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Crisis, my ass!

The Czech beer portal published today an excellent post signed by Jindra Dumek that does away with the myth that the Czech brewing industry is in crisis, as it's been reported in the Austrian press and according to what some newspapers' headlines would like us to believe.

It's true that this year the drop in production is expected to be much higher than last year's, more than 10% is estimated. It is also true that the annual consumption per cápita is not 160l any more. However, if you start digging into the statistics you will see that all this is something that, mostly, is affecting the local branches of the multinational giants.

In his post, Dumek, mentions a series of factors that illustrate very well his argument that instead of a crisis, what we are going through here is actually a renaissance:

  • K-Brewery y LIF (owners of Svijany, Rohozec and Primátor), among others, are expecting record growth this year, and this with very little of their production leaving the Czech borders, which proves that last year's results were indeed part of a trend.

  • Pivovar Chotěboř, the first proper industrial brewery to have opened in this country in several decades, has had a spectacular first year in every sense. Commercial success, great praise from the public and a few awards.

  • The number of microbreweries that have opened recently (How many has it been this year? I don't know, but I'm pretty sure that more than ten) and how well they are all doing in general. Some have even invested to expand their capacities (or are thinking of doing so) so they can satisfy the growing demand.

  • The increasing popularity of top fermented beers. Ales, Stouts, Wheat beers are part of the portfolio of more and more breweries and now they even have a separate category in a couple of local competitions.

  • The expansion of the "čtvrtá pípa" model, lead by the people of Aliance PIV. A couple of years ago, finding a pub with rotating taps, or even one that offered more than two or three beers from the same company was rare, nowadays it is something that you expect in almost every neighbourhood.

  • There are more people everyday who are becoming interested in beer as a drink and look for and demand alternatives to the best known brands, and those alternatives are becoming easier to find by the day.

What the article doesn't mention, though, is another segment that has grown a lot this year, imported beers. Unfortunately, I'm not talking here about stuff that the likes of Zlý Časy or Odddog are bringing (who might not be doing too bad, but their impact on the market is still insignificant), but the kind of stuff that is brought by the supermarket chains, mostly (which are making a bit of noise): rubbish from Poland, Germany, Romania or Hungary, which are imported for the sole reason that they are cheaper than the cheapest domestic beers (what else can be expected from the supermarket chains? The last thing they care about is quality). These canned urines are slowly eating away bits of the market, but the portion of the pie they are swallowing is, and I'm almost certain of this, that of the usual drinker of Braník and other similar brands, in other words, people who, like the supermarkets, care about price and not quality.

In other words, this is far from being a crisis. But of course, here I speak as a consumer and not as one of the accountants that run the multinationals.

Na Zdraví!

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