8 Feb 2010

A trend?

Or is it too soon to speak about that?

Last year beer sales fell everywhere, I think. The Czech Republic is no exception, where sales dropped by 5% overall (with 10% on exports). No surprise here.

However, if we take a second to look at the numbers in more detail we will notice a couple of very interesting things.

Plzeňský Prazdoj, the largest brewer in the country, reported a decrease of 4.4%. Budvar, of 2%. Staropramen haven't released the figures yet, but I don't think they'll be much better, and neither I think Heineken CZ's will be, even though I haven't seem them yet.

On the other hand, during the same period, K Brewery Trade reported that the sales of their six regional breweries grew by 7%, reaching a volume of 850k hl. Černá Hora, KBT's newest member, also had a successful 2009, with sales going up by 5%.

But the most impressive results are, no doubt, those from Svijany and Rohozec. They grew by almost 17.5% and 16% respectively. Svijany's output last year was 385k hl and their goal is to reach 400k this year.

Although I haven't been able to find any figures (not that I looked too much for them), another segment that has grown was the micro breweries', who now represent 3% of the total beer production in the Czech Rep. It might not look like big deal, but let me remind you that most micros here are brewpubs that don't bottle and hardly distribute their beers. It's true that there were some closings last year, but the same number, if not more (if anyone has actual figures, please share them) have opened, including the "micro-industrials"  Tambor and Chotěboř, who I've heard are really happy with their first results.

At first, these figures surprised me a bit. But then I realised that that they only reflect something I've been seeing for quite some time, at least here in Prague. Regional beers, or some of them, have become easier to find than ever before; they can be seen at supermarket chains and not few shops. Wandering around the city researching for my book I have come across quite a few places that offer exclusively regional beers, some of them are new, others have switched suppliers. Either way, they seem to be doing quite well, as shown by Celeste and their experience with Kout na Šumavě. There are also those who added a regional or micro to their offer, also with some success. And of course, I can't leave out the čtvrtá pípa phenomenon that keeps on growing, hospody that offer "rotating beers" must be about 50 in the whole country. The owner of Zlý Časy, who has taken this to the extreme, told me the other day that sales of draught beer have doubled in the last year.

Someone must be feeling the pain, and I'm pretty sure it's the big boys. My empiric observations (I've always wanted to say this) show that most of those who get a taste of these "alternative" beers never go back and also spread the word. This in a way follows what Stephen Beaumont was saying the other day about "Boire Moins, Boire Mieux" (drink less, drink better). Perhaps not so much from the style point of view (though the number of "special" beers - those with a Plato higher than 13% - have doubled in the last three or four years), but it's certainly true from the quality point of view.

Too soon to be speaking about a trend? No way!

Na Zdraví!

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5 comments:

  1. Ahoj. This is happening in England. Pubs are closing, But Micro Brewery,s are opening up, all the time. Micro Brewery products are easily available, and Like you say, once you have tasted the better product, you are Hooked !.

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  2. It's good news.

    It's distorted a bit because, of course, the smaller you are, the less beer 1% of your output actually represents. A brewery here in Scotland recently doubled its number of employees ... from one to two!

    But yes, very good news.

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  3. I don't think it's distorted, not with these volumes, at least. Besides, the growth in many cases is not something that happened just last year, but it's been constant for some time already.

    This doesn't mean that the big boys are loosing any sleep, but I'm sure the accountants that run them aren't happy at all...

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  4. There was a story in the Independent over here which pointed out the boom in microbreweries in the UK. Now, lots won't run the course, but it's encouraging all the same.

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  5. Beer sales are also going down here in Norway, but craft beers are more easily found than ever. I do not know how sales are for the micro breweries, but I find more and more bottles in local bars and restaurants. That must be a sign in itself!

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