While German brewers have dealt with beer bottle shortages before, the current situation is “unprecedented” due to the combination of galloping inflation, rising energy costs, the conflict in Ukraine and sanctions against Russia and Belarus, the New York Times reported on Thursday.
There is more than enough beer for Germans to drink, but the bottles it comes in are another matter. Berlin passed a law in 2003 aiming to reduce packaging waste, which resulted in domestic breweries selling their beer in reusable bottles. There may be up to four billion currently in circulation – 48 or so for every living German – butconsumers are just letting them stack up on their balconies or in their basements, and not going through the trouble of returning them for the eight-euro-cent deposit.
This has been a problem before. In 2018, US media covered a summer shortage that was attributed to a lag in recycling. That was before the conflict in Ukraine, and the sanctions adopted by the EU against Russia and Belarus, drove up energy prices and sharply reduced the supply of new glassware, however.
Stefan Fritsche, deputy chief of the Berlin-Brandenburg Brewers’ Association who hosted the Times reporter at his Klosterbrauerei in Neuzelle, said that his electric bill has gone up 300% over the past year, while gas was up 400%. He is also paying a higher price for barley than ever.
“The price of bottles has exploded,” Fritsche told the paper, calling the problem “unprecedented.”