Czech mini-brewery boom is over, says association chief

While the Czech Republic’s mini-breweries account for just over two percent of overall beer production, they have established themselves firmly in the market in recent years.

Many restaurants, which previously only offered mass-produced brands, now offer a variety of craft beers on tap. There are also a growing number of specialty breweries, where customers can sample a wide variety of specialty beers.

While microbreweries only produce up to 10,000 hectoliters of beer per year, they are essential for creating new trends in the market, explains Michal Voldřich, head of the Bohemian-Moravian Mini-Brewers Association:

“Trends usually last around five years, but they always leave a mark. One of the first trends was stronger bottom-fermented beers. Top fermentation varieties, such as wheat beers, became fashionable around the year 2000.

“Another trend was flavored beers, which gradually made their way to restaurants. Over the past six or seven years, ales and stouts have become very popular, and more recently sour varieties as well.

Michal Voldich |  Photo: Ondřej Tomšů, Radio Prague Internationale

The Czech Republic’s breweries large and small have been hit hard by the coronavirus crisis, which has shut down pubs across the country for months.

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

“The numbers don’t tell you anything about the current situation, as many projects had in fact started before the coronavirus.

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

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

With soaring inflation and rising energy prices, Michal Voldřich also expects small brewers to be forced to raise their prices.

“Regional breweries spend less on transport costs. But the prices of raw materials and energy apply equally to small and large breweries. We all have to import malt and hops and distribute beer.

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

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

Berta D. Wells