The popularity of beer in Slovenia may be expressed through figures. An average resident of the country drinks 78 litres of beer a year, and in total, there are about 60 small craft breweries in the country.
The times when it was possible to buy only Laško and Union beer in Slovenia remained in the past. The war between two breweries-monopolists followed by intrigues of the oligarchs resulted in a long-term decline in the beer market. New beer brands rarely entered the market in Slovenia, while the imported varieties were not in high demand due to high prices.
Today, as noted in the Euromonitor survey, only elderly people remain faithful to one brand of beer. The revolution in the beer market in Slovenia was made by small “garage” breweries, producing the so-called craft or boutique brands of beer. Fashion for them came to Slovenia from the Netherlands. When the Heineken Company bought the Union and Laško breweries in 2015, the market received an additional impetus for development. Through the Heineken distribution network, famous brands of beer started entering Slovenia at affordable prices. For this reason, other importers were also forced to reduce their prices. That was the beginning of the price war. The first fruit was the price for the Czech beer Staropramen. A 0.5-litre can of Staropramen beer cost 99 cents in many stores. In response, Laško Union lowered the price for its brands of beer to this mark as well. Today, a can of Heineken beer in one of the retail chains can be bought for slightly more than 1 euro.
According to the general secretary of the Association of Slovenian Brewers, Alenke Lesjak, the number of small breweries is growing. Their production capacity is low, but the Government encourages the development of such breweries by reducing excise rates. If a small brewery produces up to 20,000 hectolitres of beer a year, then the excise tax for it is reduced by 50%. The Financial Administration (Furs) states that excise rates for small breweries were reduced in August 2016.
Euromonitor estimates that low excise rates should encourage new producers to enter the market. According to Nik Bregantič, one of the four co-owners of Tovarne Pivovarne that brews Tektonik beer, in New Zealand, for example, 23% of boutique beer is brewed, in the USA—13.5%, in Poland—4.2%, and in Slovenia—only 0.7%. “It’s always difficult to start. After people in Slovenia have drunk only 2 beer brands for decades, we need to conduct a serious advertising campaign to change this situation,” Breganti says. He justifies the higher price for beer in small breweries by the fact that they use the best varieties of hops and quality raw materials.
The co-owner of the Pelicon brewery (Ajdovščina) Anita Lozar notes that the volume of production and individual approach to beer brewing affects the production cost. Lozar says that retailers and catering establishments have shown interest in boutique beer only recently. “We started brewing beer in Slovenia in 2013 and then I spent several months visiting various events. As a result, a 2–3-year-old advertising campaign has delivered benefits. If last year we sold 100,000 litres of beer, then this year we plan to sell 250,000 litres.”
The Byra Company, better known as Reservoir Dogs, also has ambitious plans. According to Andrej Sluga, the Company’s manager and one of its owners, this year they have attracted their friends and acquaintances to cooperation. Thus, they increased the brewery’s capital by 450,000 euros.
Euromonitor also mentions Bevog, Hopsbrew, Human Fish and Mali Grad. New trends in brewing, according to Euromonitor employees, motivated Laško Union to develop new beer brands, including boutique brands. In recent years, they introduced the Special brand from Laško and the Nepozabni brand from Union to the market. They also produced unfiltered light beer Union, and then—unfiltered dark beer under the same brand. A month ago, they started selling unpasteurized beer Laško as well.
According to Alenka Lesjak, about 1.6 million hectolitres of beer are drunk every year in Slovenia. According to the survey, conducted by the National Institute of Public Health, which involves data only for adults, beer consumption per capita exceeds 100 litres. She adds that the market share of beer brewed by Laško Union is about 68%, and about 30% of beer is imported. The share of small breweries in the Slovenian market is about 1%.