Beer consumption down in Czech Republic

Now onto a topic literally close to the heart (or the throats) of many Czechs - beer. Statistics have shown that Czechs actually drank less beer during 2000 than during the previous year - rather surprising for a country in which beer is virtually a national institution. Peter Smith has the story.

The new statistics show that on average Czechs downed 158.9 litres of beer in 2000 each compared to 160 litres in 1999. Many differing reasons can be attributed to this slight reduction, but the finger mainly points at changes in the people's lifestyle here in the Czech Republic. Jaroslav Pomp is the commercial spokesman for one of the largest brewery in the country, Plzensky Prazdroj

"I think that the main reason for the small decrease in consumption is the change in the style of living. Czech people must work more and use their car every day and they must keep their brains clear. Of course, Czechs also follow western countries and people are looking for the better quality beers. They have to save money and that is why they drink less. I am sure that beer consumption in the Czech Republic will remain the biggest in the world - after all it is our national beverage," Mr Pomp said.

Not that this reduction in consumption will worry the large breweries. Beer production actually rose during 2000 due to the increases in export - for example, Plzensky Prazdroj now exports around 5.5 percent of its production. Jaroslav Pomp again.

"Plzensky Prazdroj increased (exports) last year around 55 percent, and this year we expect around a 30 percent increase. So, we are sure that it's our chance to export beer to western countries because we know the same trend - people are looking for the best quality beers. They are drinking less, but they are drinking better quality beers.

But what about the effect on the domestic market? It is noticeable that more and more Czech pubs are holding promotions and special events in an attempt to get the drinkers in. The closest pub to Czech Radio is a smokey joint called Pod Smetankou... on Friday evenings they have even resorted to having a topless waitress. I went along, though, in the middle of the day where I spoke to a couple of the drinkers as well as the landlord, Mirek. Just how is business doing this year?

"Worse - much worse. I think that they are drinking a little less beer than they did. In my opinion its because they don't have as much money as before. The choice of beers is large - in this area our locals like Gambrinus so that's what we serve. This isn't the reason, though - it's certainly because they have less money."

"I would say I drink the same - or more even. People just don't have the time to go to pubs - they have too much work and probably less money."