Gauging the Mood of the British Beer Scene

Twitter polls are ‘garbage’ as we were repeatedly reminded throughout the US election but, still, this might tell us something:

Twitter poll screengrab (link above).

Despite the pervading sense of gloom, perhaps the result of ennui on the part of hyper-vocal, deep-insiders who spend too much time thinking about all this stuff, the majority of the 502 respondents don’t seem to think a disaster is looming.

Now, it is worth considering the following points:

  1. Our followers are into beer which might translate into being blindly positive about its fortunes. Although, equally, it probably means they’re more aware of the bad news too.
  2. Some people might think a shake-out which sees, say, 10 per cent of breweries cease trading is good news. Equally, some people might feel pessimistic precisely because they think brewery numbers are going to continue increasing.
  3. The 8 per cent who think it’s about to go pear-shaped nonetheless represent a good old chunk. Inside information, or just miserable devils? We wish we’d done this last year, and will definitely do it next year, to monitor the change.
  4. Some of the reasons people gave for being anxious are interesting and, again, subjective: by far the most common concern is that American-influenced styles are pushing out traditional British ones; others were concerned about pubs which remain in trouble despite the brewery boom.
  5. Historian David Turner doesn’t think we’ll get a shake-out and instead predicts a plateau.

For our part, that poll and the rest of this week’s discussion is enough for now to confirm our gut feeling that, though 2017 is going to be bumpier than 2016, it’s not going to see some kind of beerpocalypse.

Breweries and bars will close, certainly, and we’ll keep logging those events, but we also know that plenty of new ones are on the way.

There might be some structural changes — perhaps further polarising of the market, for example — but that won’t look like a collapse.

We’d certainly be somewhat surprised if the launch of the Good Beer Guide in the autumn isn’t accompanied by news of a further rise in the overall number of breweries, for better or worse.

6 thoughts on “Gauging the Mood of the British Beer Scene”

  1. What is the point of brewery numbers increasing when they’re just fighting over less and less bar space?

    Its not like we’re short of innovation and creativity in our brewing industry. What we desperately need is innovation and creativity in our pub sector.

    Question for discussion: does the fall in pub numbers and the rise in breweries reflect a change in the nature of the more common retirement dream? 20 years ago, people used to want to run their own pub, now they want to run their own brewery.

  2. I would love to see a poll of British brewers/brewery owners. They’re the ones who will have the best sense.

  3. No wonder the quality and consistency of craft beer is so poor when the only credentials the average person who sets up a brewery is either that they ‘like beer’ or think it’s fashionable

    If you compared it to someone who fancied setting up on their own as an electrician with no qualifications or they liked fairy lights. I certainly wouldn’t have them wiring up my house.

  4. Data… I like data… data is littered with flaws and caveats of course, but here’s some roughly processed data regarding the number of Companies House registered businesses: Brewery Data – Companies House

    The graph illustrates the “boom” in new breweries over the last decade (bearing in mind it is missing now-shut-down and sole trader, etc, breweries)… I’m not sure of the 2016 data accuracy, but perhaps it represents a cooling off of enthusiasm. [Is there lag in incorporation data? There are incorporation dates shown all the way up to end of December so I suspect not.]

    This started out as a comment here, but it got a bit too involved…

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