Many Czech breweries still struggling, despite popularity of golden brew

Foto: Ondřej Tomšů

Czech breweries are counting the costs of the coronavirus crisis. During the state of emergency which closed some 50,000 pubs around the country, beer consumption took a dive and although the government-imposed restrictions have now been lifted, the pace of recovery is slow.

The hardest hit by the crisis were large breweries, which are used to established sales procedures and are not able to react quickly to larger-scale crises such the coronavirus pandemic. Sales dropped by 40 percent overnight and the largest producers were faced with the task of having to dispose of hundreds of thousands of hectolitres of brewed beer that they were unable to sell.

According to Jan Šurán from the Czech-Moravian Association of Mini-Breweries disposing of large stocks of beer is not easy and costs money.

Photo: Guillaume Narguet

"It is not possible to just pour large amounts of beer down the drain because it would burden wastewater and cause problems at wastewater treatment plants, so the beer must be gradually neutralized. Furthermore, the procedure must be reported to customs officers and reflected in accounting, which is not such a simple matter.”

Small breweries did not have to dispose of beer in large volumes. They do not have large reserves at any time and were better able to respond to the sudden drop in demand.  One such example is the Jarošovský brewery, which launched an online store for customers during the coronavirus crisis, delivering beer free of charge to people’s doorsteps.

The e-shop remains in operation even after the lifting of restrictions and is now helping the brewery to make it through the crisis. Many others followed suit. There are currently some 500 mini-breweries competing for clients in the Czech Republic.

Although Czechs are known as the world’s biggest beer drinkers and many could not wait to savour their first draft beer at the local pub in the company of friends, consumption has been slow to climb and breweries, especially mini breweries, are experiencing a difficult time.

People don't go to pubs as much, according to an Incomind survey. There are fears of a second wave of the coronavirus epidemic in the autumn and while the economic situation remains uncertain, people will continue to save on things they don't essentially need, including eating out and spending time in pubs and bars.