I’d figured that Covid might hit regional / middle-sized breweries worst actually - and even some craft breweries are struggling, Croatia might have its first big casualty in that department.
Kaltenberg Adria in Kukuljanovo, near Rijeka, is going into receivership. Kaltenberg invested some 12 million Euros, maybe slightly more into the brewery. 2 years in, they were blocked because they owed 200 000 Euros of taxes, a paltry sum really in comparison, a debt which Croatia apparently refused to restructure for whatever reason. They also owe a similar sum to a bank, and owe around 660 000 to suppliers. They are also owed 400 000 from distributors. So, around 700 000 Euros in the red…
Kaltenberg has a long, storied history in Croatia, mainly linked to another region, Dalmatia - and my hometown of Split, where Kaltenberg was brewed for decades in the now-defunct Jadranska Pivovara, before Slovenian Laško, their owners, snuffed it entirely out of existence slightly more than a decade ago (likely in a bid to get more capital to purchased their rivals Union). Kaltenberg was beloved locally and linked in Croatian minds to Split and Dalmatia really. Its popularity dwindled and disappeared somewhat after the brewery closed, though it was still contract-brewed out of Laško on a sub-licence after Laško’s assassination of Jadranska - but it wasn’t local anymore so fewer and fewer people cared.
Fast forward back into 2017/2018 and it was announced that Kaltenberg would be building a brewery - but not in Dalmatia (wouldn’t be surprised if the corrupt local authorities “scared” them away), but to the north, in Rijeka. Which, perhaps, alienated and disappointed a portion of their former fanbase, and, it was opened, to much fanfare, targeting the local Rijeka market and the Kvarner region heavily with their Tars beer - pretty much the canned essence of “nothing special”. They marketed it as the “first beer from Rijeka” despite neither this being the first beer in Rijeka (there was already an active micro/brewpub in town, there was one before at least), nor was it brewed in Rijeka but in a village “behind the hill” from it… they changed their logo to say “first real beer from Rijeka”, because why not insult others. The brewery is, however, top notch, also with a spacious restaurant.
Half a year later Luitpold of Bavaria, Kaltenberg’s owner, visited Split and managed to alienate in his statements the entire Croatian craft beer scene. The brewery claimed they brewed "craft beer as well (a run of the mill nondescript hoppy(ish) lager), and, to quote, saying "That which makes us different us from other producers of craft beer is that we know how to make beer, unlike those who brew it according to recipes which they download from the internet.. They also claimed, ironically they wanted to be a nexus of craft beer… which kinda never took off. Wonder why.
Later on, they further alienated the Dalmatian market by connecting their Tars brand with the Rijeka football club. They went all in trying to profile Tars as THE beer of Rijeka and the Kvarner region, while exporting Kaltenberg-brand beers as well to other regions and even some countries. They invested a huge amount of money in various marketing schemes around the town - the beer was sold for an insanely low price for Croatia - 60 cents for a 0.5l can, which is what we get the cheapest supermarket beers for, sometimes going even buy one get one free for as low as 65 cents! They were giving the stuff away in every way possible. But it somehow didn’t take. At least not enough.
Covid-19 arrived and, well… the market became pretty darn fucked up for everyone. It would appear that they massively struggled with liquidity, not coming anywhere near the numbers they envisioned.
And now… the future of the brewery is extremely uncertain.