Belgium has retained its place as the sixth-largest producer of beer in the EU, according to the official statistics office Eurostat. Production in Belgium rose in 2017 by almost 7% to 2.45 billion litres – enough for 890 pintjes for every man, woman and child in the county. But of course not all of it is consumed at home: 1.6 billion litres, or just over 65%, are exported.
The production places Belgium once more at number six in the league table of beer producers, which was led this year by Germany (8.1 billion), the UK (5.6 billion) and Poland (4 billion). To the chagrin of the Belgians, the Netherlands comes fourth with 3.9 billion, a spectacular year-on-year increase of 48%. Spain took fifth place with 3.6 billion litres.
However those are raw figures. When taking into account the size of the population, Belgium produced 222.7 litres per capita; the Netherlands not much further ahead on 229 litres. Table leader Germany only managed 92 litres per person, behind Poland on 105 litres, but just slightly ahead of the UK on 84.8 litres, or about 170 pints.
The national figures also ignore the blurred lines in the beer trade. Belgium, for instance, is still the home of AB InBev, the largest brewer in the world which owns a number of bands marketed in the Netherlands, including Oranjeboom, Dommelsch and Hertog Jan. The Netherlands, in turn, owns via Heineken the Alken-Maes group including Maes, Mort Subite and Affligem.
The US takes nearly one-third of all European beer exports, followed by China, Canada, Korea and Russia. The Dutch exported the most – 1.9 billion litres – while Belgium tied with Germany on 1.6 billion.