The craft beer market, which is a fairly recent phenomenon in the Czech Republic, is experiencing a major boom. The number of small breweries is coming close to 300 and last year their overall production rose by 30 percent.
Opening a brewery in the shadow of Pilsner, Budvar or Radegast was not easy for the pioneers of craft beer in the Czech Republic and at first they struggled to sell their brews to a highly conservative public. However a decade or so ago craft beer finally caught on and Czechs are increasingly learning to appreciate specialty beers.
Last year the number of small breweries jumped by 50 and despite the higher cost of their brews they have found their clientele and are holding their own on the crowded Czech beer market. Many have revived centuries old recipes and have opened their own restaurant alongside the brewery. They sell to regular pubs in the vicinity and a growing number of craft beer pubs for connoisseurs. Owning a small brewery has become something of a fashion and often successful businessmen from a different field of enterprise fulfill their dream by investing some of their profit into a small family brewery.
Craft beer brewers still only make up just over 1 percent of the beer market and their overall production – a quarter of a million hectoliters – amounts to the production of a medium-sized brewery. However their small size and flexibility – they only produce 10-20 hectoliters of a new brew - gives them an edge over their bigger rivals.
The head of the Czech-Moravian Association of Small Brewers Jan Šurán says the success of craft beer has surpassed his expectations. “When the number of small breweries reached 250 I thought we had reached a ceiling and the market was saturated, but it seems not and today I really believe there is room for around 400 mini-brewers on the Czech market” he told the news site idnes.
Moreover as the beer-loving public comes to appreciate more select brews, craft beers are keeping the pressure on big brewers to maintain a high level of quality. As some beer critics say they are helping to elevate the image of beer which traditionally was –and often still is -the cheapest drink you can buy in Czech pubs and restaurants.
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