Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014



Prost! It's September, so that means Oktoberfest. Yep, the Beer-based festival is so much fun, Germans simply cannot wait until the actual month to celebrate. In just ten short days, Munich will come alive with fabulous frauleins wearing baby-blue dirndls serving up frothy lager by the liter. However...beneath the festivities...lies the truth: Germans are drinking and selling less beer!

Let's look at the statistics.  In 1990, when Germany reunified, annual per-capita consumption of beer was 148 liters. In 2014, that figure has dropped 28% to 107 liters / year.  During this same period, wine quaffing went up 42%, making Deutschland the fourth largest wine consuming nation in the world. Yikes! The decline has been evidenced in exports as well. Popular brands like Becks, St. Pauli and Spaten all posted losses, while neighboring nations like Holland and Denmark saw spikes in beer sales.

What is wrong with German beer? Some feel the problem is the Reinheitsgebot or 'Purity Law.' Passed in 1516, it stipulated that beer can only be made from four ingredients: Barley, Hops, Water and Yeast. Historians feel the move was to better regulate taxes, but German beer enthusiasts see the law as matter of national pride. In fact, even today, any product that does not meat these standards cannot be called 'Beer,' but rather Alcoholic Malt Drink. Yuck!

The irony is that the law designed to protect beer in Germany is in fact hurting the industry today. The American Craft Brew Craze has hit Europe, thus changing the notions of what is acceptable to put in beer. Pumpkins, nutmeg, grapefruit...even bacon are being added to beer. How crazy has it gotten? Americans make a Coconut Curry Hefeweizen. However, with the Reinheitsgebot in place, German beers are simply not allowed to compete in the craft brew global marketplace. It so bad, 11,000 jobs have been lost over the last five years!

We here at the DUNER BLOG call on Angela Merkel to review policy towards this important German industry. A new strategy needs to be formulated that includes better marketing, target audiences and government subsidies. Finally, we need to re-think the logic of the 1516 Purity Laws. Surely we can have traditional lagers coexist with crazy modern trends. Finally, we must note: Mexico and China will soon pass Germany in annual beer exports. Their top brands, Modello, Dos Equis and Tsingtao were all founded by German immigrants...

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