Friday, 27 January 2017

Too Many Breweries? Probably.

Before I was diverted from sitting on my arse doing sod all by Manchester Beer and Cider Festival (MBCF) - more of which soon - I put up a little poll about whether there are too many breweries in the UK.

Now I had a kind of idea that the answer would be "Yes" and indeed that proved the case with 57% of the respectable 103 respondents agreeing that there are. Only 28% thought that there aren't too many breweries with 14% undecided. most respondents have a pretty good interest in beer and pubs I imagine and likely a fair knowledge of the issues, so I'm reasonably confident that the result reflects a general feeling of unease about the seemingly unstoppable growth of new breweries in the UK.

While at MBCF I took the opportunity to ask brewers big and small what they thought. Tellingly they more or less all thought there are too many and a shake out is ahead. Not them of course though. It is hard to be sure, but with dog eat dog at the lower cask end, regional brewers as the squeezed middle and too many brewers chasing too few opportunities you can't help but think something must give. Whether you are big or small, one thing is for sure, if you have found a niche or market that suits you and makes you money, stick to it and nurture it.

And for those that aren't in such a happy place, better find one quickly or you might be heading for the rocks.

One thing though. Brewers are the most amazing optimists. They have a propensity to find a way round problems which is wholly impressive.

Oh. And you must make good beer. There is a feeling around that quality needs to be upped and the smart ones recognise that. 


The Beer Nut said...

Well now that would be an enlightening study: look at the most recent dozen or so breweries to close, and the quality of the beer they produced. I'd hazard that there is no correlation.

Tandleman said...

Maybe, maybe not, but I know that many publicans are now not keen to re-order from the shite ones. They'll run out of room sooner or later.

I think at some levels at least - and it is slow - the quality message is sinking in. That wasn't a short term observation.

Gonecaving said...

I would love to see a similar survey done in Ireland.

Cooking Lager said...

Peak brewery will be when every man woman and child has their own micro brewery and the entire economy is people trading casks of bitter with each other.

The bubble will be when people think they can handle multiple microbreweries.

The Beer Nut said...

@Gonecaving: no brewery has closed in Ireland in the last decade. Over here you can definitely churn out infected shit and stay happily in business.

Anonymous said...

We all know who they are too...

TheSumOfAllBeers said...

The irish craft market operates in a beer market where flavour had been wiped out from the national palate.

You can make a tidy sum shipping uninspired mixes of pale malt, us05 & whatever hop you can source, and get away with it under the local/craft/oirish moniker. You can also get lots of grant money/government assistance to get yourself capitalised to a much better level than your typical Homebrewer+Dream setup.

Won't mention names, but 'lagered ale' has resurfaced as a term - dont have the skill or patience to make a good lager, and dont want to alienate the heinoberg crowd.

The Bloody Tan said...


" You can make a tidy sum shipping uninspired mixes of pale malt, us05 & whatever hop you can source, and get away with it under the local/craft/oirish moniker. "

Ain't that the case.And I came across a perfect example of it the other day.
Saw a bottle of beer from The Great Island,Cobh,County Cork and was immediately intrigued because I have a pal in Cobh and visit him quite often and when I rang him up he'd never heard of it.
So we went on the internet/Facebook to discover more and came across this website with its
diddly-eye branding.
Now there's not a hint of who brews it,where it's brewed or even the name of anyone who is remotely associated with it.
Further investigation on the ground by my chum revealed that it's contract brewed and bottled by an unknown brewery in Dublin.No-one has seen any advertising for it and it may just be a vanity project aimed at the gullible cruise line passengers who flood the town in the summer.
But they'll be disappointed.It is absolute shite.Weak,flat,undrinkable piss.

The Beer Nut said...

I keep a list, as best I can, of who brews what in Ireland here. Great Island beer is indeed brewed at Craftworks in Dublin.

The Bloody Tan said...

@The Beer Nut
Thanks for that.I genuinely don't understand why anyone would wish to brew a beer so anonymously that they go to the trouble of creating a website and Facebook page devoid of the merest shred of information about them or the beer.
What have they got to hide - except their embarrassment at producing such an execrable drink ?

Norbert said...

A certain railway bar close to a famous market seems to habitually order 'shite' ones, on price grounds. There's a worrying amount of bars ordering certain beers with price consideration trumping quality and some 'shite' breweries are well sustained by it.

RedNev said...

Norbert has a point. In Liverpool, the old Bents brewery was known for making mediocre beer, probably because it used the cheapest ingredients; it was also had a reputation for being the cheapest beer around, and it was accordingly popular.

Martyn Cornell said...

Too many breweries? In 1904 there were 4,862 breweries in Great Britain, for a population of arround 37 million. Admittedly 3,257 of those were pub, beerhouse and off-licence breweries, but that still left 1,605 "common" brewers to supply a population not much more than half of today's. So historically, we're still a long way behind.

Stono said...

what was the geographic spread of those breweries in 1904 though ? as my opinion as this seems to be commonly heard complaint more from breweries up north than elsewhere, is there has been a proliferation of breweries in particular areas of the country, hotspots if you will, such that supply vastly exceeds demand in that particular local area,that drives down their prices and they all find themselves running brewery taps just to get their beer on the market, and that isnt a picture replicated wholly across the country.

its just I have in my mind that Sheffield University thing Pete Brown did last year, which people in Norwich got very upset about who was the better City of Ale, and if you worked it out there were something like as many breweries in Sheffield as a city alone as there were in Norfolk as a county as a whole (assuming Im remembering the figures correctly, but it was that kind of disparity in scale)

Id also say the smart brewers already were focussing on quality, that to my mind is what distinguishes them from the competition and why they tend to succeed (mostly) more often whilst others struggle alot more.