Boom of Czech mini breweries is over, says association head

Over the past decade or so, Czechia has seen something of an upsurge in small breweries. There are now about 500 mini-breweries across the country, with over 30 being established last year. However, the new head of the national mini brewers association says the trend has already reached its peak.

While the Czech Republic’s mini breweries only account for over two percent of overall beer production, they have established a firm place on the market in recent years.

Many restaurants, which in the past only offered mass-produced brands, now offer a variety of craft beers on tap. There is also a growing number of specialised beer shops, where customers can sample a wide variety of special brews.

While microbreweries only produce up to 10,000 hectolitres of beer a year, they are essential in setting new trends on the market, says Michal Voldřich, head of the Bohemian-Moravian Association of Mini Brewers:

“Trends usually last for around five years, but they always leave a mark. One of the first trends were stronger, bottom-fermented beers. Top-fermented varieties, such as wheat beers, came into fashion around the year 2000.

“Another trend were flavoured beers, which gradually made their way to restaurants. For the past six or seven years, ales and stouts became really popular, and most recently also sour varieties.”

Michal Voldřich | Photo: Ondřej Tomšů,  Radio Prague International

The Czech Republic’s breweries, both large and small, have been hard hit by the coronavirus crisis, which closed pubs around the country for months.

Although there were some 35 mini-breweries established last year, Michal Voldřich says it doesn’t necessarily mean that they have recovered from the crisis:

“The numbers don’t really tell you anything about the current situation, because many of the projects had actually started before the coronavirus.

“The crisis has depleted all our reserves, even in companies with larger capital. So when people stop going to restaurants, we are facing existential problems.

“We need state compensation, just like the cultural sector. The Czech tradition of beer brewing is something of a phenomenon, and it would be a shame to lose it.”

With soaring inflation and growing energy prices, Michal Voldřich also expects that small brewers will be forced to increase their prices.

“Regional breweries don’t spend as much on transport costs. But the prices of raw materials and energy apply to both small and large breweries. We all have to import malt and hops and distribute the beer.

“The price of malt and barley has been rising quite significantly this year, so all of this is bound to have an impact on the price of beer.

“I think it is only a matter of time before it does and by how much. I think a 20 percent increase in the price of beer over the course of next year won’t be such a surprise.”