the soaring inflation for energy and grains in the wake of the Ukraine war is no match for the biggest challenge facing Mr. Fritsche’s brewery, Klosterbrauerei Neuzelle, and others like it across Germany: a severe shortage of beer bottles.
The problem is “unprecedented,” Mr. Fritsche said. “The price of bottles has exploded.”
The issue is not so much a lack of bottles. Germany’s roughly 1,500 breweries have up to four billion returnable glass bottles in circulation — about 48 for every man, woman and child.
Customers pay a surcharge of 8 euro cents on each bottle, and get that money back when it is returned.
While the returnable-bottle system is climate-friendly and appeals to Germans’ obsession with recycling, it comes with one major problem: getting people to return their empties.
Dragging a crate — or several — of empty glass bottles back to a store can be a hassle, even if it means getting back the deposit fee. So people tend to let them stack up, in the basements of their homes or on the balconies of their apartments, biding their time until they are running out of either space or spare cash.