Mar252013

European Beer Economics

“You can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline – it helps if you have some kind of football team, or some nuclear weapons, but in the very least you need a beer.”  – Frank Zappa

Beer is culture in Europe. There are regions where wine dominates, yet locally brewed beer is a prevalent industry in all regions of Europe.

My ten days in Europe placed me in drinking range of beer from seven different countries.

One aspect of rapid travel across Europe was quickly seeing the economics of beer in different countries.

Zurich, Switzerland

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Cases of beer at Coop Supermarket, Zurich, Switzerland.

Drinking imported beer bought at BevMo in America is just not the same as drinking locally.

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Switzerland – Feldschlosschen, largest brewery in the country.

Imported beer like US Budweiser, Pilsner Urquell, Boddington’s, and Corona in Switzerland cost about 1.50 to 2.50 CHF per bottle at the market. A Swiss Franc is worth about $1.06 USD so the price of beer is the same in U.S. dollars or even less since there is no extra Swiss tax on the beer price. There is a bottle deposit fee you will not recoup unless you recycle. Don’t worry. Recycling in Europe usually is available at the same market you buy beer.

Local Swiss beer is far cheaper at the market than buying imports.

Feldschlossen 0.5 liter bottles (16.9 ounces) cost 0.70 CHF or about 73 cents USD.

Berlin, Germany

Berlin has its own beer and even an airline. This city is like its own country.

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Air Berlin plane for flight from Zurich to Berlin.

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Ich bin ein Berliner Kindl beer drinker.

German beer is good. Most beer all over Europe is good. The historic German beer purity law means beer tastes quite similar across most brands. Modern German legislation for beer comes from 1993.

There are generally a dozen or more German brand beers in a supermarket. In Berlin the price was about 0.45 to 0.70 euros per 0.5 liter bottle. ($0.58 to 0.90 USD).

ITB Berlin 2013 and Beer

The initial two days of the ITB Berlin 2013 travel conference was business and seminars until 6pm, when local gatherings happened for about an hour in exhibit locations around the Berlin Messe convention hall world. I just happened to be in the German convention halls when several exhibit spaces turned into local pub spaces.

There were even airport exhibit lounge drinking opportunities.

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I found myself trying two German beers from the Ruhr Valley region in North Rhineland-Westphalia in western Germany.

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Konig Pilsner from Duisberg, Germany being served to ITB Berlin attendees at the Ruhr Valley, Germany exhibit hall.

Belgium beer detour

The Ruhr Valley beer hall quickly became packed with little wiggle room and I headed to another hall where I found myself meeting several hoteliers from Brussels, Belgium.

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Leon Biere/Bier/Beer and pommes frites at Brussels, Belgium ITB Berlin tourism convention exhibit.

Léon 1893 is brewed in the St-Feuillien brewery located in Le Roeulx in the south of Belgium. It has an alcohol content of 6.5%.

Met some nice independent hoteliers from Brussels with Euro-modern looking hotels.

Martin Duchateau is General Manager of a family-owned boutique Hotel Made in Louise located in Brussels.

One thing about beer in Germany is even bars and pubs have a relatively low price and low range of prices for beer compared to the USA. In restaurants I bought a 0.5L bottle of Becks for 2.00 euros ($2.60 USD). In a nightclub the cost increased to 3.50 euros ($4.55).

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Berlin club blogger party Tweet-Up at ITB Berlin 2013. More free Astra and Lubzer pils.

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No thank you on absinthe. None for me.

I photographed this shop since a couple hours earlier a travel blogger and I were discussing if absinthe was legal in Berlin. This store I passed on my way back to the hotel seemed to provide a definitive answer.

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Grocery store taste test selection of beers.

Most bottles for 0.5 L are priced around 65 euro cents or $0.85 USD. Bottles had 0.08 euro deposit fee.

Berliner Kindl was my chosen beer for much of my stay in Berlin.

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Berliner Kindl is my pick for Berlin beer.

I’ll take the Czech please!

At Berlin Tegel Airport I was surprised to see Czech Republic Budweiser beer in the oneworld lounge. This is the original old country brew.

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Czech Bud and Cake at Tegel.

I have been to the Czech Republic twice. In 2000 I was on a quest for the elusive 15 cents 0.5L mug of beer. The cheapest I found was 25 cents USD pints. Top quality beer in a fine dining restaurant was $1.00 a bottle.

In 2007 we stayed in Prague and discovered a beer specialty shop down the street. We tasted beers from a dozen breweries. I loved Prague for its historic beauty and fine selection of beers.

Norway Beer Shock

Norway is an expensive country. The first pub I checked was charging 75 Norwegian krone for a 0.5L beer. That is $13 USD for a beer.

I did not find a supermarket in five hours of walking around Oslo until I was back in the train station on my way to Oslo Gardermoen Airport.

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Frydenlund Pilsner is brewed by Ringnes Brewery, Oslo.

29.70 NOK = $5.08 USD. That is the price for one 0.5L can of beer and not the six-pack price.

Tuborg beer was slightly cheaper at 15.70 NOK ($2.70 USD) for 330ml bottle.

The price per bottle of beer averaged about 30 NOK in the store with a price range at a low around 20 NOK for a 0.5 L local brew up to 40 NOK for familiar import names.

