Craft beer pushes UK breweries to a high of 2,000

By Nicholas Robinson

- Last updated on GMT

The only way is up: the rise of the British brewer
The only way is up: the rise of the British brewer

Related tags Craft brewers Brewing Brewery

Independent craft brewers are fuelling the growth of the UK’s beer scene, which now hosts more than 2,000 breweries – a feat not achieved since the 1930s.

More than 300 new breweries were launched in the UK last year, an 18% rise on the previous year, which brought the total to 1,994 at the end of 2016. Overall, the number of breweries has grown by 64% in the past five years.

Growth has continued to go from strength-to-strength, with the number of breweries exceeding 2,000 for the first time in nine decades.

Around 70 years of consolidation in the brewing industry has been reversed in a small amount of time, said James Simmonds of report publisher UHY Hacker Young.

Pay less duty on beer

Number of new craft breweries
Growth: how the number of breweries has increased over the years

Smaller breweries had benefited from a tax break introduced in 2002, allowing them to pay less duty on beer than larger brewers.

Simmonds said: “The craft beer boom has reversed around 70 years of consolidation in the brewing industry. There is plenty of growth still to come.

“However, the majors are beginning to make a fightback by acquiring craft brewers and launching their own artisan-style brands like Hop House 13 Lager.”

Large brewers have, indeed, acknowledged the opportunity in craft and waded​ deep into the category.

New craft breweries

  • Bellfield Brewery​, launched March 2016 in Edinburgh – the UK’s first dedicated gluten-free craft brewerys
  • Toast Ale​, launched January 2016 in London – makes craft ales from leftover bread
  • Verdant​, launched January 2016 in Falmouth – started as homebrew between friends

“The craft brewers can’t afford to rest on their laurels; they will need to work hard to get their product into that limited shelf and bar space,” Simmonds added.

Carlsberg London Fields

Recently Carlsberg bought out London Fields Brewery​, while AB InBev acquired Camden Town Brewery two years ago for £85m.

This interest in craft from big brewers has, in part, been driven by the decline of mainstream lager sales in recent years.

CGA commercial director Graeme Loudon explained: “The mainstream lager category is having to compete for consumer affections with world, premium and increasingly craft offerings within beer.

“Craft in particular has captured the imagination [of consumers] in recent years, growing 21% in the past year and now available in a third of all on-trade outlets.”

Related topics Beer