Czech Republic Wants You To Call Them “Czechia” To Sell More Beer

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This is interesting, if odd, news. The Czech Republic wants you to call them “Czechia,” believing that the shorter name is easier to remember and will ultimately sell more Czech — excuse me — Czechia beer. According to the CIA World Factbook, the official name of the country is simply the Czech Republic, in the local language, “Česka republika.” The “name derives from the Czechs, a West Slavic tribe who rose to prominence in the late 9th century A.D.”

The nation’s website claims that “apparently it’s difficult for a country to make its way in the world if it has not got a shortened, easy to pronounce, name; something that fits in big letters on a shirt. And the Czech Republic has been dealing with that handicap ever since the split up of Czechoslovakia in 1993. Various unofficial options have been tried, Czech, the Czech lands, for example, but the safest option has often been to revert to the full, official name. After months of deliberations, they think they have a solution. Here’s what they decided.

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Now, the Czech Republic appears ready to end confusion and take the plunge with an official choice. Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek, who is often confronted with confusion over the name, explained what is at stake.

“We are not talking here about the official political name, Czech Republic, Česká Republika, which is clearly established. But in Europe, every country or almost every country, has a shortened geographical title, for instance the Polish Republic is just Poland, and the same follows for others. In our case, unfortunately, it’s not quite so simple because we have not been able to share with the rest of the world the shortened name we use in Czech, Česko. But for us there exists just one possible option as a correct translation of that and that is something along the lines of Chequia or Czechia.”

Czechia in English, and various similar forms in other languages, is reckoned to be the most faithful translation of Česko. And it will be raised at a meeting on Thursday evening attended by the foreign minister, prime minister, heads of two chambers, and the president. If the idea is approved, then the shortened name will be registered with the United Nations, and should start to become common verbal and visual currency.

Minister Zaorálek says sporting bodies for one appear to be keen for a final agreement on a shortened name.

“Perhaps it will be something of a relief for them because it will be clear what must be written on the kits and there will be a general agreement about that. The problem is that we have not been able to agree on this as fast as we would have liked. I had the idea that it would be great if we could have got this done in time for the Olympic games but this whole process of approval by constitutional officials and the government has taken a certain amount of time and in the meantime they have had to start making the uniforms. So if it not this time it will be the next. And I have seen that sportsmen and women are willing to do this but they need some time to prepare.“

Some are asking whether Czechia might not cause confusion among the geographically challenged. In a far from isolated example, in 2013 the US broadcaster CNN confused the Russian province of Chechnya with the Czech Republic, suggesting that the Boston Marathon bombers came from the Central European country.

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It’s worth noting that the local term for the country is “Česko,” so it’s not to far off from that, though it seems like it will take some time to get used to it.

Business Insider asserts in their headline that The Czech Republic is changing its name to Czechia to make it easier to sell beer, adding “Because the name of the country is quite long, companies often brand their merchandise with the word “Czech” to show which country their product comes from. One company that does this is Pilsner Urquell beer, which has “Brewed in Plezen – Czech” written on the bottle. The problem with this is that the word “Czech” is an adjective so can’t really be used as a proper noun.”

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So the official line doesn’t mention beer as one of the reasons for the country’s new nickname, but several news outlets have brought it up. For example, the New York Times mentions Pilsner Urquell, and their use of “Czech” on packaging already, rather than the official “Czech Republic.”

Variants that did not make the cut included “Czechlands,” “Bohemia” and, simply, “Czech.” (Pilsner Urquell, the storied beer maker, uses “Brewed in Czech” on its cans.)

But they’re hoping to make the change before the Olympics take place, hoping that the Czech Republic’s team can be referred to instead as the team from Czechia later this year in Brazil.

“It’s not good when a country does not have any clearly defined symbols, or cannot say clearly what its name is,” Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek said on Tuesday, unveiling the proposal. “It would be good to set the record straight once and for all. We owe this to ourselves and to the world.”

On Thursday, Czech officials said they would have the name added to the United Nations database of geographical names, which records country names in the world body’s six official languages.

Fans of the change have set up a website, Go Czechia, to dispel myths about the name, its origins and other facts surrounding it.

