Saturday, 16 October 2010


The UK beer and pub industry is in terminal decline with sales falling rapidly. It started in the early nineties, at a time when operators all but turned their backs on the great British brewing industry (the only one in the world to have perfected the art of brewing tasty beer below 5%), preferring instead to heavily promote Australian lager and Irish stout (highly profitable beer of minimal taste). And whilst this decline appears to have accelerated in the past few years, a surprising hero is emerging: cask ale. Form is temporary but class is permanent and cask is class (ask *any* brewer).

Fresh, tasty cask ale is beer that we are worthy of and, across the country, across the sexes and across the generations we're beginning to learn this. The surest way of getting a pint of fresh, tasty cask ale is in a local pub from a local brewery: this kind of beer does not suit extended supply chains and therefore does not suit centralised production.

The shape of the industry is changing, shifting towards the lower end, to the smaller producer, and for very good reason: the consumers' best interest. As with any rate of change though, it's too fast for some; regional producers, fat on the tied house system, have become too big, their supply chains too complicated and their beer ubiquitous and uninteresting to the growing band of enthusiastic cask ale converts. These producers will resist the change rather than embrace it and you, the consumer, will persuade them otherwise, eventually.

So come on Mr & Mrs Regional Brewer, look at your business model, accept it needs to change and get on and do it, for your own sake. The people are finding fresh beer and loving it and you can't put that Genie back in the bottle.


Unknown said...

I once suggested to a regional brewer that he could install brewplants into some of his flagship pubs, so provide his main beer range alongside more seasonal/experimental offerings.

He looked as me as if I'd suggested molesting his grandchildren.

Eddie said...

To be fair, Sheps have a 4 bbrl pilot plant they brew in twice a week for that purpose. The senior brewer loves it with a passion - I'm not sure the directors have been won over yet.