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Rimi Supermarket beer selection at Oslo Central Rail Station.

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A flight delay in Oslo with Ringnes beer on tap was no cause for concern as I waited to board FinnAir for Helsinki.

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Finnair Oslo-Helsinki-London

Helsinki, Finland

My shock arriving in Helsinki was learning I could only buy 2.8% beer after 9pm in the supermarket. All the alcohol with higher content was locked up behind metal gates.

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Lapin Kulta 2.8% beer.

The Lapin Kulta weak beer was under 1 euro ($1.20 USD) per bottle. The Nikolai beer from a corner market was 3 euros ($4.00 USD)

Nikolai pilsner is brewed at Sinebrychoff, Finland. This premium lager was better served in a glass that Hotel Kamp kindly provided with a complimentary bottle of 375 ml bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon for my Starwood Cash & Points hotel stay.

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Bryggeri Helsinki Brewery.

I discovered there are microbrews in Finland with this brewery near the Helsinki Cathedral.

A little while later I came across a selection of craft beers at the organic supermarket in downtown Helsinki.

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Helsinki organic market bottled microbrews from Finland and Sweden ran 5 to 7 euros or about $7 to $9 USD per bottle.

There was plenty of beer selection in Helsinki markets, but the average price of beer is quite high at 2.50 – 3.25 euros ($3.25 to $4.20 USD) per can or bottle.

Finland is another expensive country for beer.

Finnair Lounge at Vantaa Airport

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Signage card on this Lapin Kulta tap says Olvi beer, a Finnish brewer with 20% of the Finland market.

London, England

In London I was too busy to drink much beer. Still, I checked out a couple of places.

The AP Express market across the street from the Radisson Blu London Westminster Bridge Hotel was the only store I entered in London. This market sells beer and wine 24 hours around the clock. Prices are steep, but not steep compared to Helsinki and Oslo.

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Cans and Bottles at 1.79 to 2.29 GBP ($2.70 to $3.50 USD) in a 24-hour corner market.

Pubs will set you back around 3.50 GBP ($5.30 USD) per pint.

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Buckingham Arms, a Young’s pub in Westminster, London remembered fondly from past pints.

Cathay Pacific lounge at London Heathrow provided the opportunity for a liter of Fuller’s London Pride ale and a selection of Indian, Thai and Chinese food before boarding my American Airlines flight to Chicago.

Beer from seven European countries tasted in five European cities where I touched down over ten days.

European life tasted good.

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

More articles by Ric Garrido »

Comments

  1. What was your opinion of the Léon 1893? I know you weren’t in Belgium, so the local economy part doesn’t apply but…

  2. @JakePB – honestly I was so focused on the fries since I had eaten so little food all day that I do not recall the beer too well.

    Multitasking is a challenge when hungry and tired.

    I entered the Belgium exhibit booth for the fries, I was offered a beer and then spent 20 minutes talking hotels, Brussels and travel blogging with the hoteliers. Ran into a travel blogger I had met in Spain in Sep 2012 and got invited to the Twitter party and I have to say my memory of that Belgium beer is a blur.

    That is why I take photos.

    That was all day one of the five day ITB Berlin conference.

  3. Fun memories – still have a 1 liter mug bought from the Freiberger brewery in ’98 (saw the bottle in the picture). Brewery tours have been a fun part of travel & history – the original Budvar plant is a very cool tour with all of the communist era machinery still cranking out beer for the masses. Eggleston (brewed in Cesky Krumlov CZ, in the old monastery) and Smithwick’s (Old St.Francis Abbey in IRL) were also very cool tours and full of history & excellent brew!

  4. @Steelsnow – Smithwick’s would have been a fun tour during our two summers in Ireland where that was our pub beer preference.

    I should be in Ireland in October 2013.

    @ABC – I don’t recall those beers. I will have to check those out when I get back to Belgium. It has been about 10 years since being in Belgium.

  5. I think Steelsnow is referring to the Eggenberg Brewery in Cesky Krumlov. The beer there is amazing and might have been the best we had in all of the Czech Republic.

    We also enjoyed the Budvar tour. Another great Czech beer.

  6. Those London pint prices sound about typical. If you ever encounter a samuel smith’s pub stick your head in and check out the prices (and have a beer!). In the one near us when we lived in Frodsham, uk the price of a pint was less than £2, and the landlord told us that it was like that at all Sam Smith’s because the brewery kept the prices down. In England many (most?) pubs are owned by a brewery (which you will see in small letters under the name of the pub, or perhaps just by noticing that all of the beers come from one brewery), unless they are labelled “freehouse” which means it is an independently owned pub.
    If you’re ever in Yorkshire, try a pint of Old Peculier. Our favorite.
    Great post, I really enjoyed reading it!

  7. My wife and I were Samuel Smith’s fans in 1989 when we went to London. I carried a London Pub Guide. We found Samuel Smith’s in London. I was disappointed in the keg ale not being noticeably distinctive from other pubs compared to the bottle taste being far superior to other imports at that time. Still, all the ales were good.

    My story about Old Peculier which I also remember from the 1980s was getting a couple of cases at a Canned Food Grocery Outlet in Eureka, California. About every six months a rare import would hit the shelves like Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale or Greene King’s Abott Ale.

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