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St. Erhard: Optimism from Bamberg

Christian Klemenz has an MBA degree, is young, and would be unequivocally ranked as an ‘optimist” on the positive-mindset scale. MBA graduates and optimists, though, are meanwhile anything but rarities, and after 173,948 less-than-promising applications at the latest, the positive mindset then frequently dwindles and vanishes with discouraging haste. But when, as is the case with Christian, competence and self-confidence are paired with a goodly portion of individual initiative and boldness, then actually it’s plain sailing for a successful career trajectory … And the result tastes just wonderful: St. Erhard, his self-created craft beer brand from Bamberg! Bamberg, after all, is not so far away, so it’s worthwhile dropping by to ask a few clarificatory questions of Christian Klemenz, the founder of St. Erhard …


  1. First of all, can you say a few words about yourself, and your career so far?

My name is Christian Klemenz, I’m 29 years old, born in Upper Franconia, and I’m the founder and Managing Director of St. ERHARD and the Bierothek®. After getting my MBA degree in early 2011, I set up St. ERHARD, an export-driven craft beer brand, in Bamberg together with two of my fellow-students. Another trading division was added in 2014, in the shape of the Bierothek®.

  1. How did your own beer brand ERHARD come into being? A long-cherished dream or a spontaneous decision to develop a beer of your own?

Starting up a company of my own was in fact a long-cherished dream, which I’d nurtured every since my days as an undergraduate. That this would ultimately turn out to involve beer, the best product in the world, didn’t actually crystallise until I was spending a semester over in India. I noticed there that German beer has an unbelievably great reputation abroad, but there were hardly any properly qualified agents, nor much brand awareness.

  1. You’re still a relatively young entrepreneur. Did you have any doubts about your plans at first?

Self-doubt is not something I’m particularly troubled with once I’m convinced about a course of action. What’s more, back then I was already sure that while you’re a student or have just graduated, that’s the best time for setting up your own company. The opportunity costs are low, and you’ve got nothing to lose. If you’re not going to take the plunge then, when are you?

  1. Where does your enthusiasm for Craft Beer come from?

My enthusiasm for craft-brewed beer goes a long, long way back. If you grow up, like me, in beer-loving Upper Franconia, then it’s almost normal to develop a passion for beer. Only back then it just wasn’t called craft beer yet, I myself heard the term for the first time only long after I’d set up the firm. So in fact we founded one of the first German craft beer brands without actually knowing what craft beer really is.

  1. Can you give us a brief description of your beer? What in your view makes ERHARD unique?

We stand for rigorously high standards of quality in our beers, and in our marketing and design. With St. ERHARD as our brandname, we aim to upgrade the perceived status of beer in general, and help it to attain the social significance it merits.

  1. Whom primarily do you want to address?

We aim to market beer with a contemporary flair, which means addressing customer groupings that as yet had not perhaps been really into beer, and tended to prefer wine, for example.

  1. What’s behind the Bierothek®?

When we were marketing St. ERHARD in Germany, we realised that it’s difficult for specialty beers here to find the appropriate structure for the sales operation. Until three years ago, there just weren’t any specialised beer shops at all in Germany, which is why in the summer of 2013 we simply decided to put in place a fit-for-purpose retailing structure ourselves, and in the shape of the Bierothek® in Bamberg opened our first of what are meanwhile seven branches. This means that nowadays we’re already the biggest chain of specialty beer shops in Germany.

  1. What do your beer-themed plans for the future look like? Can we look forward to additional beers to complement ERHARD Original, Saison and Farmer?

Yes, we shall be successively expanding our product portfolio, and launching even more specialty beers from the craft beer category.

  1. Bamberg is, of course, famous for its regional beers. How do you see the other craft breweries in your vicinity: competition or enrichment?

Even before the craft beer movement got started, Upper Franconia, and the region around Bamberg in particular, already had a very large number of breweries and specialty beers, you know. If the capabilities were to be synergised still further, this qualitative and quantitative strength could fuel an enormous growth potential, so quite definitely I tend to focus on the potential involved.

  1. How do you personally see the development and future of the craft beer scene in Bavaria? Are there discernible trends or particular focuses?

What applies to Upper Franconia goes for the whole of Bavaria as well. The historically evolved brewery structure we have here offers an enormous potential for new marketing opportunities, in that suddenly a new market has materialised for specialty beers, and customers outside the traditional sales territory are suddenly prepared to pay significantly higher prices for specialty beers. The challenge involved here will accordingly be whether and how these two worlds can be successfully brought together. But there I’m basically optimistic.

In this regard, I’m just as optimistic as Christian, and am looking forward to his next beer-themed projects! Thanks a lot for the interview! 🙂


Pictures taken by Martin Rehm, martinrehm.com


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