54% of independent brewers unable to access Government support

By Stuart Stone

- Last updated on GMT

Fair play: brewing bodies demand parity with pubs on grants and an allowance to make off-sales
Fair play: brewing bodies demand parity with pubs on grants and an allowance to make off-sales

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Both the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) and Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) have called on the Government to offer brewers the same level of support as pubs after a majority of beer makers revealed they’ve been unable to access state support.

A survey of 282 breweries by SIBA between 9 and 14 April has revealed that more than three quarters of independent beer makers (81%) don’t feel that the Government is doing enough to help them survive the Covid-19 crisis.

More than half (54%) have been unable to access any Government support, with close to one-in-three of them (29%) now considering making staff redundant.

Despite beer production being part of the food supply chain and brewers being designated key workers as a result, the closure of pubs, bars and restaurants has shut down the sector’s main route to market. 

Consequently, almost two thirds (65%) of brewers have ceased production during the ongoing Covid-19 emergency, with a further 31% saying it has slowed while 3% claim it has stayed the same. 

SIBA chief executive James Calder explained: “Unlike the global beer brands that can supply supermarkets in great volume, small independent breweries sell the majority of their beer through pubs, bars and restaurants, meaning the lockdown measures have hit them much harder. 

“While many have launched local delivery services or online shops to try to stay afloat, the increase in online sales is a drop in the ocean compared to the overall decrease their beer sales have seen.

“Pubs, bars and restaurants have been receiving help from the Government, but none of the same schemes apply to our small breweries that saw their sales fall off a cliff almost overnight. 

“They urgently need a package of measures to keep them going otherwise many won’t be able to reopen.”


Calls for pub parity

SIBA’s research also revealed an 82% drop in beer sales at independent breweries, despite almost three quarters (70%) of them offering delivery and takeaway services during the Covid-19 emergency and 75% of Brits claiming they are drinking the same amount or more since lockdown began, according to YouGov.

The “stark figures” released by SIBA, showcase the devastating impact of Covid-19 lockdown on the brewing industry according to CAMRA chief executive Tom Stainer, whose organisation – alongside SIBA – is calling on the Government to extend the same level of financial support offered to pubs to breweries. 

“While we have seen an explosion in the brewing industry over recent years, this sombre report is a strong warning that the industry will not emerge unchanged from this crisis,” he explained. “Without swift and substantial support, consumer choice will be hard hit after the lockdown passes.

“Much more needs to be done to support brewers during this time. With their route to markets all but blocked through pub closures, we need to ensure that brewers have the same access to business rates reliefs, loans and grants that is currently available for pubs.”

Need to relax licensing laws 

Stainer also joined SIBA in calling upon the Government to relax licensing laws to allow the one-in-four breweries that don’t have the relevant licenses to deliver beer direct to consumers.

He said: “We’d also like to see beer duty payments deferred and licensing laws relaxed so that brewers and pubs that only have on-sale licenses can sell to the off-trade during the crisis.

“Beer drinkers also have a vital role to play in sustaining the breweries they love. We encourage customers to source their beer locally and directly from brewers. 

“CAMRA now has over 2,000 breweries, cideries and pubs offering takeaway and delivery services listed on its Pulling Together page to make this as easy as possible for consumers – simply visit to find out how you can support a brewer near you.”

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