Augustiner Close Up

Augustiner close up web

Consider a brewery that spends nothing on marketing in their domestic market, has no export department, and a tiny sales team consisting of a few people. Most likely you’re picturing a fresh faced local craft brewery; it would be completely inconceivable that such an approach could result in sales of over 1.5 million hectolitres per year, and global recognition. However, this is exactly the description of the Bavarian classic Augustiner-Bräu now a household name in the UK.

The earliest records of the brewery’s existence date all the way back to 1328 when it was built as part of an Augustinian monastery on the Haber Meadow just outside of the city of Munich. The brewery had the honour of supplying the Wittelsbach dukes with beer until the Dukes themselves founded Hofbräu in 1589.

In 1803 during the secularization of Germany the monks were forced to leave the monastery, and the brewery was taken into ownership of the Bavarian state before being acquired by Anton and Theresa Wagner in 1829, and the brewery stayed in the Wagner family hands. During the time the brewery was owned by the Bavarian state it was relocated to within the Munich City walls after the monastery buildings fell into dilapidation. For just over a decade, following the death of Anton, Theresa Wagner ran the brewery overseeing a period of modernisation that included the introduction of steam engines, but also the move to their premises on Landbergerstraße, where the Brewery still operates to this day.

Following the death of Theresa in 1858, her son Joseph Wagner took the reins and the Brewery’s iconic logo combining his initials J W with a pastoral staff was formed. Under his tenure the brewery purchased a storage cellar on Arunflstrasse to expand production but they also served beer here too and it is now the site of the Augustiner Keller and Biergarten, undoubtedly one of the best places in the world to drink beer. Sitting under the chestnut trees drinking a litre of Edelstoff poured from a wooden barrel is an essential experience that all beer lovers should enjoy at least once in their lives.

The first record of Augustiner appearing at Oktoberfest is a picture of their booth from 1867, but it wasn’t until 1926 that their festival hall with the iconic tower (seen on the labels of their festbier) made its first appearance. Augustiner own the world’s biggest fleet of wooden serving vessels, with over 500 wooden barrels capable of holding 200 litres each and, since 1987, they are the only one of the ‘Big Six’ still serving from wood at Oktoberfest.

Augustiner-Bräu is the only one of Munich’s ‘Big Six’ breweries that remain independent, with the others owned in full or partially by ABI, Heineken, or the Bavarian State (Hofbräu). Furthermore, on the event of her death, Edith Haberland-Wagner (the last direct descendent of the Wagner family) willed her 51% share of the company to a charitable foundation in her name. This charity supports numerous honorable causes covering Animal Welfare, Children’s Protection, Cultural History alongside many other worthy charities across Germany.

James Clay and Sons sold our first cases of Augustiner in 2010 starting off with just one pallet of 45 cases of Edelstoff, the deeply delicious Export strength lager. In the intervening 10 years since that first pallet, sales have exploded to the point that we now sell the equivalent of two full pallets every single day of the year. The brand is a fascinating study in how top quality beer can grow from nothing to an essential feature of bottleshops and bar fridges across the UK with a total absence of marketing. Achieving this feat through a relentless quest for lager brewing perfect and an obsessive dedication to quality.

“We’ve been buying Augustiner via James Clay and Sons for just over four years now, and in that time Augustiner has bucked every trend we’ve seen in the business. It’s staved off the advance of canned beer, at the expense of bottled beer sales. There are never any issues with its shorter shelf life, as it flies out for every account. It’s also been able to hold up against any of the many excellent imitators from within the UK domestic brewing scene. On top of all of this, in a year when almost every other product has seen a decrease in sales due to the difficulties of 2020, it is on track to beat pre-pandemic numbers”

Tim Blades - Specialist Purchasing Manager - New Wave Distribution

If you’ve ever visited one of Germany’s vibrant cities you’ll have noticed the ubiquity of Augustiner. The friendly hooded character smiling back up at you from the crown cap discarded on a Kreuzberg pavement, or the quietly content monk on the label beckoning from inside the Späti fridge tempting you to join him in his mirth. It’s a strong testament to the German market’s regard for quality always coming out on top.

As recognised importers for the UK our Managing Director James Clay and Head of Marketing Mike Watson were invited to the Augustiner Quality Control seminar in 2019. This was an opportunity to look behind the scenes at the intense dedication to quality embodied in everything the brewery does.

In order to be approved to sell draught Augustiner in Germany there are an extremely rigorous set of regulations that must be adhered to that would be near impossible to follow in the UK.

  • A weekly line clean with a special machine that forces tiny sponge balls along the line, under extremely high pressure, to perform an intense physical clean.
  • An additional weekly caustic line clean, alongside a quarterly acid cycle.
  • All kegs must be emptied within two days, as CO2 saturation levels will move outside of Augustiner standards beyond this timeframe.
  • Typical UK flow controllers are forbitten on dispense lines because of the increase risk of infections.

As a result of everything learned at the seminar, and in respect of Augustiner’s admirable commitment to draught quality in their domestic market, we agreed with Augustiner not to sell keg in the UK, despite the obvious demand from our customers. However, in recognition of the volume of bottles sold, we have worked together with our partners at Augustiner-Bräu to create co-branded boxes, to make sure that their beers look as good as they taste.

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