Russian gas supply disruption could hit Western breweries

The international brewing industry only "partially recovered" from the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic in 2021 according to the 2021/2022 beer report from BarthHass, the world’s leading hop specialist.


Breweries are among the industries that have particularly high gas needs.

Breweries are among the industries that have particularly high gas needs.

Following significant losses in the previous year, last year saw global beer output increase by approximately 4% to 1.86 billion hectolitres but it failed to return to the pre-pandemic level  of 1.91bn hl seen in 2019.

The BarthHaas Report 2021/2022 was presented at a recent online press conference.

ABInBev proved to be the largest brewery in the world in terms of beer output in 2021, putting out 581.7 million hectolitres of beer (up 9.6%) and claiming a 31.3% share of beer production, ahead of second-placed Heineken (up 4.3%) on 231.2 m hl (giving it a 12.4% share) according to the BarthHaas Report.

Carlsberg came third with an output of 119.6 million litres and a 6.4% share of global beer production.

Together, the top three brewers claim just over 50% of the world’s beer output.

Diageo came 14th in the top 40 brewers list via Guinness, up 1% to 21m hl, giving it a share of just over 1%.

The various regions of the world have developed quite differently in 2021, states the report. While breweries in many Western European countries still suffered under corona restrictions and had to contend with flagging sales, many other regions reported an improvement compared with 2020.

“Fortunately, beer consumption globally did not collapse to anything like the extent that was forecast,” emphasised Peter Hintermeier, Managing Director at BarthHaas, “In fact, many countries experienced a significant recovery last year.”

Leading beer producing countries

With an output of 359.7 million hl China retains the top position for global beer producing country with positions one to four remaining unchanged pointed out Heinrich Meier, author of the BarthHaas Report.

China leads the US on 203.6 million hl, Brazil and Mexico in order. Almost half of the beer produced worldwide in 2021 was brewed in these countries.

Beer output in Europe showed a slight increase of 2.5% to 516.49 million hectolitres (up 13m hl) in 2021. In particular, Great Britain (up 6.2m hl), Spain (up 3.3m hl), and Russia (up 2.6m hl) contributed to stabilisation of beer production.

Ireland came 39th in beer production volume globally, with an estimated figure of 6.4 m hectolitres for 2021.

Brewing industry affected by war in Ukraine

A forecast for the current year is proving difficult to present at the moment.

“As with the entire world economy, the brewing industry has been severely affected by the consequences of the war in Ukraine,” explained Peter Hintermeier, “Russia and Ukraine together brew around 100 million hectoliters of beer. This is equivalent to approximately 5% of the world’s beer output.”

BarthHass predicts that if the war causes a shortfall on this volume, the loss will be on a par with that caused by the pandemic and nobody at this moment can reliably predict the extent to which this might actually happen.

BarthHass adds that on top of that, breweries are among the industries that have particularly high gas needs. Should Russia stop supplying gas to Europe, industry in the countries affected will be additionally hard hit. Just how hard cannot be predicted at the present time. The extent to which alternatives can be found to Russian gas in the near future is still too uncertain.


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