Beer consumption in the Czech republic was badly affected by the coronavirus last year, the country’s brewing body said Tuesday.
The amount consumed annually on average by each person in the country dropped by 7 liters to 135 liters, the Czech Union of brewers said.
It´s the lowest figure since the 1960s, according to the union.
Frantisek Samal, the head of the union, said up to 500 pubs were forced to close for good, and hundreds more are expected to follow suit this year.
“I don’t remember a time when pubs and restaurants were in such crisis,” Samal said.
The Czech Republic might be the world’s 86th largest country in terms of its population, but it ranks 19th in total beer consumption, according to the most recent Global Beer Consumption Report, published by Kirin at the end of 2020.
The country’s world-beating per-person average beer consumption hit 188.6 liters in 2019, outpacing Austria, in second place, by more than 80 liters per person.
Bars and restaurants were closed for months after the pandemic hit the country in March last year, while the ban on drinking alcohol in public and the cancellation of sports, cultural and other events also contributed to the drop.
Overall beer production in the country was down by 6.9% at 20.1 billion liters. Beer exports were down by 38 million liters to about 500 million liters, the first decline after nine years of growth.
During the pandemic, packaged beer sales grew substantially, according to Grant McKenzie, chief marketing officer for Asahi Europe, the owner of Pilsner Urquell and three other large Czech breweries.
“In the total market, on-trade [draft beer] is heavily down, but retail — packaged goods, cans, and bottles — is up,” McKenzie says. “It doesn’t compensate, but it’s up.”
Large Czech breweries have also made changes. Budvar 33, a new beer widely released in cans and bottles in the middle of the pandemic, is at least partially responsible for the growth in sales at state-owned Budvar, the large brewery in České Budějovice.
Another unusual development came from the giant Asahi-owned brewery Radegast. Last spring it released its new Ratar, a pale lager with 4.3 percent alcohol and an unusually high bitterness level of 50 IBUs.