Czechvar, the real Budweiser
Anheuser Busch has been duking it out with a relatively modest brewery in Ceske Budejovice for more than 100 years. There's no point in choosing sides in, or re-hashing, that argument here. After numerous court decisions, the situation is that the original Czech beer is called Budweiser, or Budvar, in the Czech Republic, but is marketed as Czechvar in the States. That's where the similarity ends between the two beers.
Nobody in the world drinks beer like the Czechs, and they are justifiably proud of their brews. They don't export many, and they don't have the massive variety we've grown accustomed to having here. They mostly keep things simple and true, rather than getting overly creative in the brewery. But, you can be fairly certain, the quality will be high whatever beer you choose.
Their Budweiser is not quite the best Czech pilsner, but it is pretty good, and one of the very few available in the US. I cringed when I saw that it was in a green bottle, but it still tasted as fresh as the ones I had from the source. Just be careful when and where you purchase it, as with any green-bottled beer.
The appearance is just as a pilsner should be, a clear and sparkling, light gold. The white head isn't as pronounced and fluffy coming from the bottle rather than a keg, and it doesn't stick around long, either. The aroma leans heavier to the malt side. Bread and a few herbs – nothing surprising. The taste is built on the sweet malt, allowing the grain to come through every step of the way. The hops mostly dance on top of that base, giving it just the right note of citrus, but mostly imparting a clean, crisp, dry finish. Overall, the flavor stays a bit thin, but it's a good drinking beer. Smooth, and maybe even a little creamy. The light body makes it a nice, summery pilsner, and the alcohol content is a fairly tame 5%.
As with most pilsners, this one doesn't get in the way of food. It matches up especially well with anything spicy or sharp, but you can happily wash down whatever you like with this lager. It's more of a great session beer, though. They're not trying to make some hugely complex and interesting flavor monster here. It's a perfect beer for lounging around an outdoor patio with a gang of friends, and pound away.
Needless to say, this is not quite your father's Dudweiser. It still comes with a bit more hype than it probably deserves, though. It is not the best pilsner in the world. It's certainly not the best beer the Czech Republic has to offer. But it is a good, solid example of a more than decent pilsner, one that is more available in these parts than most other imports. If it weren't for the infamous issues with the name, I'm afraid this beer would probably slip through the cracks and go mostly unnoticed. Most people will at least want to try it because they've heard of the battle with Anheuser Busch. But, if you're trying it because of the Czech reputation for fine beer, you'll probably find yourself a tad disappointed. Czechvar is a good Czech beer, but nowhere near their best effort.