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There’s also an interesting post from transculture, written by faculty of the School of Humanities within the Faculty of Arts, University of Wolverhampton, entitled From Czech Republic to Czechia, in which they reprint an excerpt from an article by linguist Tom Dickins, who wrote ‘The Czech-speaking lands, their peoples and contact communities: titles, names and ethnonyms’, published in The Slavonic and East European Review, 89 (3), 2011, pp. 401–54. Here’s what Dr. Dickens had to say:

“The degree of acceptance of short forms for the Czech Republic in foreign languages varies significantly. Some languages have largely embraced a new descriptor; for instance, French Tchéquie, German Tschechien and Spanish Chequía. Others have proven more resistant. Neither Czechia in English nor Cechia in Italian (which is perhaps too close to cieca [blind woman]) have become so well established, despite their endorsement in 1993 by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, and their appearance in official geographical lists.105

There can be few precedents of a small state attempting to impose usage of this type on the speakers of major foreign languages, so it is difficult to predict the likely degree of acceptance of the promoted forms. For what it is worth, a poll conducted in 2006 found that ordinary Czechs overwhelmingly prefer the adjectival form Czech (used as an odd-sounding substantive in English) to Czechia, Czechlands and Czecho.106 Amongst native English speakers, Czecho, the misnomer Czechoslovakia (cf. continued references to ‘Yugoslavia’), the Czech-speaking lands and the Czechland(s), all appear to be more common than Czechia, for which there is only one citation in the Bank of English corpus.107 It is striking that even English-speaking Bohemicists are reluctant to adopt Czechia, and in some cases oppose it on the not altogether rational grounds of euphony.

To some extent, the Czechs recognize the anomaly of the situation, as exemplified in the variety of terms which they use to promote themselves abroad, including Czech/CZ made (which invites the unfortunate pun šmejd [junk]), Made in Czechia, Made in (the) Czech Republic, Made in Czech R./Rep./CR/CZ, Czech (Team) or Czech Republic (on sports kit), Czech beer or Brewed in Bohemia/the Czech Republic/in Plzeň, Czech (on the Prazdroj bottle) and Moravian wine.”

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Pre-Pilsner Pilsen

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This morning Pilsner Urquell tweeted the quetion “What happened in Plzen in the 1830s to make the citizens decide to build their own brewery?”

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The answer Pilsner Urquell gives to Plzen Before Pilsner Urquell is a short history lesson about Bohemia in the mid-1800s.

What was the town of Plzen like when Pilsner Urquell was founded back in 1842? To get a feel for things, imagine the number 563. That’s the total number of dwellings — just 563 buildings for living in — that stood in Plzen at the time of the town’s 1840 census.

Despite its small size, Plzen was still a relatively important place, especially after the construction of the military barracks that were built there in 1826 (this was crowd-funded and paid for by the citizens), after which the town’s population and strategic importance grew substantially. By 1840, Plzen had grown to 10,184 inhabitants, up from 6,447 inhabitants some fifty years earlier.

Along with the barracks, Plzen also developed a more cultivated side in the 1820s and 1830s, developing a merchant class and showing theatrical performances and concerts in both Czech and German languages. Perhaps because of that cosmopolitanism, as well as the town’s setting not far from the Czech-Bavarian border, a number of imported beers, including many Bavarian dark lagers, began showing up in Plzen by the mid-1830s. These proved to be quite popular, and some residents complained that Plzen was flooded by imported beers. Ironically, the imports were quite cheap, much cheaper than Plzen’s own beer at the time, which thus had trouble selling fast enough to keep up with its relatively short shelf life.

The result was a major problem for local beer lovers. The first solution suggested by the citizens of Plzen? A ban on all imported beer. Only after this idea was laughingly dismissed by the town’s mayor Martin Kopecký did the good people of Plzen came up with their second proposal: to build a new brewery that could compete with the imports.

It’s funny to see concerns about imports being an issue even 175 years ago, something that’s still talked about today.

The image Pilsner Urquell uses part of with the story is from 1649. It was a “copper engraving, uncolored as published,” and is a “Bird’s eye view of the city of Pilsen, published in the Topographia Bohemiae by Matthaeus Merian.”

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Beer Birthday: Evan Rail

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Today is the 43rd birthday of Evan Rail, expat American writer living, and writing about beer, in Prague, Czech Republic. Evan was born and raised in Fresno, but discovered his love for beer while attending U.C. Davis as a French and German literature major. While there, he spent his time at the nearby Sudwerk Privatbrauerei brewpub, and counted among his friends several students in the Master Brewers program. That’s also where he began homebrewing in 1993. He also studied in New York and Paris, before making the Czech Republic his home in 2000. His move to Prague was meant to be for a single year, but he’s still there fifteen years later. Given that he met his wife there, and they’ve started a family, it’s likely he won’t be moving home any time soon. In addition to writing the Good Beer Guide to Prague and the Czech Republic, Rail’s also penned Why Beer Matters, In Praise of Hangovers and Triplebock, all Kindle singles. While we haven’t yet shared a beer in person, I did interview him via Skype for a newspaper column and look forward to a trip to Prague at some point in the future. Join me in wishing Evan a very happy birthday.

