Dominic Worrall, founder of Bedlam Brewery at Albourne, outside Brighton, said that despite the declining numbers of pubs across the country, the number of breweries is still rising rapidly – currently 1,500 – meaning brewers need to think about how they can differentiate their beer offer and get stocked.
He told the Publican’s Morning Advertiser: “You’re working at a time when there are more breweries than there have been for 100 years, and less pubs.
“It’s about being heard in a crowded market and, within that, you’ve got to think of why you’re doing it, how you’re doing it and what it is about what you do that is a USP.”
The craft beer movement had developed beyond people’s wildest expectations over the past four years, he said.
“Let me give you an example: four years ago I went to the first Craft Beer Rising to see Meantime and buy their beers to sell in the Brighton area.
“Four years ago they couldn’t deliver the beer 40 miles from Greenwich, they didn’t have a route to market. They’ve just sold for around £100million.”
Enthusiasm for local sourcing and provenance that had previously dominated the culinary world had now become equally prevalent in the drinks trade, he added.
“People are open-minded and you’ve seen them adapting to styles of brews that they would never have known about five years ago.”
However, he pointed to the fact that it was still difficult to define exactly what ‘craft beer’ meant in the UK, as there was no widely accepted definition for the term.
“Our terminology ‘craft beer’ is only a phrase that’s been coined from the American market. If you’d asked five years ago, [Bedlam] would have been called a microbrewery. But now, apparently, we’re a craft brewer,” he said.
“What does it mean? I can’t tell you. In the US there is a Craft Brewers’ Association and there are defined rules and guidelines about what products go into your beer; you can't put rice into your beer, you can only brew so much.”
Establishing a similar system of guidelines in the UK would be useful, he said.
“I know what [craft] means to me. Not having conglomerate-owned breweries is vital. The sense of what you’re putting into it, your locality, how you go about your business – I think is important.
“It’s a moral issue, it’s an ethical issue. It would be useful but, you know what, I’m not defined by those rules. We brew beer the way it sits right with us and hopefully people who like it will understand it and enjoy it.”