UK Brewery Numbers and Employment

Watney's brewery staff, 1977.

The boom in the number of breweries in the UK has caused a buzz but isn’t the only important number: how many people are actually employed in making beer?

We pondered this question back in 2013 and it came up again recently in discussion at Jeffrey ‘Stonch’ Bell’s blog.

So we finally got out the copy of the BBPA Statistical Handbook 2012 we borrowed from Beer Today 18 months ago (sorry, Darren — we owe you several pints and your book back) and added some more recent numbers from the Business Register and Employment Survey (BRES) 2012 (revised) and the BBPA website to come up with this table:

Thousands employed in making beer (excl. malting) No. of Brewing Companies
1995 19.8 481
2000 19.5 500
2006 14.8 642
2007 13.9 667
2008 13.9 725
2009 15.1 745
2010 14 824
2012 13.4 1252

That suggests that, though there are more breweries than there have been since before World War II, the number of people employed in the industry is shrinking. In fact, we can put a rough number on it: in 1995, there were approximately 41.2 employees per brewery (EPB); in 2012, that was down to 10.7.

As to why that EPB number might have fallen, consider the picture illustrating this post: it’s from 1977 and shows men from Watney’s Mortlake brewery employed in the bottling hall, bottled beer transport division, road safety, the building department, draught beer transport… And there was a permanent team producing newsletters and magazines.

This isn’t necessarily bad news but it’s something to chew on.

Knowing our luck with dates and numbers lately, we’ve probably made a catastrophic miscalculation above. Let us know if/when you spot it in the comments below and we’ll fix it ASAP.

9 thoughts on “UK Brewery Numbers and Employment”

  1. That is an interesting article (and yes, the number of bloggers employed by breweries is certainly way up from 1995!).

    Even since 2012 there have been even more breweries launched in the UK, like ours. We originally started out in 2013 with 3 people, one of whom was part time, and an additional brewhand who would help out once or twice a week. Now there’s 12 of us, all earning the London Living Wage or more and only 1 of us part-time. It’s interesting when I speak with some other folks who work in other breweries and they’re like, that’s huge, but it doesn’t really seem like it, because we’re all pretty busy. I think we’re a small-to-medium micro, if that makes any sense, because I can think of a handful of breweries bigger than us outside of the regionals, and many more who are smaller than us.

    I’d expect the number of brewing companies to continue to go up for 2013 and 2014 figures, and it’s very likely that they’ll only have two or three people at first. But if they grow half as much as we have in the two years we’ve been going, that’s still a tidy growth in jobs in an industry that doesn’t show signs of slowing anytime soon.

      1. OK, my brain’s a bit fried at this time of day, but barrels-produced figures from the BBPA handbook are:

        1994-95 34,928,000
        1999-00 35,843,000
        2005-06 34,238,000
        2006-07 30,411,000
        2007-08 30,411,000
        2008-09 29,308,000
        2009-10 27,467,000
        2010-11 27,967,000
        2011-12 28,323,000

        Which I *think* means that, in 1995, there were 1764 barrels brewed per person employed (BPPE) while in 2012, that figure was 2113 BPPE.

        Or, to look at that another way, there were 5.6 jobs per barrel (JBP) in 1995; in 2012, it was down to 4.73.

        But someone (maybe Boak when she gets home from work) should probably check my sums.

  2. Brewery size is an important number in determining employment levels, and I would hazard a guess that a 1995 era brewery was on average a much larger concern than the brewpubs and railway arch micros that are padding out the 2013-15 brewery growth numbers.

    I would hazard a guess that larger breweries are more staff efficient per hectolitre too; investment in the brew house starts to show a lot of benefits at scale.

  3. I visited one of the largest breweries in Norway a few weeks back, and the head brewer there said that to run the actual brewery a full shift needed only three people. Of course there’s QA, marketing, sales, logistics, shipping, etc as well, so the actual payroll is a lot bigger, but even so it was quite striking. Small wonder the number of employees.

  4. Ignoring the fact that a lot will be automated these days, surely the obvious reason is there are more breweries, but they’re smaller and employ fewer people. I daresay those breweries from 1995 were big beer houses with mega payrolls…whereas there are many more smaller breweries these days, many of which will only employ a few people? The majority now are probably SMEs, whereas back in the 90s I daresay they were mostly LSEs. Just a guess!

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