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Beer shortage looms over Germany’s world famous Oktoberfest

A waitress serves mugs of beer during the opening of Oktoberfest in Berlin.

FABRIZIO BENSCH/FABRIZIO BENSCH/REUTERS

Beer-drinkers in Bavaria could be left high and dry as brewers run short of bottles.

One brewer has already announced that they are cutting back on the production of dark beer. Even more concerning, the diminished supply, which is being blamed on recent high levels of beer consumption, comes only weeks before Oktoberfest, the suds-soaked bacchanal for which the German state is famous.

In response to the looming crisis, a number of brewers are issuing an urgent call for customers to bring back empties to be refilled.

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The spokesman for Hofbräu said they were short "tens of thousands" of bottles. At another brewer, Paulaner and Hacker-Pschorr, managing director Heiner Müller -- who posed for a Munich paper with an empty case and a pleading look on his face -- said they had a "huge" problem that had got dramatically worse in recent weeks. Spaten and Löwenbräu said they were running short of 30-litre kegs.

An article in a local newspaper, Munich TZ, explained that warm summer weather and a number of recent festivals had exacerbated an annual problem. Hofbräu spokesman Stefan Hempl said that it was worse this year than any previous year he could remember.

Mr. Hempl said they would be forced to start prioritizing certain types of beer in their production process. They planned to focus on light and wheat beers. Lovers of dark beer, on the other hand, would have to wait.

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