PRAGUE: The tiny craft brewery in a quaint Czech village near the border with Germany and Poland is perhaps an unlikely place to be plotting a Brexit strategy.
Co-owner Viktor Tkadlec is betting his “clean taste without foreign additives” will help him elbow into the crowded UK market even after it leaves the European Union. Cvikov Pivovar is part of a group of Czech brewers aiming to break into Britain even as the country risks crashing out of the EU at the end of next month without any agreement to keep trade flowing.
“The UK market is very competitive and every pub has 10 to 15 types of beer, ” said Tkadlec, who exported “tens” of barrels to British pubs in a test run this year. “We’re not an export brewer and we’ve never had that goal. But let’s see how it goes.”
While much of the Brexit focus has been on multinationals navigating potential customs barriers, the effort by Czech craft beer producers shows how Britain’s tortuous departure from the EU is resonating across the continent.
The Czech Beer Alliance was started by Filip Celadnik, a Czech lawyer living in London. He first teamed up with the state-run CzechTrade’s UK office to ship high-quality premium lager to Britain before the 2016 referendum on leaving the EU.
Following the vote, there was some soul searching. Celadnik and CzechTrade UK head Martin Macourek then pushed ahead and gathered eight small-time brewers under the slogan “Real Bohemian Lager” earlier this year.
“It’s a very challenging time, ” Macourek said. “We thought we would wait, but then we waited for a year and Brexit did not happen so we said, ‘Let’s do it.’ Otherwise we would be waiting for ages.”
It’s not the prospect of higher tariffs following a no-deal Brexit the group should be worried about, but an economic meltdown and widening unemployment, according to analysts. Even without Brexit, Czech beer sales to the UK, dominated by Pilsner Urquell, Staropramen and Budvar, fell last year almost 10%. — Bloomberg