Wednesday, 6 February 2013

German Beer Malaise Continues


The latest figures from the German Federal Statistics Office show that beer production in Germany declined by 2% last year to 96.5 million hectolitres, the lowest since 1990. Perhaps surprisingly, the largest amount of  beer was produced not in Bavaria, but in North Rhine-Westphalia, the most populous part of the country.

Possibly the most gloomy part of it all is the rise of pre-mix beers drinks such as beer with cola, or fruit juice, which accounted for 4.5% of all beer sales.  Readers of the Local put this down to increasing health conciousness and the rise and rise of wine.  Though you might think the two are mutually exclusive, it appears the Germans do not.  A few correspondents remarked that German beer has lagged behind the rest of the world in innovation. 16% of Germany's beer production was exported though. Sadly too for the Tysons of the German beer world, the previous habit of a beer with breakfast is dying out too as habits change.

A rather worrying aspect of all this is that the fall shows no sign of arresting and with few straws to clutch at, people are openly (but given that there are still over 1300 breweries, a tad prematurely)  referring to "Brauereisterben,” a term meaning the death of German brewing.

There is a rather excellent summary of the ills visiting the German brewing industry here.   The gratuitous photo of drinkers in dirndls is just that. Gratuitous.

15 comments:

Cooking Lager said...

That's the second post with pictures of young lasses, in recent days. Well done, keep it up.

Tandleman said...

It's a new policy to bring back my readers.

Curmudgeon said...

96.5 million hectolitres is 58.9 million barrels, which is more than twice UK production in a country with maybe 33% more people.

Bailey said...

Germany offers an interesting contrast/comparison to the UK. I'd love to read more about their brewing industry in the last hundred years (have they got a Martyn Cornell of their own?) and confirm some hunches.

Specifically, I get the feeling that they've always been big on 'local' loyalty, and that the current agonising (like 'craft' v. 'crafty in the US) is partly to do with trying to understand what 'local' means when so many brands are owned by international companies.

Barry Masterson said...

Bailey, my impression is that most people who favour a local brand just favour the local brand, regardless of the parentage of said brand.

Oddly, though, sometimes local just means the same federal state. Around here, most people seem to drink Distelhäuser (relatively local) or Eichbaum (from Mannheim, not quite local, but still in Baden, dammit! *thumps table and breaks into a verse of Das Badnerlied*).

Like you, Tandleman, I think all this "death of the brewery" lark is a bit premature. It was the same last year (actually, 2 years ago). Habits and populations change, but I don't see a looming disaster. My only issue (in small letters, as I don't get unduly exercised about it) is that some of the bigger breweries (even Distelhäuser recently) are now bringing out "craft" beers in an apparent attempt to catch up with the cool kids. I've no problem with this per se, except they often seem to price them outrageously high, calling then "gourmet beers" as if in an attempt to get more bang for their buck. Not the smartest of moves if the industry really is entering the death throes ;)

py0 said...

Say what you like, but the beer on offer in the average German pub is significantly better than the array of bland MNC keg offerings (with the occasional desultory cask bitter) you find in the average UK boozer.

Nick Reid said...

It is certainly true that a German pub has far better beers than your average UK, US or Australian bar. However, the problem I always found in Germany is it is often more of the same. They don't have the same range of craft beers to keep it interesting.

py0 said...

Its an interesting quandary - would you rather Germany or Czech Rep, which generally has good local beers available in 90% of pubs but very little in the way of innovation, or the US or UK, which has generally awful beer interspersed with the occasional pub that does a fantastic range of high quality beers.

If only we could have the best of both worlds...

Barry Masterson said...

I dunno, I think think these are quite broad generalisations. There are lots of great "normal" beers in Germany (who needs innovation then? ;)), and there's plenty of new stuff developing over the past couple of years, particularly in the use of US/Oz hops, and quite a few breweries producing pale ales, or other delights. True though, that given there are 1300+ breweries here, it's only a small %, but a marked change over the past few years even. If you live in a big city you can have plenty of choice when it comes to pubs, if you know where to look. Unfortunately I don't live in such a place (our Gaststätte closed last year), but there's always online ordering if I get desperate for something that isn't Eichbaum ;)

If only, indeed!

Cooking Lager said...

Can I vote for the former, py0? The latter tends to be full of beer geeks whilst the former is just regular folk liking a drink.

Coxy said...

In the last ten years ,Ive been to Germany about a dozen times , and I just don't get it, the pubs never have much choice and alot of the local beers taste like the other Cities local beers. With the improved quality of Cask beers over here it is much easier to try many types of beer in one establishment. The only thing I prefer over there are the nice fatty pork joints they have in pubs.
As for doom and gloom, if beer sales are down alot it might be good for the health of the nation,there are some really fat beer bastards in Germany.
ps on my euro travels I have always found the Germans the friendliest nation, a bit like the Irish but better because they are never telling you how wonderful they are.

Tandleman said...

I think I may have said it elsewhere, but German pub culture is great. Choice less so. Difference in taste? Marginal.

Tandleman said...

Bailey. German are big on local, but have a peculiar (to us) view of what local actually is.

They appear to have little sentiment about local breweries, yet flock to them.

Watson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robert the Brews said...

I have always thought it strange that Germany obviously does very well out of exporting many things but does not export a lot of what it is known for: well made pure beer (obviously the truth of that description is another debate).

It's actually quite hard to import beer from Germany, most of the breweries are not interested, even the likes the of Augustiner don't directly export.
A lot of German beer for sale in the UK is grey market.

I understand most of them are too small or just don't fancy exporting but maybe a national or regional union of brewers for the purpose of export would be a good idea.