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August 13, 2007 | by  | in Opinion |
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The Real McCoy

Checking the mailbag at the Global Headquarters of Salient Beer has never been considered a chore mainly because for months there has been absolutely nothing in it. Recently however, there has been a spate (meaning “three”) of letters to the editor discussing this column.

The two epistles which were complimentary about my writing were dismissed by most readers as almost certainly written either by me or a member of my immediate family.

The other ‘letter’ questioned my ability to handle the strength of Flame beer (or “FLAME beer” as they wrote in bold orange crayon). I can assure that illustrious correspondent that it is the flavour of Flame, rather than its 5.4% strength, which is responsible for my lack of enthusiasm about it. Indeed, I could produce a small stage show of witnesses prepared to testify that I can (and sometimes do) drink much stronger beers for breakfast.

However, the mailbag was recently bulging with a plethora (“two”) of messages regarding comments made about the American beer Budweiser and the Czech beer Budvar in a law lecture at Victoria. The anonymous writers alerted me to the fact that Reader in Law Geoff McLay (known affectionately around the Law School as “Mr McLay”) had devoted part of a lecture to the global legal battles between Budvar – “the beer of kings” – and Budweiser – “the king of beers”. These battles are raging in more than 60 countries at any one time and were responsible for Budvar being unavailable in New Zealand for many years.

Some of the comments attributed to Mr McLay by these whistleblowers appeared to imply that the beers were of relatively similar quality. I could not let this slur against a normally mild-mannered lecturer stand and so with the efficiency usually associated with junior office clerks in major Government departments I rang him… some weeks later.

Geoff (only I call him Geoff) was aghast at the suggestion that he may have at any stage insinuated that Budweiser was as good as Budvar. Although repeatedly stressing that he was not much of beer drinker, he did say that at the University of Michigan they found the local American beer so poor they had to bring Canadian beer in over the border. The only time he admitted even remotely liking Budweiser was when he was sampling the free kegs ever Friday at the Anheuser-Busch Hall in the Law School. Free beer can do that to even the strongest man.

G-Money (as I now call him) stressed the lecture was about the role of intellectual property rights in the huge legal and marketing battle. He also said that Budvar – which has changed its packaging to look more like Budweiser in some markets – was not as innocent as many people (including this humble scribe) thought.

If you are confused about which beer you are drinking, do a simple taste test. If it has a dry, grassy nose, biscuity middle and an astringent, hoppy finish then it is Budvar (5 per cent). If it is a virtually clear liquid which initially tastes of absolutely nothing but slowly becomes more like industrial cleaner, it is Budweiser (4.9 per cent). Easy.

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