Bottled or on tap, with reduced alcohol content or completely alcohol free. Non-alcoholic beer is gaining ground on the Czech beer market, with production increasing by record amounts each year. Last year, Czech breweries produced nearly 580,000 hectolitres of non-alcoholic beer.
It is still only a fraction of total beer production, which last year reached 19,8 million hectolitres, but non-alcoholic beer is rapidly gaining popularity on the local market.
Times when the Czech Republic had just one type of beer are long gone. Nearly half of the country 47 bigger breweries. Consumers can now choose from 23 brands. In 2000 breweries in the Czech Republic produced 117,000 hectolitres of beer. Last year alone, beer production increased by 16% year on year. A small portion of that was exported.
Non-alcoholic beer a necessity
Interest in non-alcoholic beer has been growing for a number of years. The boom picked up the pace last two years, in connection with stricter rules for drivers. “Initially, it was just a supplementary product, but now most producers are responding to the growing trend. Having non-alcoholic beer in your portfolio is now a necessity,” says František Šámal, head of the the Czech Beer and Malt Association.
“The significant increase in the consumption of non-alcoholic beer has to do with a changing lifestyle and the increasing responsibility of drivers,” said Radegast Birell brand manager Vladimír Vaněk from the Plzeňský Prazdroj brewery. Prazdroj produced more than 320,000 hectolitres of Birell last year, which is 3% of the total production. This is the biggest non-alcoholic beer producer on the market. It covers two of the three non-alcoholic beers sold in the Czech Republic.
Big and small breweries alike are turning to non-alcoholic beer. In the case of the brewery Pivovar Náchod, its been Primátor Nealko already makes up 15% of its total production of 130,000 hectolitres. “Even before the new traffic law, were were number two on the market. To this day, non-alcoholic beer is an important component of our production. And it is certain that the importance will continue growing. It is is one of the few certainties on beer market here,” says Josef Hlavatý, director of the the Náchod brewery.
Pubs buying non-alcoholic beer by the barrel
Demand for the amber liquid with a minimal amount of alcohol has grown so much that pubs are now buying it by the barrel and have non-alcoholic beer on tap. Zdeněk Mikulášek, spokesman of Rodinný pivovar Bernard, notes that having non-alcoholic beer on tap is not for every pub. “We choose pubs and restaurants very carefully. Our non-alcoholic beer is less fermented, and this requires greater care and guaranteed consumption,” said Mikulášek.
Jiří Fusek, co-owner of the brewery Pivovar Černá Hora echoes his words. “It depends on the consumer. A small road-side diner will prefer bottles. If it sells a lot of beer, it will take even non-alcoholic beer in barrels. It§s simply a service,” Fusek, who is also head of the Czech Association of Small Independent Breweries.
The Černá Hora brewery sells non-alcoholic beer with 0% alcohol. The by-product of the brewing process is a liquor the brewery sells as “Pivní režná”.
The stricter traffic law and new consumer trends have even made non-alcoholic wines popular. Almost all top producers and importers of sparkling wines now offer non-alcoholic versions.