This year, 2017, has started with a vague sense of gloom in the beer industry: the ‘shake-out’ everyone’s been predicting for years might finally be here, and individual items of bad news keep leaping up on our Twitter timeline and elsewhere.
Alternatively, this is just a perfectly normal phase in the life of any trend: so some businesses close, but others open, perhaps healthier and more appropriate to the times than those they replace. The boom, says this point of view, has a long way yet to run.
Our gut instinct is that after a decade or more of unfettered excitement we are about to see some kind of dip or drop or change, whatever you want to call it, but that overall the trajectory continues to be upward, and that things keep getting better.
‘Better’ is, of course, highly subjective: you might not consider further growth in the number of breweries to be good news, or might not approve of the type of breweries we’re gaining, for example. The list that follows is just our reading of whether each item is positive or negative overall — whether it contributes to an ongoing buzz around beer, or dampens the mood. We’re not going to log every pub closure but will make a subjective judgement about whether a particular pub or bar was significant in terms of ‘the scene’.
Though it was tempting to trawl back through 2016 we’ve decided to make this easy on ourselves and only start tracking from January 2017. As you’ll see, though, there are some historic headline figures for context.
Here we go.
|Good News||Bad News|
|Brewery numbers up to 1,540 in September 2016, from 1,424 in September 2015, from 1,285 in 2014.|
|London brewery numbers up to 96 in January 2017 from 78 in December 2015
(SOURCE: Beer Guide London.)
|Micropub numbers up to 285 in January 2017, from 200 in September 2015.
(SOURCE: Micropub Association.)
|Insolvencies in the pub and bar trade down from 521 in year ending March 2015 to 480 in year-ending March 2016.
(SOURCE: Ortus Finance via Morning Advertiser.)
|Pub closure rate slowing from 29 per week in June-December 2015 to 27 as of February 2016; and to 21 per week from December 2015 to June 2016.||Pubs closing at a rate of 21 per week with a net closure rate of 549 in the six months to June 2016.
|Shop closure: Beer in a Bottle, Beverley, E. Yorks, ceased trading in December 2016|
|Bar closure: The Gravity Station, Cardiff, permanently closed as of January 2017.|
|Shop closure: BrewDog BottleDog, London, ceased trading in January 2017|
|Festival cancellation: No Birmingham Beer Bash in 2017. (Update: see Birmingham Beer Bazaar below.)|
|New bar: Sacre Bleu, Cambridge, to feature 10 keg lines and bottled Belgian beer, opening January 2017.|
|Brewery expansion: Williams Bros, Alloa, announced January 2017.|
|Brewery expansion: Alechemy, Livingston, announced January 2017.|
|Brewery expansion: Hop Stuff, London, announced January 2017.|
|Chain expansion: Craft Beer Company, London, announced January 2017.|
|Brewery closure: North Union, Sheffield, announced January 2017.|
|Brewery Reprieve: Rebel Brewing, Cornwall, went into liquidation in 2016; under new ownership as of January 2017.|
|Bottle shop expansion: Hops + Craft, Exeter, moving to larger premises, announced January 2017.|
|Brewery in administration: Quantock Brewery, Somerset, announced January 2017. (Saved — see below.)|
|New bar/micropub: Reasons to Be Cheerful, Burnage, Manchester, announced January 2017.|
|Brewery closure: Wrekin Brewery, Shropshire, announced (we think) in January 2017.|
|Event cancellation: The Brewing Equipment and Technology Expo has been cancelled, announced January 2017.|
|Shop closure: specialist retailer York Beer and Wine to close after 32 years, announced January 2017.|
|Bar opening: The Craft Rooms, Lincoln, announced February 2017.|
|Brewery Reprieve: the Quantock Brewery, Somerset, saved from closure, announced February 2017.|
|Brewery sale: Sacre Brew of Wolverhampton selling up after three years, announced February 2017.|
|Bar closure: Moo Bar, Penrith, repossessed by landlord, announced February 2017. (N.B. Some may not feel this is bad news.)|
|Brewery expansion: Red Squirrel (Mad Squirrel), announced February 2017.|
|Brewery closure: Hop Art Brewery, Farnham, Surrey, announced in February 2017.|
|New indie beer festival: Birmingham Beer Bazaar, announced March 2017.|
|New specialist bottle shop Brewklopedia, Leicester, announced March 2017.|
|Bar closure BrewDog, Homerton, London April 2017.|
|Brewery in administration Cottage Brewing, Somerset announced April 2017.|
|Brewery in administration RCH, North Somerset announced April 2017. (Link to PDF; ref. p.36.)
UPDATE 21/06/2017: brewer to continue producing three RCH ales under a new brand, Pitchfork Ales.
|Brewery in administration Tom Wood’s, Lincolnshire announced June 2017.|
|Brewery declared insolvent Sentinel, Sheffield announced June 2017. (Still trading.)|
|Brewery numbers report: Industry publication The Brewery Manual says UK brewery numbers may have peaked, possibly now in decline. (June 2017.)|
|New specialist shop Beer Ambleside, Cumbria spotted June 2017.|