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Monday, April 21, 2014

We'll Soon Be Getting Back to the Spotty Content You Prize

I see that I last posted on Wednesday, and a lame filler post at that.  Well, guess what?  More filler!  An article making the rounds today comes from the Chicago Tribune, recounting the grim beer scene in Germany.  I've been reading these articles for years, and to be fair, they reflect the mood of breweries in the grand old bierland. 
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.

"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."
I'd like to add a Very Big Caveat here for all to consider: compared to what?  In the United States, where beer geeks have declared undiluted cultural victory over the vanquished mass market lagers, something like 90% of the beer is still mass market lagers.  In the US, beer consumption continues to dwindle, too, and wine and liquor consumption are on the rise.  Belgium, where 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. 

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.

Just sayin.

1 comment:

  1. Mass lagers still control the market? Beer consumption down? Time to pack it in.