The shape of the UK brewing industry has forever been in a state of flux: government legislation, beer duty and consumer preference constantly moulding the trading environment. In the last few years, with the introduction of Progressive Beer Duty (PBD - whereby the smallest brewers with the lowest output pay reduced tax), and the increased interest in localism, there's been a massive increase in the number of small brewers. This new influx of producers punches above it's weight: the total increase in UK production capacity hasn't significantly changed despite 370 new entrants (the vast majority of whom are tiny) yet the cask ale sector has changed from a state of stagnation (at best) to one of real vibrancy. The innovation and enthusiasm from the small brewers has struck a chord with the public (you and me) and everyone who produces great, tasty beer is benefiting, whether large or small.
You can read all about it here.
Fantastic! you'd think. But it ain't that rosey in this garden of UK brewers. You see, to those longer established players the increase in numbers looks pretty scary - 400 eight years ago, 770 now. Nevermind that the entire production of the small, PBD entitled section of the industry produces less beer than just one of their number, that appears not to have sunk in. What has piqued the interest of these more conservative brewers is simply the numbers (c'mon, 370 is a big number), and some anecdotal evidence/excuse given them by their free trade sales reps' struggling to sell: 'more micro-brewers, undercutting us'.
The upshot is that there is a growing group of larger brewers being cajoled into briefing against the small guys, and they're redoubling efforts to lobby this new government for change. We've tried negotiation - we want industry unity, *I* want it desperately - but, this evening, it looks like they simply want rid of us.
Have no fear, they won't get their way. I just wanted to let you know that I had a shit day today trying, and failing, to reconcile. There is a reasonable possibility that you'll hear more about this in the future, unfortunately.