UK. Craft beer defies downturn

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Locally-brewed craft beers are continuing to defy the economic downturn and the long-term decline in beer drinking, according to a new industry report.
The Local Brewing Industry Report 2011, published earlier this month by the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA), revealed that volumes for independent brewers grew 9% in 2010.
While the overall beer market suffered a 3.9% decline, volumes among SIBA members grew by 8.8%. It wasn’t just volumes that improved either – the sheer variety of local beer expanded with many straying into different styles and broadening beyond cask into keg.
SIBA members are producing around 2,500 cask beer brands a year, 3,500 seasonal ales and 1,750 bottled brands, compared to just 300 in 1976.
However, the report also warns of a real threat to the future of this thriving industry – the punitive duty charged on beer in the on-trade, which is damaging the pubs that local brewers both depend upon and support.
Julian Grocock, SIBA chief executive, said: “Local brewers are just the kind of business this government has been saying it wants to see succeed. They create jobs for local people, contribute to the local and wider British economy by using home-grown ingredients such as barley, and have impeccable environmental credentials.
“It is time for the government to become more ‘joined up’ in its approach to taxation across the brewing and pubs industries.
“Introducing a lower VAT rate across the hospitality sector, and scrapping the duty escalator, would help to bring customers back to into pubs – helping to keep them, and the local breweries, in business and providing jobs at a time when they are sorely needed.”
Grocock concluded: “It’s hard to think of another industry where pride and passion for a product, coupled with consumer demand and appropriate fiscal support from government, have resulted in such a marked transformation in its fortunes.
“We urge the government to think long and hard before making any decisions which could jeopardise the prospects for our young, vibrant sector and of the pubs upon which it depends.”