SIBA: number of breweries down versus 2023

By Gary Lloyd

- Last updated on GMT

Brew news: the north has been most affected by independent brewery closures throughout 2023
Brew news: the north has been most affected by independent brewery closures throughout 2023

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The number of active breweries in the UK at the start of the year has reduced from 2023 levels, according to new data released by the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA).

SIBA UK Brewery Tracker: Year-on-year comparison

Figure comparison 01/01/23 and 01/01/24

UK:​ 1815 (-13)

Scotland:​ 142 (-4)

Northern Ireland:​ 29 (-)

East:​ 192 (+14)

North-east:​ 256 (-9)

North-west:​ 195 (-14)

Wales:​ 96 (-6)

West:​ 73 (-2)

South-west:​ 211 (+4)

South-east: ​344 (+9)

Midlands:​ 277 (-5)

The figures, which have come from the SIBA UK Brewery Tracker show the north of England has suffered most while the east of England has been a relative bright spot.

The UK total number of active brewers now stands at 1815, compared to 1828 in January 2023. The data tracks all new brewery openings and closures to give a quarterly growth or closure rate, and despite a promising third quarter, when numbers rose slightly, the tracker finished the year with a -2 net closure rate in Q4 leading to an overall net closure rate of -13 for 2023.

Much to be done

SIBA chief executive Andy Slee said: “There is still so much that needs to be done to protect independent breweries across the UK, with help from Government on a range of issues now more important than ever​ if we want to turn the tide and see a growing beer industry in 2024.

“Trading has been incredibly tough for independent breweries and while the Government’s welcome introduction of draught relief for beer sold in pubs and taprooms last year was welcome, we would like to see it extended in 2024 to a significant 20% discount.”

The knock-on effect for consumers is not just a reduction in beer choice on the bar, but the loss of a valued local business – eight out of 10 consumers say a well-run independent brewery has a positive effect on its local community and SIBA added figures show independent brewery members employ over 10,000 people nationally.

Worrying independent brewery closure rates

Slee added: “What is perhaps most worrying about the figures are the level of closures being experienced in the north of England – with the north-west seeing a net closure rate that is higher than the national figure at a huge -14, and the north-east didn’t fare much better, with the second highest in the UK and a -9 net closure rate for 2023.

“It is in these areas where the combined effect of rising production costs hurting margins and the cost-of-living crisis lowering sales appear to be hitting brewery businesses the hardest, with worrying independent brewery closure rates across the north.”

Meanwhile, the south-west achieved a +4 net growth rate, having finished the year with a huge +12 net opening rate in Q4. The south-east also had a positive year with +9 growth overall following a Q4 net growth rate that equalled the south-west at +12. But it was the east of England that led the pack with the highest brewery growth rate anywhere in the UK, finishing 2023 with an impressive net growth rate of +14 after a strong finish to the year, clocking a +8 Net growth rate in Q4.

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