Lifeline for UK pubs: SIBA Beer Report raises a glass to local brewers

By Luke Nicholls

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Beer

According to SIBA's Local Beer Report, pub-goers can now choose from around 3,200 permanent local ales in pubs across the UK
According to SIBA's Local Beer Report, pub-goers can now choose from around 3,200 permanent local ales in pubs across the UK
Amidst the ‘perfect storm’ of a weak economy, lack of support from Government and low consumer confidence, locally brewed beer has offered a lifeline to Britain’s pubs, with volume sales up by an estimated 6.8 per cent last year - in contrast with on-trade beer sales declining by 4.7 per cent over the same period.

According to the Local Beer Report, published today by the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA), over 1.4m barrels of local beer were sold in pubs in 2012. Local brewers now employ nearly 5,000 people directly, providing pub-goers with around 3,200 permanent ales.

“The local brewing industry described in this report is one that we should all be raising a large glass to,” said SIBA’s chief executive Julian Grocock.

“Local brewing is unusual, if not unique, as a British manufacturing industry that is increasing production and market share, welcoming new producers, generating significant employment, investing for a sustainable future and contributing economically and socially to the hundreds of localities where independent brewers are based.

Job creation

“The plethora of beers produced by smaller brewers has transformed the pub visit for millions of drinkers. In many cases it has also transformed the fortunes of the pub: as a drink that can only be enjoyed in the on-trade, draught beer is giving a growing band of appreciative consumers a reason to drink in the pub, rather than buy beer more cheaply from the supermarket for consumption at home.”

Adding hops at Ascot Brewery

SIBA’s report is based on a survey of 315 brewers - around 50 per cent of the society’s total membership. While many larger brewers and pubs are cutting staff numbers, SIBA members expanded their workforce by 25 per cent last year.

Grocock added: “On average, SIBA brewers re-invested 23 per cent of turnover in 2012, demonstrating real confidence in the prospects for their business. This young, buoyant local brewing industry, creating employment and contributing to local economies and communities across the country, is, as we term it in the report, the ‘investment dividend’ that the government continues to reap from Small Brewers Relief (SBR).”

SBR is a relief on beer duty for smaller brewers, introduced in 2002. The report claims that SBR is fundamental to the success of the local brewing industry, stating that ‘the crucial role of government through the introduction of SBR cannot be underestimated.’ Eighty-five per cent of survey respondents ‘would struggle without SBR’ and more than half believe their brewery would fail.

Punitive beer duty

“Given the clear connection between investment and a thriving industry, we remain baffled by the Government’s stance on beer duty, which amounts to a disinvestment in the same industry that they are supporting with SBR,” added Grocock.  

“This year, as in previous years, SIBA is urging the Chancellor to extend their investment in British beer, by abolishing the unpopular, outdated and ineffective beer duty escalator.”

Continuing the themes of the Local Beer Report, BeerX – a new event run by SIBA in celebration of British beer and brewing – will take place in Sheffield on 13-16 March. The event will see a number of speakers from the brewing industry in the UK and abroad, as well as politicians and one TV chef, setting out their vision for British beer.

BeerX also includes a Festival of Beer, offering over 600 different beers to trade and consumer visitors.

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