EU beer sales edged higher in 2022 but remain below pre-pandemic levels, data suggests.

Beer sales in the bloc rose to 313.3m hl in 2022, up from 300.6m hl in 2021 and 297.5m hl in 2020, according to research by trade body The Brewers of Europe.

Despite the positive trend, consumption has not caught up with pre-pandemic levels – in 2019 there were 322.8m hl of beer sold in the EU.

Production levels mirror this trend, with 358.2m hl of beer brewed in the EU in 2022, up from 343.6m hl in 2021 – but below the 2019 level of 363.9m hl. Germany is the largest beer producer in the EU with 87.8m hl brewed in 2022, followed by Spain with 41.1m hl.

“The last few years have seen new challenges coming thick and fast but the beer market is on the road to recovery since the Covid pandemic in 2020 forced bars, cafés and restaurants to close, with lockdowns keeping people from enjoying a beer with friends, family and new acquaintances,” Simon Spillane, head of operations at The Brewers of Europe, said.

“If 2020 brought an abrupt end to the gradual growth in production and consumption for European brewers, the recovery has been more steady and we can see in 2022 that the market was not yet back to its pre-Covid health.”

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Spillane said the on-premise “bore the brunt” of macroenvironmental pressures last year.

“While each country has its traditions, the balance between the on-trade of immediate consumption and the off-trade of retail stores has shifted towards the latter,” he said.

The trade body’s research suggests between 2019 and 2022 the on/off-premise mix moved from 68/32 to 59/41 in Spain and from 35/65 to 31/69 in the Czech Republic.

High manufacturing and shipping costs, meanwhile, “prevented the dynamic export growth of the previous decade that might have compensated for the gradual recovery in beer consumption”, Spillane said.

The number of active breweries also rose in 2022, from 9,500 in 2021 to 9,680 in 2022. “[This was] still a far cry from the increases at the end of the last decade when brewery numbers were rising by a thousand a year, but a sure sign that consumer fascination with beer remains,” Spillane said.