The brewing malt is already twice as expensive as before the Corona crisis and energy prices are skyrocketing. "The consequences of the Ukraine crisis and inflation present us with far greater problems than Corona ever could have done," says Christoph Köhler from the Darmstadt private brewery. The latest figures on beer sales for the first half of the year still show a slight recovery, which the southern Hessian family business can also confirm. But ahead of winter, brewers have major concerns about how to maintain their energy-intensive production.
According to official statistics from Monday, breweries and beer warehouses sold around 4.3 billion liters of beer in the first six months of the year. Despite the Omikron bans, that was 3.8 percent more than in the first half of the previous year, but still 5.5 percent less than in the first half of 2019. At that time, Corona was nothing more than a Mexican beer brand for most consumers. In the first six months, 3.6 billion liters of beer were sold in Germany, 6.4 percent more than in the same period last year. Exports to the EU (plus 6.6 percent) also increased, while exports to countries outside the Community (minus 19.1 percent) fell sharply.
Breweries dependent on high gas consumption
The German Brewers' Association is sounding the alarm because, despite modern technology, it is almost impossible to replace gas as the most important energy source in beer production. Basically, breweries do nothing more than heat and then cool large amounts of liquid every day. According to Brauer-Bund general manager Holger Eichele, it is the industry with the second highest energy consumption after the chemical industry. The consequences are foreseeable: "More and more medium-sized companies are on their knees, supply chains are on the verge of collapse."
In fact, almost all the preliminary products for the actually simple product beer have become more expensive, reports the Darmstadt brewer Köhler. Malt, labels, bottles, crates: the suppliers have added between 20 and 100 percent, and there is no end in sight. In a survey conducted by the Munich Ifo Institute, 70.5 percent of beverage manufacturers reported corresponding procurement problems. According to Ifo, the first companies have already reduced production due to a lack of bottles.
More beer than ever sold
According to the industry service "Getränke-Inside", the big brands were able to significantly increase their sales across the board in the first half of the year, because compared to 2021, the draft beer in particular, which is served in pubs and at festivals, was running again. The Veltins brewery from Sauerland sold more beer than ever before in the first half of the year, but still warns: "Almost all cost blocks have skyrocketed. Energy remains the major cost driver in the brewing industry."
If there is always enough gas available at all: The Darmstadt private brewery is currently considering the purchase of dual-fuel burners, which can alternatively be operated with oil instead of gas. In the event of a gas blockade, you would at least have an alternative, says Brauer Köhler.
While Veltins boss Michael Huber still promises not to aim for any further price increases in the second half of the year, the Südhesse Köhler says: "Price increases are absolutely unavoidable." He points to another problem: Despite the best beer garden weather, the catering partners lack the people to bring the drinks to the people. "I don't know of any restaurateur who wouldn't immediately hire four or five people if he could get them."
Beer sales 1. HJ Darmstadt private brewery