“Want to Catch Up”: Brewers Are Selling More Draft Beers Again

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“catch up”

Brewers are selling more draft beers again

A waiter carries a beer mug at the Oktoberfest in Munich.

Photo: DPA

When the hospitality industry had to close, draft beer was a slow seller. In the meantime, production is starting up again – the beer gardens are full, also thanks to the summer season. But there are other concerns too.

Dusseldorf. For brewers in Germany, draft beer sales are rising again after a deep trough. Full beer gardens and restaurant terraces as well as well-attended folk and rifle festivals encourage beer production.

“People run to every event, people want to hang out,” says Michael Huber, head of the Veltins brewery. “And above all, people stay longer at the event, which means that consumption at the event is higher than we expected.” You notice this “incredible willingness to hold on”. Almost every rifle festival records more sales than before the corona pandemic.

“Shortage of staff, shortage of staff, shortage of staff”

“People like to come back to beer gardens at festivals,” said Benedict Meier, spokesman for the Association of Private Breweries in Munich. In some places even more would be possible. “The problem in many places is the lack of staff in gastronomy. It starts in the kitchen and extends to the service.” The boss of the Altbier brewery in Bolton, Michael Holman, on the Lower Rhine also thought so: “There is a lack of staff, a lack of staff, a lack of staff – in the catering trade, but also in the breweries.” Many Employees may have looked for other jobs during the Corona crisis and many had better working hours than in the catering industry.

“Of course, draft beer sales are returning. 2021 there were restrictions until May. However, the quantity is still missing compared to before,” says Niklas Others, publisher of the industry magazine “Inside”. Due to the multiple lockdowns imposed early last year, draft beer not for sale became a major problem for brewers. To save it from the road, bakers baked beer bread. After a break of months, many brewers will not fill beer in kegs again until May 2021.

Veltins estimates that the German beer market will only grow by 3 to 4 percent in the first half of 2022 compared to the weaker prior-year period. Despite the many guests, the current June could be around 10 percent less than the extremely good month of the previous year. Bottled beer is not as popular as it was in the first year of the pandemic, when many pubs and restaurants had to close. “The business has suffered a little because the gastronomy has grown,” said Huber. “Bottled beer isn’t doing too well, and even retailers are complaining that sales aren’t that good,” Holman points out. Bottled beer sales had already declined in 2021.

“Deep concern about blackout”

Many beer producers are now worried about the gas supply – also to their important suppliers such as glassmakers. “The industry is very concerned about a blackout,” said Holger Eichel, Managing Director of the German Brewers’ Association. According to the association, around two thirds of German breweries rely on gas.

“The brewing industry has the sword of Damocles: It’s a gas embargo,” said Veltins manager Huber. If that happens, “a lot of breweries will have serious problems.” In addition, the gas supply is also a key issue for important upstream suppliers of the breweries. With regard to the glass manufacturers, Huber said: “We need around 50 to 60 million new bottles a year. If something breaks, the supply is completely interrupted.”

A lack of glue or missing labels can also bring production to a standstill. Veltins therefore bought goods in advance for 30 million euros that would otherwise have been ordered at short notice and rented warehouses for these quantities. The brewery in the Hochsauerland district is prepared for a possible switch from gas to oil and has tank capacities for five weeks of oil requirements. Consumers are also likely to feel the effects of increased energy and raw material costs. Experts had already assumed in the spring that the trade would increase the price of beer – announced long ago and not as a reaction to current developments.

“Many rifle festivals cancelled”

The effects of the pandemic are also being felt throughout the industry. Industry expert Other said: “Many people still avoid gatherings, and there is also a lack of staff.” A wholesaler in the Ruhr area has calculated for itself that its gastronomy customers are on average 10 percent less open than before. In addition, there are currently many new corona infections: “We think that the danger is still huge. We are currently getting a lot of shooting festival cancellations because 50 percent of those involved at two festivals had Corona, and of course that worries you.”

Two weeks ago, the Oettinger private brewery announced that it would close production and logistics at its location in Gotha, Thuringia, at the end of 2022. The Swabian family business justified the step with declining sales in Germany. Oettinger is also announcing unused reusable systems elsewhere.

© dpa-infocom, dpa:220623-99-778193/3

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