Beer has been brewed at Krug Bräu in Breitenlesau since 1834. Konrad Krug is the fifth generation of the traditional family business in Franconian Switzerland. Due to the early death of his father, he assisted his uncle in brewing at a young age and then took over the brewery completely at the age of 17. After completing his agricultural training, he added a brewing apprenticeship on top of it. Quite a lot for a youngster at the beginning of the 1970s: In addition to the laborious work on the farm, he had to study for vocational school and take responsibility for the brewery.
The four generations before him had brewed beer exclusively for their own inn. But even as a young man, Konrad Krug was thinking bigger, dreaming big – and a very specific goal: “ There was this ‘aha’ moment for me,” he recalls. “It was in 1970, I was just 17 years old, standing in the brewhouse again, when a 911 Porsche drove by on the village square outside. Already back then, it was my absolute dream car! I wanted to be able to afford one of those someday, and that’s what I was determined to do!
With diligence and strategy to the first Porsche
To achieve this goal, Konrad Krug really picked up the pace in the years that followed. Serving his beer alone in his local pub was no longer enough for him. He starts bottling it and invested in his own small bottling plant. Previously, he could only fill six to seven bottles a day by hand, but now he was able to fill around 200 an hour. Today, Krug Bräu even fills 9,000 bottles per hour! Additionally, he established relations with all the beverage markets in the region in order to sell his beer there. With success: Within eight years, he increased the annual output from 300 to 1000 hectoliters, thereby tripling sales. And at the age of just 25, he fulfilled his dream of owning his first 911!
As head of the brewery, Konrad Krug not only has a clear goal in mind from the start, but also his own philosophy. Instead of making himself dependent on the restaurant trade with draft beer, he relies on a high proportion of bottled beer, building up a broad distribution network in the region and beyond. “No matter where – the customer should be able to buy our beer everywhere and drink it at home.” He has long since been listed with all northern Bavarian wholesalers, and also places value on a broad distribution to beverage markets nationwide. From Kiel to Constance – over 500 stores throughout Germany now have the beer from the Breitenlesau jug on their shelves.
The Krug beer from Breitenlesau also tastes good at home
This philosophy has paid off, especially in the last three years. Unlike many other breweries, Krug Bräu has not only managed to get by economically during the pandemic, but has even been able to increase its sales by a good quarter. Beer lovers enjoy the Krug from Breitenlesau at home, whether it is from a bottle or a party keg from Envases.
But there’s another reason for the sales gains of recent years: the new Breitenlesauer “Hell“ pale beer variety, which Krug has been brewing since 2019, has “taken off like a rocket,” according to Konrad Krug. He had recognized and picked up on the trend toward pale beers early on. And as always when he’s convinced of something, he didn’t do things lightly: Having your own “Helles” with new labels and beer crates is the typical light blue color was a costly investment, but it ultimately paid off!
At Krug in Breitenlesau, the boss takes care of things himself
Whether it’s the new Breitenlesauer Hell, the popular Krug lager, the Pilsener, Weizen, the well-known beer mix drink “Gaasseidla” (consisting of lager, cola, and cherry dessert wine), or a good number of special beers – Konrad Krug’s main concern is to brew a beer that many people will enjoy: “Our beer is for the masses and not just for enthusiasts or a very special group of people.” The success of Krug Bräu from Breitenlesau – with an annual output of 50,000 hectoliters – is certainly due in part to the good beer, but also largely to the brewery’s owner himself. Because not only does Konrad Krug invest a lot of passion into brewing as a beer artist, but his business partners and customers also appreciate hin for his down-to-earth manner. “We don’t have a sales force – I simply talk to the store managers and customers myself.”
Also, anyone who dials the phone number of the brewery pub or office usually has the boss on the phone right away. Like a caller a few weeks ago on a November evening around nine-thirty: “She just wanted to tell us how good our Gaas-Seidla tastes, which she was drinking at the Dortmund Christmas market. She could hardly believe that she had the boss himself on the phone,” recalls Konrad Krug with a smile. It is precisely these conversations and the direct contact with his customers that make him feel proud and happy. This is also why he doesn’t miss the chance to DJ next door at BRAADN, the successful dance center that is also part of his brewery-inn.
Brewed using the power of the sun
Konrad Krug is motivated by his responsibility toward his ancestors to maintain what he has achieved and to pass it on to the next generation. The fact that his two daughters Carina and Simone – one a master brewer, the other a business economist – have decided to join the family business and continue to run it fills him with pride and gives him the strength to face the challenges ahead. And in these times, these challenges are increasing all the time. Even though Konrad Krug invested in a photovoltaic system 20 years ago and has been a certified solar beer producer for over ten years, the rising costs of energy and raw materials are clearly causing problems for Krug Bräu, just like for many small family businesses. An increase in the price of beer therefore also seems inevitable in the near future.
Nevertheless, Konrad Krug is not losing his optimism. After all, the traditional brewery from Breitenlesau has recently been able to build up a certain buffer. The next few years will therefore be dominated by consolidation. “We will simply not make any experiments,” emphasizes the brewery boss. Which doesn’t mean that he doesn’t always keep his eyes open for new trends and inspirations. Because always staying on the ball and – for all his love of tradition – being open to new things is the foundation of his success. He actually already has a few ideas in mind. Although Konrad Krug is celebrating his 70th birthday this year, he is not thinking of retiring: “The brewery is simply my life – and I still have plenty of time to drive a Porsche!