By Eshan Wickrema and Lachlan James
Oktoberfest: If you haven’t participated yourself, chances are, you know someone who has. Established in 1810 to commemorate the marriage of the Prince of Bavaria (later to become King Ludwig I) to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen, the world’s most iconic beer festival accumulates some pretty impressive numbers.
For instance, last year, an estimated 6.3 million visitors consumed 6.5 million litres of beer, the Bavarian Red Cross treated 7,900 people (600 for alcohol poisoning), while the local authorities compiled 720 arrests.
So, as revellers indulge in Oktoberfest 2015, let’s use Business Intelligence software and data visualization technology to uncover why it was more than just fate that saw Germany cultivate the global calendar’s biggest beer-fuelled celebration.
Beer production in Europe (2013)
- Germany produces the most beer per year of any European country (94.37 million hectolitres)
- Germany’s annual beer production is more than twice that of Europe’s second largest peer producer, the UK (41.96 million hectolitres)
- Poland is the only other European nation to produce more than 40 million hectolitres of beer annually
Germany dominates beer production by country in Europe (top 10, 2013)
With Europe’s biggest beer industry – at least in terms of sheer volume, it’s easy to see how the world’s best-known beer event developed in Germany.
Not only does Germany produce the most beer per year of any European country (94.37 million hectolitres), it manufactures more than twice that of the UK – Europe’s second largest beer producer (41.96 million hectolitres per year).
But, does Germany actually consume the most beer too, or do these production figures simply represent a massive export industry?
Beer consumption over time (2008 – 2013)
- Germany has consistently consumed around double the amount of beer compared to Europe’s next largest consumers (United Kingdom and Poland)
- Germany’s consumption has dropped over the five-year period assessed, from 91.13 to 85.89 million hectolitres
- The amount of beer consumed by the UK and Poland has converged over the last five years
Production figures reflect consumption figures
Interestingly, it appears that Germany is much more then an inebriation enabler, consuming almost as much beer as it produces. In fact, Germany, the UK and Poland are the three biggest beer producers and consumers in Europe – and in the same order too!
‘Drinking their own Kool-Aid’ (so to speak), Germany consistently produces and consumes approximately twice that of its nearest European rival. For instance, in 2013, Germans drank 85.89 million hectolitres of beer. Europe’s second biggest producer and consumer of beer, the UK, guzzled 42.42 million hectolitres, while Poland took out the remaining podium position with 37.39 million hectolitres downed during 2013.
While Germany (94.37 million hectolitres produced, 85.89 million hectolitres consumed in 2013), the UK (41.96 million hectolitres produced, 42.42 million hectolitres consumed in 2013) and Poland (40 million hectolitres produced, 37.39 million hectolitres consumed in 2013) all intriguingly drink about as much beer as they make, there are a few noteworthy trends.
Firstly, Germany’s consumption has dropped over the five-year period assessed (2008 – 2013), from 91.13 to 85.89 million hectolitres. Additionally, the amount of beer consumed by the UK and Poland has converged over the last five years. In 2008, the UK consumed 15.64 million hectolitres more than Poland. However, by 2013, the gap between UK and Poland’s beer consumption had narrowed considerably, with the UK consuming only 42.42 million hectolitres compared to Poland’s 37.39 million hectolitres – a differential of just 5.03 million hectolitres.
While these high-level production and consumption figures go some way to explaining Germany’s reputation as perhaps Europe’s biggest beer lovers, does a per capita view reveal a different story?
Beer consumption by country per capita (European top 10, 2013)
- The Czech Republic consumes the most beer per capita (144 litres per capita, per year)
- Europe’s largest overall producer and consumer of beer, Germany, consumes the second highest amount of beer per capita (107 litres per capita, per year)
- Europe’s third largest overall producer and consumer of beer, Poland, consumes the fourth highest amount of beer per capita (96 litres per capita, per year)
- Europe’s second largest overall producer and consumer of beer, the UK, doesn’t rate a mention in Europe’s top 10 beer consuming nations per capita
- Micro-country, Luxembourg, has the sixth largest consumption rate per capita in Europe (83 litres per capita, per year)
Czech Republic holds per capita crown
Whilst Germany might produce and consume the most beer, the Czech Republic downs the most glasses of the golden stuff per capita (144 litres in 2013). Not to disappoint, however, Germany clings to second spot on the beer-swilling podium (107 litres per capita, per year), narrowly beating Austria into third place (106 litres per capita, per year).
Regardless of Germany’s second place per capita finish, overall, it’s easy to see how and why Europe’s most well-known beer festival, Oktoberfest, was established in Germany. But, is Germany’s beer enthusiasm starting wane? We saw that Germany’s beer consumption dropped between 2008 and 2013. Is a similar trend reflected in the attendance rates at Oktoberfest?
Oktoberfest attendance (1980 – 2014)
- Oktoberfest 1985 had the largest recorded attendance with 7.1 million partakers
- Oktoberfest 1996, 2000 and 2011 were the next most attended festivals with 6.9 million participants each
- Over the last 35 years, the festival has attracted an average crowd of 6.3 million
- The biggest year-to-year drop in attendance was seen across 2000 – 2001, where attendance fell from 6.9 to 5.5 million
- Since 2011, event attendance has fallen (2012 and 2013 drew crowds of equal size) – will this trend continue in 2015?
Oktoberfest attendance figures fading?
Whilst still indisputably popular, it seems that Germany’s claim on the title of Europe’s biggest beer loving nation may be slipping – if only (very) slightly.
Germany’s beer consumption has dropped over the five-year period assessed, from 91.13 to 85.89 million hectolitres (2008 – 2013). It also seems that Oktoberfest attendance has dropped in recent times too. From 1980 – 1996, the average Oktoberfest crowd was 6.39 million. From 1997 – 2014, the average attendance was 6.27 million. In addition, this drop in attendance over the last 18 years may have been significantly bigger if it wasn’t for a number of extended festival celebrations over that period of time:
- The year 2000 was a combined Oktoberfest – agriculture festival and was extended by two days
- Oktoberfest celebrations of 2005 and 2011 were extended by an extra day each due to public holidays
- Oktoberfest 2006 was extended by two days due to public holidays
- Oktoberfest 2010 marked the event’s 200th anniversary, with celebrations extended by a further two days
Where to next?
When factors such as population growth, increased disposable income and climbing tourist numbers are taken into consideration, it seems that Oktoberfest could be in need of a refresh to reflect the diversification of the alcohol industry more broadly. Espresso Martini, anyone?