‘Crowded’ UK marketplace harming beer quality, says Burning Sky founder

By James Beeson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Struggle: Mark Tranter said consumer demand was preventing focus on improving beer quality
Struggle: Mark Tranter said consumer demand was preventing focus on improving beer quality
The UK’s “crowded and demanding” beer marketplace is forcing breweries to focus on releasing new products rather than improving their technique, according to the founder of one of the country’s leading craft breweries.

Speaking at Beavertown Extravaganza beer festival in London at the weekend, Mark Tranter, founder of Burning Sky Brewery in Sussex, said that it was a “constant struggle” to improve beer quality because of consumer desire for flavours and trends from other countries.

“It’s very difficult to stay focused in a crowded and demanding marketplace,” he said. “I've been brewing for 20 years but the UK beer market has changed beyond all recognition in the past two to five years. People are constantly demanding new products – if you're a winemaker you get 30 attempts in your career to make wine, but people expect 30 different beers a week. So where does that leave us as brewers that are trying to focus on quality?

“We could brew a new pale ale and IPA every week and probably end up richer than we are now, but we would be poorer as brewers," he continued. "Trying to stay focused is really difficult because you can't help but get carried away with social media. 

"In the long term though, the people who stay true to what they do will ultimately win out. That sense of place and tradition, and working with what you've got is better than constantly following trends. It's better to try and master a couple of things than be a jack of all trades.”

Affordable beers

Tranter also stated his belief that beer shouldn’t be “beyond the reach of the average person on an average wage”, after the Rake bar in London was criticised​ for charging more than £13 for a pint of Cloudwater Double IPA last month.

“There's a lot of money being thrown around at the moment within beer and at the end of the day, it is just beer,” he said. “It’s become this sort ridiculous luxury good. Of course, some things will be more expensive than other things, and yes we do have a GP on what we produce in terms of raw materials, but I don't ever think things should go beyond the realms of what people can afford.”

“We want people to be able to enjoy our more complex beers – we are very proud of that side of the brewery and we don't want it to be exclusive. What do they cost? I don't know. What do we think is a fair price? What we sell them at. They're not beyond the reach of the average person on an average wage."

Good Beer Hunting Symposium

Tranter was talking on a panel as part of the Good Beer Hunting​ Symposium, a collection of talks, seminars and debates at the two-day Beavertown festival, which featured beers from more than 80 craft breweries from around the world.

In the event’s keynote speech, Sierra Nevada brewery ambassador Steve Grossman said that multinational drinks organisations attempting to buy up the craft beer market​ would never be able to lead the way in innovation.

Grossman argued the likes of AB InBev and SAB Miller lacked the philosophy and passion to lead the way in global beer trends, but warned that the growing influence of “big breweries”’ in the craft sector was an area of concern.

Earlier this year, Burning Sky announced it would be pulling its beers from BrewDog bars​ across the country over the Scottish brewery’s punk ideology. 

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