Tweet You can't blame Austrias for believing there is a crisis in the Czech brewing industry, they are seeing things from a distance and their information is sure second hand. To a certain extent, the general public can't be blamed, either. The 12% drop in production is an undeniable reality, the kind that the media loves for their bombastic headlines, knowing full well that not many people will bother with details.
Jan Veselý isn't Austrian and, in this context, he can't be considered part of the general public. As chairman of Český Svaz Pivovarů a Sladoven (Czech Brewers and Maltsters Association) he is someone who should not much better and yet, when you read the interview he gave to Radio.CZ (kindly reproduced by kindly posted by Pivni.Info) you can almost see him sobbing in despair. There, Veselý goes as far as to say that "in recent history, there have never been worse times than this".
Really, Mr. Veselý?
To me, as a consumer, these are the best of times. Regional beers have never been easier to find in pubs, restaurants, supermarkets and some shops. Microbreweries are booming, only in Prague there are 12 (well, 11 and 1/2, Třebonice brews only in Winter) and many are those that one way or another get their beers to pubs in the city. And if that wasn't enough, getting a wide range of quality imported beers isn't a dream anymore.
OK. Mr Veselý doesn't speak on behalf of the consumers, but as a spokesman for the industry. But even in such role he is missing the point.
Some regional beers are publishing their results for the past year and the picture they give is pretty different:
K-Brewery: They haven't published any figures yet, but it is expected that the combined volume of their seven breweries will be pretty close to 1 million hl, if not more, with a double figure growth. Also, Martín Burda, the biggest shareholder of the company, has said in a recent interview that 2010 was a very successful year from the financial and commercial point of view, and that they expect an even better 2011.
Svijany: They had set as a goal to brew 400,000hl in 2010, which they reached on Dec. 1, as they announced on their Facebook page. Not bad for a brewery that had their death sentence signed in 1998.
Rohozec: 10% growth.
Primátor: 3% increase in sales.
Bernard: For the second year in a row the broke the 200,000hl barrier, setting up another record in production for the brewery.
Havlíčkův Brod: Better known by their brand, Rebel, it had almost 2% increase in production.
Herold: 1.5% increase in production for another brewery that came back from a deep coma.
Chotěboř: The owners of this small industrial brewery that started operations in mid 2009 are very happy with the results of their first full year. So much that they are already evaluating the possibility of investing in order to double their current capacity. (By the way, Mr Vesely, how many industrial breweries opened during those glorious years of 160l per capita a year? How many were shut down?).
But I wanted to know more, so I wrote to a few other regional brewers and asked them how had they done last year. Five of them answered:
Polička: The brewery's boss, Karel Witz, sent me an e-mail with a very detailed description of the operational and financial results of his brewery. In short words, 2010 was pretty good in spite of a slight drop in production.
Žatec: 5% increase in production and around the same in turnover.
Ferdinand: 13% increase in production.
Budějovický Měšťanský Pivovar: 25% increase in production.
Bakalář: The brewery changed hands in the middle of last year and production dropped by 5%. However, the new owners feel optimistic thanks to the trends in the last months.
And all this without taking into account the many micro breweries that opened last year or that invested in order to meet the growing demand for their products.
Yes, I'm sure that there owners worried by the future of their companies and workers wondering whether they will be able to keep their jobs till the end of the year, but that's something that happens in every industry regardless of the global situation in the economy and markets.
So, Mr. Vesely, are these really such bad times? They really don't seem to me.
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