The German beer market is slowly recovering from the consequences of the corona pandemic, which has left deep scars in the industry with the forced closure of restaurants and the ban on events and festivals. The Federal Statistical Office reported an increase of 2.7 percent (2.33 million hectoliters) compared to 2021. However, a comparison of these figures with the pre-Corona year 2019 makes it clear that domestic beer sales in 2022 decreased by 5% and the breweries can no longer make up for the losses they have suffered in the meantime.
In addition to a lack of sales, the costs of energy, packaging material and raw materials, to name just a few, have skyrocketed and the breweries cannot adequately pass these costs on to their customers. (inside.beer, 24.1.2023) All of these factors together have resulted in many breweries having to go out of business or even worse, have filed for bankruptcy, particularly in the last few months.
The two latest examples are Memminger Brauerei and Vereinsbrauerei Greiz, which both had to file for bankruptcy yesterday.
The Memminger Brauerei from Memmingen in Bavaria produces around 120,000 hl of beer per year and had already before massive economic problems. Therefore, two years ago, the Kesselschläger family, who own the company, took on a new partner in Franz Luitpold Egerer, who was willing to put new money into the ailing company. In return, he received around half of the shares in the company. Apparently there have been major quarrels in the management since then and it is hoped that the insolvency will also lead to a cleansing of the company structure.
Vereinsbrauerei Greiz from the town of the same name in Thuringia also had to cope with the problems of a difficult market during the corona pandemic, rising costs for energy, raw materials and other materials needed in the production of beer. The approximately 50,000 hl brewery brewed, among other things, the low-price beer Sachsenkrone. The salaries of the 24 employees are secured until the end of April. Together with suppliers and customers, the company is looking for ways to continue operations. The aim is to ensure the long-term survival of the brewery.
Two month ago, Pfungstädter Brauerei which is about the same size than Memminger also announced to close down. (inside.beer, 15.12.2022) The new owner Uwe Lauer and his engineering company Lauer GmbH, who stepped in in 2020 to rescue the company (inside.beer, 13.8.2020) will now transfer production to the family-owned Eder&Heyland’s Brauerei in Großosthiem, about 50km apart from Pfungstadt. According to Lauer, contract brewing will be only temporarily, until a new production site in Pfungstadt or closeby can be found. However, people close to the matter doubt that the cost for building a new brewery can be covered by the low-margin beer business. More likely is the purchase of another brewery in the Rhine-Main area and combining the businesses whenever this option becomes available.
Only two months earlier, Germany's largest brewer, Radeberger Group, announced to close Binding Brewery, the only remaining industrial brewery in Frankfurt/Main. (inside.beer, 29.9.2022) Of the around 2.9 million hectoliters that came from the brewing kettles of Henninger and Binding in Frankfurt at the beginning of the millennium, no more than 700,000 hectoliters are reportedly left, not enough to justify brewing beer on the expensive Sachsenhausen mountain with a view of the imposing Frankfurt skyline. The Radeberger Group, which has closed many breweries in Germany for decades (e.g. its brewing site in Cologne, inside.beer, 12.4.2019), can easily produce the remaining hectoliters in one of its other breweries. However, it is doubtful that Frankfurt beer drinkers will remain loyal to their traditional Henninger and Binding brands if they are no longer brewed locally.
In August last year, the 150-year-old private Bischoff Brauerei from Winnweiler, 100 km southwest of Frankfurt, Germany, also announced to shut down operations after reorganization under self-administration failed and potential investors backed out. (inside.beer, 15.8.2022)
The list of breweries recently closed in Germany is long and could easily be extended further.
Before the Corona crisis, the number of breweries in Germany had increased continuously. Despite declining per capita consumption in Germany, new micro-breweries have been opened since the turn of the millennium, far exceeding the number of brewery closures.
In the course of the Corona crisis in 2020, the German brewing industry lost a total of 16 breweries for the first time in a long time. A further 24 breweries were lost in the second year of Corona and, although no official figures are available yet, the figures for 2022 and 2023 will probably not look much better either.
While the number of breweries operated in Germany had increased by 279 from the low in 1997 to the high of 2019, the number of breweries operated in 2021 is 1512 - all in all still a remarkably high number.