Tradition won't save you from business failures

A 400 year old tradition of brewing beer will come to an end in 2016. It is the year the Ankerbräu in Nördlingen, Bavaria, Germany, will close its gates. According to a press release the brewery is closing because consumers choice has changed, they building permission restrictions set by the municipal administration, and high pressure from market.

In 1997 I was an apprentice at the Wallersteiner Brauhaus – the direct opponent of the Ankerbräu. Since that I was watching them close. From my point the Ankerbräu has totally failed to get a grip on the changing beer market. Ankerbräus current director, Sebastina Haag, simply had no clue how to transition the brewery into the 21st century.

Tradition isn't everything

If you look at their beers you might find a lot of traditional beers. There is a Pils, a Helles, a Wheat beer, and so on. You will also find some seasonal beers and also some unconventional ones, like for example their latest experiment called unKlar. Actually their beers are not bad – but from a consumers perspective they are outdated. Ankerbräu never reinvented themselves while Craft Beer came to our door steps. They never thought about their brand identity and how to leverage their historical 400 years of brewing tradition to gain momentum. Looking for example at the Riegele Bräu and their Braumanufaktur in Augsburg, Bavaria, you might understand what I mean. It could be simple to combine tradition with emerging markets. But you need the will to do it.

really, you can't drink that

While being in Nördlingen for vacation I listened to a conversation at the local pizzeria. The waiter was serving a Ankerbräu wheat beer and the customer responded immideatly: „really, you can't drink that, don't you have any beer from Scheible (comment from the author: a brewery in near of Nördlingen)“. In most pubs and restaurants you will only get beer from one brand. You have to understand that breweries finance pubs, means they paid the interior or the own the house and therefore they have exclusive rights. Basically the tenant is only allowed to buy beer from the lessor, hence no variety. With a changing market people demand more flexibility and more variety. Just one beer brand on card is not enough today. Their are so many flavors to explore. I guess with more flexibility in the pub owners lease everything could have gone better.

Ready for transition

I have seen this since years and there are other brands in my home region that sooner or later will be closed. I hope just the right ones will stay and hopefully some new will start. Transition within breweries could be easily achived. If you have 400 years behind you then another 400 or 1000 years are before you. If you are not sure what are the right next steps to move your brewery on, moving it through transition, you might want to contact transition spezialists, like we are at 

Dominik Jais's picture