August 9th, 2019/ BY Robin LeBlanc

When is Budweiser not Budweiser?

I’m one of those people that likes to have a friendly talk with strangers at a bar. It’s fun to get to know someone and sometimes I get to spout some fun facts about whatever beer they’re drinking.

For instance, if they order a Budweiser, I get to tell them one of my favourite stories in the history of beer.

This is the story of two Budweisers and the trademark dispute that has been going on for 112 years.

So, a bit of history.

České Budějovice was a bustling city in the Kingdom of Bohemia (now the Czech Republic). It was founded by King Ottokar II in 1265 and was to be a monument of his power. When the city was granted brewing rights, breweries emerged and created a beer they called “Budweiser,” named after the German translation of the city’s name, which was Böhmisch Budweis. Later on in 1795, German brewers of the city founded Bürgerliches Brauhaus Budweis, which later became Budweiser Bier Bürgerbräu. One hundred years later, the brewery went on to become the official court supplier for the King of Württemberg. Additionally, at that time, the Czech breweries from Budweis formed a joint stock brewery that became Budějovický Budvar (Budweiser Budvar).



Now we jump to America circa 1874-1875, when German immigrant Adolphus Busch, co-founder of what would become the famous Anheuser-Busch, began development of a rice-based beer with brewmaster Irwin Sproule for the St Louis-based importer Carl Conrad. Conrad contracted the two to make the pale beer with specific instructions on mimicking the style brewed in Budweis in order to stick out in an American market that was filled with pilsners. The resulting beer was slightly lighter in shade and Champagne-like in carbonation. Conrad began advertising it as the Original Budweiser, which was the first use of the name in the American market and one he promptly trademarked. Six years later, Conrad would go bankrupt and Anheuser-Busch would purchase the trademark rights. It then went on, as we know, to be one of the most successful beer brands in American history.

And all of that came together to form a massive amount of confusion when it came to international exporting. In Europe, Budweiser had been known for over 600 years as beer from Budweis, which was made by two breweries from the region. However, in North America, Budweiser was the American-born king of beers, specifically made by Anheuser-Busch. All parties had legitimate claims over the name and all three agreed they would maintain the name in their respective markets. Budweiser Bier Bürgerbräu would be B.B. Burgerbräu in America, and Budweiser Budvar would be Budvar or Czechvar. In Europe, the American Budweiser would be simply labelled as Bud.

But the story doesn’t end there. Since 1907 the dispute is still ongoing, made even more complicated by Anheuser-Busch’s purchase of Budweiser Bier Bürgerbräu in 2014, which brought forth a lot of usage disputes throughout Europe.

So next time you order a Budweiser, be sure to specify which one you want!



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