News, nuggets and longreads 27 April 2019: numbers, mild, cult beer frenzy

Here’s everything that struck as as noteworthy in writing about beer and pubs in the past week, from brewery numbers to the possible decline of lager.

Like many other commentators, we’ve taken the total number of UK breweries, and the amount by which it increases each year, as an at least partially useful indicator of the vigour of the craft beer boom. According to a new report from accountancy firm UHY, that growth might finally have begun to slow:

The craft beer boom in the UK has slowed sharply in the last year with the total number of breweries increasing by just 8 versus the 390 added in prior twelve months, our research shows… The total number of UK breweries reached to 2,274 at the end of 2018, up from 1,352 five years ago… The craft beer market has become difficult for new entrants as multinational brewers continue to buy and invest the more successful “craft” breweries. The huge levels of investment that the multinationals then deploy through their “craft” subsidiaries throw up barriers of entry against other entrants. The multinationals have been attracted by the high growth rates in the craft beer market and the premium pricing they can achieve.

(This story got a bit mangled in the retelling by some news outlets which, tending to prefer stories of either total triumph or dreadful doom, reported that only eight new breweries had opened in the past year.)


Related news: the total number of pubs continues to decline at a rate equivalent to 76 closures per month, but the rate of closures is quite clearly slowing.


Another nugget of news, unfortunately from behind a paywall: financial news service MergerMarket reports that both Truman’s and Five Points are actively courting investors or partners. There’s nothing we can link to at this stage but, well, keep your eyes peeled for further news.


Weyerbacher logo.

For BrewBound Justin Kendall offers comment on the struggles of yet another early-wave American craft brewery, Weyerbacher:

Most of Weyerbacher’s financial issues stem from a 2014 expansion project that cost $2 million and included the addition of a 40-barrel brewhouse. Over the years, however, the company dealt with increased competition — particularly in the pumpkin beer category — as it struggled to grow sales and pay down debt.

“We were expecting to see double-digit growth for a number of years … and with the market saturation that happened in pumpkin and all of those other things, that just didn’t pan out,” [Josh Lampe] said.

The market saturation that happened in pumpkin! What a time to be alive.


Illustration: beer bottles.

For Drinks Retailing News Anthony Gladman has produced a fascinating piece on the struggle of independent bottle shops to attain supplies of the most sought after beers:

“Anything DIPA or hazy goes really fast,” says Dan Sandy, manager of east London craft beer store Kill The Cat. Beers from Cloudwater, Verdant and Deya are subject to fierce competition because they will draw in customers and drive sales of other beers once people are through the shop door.

“Everyone wants Deya cans but it’s not making very many,” says Jen Ferguson, co-owner of Hop Burns & Black, a craft beer retailer in south east London. “The number of Deya cans making it through to the distributors is very small.”

Another example is Nottingham brewery Neon Raptor. Alex Fitzpatrick, co-owner of Brixton bottle shop Ghost Whale, found its beers became hard to get hold of seemingly overnight. “What happened? Who pressed the button that gave it this magic rainbow aura around everything it does?”


Beer being poured, from an old advertisement.

With CAMRA’s declaration of May as the month of mild in mind, Ron Pattinson has taken a look at how beer style come in and out of favour:

When styles start to decline, it can happen surprisingly quickly. It always kicks off the same way: young drinkers don’t adopt it. Then a style begins to be associated with old men. And no-one wants to drink what granddad’s drinking… Lager sales really took off in the late 1970s. The young drinkers who adopted it back then are now around 60. How long before Lager becomes associated with old blokes?


Generic beer pumps in photocopy style.

One of the upsides to putting this round-up together slightly later than usual is that it meant we caught a post from this very morning by the Pub Curmudgeon in which the details of various regional quirks of dispense from the 1970s-90s are recalled:

But, in the 1960s and 70s, if you went in the average pub across much of the Midlands and North, you would be likely to be served your beer in an oversize glass with a thick head reaching almost to the top, whereas in the South you would get beer from a handpump with a head no more than a quarter of an inch deep, or often just a thin coating of foam on the top. It’s also worth adding that, in the South, you would often get keg beer with little or no head as well. Getting a pint a totally flat-looking beer with plenty of CO2 still dissolved in it was a touch disconcerting.


And finally, from Twitter, one of those too-neat explanations that nonetheless sort of, maybe, kind of, checks out:

For more links and commentary check out Stan Hieronymus on Monday and Alan McLeod on Thursday.

One thought on “News, nuggets and longreads 27 April 2019: numbers, mild, cult beer frenzy”

  1. On that last point – as I heard it, it wasn’t a stutter (it’d be ‘toe-total’ in that case, surely) but a particularly militant strand of the total abstinence movement proclaiming that they stood for “capital T Total abstinence”. “Capital T Total” -> “T Total” -> “teetotal”.

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