Czech beer production breaks records, again

Beer is one of the most enduring symbols of the Czech Republic, with Czechs drinking more per head than any other nation and exports growing all the time. And it seems the country's brewing industry is currently in the middle of a golden era - figures just released show that Czech brewers are producing greater amounts of pivo than at any time in the country's history

The Czech Beer and Malt Association announced on Friday that almost 10 million hectolitres of beer was produced in the Czech Republic in the first six months of this year, more than ever before. Production in that period was almost four percent higher than in 2006. What is behind this impressive increase? That's a question I put to the association's chairman Frantisek Krakes.

"First of all, thanks to heaven, the weather this year has been not only better than last year's, but the best. Also, Czech consumers prefer Czech beer. With more tourism, they have more opportunities to visit foreign countries around the world. They have realized that Czech beer is the best, and are coming back to the best Czech beer."

But there is more good news for Czech and Moravian brewers. As well as the increase in production, the export of Czech beer has risen even more, by 4.2 percentage points. The leading importer of Czech beer has long been Germany with almost 1.8 million hectolitres, followed by Slovakia and England. By contrast, some of our neighbouring countries, including Austria and Poland, do not seem to be that keen on Czech beer. According to Frantisek Krakes, beer drinkers tend to be rather conservative and creatures of habit.

"The tradition of importing beer from the Czech Republic is long. From foreign beers, Germany prefers Czech beers. This is reflected in the increase in import of Czech beer to Germany. On the other hand, Poland, for example, does not have such along tradition of importing Czech beer. All together, it is a question of tradition as well as the number of tourists coming to the Czech Republic not only to visit, but also to drink our special Czech beer."

Talking about Czech beer, it should be noted that the largest Czech-based breweries belong to foreign industry heavy-weights. Plzensky Prazdroj, the biggest beer producer in the country, belongs to the South African company SAB Miller. The changes in ownership took place in the 1990s when most Czech breweries were in desperate need of investment. While in the year 1900 there were some 1300 breweries in the Czech lands, only 48 breweries are active in the country today.

"Czech beer is so interesting for investors who are big producers of beer all over the world. That means that despite the fact that world's largest producers of beer are already present in the Czech Republic, I suppose that concentration of the Czech beer market will continue."

But those who appreciate Czech beer both here in the Czech Republic and abroad will have to be ready to pay more for their favourite beverage. Due to the increasing costs of petrol, more and more farmers are focusing on growing products used to make bio-fuel. This affects the costs of barley and other agricultural crops used in the production of beer. Chairman of the Czech Beer and Malt Association Frantisek Krakes expects that the rise in prices of beer will happen soon, and will be steep.

"My estimate is that the cost of raw material for breweries and malt houses will increase dramatically; my estimate is about 25 %. In this case, we must also expect that breweries will increase prices of their beer by more than the average increase last year."