Britain's beer boom

Community pubs minister Marcus Jones announced, “Today’s figures show Britain is back on the map as a global Brewing Powerhouse”. He went on to eulogise the “IPA and the Great British pint” as Britain’s greatest contributions to world drinking.  However, Britain is being increasingly known for its distinctive craft beers. Industry darling BrewDog, for example, exports to 50 countries and foreign sales account for 60% of their revenue.

Alcohol has always been strongly associated with regions.  From Champagne to Scotch from Scotland, it pays to be associated with a place that has a strong heritage. On the reverse side of the coin, Japanese whisky, while lauded by critics, suffers internationally due to Japan’s lack of distilling tradition. This is where Britain’s beer businesses can excel by taking advantage of a strong brewing heritage to market their products overseas. From a more fiscally tangible point of view, there is the not insignificant matter that small UK brewers pay less taxes than their larger counterparts. This is thanks to the 2002 introduction of progressive beer duty.

However, it’s important that strong quality control is maintained when franchising distributors abroad. James Watt, co-founder of BrewDog, recommends, “Don’t just fall for the first people you come across, but spend some time finding people who share your ethos and passion for what you do. That will prove invaluable to ensuring strong sales and the experience of your brand locally”. Crucially, craft beer is a premium product and needs to be treated as such.

Alex Tronsco from Camden Town Brewery adds, “It’s important not to have all your eggs in one basket. It’s good to spread beer through a few different markets.” Diversification as a reductive means of spreading risk is another reason that British brewers are looking abroad. Indeed, as of 2013, 1.15 billion pints were exported by British companies, which constituted a rise of 20.6 million pints on top of 2012.

There has even been a shift in how we in Britain are consuming beer. New research by YouGov has found that over a third of us, when trying a new beer, elect to have their beer in either a half or a third pint glass. While a subtle change, this points to beer being increasingly seen as a premium product that requires the same attention that sommeliers give their wine. While we’re already seeing brewers market their products differently, we could potentially see divergent premium and standard markets.

Sadly though, not everyone is hoppy. The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, has announced that nearly half of the UK’s nightclubs have shut down in the past 10 years. With the advent of later opening hours, the success of brewing might, therefore, mark a shift from clubbing to pubbing. Now just might just be the perfect time to launch your own brewing company to take advantage of the favourable business climate.


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