UK brewery numbers defy 'industry challenges' but Scotland suffers dip

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UK brewery numbers remain “relatively stable” despite industry challenges, though Scotland has recorded a small decline, new industry figures reveal.

The SIBA UK Brewery Tracker, produced by not-for-profit trade association the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA), tracks new brewery openings and closures across the UK to give net numbers both regionally and nationally. Covering the period from the start of January to the end of March, the latest tracker shows some regions increasing their net brewery number, and overall the UK figure is down by just four on the start of 2023. South-west and north-east England each had a decline in their overall brewery numbers of two, with Scotland registering a decline of one.

There are now 1,824 breweries in the UK, with 145 of them in Scotland, according to the report.

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SIBA chief executive Andy Slee said: “It is very positive to see some areas of the UK now in growth and a national figure which has beaten the odds to remain relatively stable, despite the challenges faced by brewers. With rising raw material and utility costs, alongside existing market access issues, far too many small breweries are closing but the figures paint a much better picture than many predicted. Small breweries have a hugely positive impact on their local community, providing jobs, raising money for charity, supporting local initiatives and providing access to the freshly-brewed local beers that are now in such demand across the UK. All small independent breweries deserve your support.”

The SIBA Craft Beer Report, launched last month, revealed that 40 per cent of independent craft breweries now have a taproom (up 10 percentage points on 2022) and that, on average, 27 per cent of an independent brewery’s income now comes from sales direct to consumers via their taprooms, brewery shop or web shop - a big increase for an industry historically heavily reliant on pub sales.

According to the latest tracker figures, Wales leads the UK in terms of brewery growth, with their net number rising by five, while the west of England saw the needle swing in the opposite direction, with figures falling by four overall. This was mirrored in south-east England, an area which has seen a huge growth in breweries in recent years, who also registered a decline of four in the first quarter.

The tracker is compiled by full-time staff employed by the Society of Independent Brewers and is cross-referenced by SIBA regional directors in each of the eight SIBA regions across the UK. The organisation said it considers a number of factors and data sources alongside its own data analysis and “extensive research”.

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Slee added: “It is clear that demand is there from drinkers for great quality beer from local breweries, but getting those beers onto bars and into the hands of consumers can be tough in a competitive market. It’s the reason why so many breweries are now opening community taprooms where they can serve brewery-fresh beer directly to local people.”

He pointed to recent consumer polling which showed that eight out of ten people believe a well-run independent brewery has a positive effect on their local community.

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