At home and abroad, the demand for British craft beer is booming, with 2015 looking set to be a bumper year for independent British brewers.
With the recent news headlines reporting that an average of 31 pubs close each week, it seems surprising that demand for beer is increasing, and yet the figures show that it is.
A recent report by the Society of Independent Brewers found that craft beer production actually increased by 7% last year, and trade body Camra reports that the number of British breweries has doubled over the last four years.
So what’s driving this growth in British brewing? Well, there’s an increased consumer demand to know where our food and drink comes from, a drive to shop organic and shop local. There’s also growing demand from abroad for British beers, with HMRC reporting that 20.6 extra British pints were exported in 2013 compared to 2012.
Perhaps most importantly, since 2002 small businesses in this sector have enjoyed a lower tax rate than their larger counterparts, making it easier to get off the ground.
Despite increased consumer demand for British-made spirits, the market has been relatively flat in recent years, with analysts attributing this to static pricing – in turn dependent on the high duty currently charged on spirits.
If independent distillers enjoyed the same progressive tax rates as independent breweries, we could expect this market to grow in a similar way, and The Craft Gin Club has launched a campaign to achieve just that.
The Small Duties for Small Distillers petition points out that duty accounts for as much as 69% of the price of a bottle of gin, and 79% of a bottle of whisky. With a little government support, craft distilleries would have the same chance to grow as British micro-breweries.
So why do we love craft beer and spirits so much? The very nature of a “crafted” drink means that it’s not mass produced. Brewers have often experimented with the beers they produce, and drinkers are often a part of that journey giving feedback on the product over time. Craft drinks often use high quality natural ingredients to achieve a particular flavour, and there’s an emphasis on sourcing locally that appeals to modern consumers.
Yorkshire gin producer Masons is a perfect example of this ethos – their gin went through a long process of experimentation before the perfect recipe was found. Using Harrogate Spring Water and juniper from their own bushes it really is a local product, and lots of care and attention goes into the distilling process. Masons gin is distilled in small 200 litre batches and each bottle is hand-labelled with its unique batch and bottle number. This distinctive spirit is stocked by independent retailers across the UK, and we’re proud to have them as a member of The Great British Exchange.
Small producers of craft beers and spirits offer something that large breweries don’t – the ability to experiment, to get feedback from real-life drinkers and to source their ingredients locally – and this appeals to a wide range of consumers in the UK and abroad. We’ll be signing the Small Duties for Small Distillers petition so our brilliant distillers enjoy the same support as our brewers, and in the meantime we’ll keep enjoying our local craft drinks!
Beer Photo © 2009 J. Ronald Lee