European exports of Belgian beer rose again in corona year 2020, even though breweries in the southern neighbors across the board had their worst year since the Second World War.
According to the Belgian Brewers' sector association, where the figures come from, more than 3 percent more beer was exported to other European countries.
For example, Belgian beers did well in France's largest export market, but exports to the United Kingdom also increased.
Due to Brexit, many British sellers stocked up before the end of 2020.
Exports to the Netherlands also increased slightly.
Outside Europe, exports fell by more than 18 percent.
The difference is in the sales channel.
Within Europe, Belgian beers such as La Chouffe, Pauwel Kwak, Chimay, Leffe, Duvel and Jupiler largely end up on store shelves, but outside the European Union Belgian beer is more of a catering product.
In addition, last year, due to all the lockdowns, there was much less demand from cafes and restaurants.
The latter also put a lot of pressure on the figures in Belgium itself, where 19 percent less beer was consumed.
That amounts to about 520 million fewer pints, from more than 7 million hectoliters in 2019 to 5.7 million hectoliters last year.
Cafés and restaurants in Belgium were closed for months due to the corona measures.
"It has been a very difficult year. The crisis had a huge impact on the sector," says director Krishan Maudgal of the trade association.
"There had been a downward trend in beer consumption in Belgium for years, but now there was a gigantic, unseen drop."
Relaxations taste like more
Nevertheless, the Belgian beer sector, including the world's largest brewer AB InBev, looks to the future with confidence.
For example, the brewers point to the strength of the "Belgian beer" brand.
On the other hand, there is hope because the catering industry is open again.
"The reopening of the terraces and then of the interior spaces boosted the mental well-being of Belgians," said Maudgal.
According to him, much depends on further relaxation, virus variants, weather conditions and other unknown factors.
"We need to match the situation of 2019 as soon as possible. Whether this is already possible in 2022 depends on many factors."