Yet for many German brewers, the good times are over. A slump in consumption of more than a third in the last 25 years has hit Germany, Europe's biggest beer producer, triggering intense competition and price discounting. With young Germans turning to spirits and non-alcoholic fruit drinks, beer sales fell 2 percent last year alone. Traditional family breweries, also under pressure from double-digit rises in energy, glass and malt costs, are struggling, some dying.local breweries are even more morose than Germans, has one of the most robust ale markets in the world--far stronger than anything in the UK or US. (If I weren't doing a filler post here, I'd check on Ireland.) At my last check, ales had about 11% of the market in Britain, but 30% in Belgium.
"We're in an extremely tough market," Weihenstephan boss Josef Schraedler told Reuters. "You can't grow here unless you lower prices or .. develop a cult brand and charge a premium."
So yes, things used to be better in these countries, and if you were watching production slip every year, you'd be anxious and morose, too. But German and Belgium (and the Czech Republic) are the world's greatest beer success stories, where local styles have managed to weather the onslaught of mass market light lagers. And things change. The trend is down now, but that doesn't mean it always will be. The craft renaissance may well come to those countries, and it may have unpredictable and yet still wonderful effects.