Monday, 23 February 2009

Indies Volume Up Again


After my little rant of yesterday, something to calm me down and make me smile again. The Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) has just announced that their beer volumes for 2008 were up 10% on the previous year. they expect a further 15% rise this year. This compares with a drop of 5.5% year-on-year fall in sales by British Beer and Pub Association members in 2008. SIBA put the growth down to rising distribution, with the average number of pub customers per brewer growing from 79 to 94 last year. Increased rate-of-sale also helped — throughput of local beers grew by an average of nine per cent over the last two years.

Even better news is that three out of four SIBA members will increase brewing capacity this year. So there you have it. Give the people drinks they want to buy and they will buy them. Stop restricting the market and you'll get more local beers. Cask beer continues to be the only bright light in an otherwise dull pub trade story. It must have something going for it.

The SIBA report that prompted this story is here.

12 comments:

Velky Al said...

Certainly is good to see that independent brewers are doing well and bucking the trend. It is a strange idea really though isn't it, people wanting decent beer - it'll never catch on. ;)

Jeff Rosenmeier said...

"Cask beer continues to be the only bright light in an otherwise dull pub trade story. It must have something going for it."

Careful Tandleman...there are a growing number of SIBA members that don't do any cask beer. SIBA thankfully doesn't specify how its members serve their beer.

Sorry, I'll stop now...promise :)

Woolpack Dave said...

It's small crazy brewers that are the shining light. Like Jeff R and me.

Oh, and about 700 others. People want our beer. Yippee.

Tandleman said...

Jeff. Fine. Let's remove the non cask producers from the story. How much does THAT change the percentages?

OK. I'll stop now... promise (-:

Jeff Rosenmeier said...

Why remove us? Man, that chip is embedded deeply ;)

On a positive note, it is great to see the numbers represent what we are seeing here on the ground. Our numbers were miles above the averages, so glad we could contribute.

I just want to make sure that people don't think 'SIBA' == 'CAMRA'. I've fought for a while to get cask out of their vocabulary, and it appears I'm getting somewhere.

Next I must tackle that logo!

Tommy N said...

Jeff, I don’t understand why they should remove the word ‘cask’ from their vocabulary. Cask beer must represent a large percentage of sales for a large percentage of members. Of course SIBA members produce artificially carbonated bottled beer (lots) and kegged beers (not many) but the majority of brewers they represent concentrate on cask.

Cask is the way British ales should be served, so an organisation that represents the breweries that brew them should use the term. I’m all for diversification and if Britain’s small breweries can produce Czech style Pilsners or Bavarian style Wheat Beers served from kegs (with the right level of carbonation) then great and I’m sure there’s a market for them.

SIBA should be able to use whatever terminology they want as long as it’s appropriate for what they are talking about.

Velky Al said...

Tommy, you are right SIBA should be able to use whatever vocabulary they like - but, and here is the rub, the name is the Society of Independent Brewers, not the Society of Cask Brewers. Indepedent, like "good" is not a synonym for "cask".

Tandleman said...

I see this continual (and fairly recent) harping on about terminology as rather curious, as it seems to me it comes, not from a saintly wish to more accurately describe and enlighten, but as a Trojan Horse to undermine and weaken.

When you see from whence these "suggestions" come, it is either it seems from abroad, where they no longer have a cask ale tradition to preserve and nurture or from those (and good luck to them) who wish to pursue a different route in the way they present beer.

I'm all for democracy and would never deny anyone a say, but equally all for perspective and context. CAMRA and SIBA are not one and the same, but I am sure they recognise their value to each other. The handpump is a convenient and well recognised symbol which recognises the great British tradition of cask conditioned ale. That, I guess and the fact that almost all their members major on cask ale, is why SIBA chose it. To change it because of the odd vested interest would indeed be throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

The future of quality beer in this country is not best served by keg beer, which is not to say, as I have said before that you can't get high quality keg beer, but almost certainly, in a pub near you, you won't, not now, not soon, not in all probability in this country ever. Keg beer has been debased by the big brewers to the extent that it will probably always fill the bottom end of the market.

And in any event, why on earth would we want it to be the biggest thing here, when we can have cask beer with all its subtleties, variety and tradition? Even the best keg will rarely (if ever) reach the heights of the best cask for normal drinking strength beers.

Good keg beer will remain at best a niche. Cask beer is a niche too, but a big one and its a better bet for most pubs as looked after properly will drive business.

And yes. I'm standing up for cask beer here.

Velky Al said...

Can I just say that I am not trying to bash cask beer here at all?

Whenever I get back to the UK I drink almost exclusively cask ale, and go to great pains to find it - it can be infuriating that people you would expect help from when looking for pubs and beers to try locally often don't bother to get back to you, or worse send a terse 1 line email along the lines of "Buy the GBG".

Also, I am not trying to bash CAMRA members - the ones I have met and whose blogs I enjoy reading are uniformly generous with their knowledge, and very patient with providing pointers about what to look out for.

The important thing to me as someone who loves beer is the quality of what is served up to me, and yes I agree with you that the majority of the time what is on cask has more flavour and complexity and generally things going on than some bland pint of mass-produced swill, which has the life in it destroyed by pasteurisation and filtering.

I have no ambition to undermine and weaken cask ale, after all it is cask ale which has lead the way in the revitalisation of beer in the UK, however I do want to see credit given where credit is truly earned.

Jeff Rosenmeier said...

Sorry, I didn't mean to come off as the antichrist there, just making the point that SIBA isn't Society of Craft Brewers, as Al understood.

To think that I am some Trojan Horse, tasked with removing all cask beer from existence is all a bit fanciful (or paranoid). That's me, KEG BOY, killing off cask 700 litres at a time...LOL.

I am only here to enlighten, I promise. I strongly feel that if my industry (what I call craft brewing) is to grow any further here in the UK that some of this preaching of what constitutes 'Good Beer' needs to be challenged and broadened. From reading the blogs, I am not alone - if I was I would have probably shut up by now.

I should have listened to Stonch back here, but that's not how I roll...

I've got nothing against cask beer, just on a mission to dispel some myths and mistruths. Some day, we can have a beer and I'll share some of the great cask moments I've enjoyed in my 12 years here.

Tandleman said...

Jeff I was making a point as you were. I'd love to share a beer with you some day.

Jeff Rosenmeier said...

Sorry, replace Cask with Craft in first para...it's not the Society of Craft Brewers either, must have been a Freudian slip...

...look forward to it...GBBF if not earlier...