Recipe for a brewing boom

Foaming pint of homebrew.

We’re mak­ing good progress on our book and, as we leave the nine­teen-sev­en­ties behind us, we’ve been read­ing up about the ear­ly 1980s UK brew­ing boom. In inter­views with brew­ers, one theme crops up time and time again, as in this report from 1983: ‘Rais­ing their glass­es to suc­cess yes­ter­day were three redun­dant brew­ery work­ers and them man who helped them get back into busi­ness… Now THEY are the boss­es of Britain’s newest brew­ery – Aston Manor in Birm­ing­ham.(Dai­ly Express, 20 May.)

The theme we’re talk­ing about is, of course, redun­dan­cy.

At the very start of 1980, Britain offi­cial­ly entered a fif­teen month reces­sion. That year saw a huge bump in the num­ber of redun­dan­cies, from 187,000 in 1979 to 494,000. Here’s one of those love­ly graphs show­ing redun­dan­cies in thou­sands dur­ing this peri­od.

Great Britain redun­dan­cies (thou­sands) 1977–1985. Source: fig­ures pro­vid­ed inBritain’s Redun­dan­cy pay­ments for dis­placed work­ers’, Lawrence S Root, Uni­ver­si­ty of Michi­gan, Month­ly Labor Review, June 1987.

And here’s a graph show­ing new brew­ery open­ings in the same peri­od.

New brew­eries in the UK 1977 to 1985. Sources: New Beer Guide, Bri­an Glover, 1988 (1977–1982); (1983–1985).

The sources for that last chart are flaky, and we’ve got a lot more research to do into the cir­cum­stances behind the found­ing of the 100 or so new brew­eries that appeared between 1980 and 1983, but it’s prob­a­bly not going too far to say that the sud­den boom in brew­eries coin­cides exact­ly with the high­est peak of redun­dan­cies, is it?

On a sim­i­lar note, and also on our to do list, can it be a coin­ci­dence that the most recent boom in brew­ery num­bers occured in the wake of the 2008 glob­al finan­cial cri­sis?

(We are, by the way, slow­ly work­ing our way through edi­tions of the CAMRA Good Beer Guide to com­pile our data­base of brew­ery open­ings by year, which we’ll make avail­able for oth­ers to use once its done.)

14 thoughts on “Recipe for a brewing boom”

  1. We are, by the way, slow­ly work­ing our way through edi­tions of the CAMRA Good Beer Guide to com­pile our data­base of brew­ery open­ings by year, which we’ll make avail­able for oth­ers to use once its done”

    I think you will find that Quaf­fale has beat­en you to it.

    1. Quaf­fale is a great resource but their num­bers don’t agree with, e.g., Bri­an Glover’s from 1988, so we’re doomed to have to go back and make our own count, just to be sure. Unless we’re miss­ing some­thing, they don’t make their data avail­able in an eas­i­ly down­load­able for­mat, either, do they…?

      1. You’re quite right – and a user friend­ly down­load­able resoures would be huge­ly use­ful and full cred­it to you guys for putting in the hours to bring it about.

        Of course there are always one or two obscure micros that slip through the net. One is the Roy­al George pub at Lin­gen in deep­est rur­al Here­ford­shire that brewed briefly in the 1980s (I was told this by some­one who went there at the time). I’ll see if I can unearth any­thing more about this for you.

  2. Inter­est­ing you quote Aston Manor. I have been there – on busi­ness – the peo­ple are very nice but they nev­er real­ly went for decent beer, end­ing out doing super­mar­ket white cider for pis­sheads amongst oth­er stuff. Good busi­ness mod­el, rub­bish prod­ucts (IMHO).

    1. Well, they must be nice peo­ple, “At Aston Manor, we whole­heart­ed­ly sup­port the drinkaware guide­lines”. Frosty Jack­’s one of theirs isn’t it?

    1. (Peers expec­tant­ly over half-moon glass­es.) Shall we put you down for, say… ten copies?

  3. I know as a fact that the 2008 cri­sis is to a great extent the engine of the micro­brew­ing boom in Spain, as the 2001–2002 was in Argenti­na (though, the sharp deval­u­a­tion of the local cur­ren­cy also played a non-insignif­i­cant role)

    1. Inter­est­ing. More graphs to fol­low in the com­ing weeks, plot­ting glob­al and UK eco­nom­ic fac­tors against brew­ery found­ing dates. Sus­pect we’ll see a boom after the late 1980s/90s reces­sion, too.

  4. Hav­ing recent­ly com­piled a cat­a­logue of (hope­ful­ly) every cur­rent brew­er in Wales, I appre­ci­ate the dif­fi­cul­ty of what you’ve achieved. My sources includ­ed the Micro­brew­ers’ Hand­book, Quaf­fale and the Good Beer Guide (the lat­ter for num­bers only) and none of their end fig­ures tal­lied up with mine.

    So I won­der if there’s a dif­fer­ence in def­i­n­i­tion? Does the Good Beer Guide have cer­tain exclu­sions, eg brew­pubs and/or micro­brew­eries?

  5. John – thanks!

    Craig – we havent achieved it yet. Still slog­ging through sources dig­ging out dates and details, such as which consultants/brew kit sup­pli­er each brew­ery used (Bill Urquhart, Peter Austin and Inn Brew­ing com­mon names so far).

    What prob­a­bly con­fus­es things is:

    1. def­i­n­i­tion of ‘brew­ery’ – some include home­brew houses/brewpubs, while oth­ers don’t
    2. def­i­n­i­tion of ‘new’ – quite a few were relaunch­es, re-open­ings or renam­ings
    3. ‘real ale’ sta­tus – some (not tons) only sold beer under pres­sure, or keg beer, so are in some lists but not oth­ers.

    As for start­ing dates, you’ve got a choice of com­pa­ny incor­po­ra­tion; when they actu­al­ly began trad­ing; or their first men­tion in the press (some­times the only date there is to go on).

    1. We do! We’ve also man­aged to get in touch with Ian who has very kind­ly giv­en us fur­ther infor­ma­tion on some of his sources *and* sent us scans of arti­cles from his scrap­books. (We def­i­nite­ly owe him a pint.)

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