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A Facebook cover photo of Evan (which is where I purloined it from, along with the next one, too).

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A screenshot from a video of Evan talking about Czech beer.

PilsNOIR Urquell, Czech Brewery’s New Black Pilsner

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The pilsner style, with it’s brilliant golden color, was first brewed in the Bohemian town of Plzen in 1842. Pilsner Urquell started a revolution in brewing and it became the most widely copied type of beer, quickly transforming it into the most popular beer style in the world.

After over 170 years making just one beer, Plzeňský Prazdroj decided it was time to do something different and today are launching PilsNOIR Urquell, a totally new black pilsner. Made with the same Moravian barley and their signature Czech Saaz hops along with the naturally soft local water that’s made Pilsner Urquell to make one of the finest beers in the world, it’s sure to start another revolution.

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April Fools!

Just kidding. Mark Dredge, who’s been doing some work for Pilsner Urquell in England, sent me this mock-up spoof the brewery created just to have a little fun. No matter which beer you choose to drink today, remember to have yourself a little fun. The real copy should read:

“We’ve been making the same beer in the same way for 172 years. Why change now. Even on April Fools Day.”

Beer In Ads #1065: Pilsner Urquell Keeps You On Earth


Wednesday’s ad is for Pilsner Urquell, from what looks to be the 1950s based on the style of illustration on this postcard. Showing a geeky-looking mathematician in front of a blackboard filled with a calculation. I wonder if it’s just gibberish or if it really does express something mathematically — gravity perhaps? But the idea is that if it weren’t for math we wouldn’t be here on planet beer to enjoy our Pilsner Urquell.

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Animated Beer Production In The Czech Republic

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Today’s infographic is slick animated graphic showing the brewing process. It’s a pretty cool graphic. There’s different panels for brewing, basic types of beer, production by European countries, and some beer history. The only thing that would make it cooler would be if I could read Czech. But click on the image below to see it in all its glory.

Beer production (brewing)

by Newslab.
Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

Beer Birthday: Josef Groll

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Evan Rail reminded me that today is not only the birthday of Josef Groll, but if we’d perfected that cure for mortality, it would be his 200th birthday. Groll, of course, is considered the “Father of Pils,” and was born this day on 1813, in Vilshofen an der Donau, Germany. Many consider the Bavarian brewer to be the inventor of pilsener beer.

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Josef Groll’s portrait.

According to the Wikipedia account:

The citizens of Pilsen were no longer satisfied with their top-fermented Oberhefenbier. They publicly emptied several casks of beer in order to draw attention to its low quality and short storage life. It was decided to build a new brewery capable of producing a bottom-fermented beer with a longer storage life. At the time, this was termed a Bavarian beer, since bottom-fermentation first became popular in Bavaria and spread from there. The climate in Bohemia is similar to that in Bavaria and made it possible to store ice in winter and cool the fermentation tanks down to 4 to 9 degrees Celsius year-round, which is necessary for bottom-fermentation.

Bavarian beer had an excellent reputation, and Bavarian brewers were considered the masters of their trade. Thus, the citizens of Pilsen not only built a new brewery, but also hired Josef Groll, a Bavarian brewer. Josef Groll’s father owned a brewery in Vilshofen in Lower Bavaria and had long experimented with new recipes for bottom-fermented beer. On October 5, 1842, Groll produced the first batch of Urquell beer, which was characterized by the use of soft Bohemian water, very pale malt, and Saaz hops It was first served in the public houses Zum Goldenen Anker, Zur weißen Rose and Hanes on 11 November 1842, and was very well received by the populace.

Josef Groll’s contract with the Bürgerliches Brauhaus (citizens’ brewery) in Pilsen expired on April 30, 1845 and was not renewed. Groll returned to Vilshofen and later inherited his father’s brewery. The Pilsen brewery was directed by Bavarian brewers for nearly sixty years until 1900.

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A diorama of Groll in his lab at the Pilsner Urquel Museum.

Beer Sweden also has a nice two-part account, as does Brewing Techniques and Food Reference. Pilsner Urquell’s Czech website also has a brief history and a timeline. Brewer K. Florian Klemp wrote Presenting Pilsners for All ABout Beer, which includes Groll’s story.

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So join me in wishing Josef Groll a happy 200th birthday with a glass of Pilsner Urquell.

How To Efficiently Drink Pilsner Urquell

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This is an interesting piece of breweriana I stumbled upon. It’s from around 1900 and apparently is “an instruction manual how to efficiently drink Pilsner Urquell.” Although Google Translates it as “A glass of Pilsner Urquell in one fell swoop,” so I’m not entirely certain. It looks like a postcard to me.

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Click here to see the advertisement full size.