Germany's Werneck Brewery has survived world wars, economic crises, and decades of declining beer consumption. But after 400 years it has finally met a fatal challenge: the coronavirus. The brewery, which the AP reports traces its history to 1617 and has been owned by the same family since 1861, is closing for good, taking with it 15 full-time jobs and more part-time positions. Also gone is a chunk of local history and tradition in Werneck, a town of 10,000 in the brewery-rich state of Bavaria. German brewers fear its demise is the leading edge of more closures as the virus outbreak threatens the existence of the country's many local producers of the national beverage—community institutions, often family owned for generations, whose buildings and affiliated taverns are regional landmarks in a country where the hometown brew is a sentimental favorite despite national competition.
Hardest hit are smaller breweries that like Werneck that depend on supplying kegs to local taverns and events such as local festivals. Retail sales are providing some support as people drink at home. Breweries are trying things like drive-through sales and even shipping beer and glasses to customers so they can join an online tasting. Family member and brewery manager Christine Lang said the decision to close came with “many tears.” The beer market was already hard fought with tough price competition, she said. Then came the virus, and the restaurants the brewery depended on were suddenly closed. The head of the German Brewers Association said that “many breweries will not survive this crisis, that is already becoming clear.” For Lang something irreplaceable has been lost. “My family and I will miss it very much. The brewery has been ... part of every dinner table conversation all our lives. We will be missing part of our identity, and in a way the region will too.”