The price of a pint: A look into rising beer costs in Prague

There’s no doubt that Czechs love their beer, but with inflation at an all time high, the prices of pints are going up by nearly five or ten crowns per half litre. But the rising cost has less to do with beer itself getting more expensive and more to do with running a business becoming increasingly expensive, as Amelia Mola-Schmidt found out.  

Walking through the streets of Prague, you come across countless bars and restaurants serving the golden Czech brew. Beer is the Czech national drink and Czechia’s long tradition of brewing iconic brands such as Pilsner Urquell, is renowned worldwide. The average beer consumption every year in Czechia is 129 litres per capita, and while this number is high, it is actually down by nearly 30 litres since 2008. So, while Czechs have been drinking less beer, they still reign as the European nation with the most beer consumption per capita, and the concept of meeting in a cosy pub is a ritual for many Czechs and expats living here. But with inflation and prices going up in most areas of the national economy, is the cherished pint of beer and its consumption under threat?

Duende | Photo: Amelia  Mola-Schmidt,  Radio Prague International

Jana Koubova is the owner of Duende, a popular bar situated by the river in downtown Prague. Jana has been running the place since the year 2000, and she says that the price of beer has increased dramatically since she first opened her doors.

“I think it was about 20-something at the time, we still have the cheapest beer, it’s under 50 which is rare so close to the Charles Bridge, so the cheapest beer is 48 crowns for half a litre.”

The recent spike in beer prices here in Czechia has less to do with beer itself getting more expensive on the breweries side, but more with the associated costs of running a business. Jana Koubova again.

“It’s gone up, but not that badly. What I’ve seen recently is that people who sell things are increasing their prices, but there is not a big increase in what you’re buying in the cost. For beer, the breweries would increase by one crown for half a litre, but the bars are raising the prices by five or ten crowns because of the increase of the costs of energy and gas.”

Jana has managed to steer clear of raising her prices significantly, and she is happy that she’s avoided this.

“I didn’t have to raise the prices that much, I really want to keep them low so people are happy. It seems nasty to me to increase the prices.”

Jana says that cutting back her hours of operation have helped quell her overall business costs, instead of being open from 1pm-1am, the bar opens at 4pm now, meaning less staff needs to be on hand and fewer lights switched on.

Duende | Photo: Amelia  Mola-Schmidt,  Radio Prague International

While her prices remain low, Jana has noticed a small decrease of foot traffic in Duende, but she notes that this is often a symptom of post-holiday spending for many consumers here in Czechia.

“This period after Christmas and the start of the New Year is always a bit slow, but it’s really not that bad. Maybe they still come in because I didn’t increase the prices that much.”

Economic forecasting in November of 2022 indicated that the average price of a beer would increase to more than 70 crowns per half litre here in Czechia. So far, Jana is managing to stay well below that mark and hopes she can continue to do so, so as to keep her customers coming in with smiles on their faces. And while the cost of going out for a frosty pint may be increasing, Jana thinks that the Czechs’ long beer tradition will keep people supporting their local watering holes.

“We have a really old history in brewing beer, and Pilsner is one of the most famous in the world. Recently, in the last five years, we’ve seen an increase in family breweries and small breweries, which is good because you can’t drink the same beer everyday, you have to go out and try a new one.”