Czech “beer know-how” is making its way to Bosnia
Although the inhabitants of Bosnia and Herzegovina are among the most temperate drinkers in the Balkan Peninsula, their consumption of beer is continuing to grow. Unfortunately, the import of beer to the country, which covers up to 70 % of the country’s total consumption, is growing as well. The representatives of the Czech company TechOrg are convinced that the production of beer in Bosnia as a high-quality regional product will be a sustainable model that will not only make the region attractive for tourists but also create new jobs and raise its economic level. Therefore, with the support of the B2B Program, they embarked on a business plan that should culminate in the creation of a microbrewery. The final selection of a local beer will be decided by the locals, who will also be brewing the beer themselves.
Although a number of breweries were established in Bosnia and Herzegovina thanks to the Austrian administration in the 19th century, their market share is steadily decreasing. The better-known manufacturers include Sarajevska pivara, which was one of the largest manufacturers in the monarchy at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries with an annual production of 45,000 hectolitres and successfully expanded to Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia after the First World War. However, imports gradually began to outweigh exports during the last century, and imports exceeded the exports of all Bosnian breweries by a factor of more than 40 in 2017, for example. Yet, Bosnia is a country with an advanced tradition of hospitality, including the production and consumption of beer. This is also evidenced by a survey of the World Health Organization. Although the inhabitants of Bosnia and Herzegovina are the most temperate consumers of alcohol in the Balkan Peninsula according to the survey, the beer consumption according to the figures from 2016 is around 58.5 l per capita, which is roughly the same as in Hungary or the UK. And it is worth adding that it is about a third of the consumption in the Czech Republic, which has traditionally had the highest consumption per capita in the world.
“Although there are currently five large industrial breweries in Bosnia, the country is still dependent on imports of beer from abroad. According to the data of the Chamber of Commerce of BaH, approximately 138 million litres of beer worth roughly EUR 50 million were imported in 2017. The largest amount of beer was imported from the former Yugoslavia (Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia, and Montenegro). Thus, the amount of imported beer represents about 70 % of the country’s total consumption, while the standard share of imports in other European countries is at 10-20 % of the total consumption,” says Ondřej Hlaváček, the owner and chief engineer of TechOrg.
It is thus clear that there is a considerable “beer potential” in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The current trends in beer production in microbreweries in the neighbouring Croatia and Serbia also point to its development. It was in Serbia that theCzech company RONELI SE created a business plan last year for a brewery with a capacity of 3,000 hl per year, with the support of the B2B subsidy programme . Microbreweries produced and delivered by Czech companies can now be found all over the world, and it seems that not even those who love the golden drink from Bosnia will miss out. This is also being recorded by the current microbrewery boom, which is taking place not just in the Czech Republic (from 40 microbreweries ten years ago, to 409 today), but worldwide.
How to reinforce the development of the right “beer culture”
“We visit Gradačac, Ljubuški, Bileč and Tomislavgrad. Each location has its own specifics, and we have also tried to diversify within the BiH entities and reach out to non-mainstream locations. It is pointless to activate the local community in Mostar or Sarajevo. We have managed to establish good contacts with the local government and representatives of civil society. At the same time, we are in contact with the embassy in Sarajevo, where we regard the response to our concept as very favourable,” says project coordinator Vít Rejšek. According to him, the main goal of the project is not to supply specific technology or equipment, but to find the right setup for the given place and community. It is a prerequisite that the locals themselves choose the final form of the local beer production and that they brew it themselves. According to Vít Rejšek, this will reinforce the activity of the local community in a certain way, the dependency on imports will be decreased, the environmental burden will be reduced, and at the same time, the development of the right “beer culture” will be reinforced, because today, industrially produced and distributed beer is about alcohol above all.
“As part of TechOrg’s business plan, both the business and segment market in the location will be analysed, as well as the regulatory environment for the realization of the microbrewery and the potential of supplier-customer relationships. The company representatives will also evaluate the possibilities for the construction of a microbrewery with an estimated production of 1000 – 2000 hl/year and prepare a proposal of a technological solution and recommendations for the beer production technology and recipe. An analysis and negotiations with potential partners from BiH for the establishment of business relationships will also be an integral part of the project,” says Ludmila Leškovská, who is in charge of the B2B Program in the Czech Development Agency, while describing the activities of the Czech company.
The construction of the microbrewery and the identification of a suitable partner in Bosnia should then take place in connection with the business plan. The implementation of the project will include architectural, design and construction work in the premises of what is to be the brewery, a complete delivery of Czech beer production technology, the transfer of know-how in the area of the right recipe and procedures for beer production and the establishment of a sustainable supplier-customer system within the local community. The realization of the business plan will also create more jobs, which is more than important in this country, where unemployment exceeds 20 % and is as much as 50 % in the case of young people according to World Bank data. The microbrewery project should also contribute to the development of the local community, as small and medium-sized enterprises still have a small degree of participation in building the economy in the country and there is a high dependence on imports along with the associated negative impacts.
“At the same time, the project will take into account the principles of environmental friendliness, gender neutrality and, in particular, it will put on emphasis on involving the local community in the decision-making, funding and ownership of the project. The target groups will be the inhabitants and visitors of the selected region of Bosnia and Herzegovina in which the microbrewery will be realized,” adds Ondřej Hlaváček, who has experience in microbrewery projects including Madrid, Duisburg, Nottingham and Warsaw. Beer lovers from Bosnia will be able to meet him this year at a microbrewery festival in Mostar, where he will be promoting beer production technology and Czech beer itself. Specifically, he will be promoting Bubenečský ležák 11°, which was declared the best beer produced in Prague last year.