Germany running out of beer bottles as heatwave fuels demand

The summer heatwave is causing serious problems in Germany: the country’s brewers are on the verge of running out of beer bottles.

The situation is so acute that one local brewer has issued an emergency appeal to drinkers, calling for them to return their empties.

“We need your help!” the Moritz Fiege brewery in the city of Bochum wrote on Facebook. “Great weather + great beer = serious thirst. The catch: although we regularly buy new bottles, we’re running out. So before you go on your summer holiday, please be sure to return your Moritz Fiege empties to your local off license. Make your motto: first the empties, then the holiday!”

Germans do not approve of beer cans. They like their beer in bottles. And, environmentally conscious as they are, they recycle. But beer bottles are not simply thrown in the recycling bin with the other glass. 

Instead, every time you buy beer in Germany you pay a deposit of 8 to 15 cents (7p to 13p) a bottle. This is refunded when you bring the bottles back, and German supermarkets typically have long queues of people returning their empties.

The bottles are then returned to the brewers to be reused, cutting out the need for sorting and processing. But in the current heatwave the demand for beer is outstripping the pace at which bottles are being returned.

“This issue is causing an industry-wide drama,” Niklas Other, editor of a German brewing industry magazine, told the DPA news agency.

There are always delays getting bottles back in the summer months, but this year the problem is “particularly acute”, Marc-Oliver Huhnholz, a spokesman for the German Brewers Association said.

A spokesman for Veltins, one of Germany’s biggest brewers, said the company has ordered thousands of extra bottles. But with bottles usually ordered a year in advance, that isn’t an option for smaller brewers. 

It isn’t the first time this problem has surfaced. In 2012 it got so serious that Munich famous Hofbräu brewery would only sell beer to customers in exchange for empty bottles.

Things haven’t got that serious this year — yet.

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