Germany: Carlsberg is getting rid of its Altbier

Carlsberg Germany is selling its two Altbier brands Hannen Alt and Gatz Altbier to the Bolten Privatbrauerei.  Effective April 1, 2022, a new cooperation agreement will come into effect with shared responsibilities for both partners.

While Carlsberg continues to sell the two brands like before, Bolten will not only sell Hannen and Gatz through its sales channels but also other bottom-fermented beers from Carlsberg Germany’s  portfolio, like Carlsberg, Holsten, and Astra. Production, currently executed by Königshof Brauerei, a private label producer of beer in nearby Krefeld, will be transferred to the Bolten brewery in Korschenbroich, 30 km west of Düsseldorf.

Altbier, a top fermented amber beer which in contrast to other ales is fermented at slightly cooler temperatures thus creating a more lager-like character is a specialty beer form the lower Rhine area around Düsseldorf. The beer was very popular in Germany at the beginning of the 1980s.

While Hannen Alt was the market leader in its segment at that time with around one million hectoliters, Gatzweiler Altbier, as the brand was then called (later is was shortened to Gatz Altbier), had a little over half a million hectoliters. Another important player with about one million hectoliters at the beginning of the 1980s was Diebels Alt, which was sold in 2001 to Interbrew, which later became AB InBev.

Around the mid-1980s, the stars of Altbier began to fade. Carlsberg bought Hannen in 1988 and Gatzweiler about ten years later. However, the new Danish owner could not make the stars shine again. In 2003, the Hannen brewing site in Mönchen-Gladbach was sold to Oettinger, but the trademark rights remained with Carlsberg. The production of Hannen and Gatz also stayed in Mönchen-Gladbach for a few more years.

"We believe in the future of Altbier and in good beer taste," says Michael Hollmann, Managing Director of the Bolten brewery.

He started his career with Hannen where he assumed in 1993 a role as Sales Manager for the off-trade., He rose to become General Sales Manager and Managing Director Marketing/Sales before joining Brau & Brunnen in 2001 as a member of the Management Board.

Brau & Brunnen was at that time one of the largest brewing groups in Germany before it was sold to the Oetker Group in 2004, thus creating the leading beer and beverage group in Germany. One year later in 2005, Michael Hollmann and the former Diebels owner Dr. Paul Bösken-Diebels bought the small Altbier brewery Bolten which dates back to the year 1266.

In the following years the brewery has experienced a steady growth and has established itself as the last bastion for the badly battered Altbier. Sales have grown from initially about 5,000 hl to meanwhile about 100,000 hl (before COVID-19).

At the same time, Hannen and Gatz sales went in the opposite direction and are now estimated at just over 20,000 hl per year.

 “The two brands are a perfect match for us because we have consistently focused on managing small beer brands,” adds Hollmann. “We are therefore very pleased to be able to offer our customers an even broader range with the expansion of our portfolio in the future and to expand the Lower Rhine region in a targeted manner in cooperation with Carlsberg Germany,” he concludes.

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