Antal Dreher’s legacy over the past 166 years shows the spirit of a company that is always renewable and mindful of sustainability. The family company, the brand, the factory survived the crises of the 20th century. The large-scale brewery in Kőbánya (Budapest’s District 10) is one of the largest and best-known companies in Hungary today, as well as the only brewery in the capital city.
2021 marks the 225th anniversary of Franz Anton Dreher having bought the Klein-Schwechat Brewery in 1796 and Dreher Breweries can look back at a history of over one and a half centuries in (Buda)Pest. As to how much and in what way this great past of the company is cherished today,
Marketing Director Gábor Wilheim, striking a personal note, tells Diplomacy&Trade that “we all feel that we are a small part of a long and exemplary history and that determines our approach to the work we do in cherishing these traditions. We wish to continue to write new chapters of this great history and when we need to pass on the baton, we will be able to do it with the respect that is worthy of the ethos we inherited from our founder. This is our guiding principle. On the corporate level, we also follow this intellectual heritage in our strategy. The founders of our company were the innovators of their era – today you might call them start-ups – combining innovative ideas with brewing traditions. We intend to carry on this spirit, and we believe that our commitment to continuous development on the Hungarian market is also worthy of the Dreher heritage.”
The ‘Beer King’
In the company’s history, the son of Franz Anton Dreher, Antal Dreher is of special importance. It was in the middle of the 19th century that young Antal Dreher’s attention turned towards beer brewing. This was followed in his life by several steps that made Dreher Breweries what this company is today and made him the ‘Beer King’. Following his international travels in England, Scotland, Germany and Czechia, he began to experiment with his beers, creating what is considered as the first pale lager. Then came, in 1862, the acquisition of the Kőbánya Brewery in Pest. “All this is history now but it is still there in every corner of our brewery even today, from a nice old cauldron in the courtyard to the original Zsolnay tiles preserved when the building was renovated in the 1990s. We also remind ourselves with all sorts of old posters and pictures of where we come from and what role Dreher Breweries plays in the life of this district. In 2019, when we celebrated the 165th anniversary of the brewery with a series of celebrations, also reaching back to the traditions, recalling the heritage of Antal Dreher,” Gábor Wilheim highlights. It was in that year that Antal Dreher was named ‘Man of the District’ posthumously and the street where the brewery is located was named after him. Also tied to the 165th anniversary, the Dreher brand underwent a refreshment when the old flagship ‘Dreher Classic’ was replaced by ‘Dreher Gold’, ditching corn grits as an ingredient from the original recipe. Now, the cans and bottles feature an old scenery of Budapest, strengthening the brand’s local ties. “The history of the Dreher family is so rich that basically, every single year is an anniversary of something,” he notes.
Quality above all
In the 20th century, Dreher became a brand known worldwide, representing values in Hungary and abroad. According to the Marketing Director, it is a great, ‘sexy’ alloy of respect for traditions and of the ability of continuous renewal – an equilibrium that inspires both the brewers and the consumers to make themselves better. So, the brand represents the duality of tradition and modernity. “From the practical point of view, the message is ‘quality above all’: retaining the characteristic Dreher taste loved by millions, we introduce new variants in our portfolio every year, experimenting to see what consumers like,” he says.
Financial and social contribution
89% of suppliers to Dreher Breweries are Hungarians and the brewery produces 480 million pitchers of beer annually, employing 587 people. “However, indirectly, the company contributes to the livelihood of 11,100 families working in sectors like hospitality, logistics or marketing for that matter,” Gábor Wilheim points out. Quantifying this, he stresses that Dreher Breweries contributes to the country’s national budget with HUF 17.1 billion annually through the payments of excise duty, value added tax, environmental surcharge and other fees.
“These are the tangible things but we also set trends that inspire our community by cherishing traditions or introducing innovative elements. Working in the alcohol industry, one must not forget about the fact that it is an obligation to popularize responsible consumption, which, in itself has a beneficial impact on the communities. We have a decade-long communication program (‘Ésszel iszom’ – ‘I drink smartly’) and have different campaigns to spread this idea,” he adds.
Transparency and sustainability
Dreher Breweries is committed to transparent operation and has been providing information on its sustainability performance for over a decade. “It is a very important issue for us, not only from the business side of sustainability but also in the interest of the plant and its environment. We have a lot of measures that strengthen corporate social responsibility and help find solutions to environmental problems. This has long been an important issue as even at the beginning of our operations, Antal Dreher imported a lot of technologies that made it possible to produce beer more efficiently – this has always been a fundamental consideration in our production. We continuously trace the environmental impact of our operations from raw material to consumption. We pay special attention to water management as this is probably the scarcest natural source material needed in beer production, we have in focus our specific energy use as well as the reduction of carbon-dioxide emission and the recycling – or reuse – of packaging materials. All in all, we have managed to reduce the amount of water in beer production, we have progressed in waste management and we do our best to improve the recycling rate as well,” the Marketing Director concludes.
The Dreher presence
The momentum of 2019 celebrations did not stop in 2020, either. Budapest was enriched with two new mini-statues, in the geometric center of Kőbánya where the characteristic Kolodko figures appeared for the first time. The special sculptures have been inspired by the history of the Brewery and are also closely linked to brewing. The mini-sculptures are presented as part of the company’s beer tours, presented to the general public together with the renewed and soon reopening beer museum. The two mini-sculptures show two iconic scenes. One of these is a statue of a real, contemporary beer keg in the factory courtyard, depicting Antal Dreher, with his characteristic walking stick in his hand, and with one of the most beautiful brewing houses in Europe in the background. In front of the factory stands another statue depicting a beer cart standing on a real limestone bridge, pulled by two Dreher horses. The close cooperation is a tradition in the 166-year relationship between Dreher Breweries and Kőbánya, so the company’s goal is to strengthen the district's involvement in the tourist life of Budapest with these developments, as well as present the past and present of Dreher to beer fans and those interested in beer history.