Czech brand Budweiser Budvar).
The Wall Street Journal reported that even Budweiser’s brewer, Anheuser-Busch InBev even admits that around 44% of 21-27-year-olds in the US today have never tasted the brew.
Budweiser’s market dominance has been on the wane since it peaked in 1988 at 50 million barrels. It had declined to 16m last year with Bud Light and Coors Light displacing it to the top two spots in 2001 and 2011 respectively.
However, craft beer has also been on the rise and, all-together, now produces 16.1m barrels and holds a 7% share of the overall market in the US, with volumes growing 18% in the first seven months of this year compared to last and commanding an export market worth US$73m.