Czech beer has an international worldwide reputation but there are worries that on the home market at least it could be losing its appeal, especially in local pubs and among its most fervent fans. That’s one of the reasons for nationwide action being staged by brewers, pubs, and restaurants.
A five day celebration of Czech beer – hopefully without too much of a hangover – was launched across the country on September 27 with dozens of breweries and hundreds of pubs and restaurants taking part. It’s framed around St. Wenceslas’ day – the patron of Czech beer and malt as well as the patron saint of the nation – which is marked on the following day.
But the Czech beer industry currently has its worries and could do with help from the saintly patron. For all their success in conquering foreign markets, big brewers and small are concerned that they might be becoming increasingly disconnected from their domestic drinkers, especially those in traditional pubs.
The latest figures suggest that only around four out of 10 beers are now consumed in Czech pubs with the increasing trend now for beer to be bought in shops and supermarkets and downed somewhere else, often at home.
Martina Ferencová is the operational director of the Association of Breweries and Maltsters which is behind the fifth annual celebration known as Czech Beer Days. She explained why the drop in pub drinkers should be of concern.
"It’s clear that Czechs’ life styles have changed and that they have less time to go down the pub or restaurant. Instead they are buying beer and taking it home. From this point of view, it’s not good because we believe that the Czech pub is part of our national identity. It is part of our cultural heritage and belongs to us, like Czech beer.ʺ
Some of the events being put as part of the celebrations include specially brewed Saint Wenceslas beers, special food offers and recipes, and brewery tours by both multinational brewers and small micro producers.
But Ferencová is nevertheless still pessimistic about the overall state of the Czech beer sector in spite of the fact that export sales are still strong and holding up well. She says it appears the sector has been hit hard by the smoking ban which came into effect across the country from the end of May and covered pubs, cafes, and restaurants.
Already in July, beer sales in restaurants were down by 9.0 percent compared with the same month a year earlier and the same disappointing trend held good for August as well. These summer months are traditionally strong for beer sales. And she doesn’t expect any turnaround in the figures soon.
ʺWe fear that there will be a drop in production and sales for this year. The ban on smoking has really removed the true beer drinkers. Pubs already look empty now and the weather is still good. "