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74 million liters of Latvian beer

If you're looking for a random fact to drop into your conversation next time you're down the pub, how about this one: last year, Latvian breweries produced more than 74 million liters of beer. To be precise, 74,546,098 liters, according to Eurostat data to mark International Beer Day on August 6 -- as if awareness of beer needed to be raised. 

Almost 32 billion liters of beer containing alcohol were produced in the EU, according to Eurostat’s latest production statistics released last month.

In addition, in 2020, the EU Member States produced 1.4 billion liters of beer which contained less than 0.5% alcohol or had no alcohol content at all.

Compared with 2019, EU’s production of beer containing alcohol decreased by 8%, while the production of non-alcholic beer remained stable.

In 2020, the EU’s total beer production was equivalent to around 74 liters per inhabitant. According to our own calculations carried out on the back of a beer mat, dividing Latvia's production by the 1.9 million inhabitants would give each of us just 39 liters of Latvian beer.

In fact, Latvia's beer production amount was the smallest among the EU member states who actually submitted statistics and did not either consider the matter "confidential and has been suppressed" or were perhaps too drunk to fill in the appropriate spreadsheets.

But as any bar-room beer bore will tell you as he sips the unfiltered craft IPA he pretends he prefers, quality is more important than quantity, and Latvia's beer is obviously the best, even though there is no Eurostat data to confirm this. 

However, both Estonia (137,169,000 liters, a suspiciously round number) and Lithuania (322,434,411 liters) made a lot more beer than Latvia last year, and we all know what their beer is like.

EU beer production 2020

Germany: top beer producer

Among the EU Member States, Germany was the top producer in 2020 with 7.5 billion liters (24% of the total EU production). In other words, about one in every four beers containing alcohol produced in the EU originated from Germany.

Germany was followed by Poland with 3.8 bn liters produced (12% of total EU production), Spain (3.3 bn liters produced, or 10%), the Netherlands (2.5 bn liters, or 8%), France (2.1 bn liters, or 7%), Czechia (1.8 bn liters, or 6%) and Romania (1.7 bn liters, or 5%).

Comparing with 2019, Slovakia recorded the largest increase in the production of beer containing alcohol (+25%), followed by far by Greece, Lithuania and France (all +3%).

In contrast, the beer production in Italy almost halved in 2020 (-46% compared with 2019), while large decreases were also observed in Croatia (-29%), Spain (-14%), Hungary (-13%) and Austria (-11%).

Latvia saw a small production drop, too, with 2020's figure down on 2019's production of 77,916,653 liters and 82,347,170 in 2018.

The Netherlands: top exporter

The Netherlands exported 1.9 bn liters of beer containing alcohol in 2020, accounting for 21% of total (intra- and extra-EU) EU beer exports. This made it the largest beer exporter among EU Member States, ahead of Belgium (1.7 bn liters; 19%) and Germany (1.5 bn liters; 17%), followed by France and Czechia (both 0.5 bn liters; 6%) as well as Ireland and Poland (both 0.4 bn liters; 5%).

The main destinations for beer exports to non-EU countries were the United States (895 million liters; 22% of total extra-EU beer exports) and the United Kingdom (881 million liters; 21%).

France: top importer

With 0.8 bn liters, France was the largest importer of beer containing alcohol in 2020 and represented 16% of EU total (intra- and extra-EU) imports. Germany imported 0.7 bn liters(13%), closely followed by Italy (0.6 bn liters; 12%), the Netherlands (0.6 bn liters; 11%) and Spain (0.5 bn liters; 10%).

Imports of beers containing alcohol from countries outside the EU are marginal compared to imports within the EU. When importing from non-EU countries, Member States favoured British beer (268 million liters; 51% of all extra-EU imports of beer in 2020, taking into account that in 2020 the United Kingdom was still in the internal market) and Mexican beer (95 million liters; 18% respectively).

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