Tough Times for the Humble Beer Mat
Small, beer-soaked and bedecked with all manner of slogans, the humble beer coaster has long been an essential part of a good pub or bar. But with its leading manufacturer now bankrupt, the cardboard institution may be heading for extinction.
For most of us, beer mats are just an insignificant piece of cardboard tucked under our glass of ale. But some have elevated the disposable coaster, which are a common sight in pubs in Britain and Germany, to a lofty status, considering it an art work, a collector's item, building material -- or even a piece of sporting equipment.
The record for beer-mat throwing stands at 38.26 meters (125.5 feet), while the highest beer-mat tower, created from more than 40,000 mats, stood proud at 9.70 meters. Leo Pisker, an Austrian, has an extensive collection of some 150,000 beer mats from around the world.
But now the economic crisis is threatening the beer mat -- and unnerving its fans. The world's biggest beer mat company, Katz Group, has declared itself bankrupt. Tucked away in Weisenbach in the south-west of Germany, Katz Group, which was founded as a sawmill in 1716, had been in the beer mat business since 1903. Katz International Coasters controlled around two-thirds of the European market and 97 percent of the US market.
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