Making the most of drinktec

Your week in Munich is only partially about what's in the exhibition halls ...
read more

Exhibitors: what’s hot at drinktec

There are 1,500 stories to be told. Here are some of the most compelling...
read more

More Features >


Three buses

Genuine marketing innovations are rare - here's three to start '16...
read more

20:20 vision: take the over

Craft beer growth is unstoppable unless definition concerns trip it up...
read more

More Opinions >

Home | News | Craft Brewers | Report: UK brewery numbers peaked

Report: UK brewery numbers peaked

Font size: Decrease font Enlarge font
A blip or the start of a slow decline in numbers?

Openings and closures equivalent for 2016

The rapid growth in the number of breweries in the UK may be coming to an end. Research undertaken by The Brewery Manual for its latest edition has found that the total number of brewers has stabilised after years of sometimes spectacular growth in numbers.

Manual researchers endeavoured to contact and interview virtually each and every brewer in the United Kingdom to arrive at a definitive number of commercially operational national, regional and craft/micro brewers. At of the end of calendar year 2016, the total was 1,544.

Of these the majority were smaller producers, brewing less than 30,000 hectolitres (18,330 barrels) annually, 1,505 in total.

And after a six year surge in brewery openings, 2016 may have marked the high water mark of brewery numbers in the UK.

Sixty breweries were identified that began operations during the calendar year, a considerably lower number than the 100-plus totals recorded each year from 2010 to 2015.

Against this there were 58 breweries that ceased operations during 2016. And when breweries reporting that they have suspended brewing but remain in business are considered, for the first time since the introduction of Progressive Beer Duty in 2002 there is a decline in the number of operational breweries.

“After years of rapid expansion in numbers the industry has been due for a correction,” said Brewery Manual publisher Larry Nelson.

“Stabilisation of brewery numbers in 2016 may be a blip, or it could be the start of a slow contraction in brewery numbers. The early numbers for 2017 openings suggest that this may be the start of a slowdown in new brewery growth.

“That isn’t necessarily a bad thing for craft. When the American craft brewing industry underwent a contraction in numbers at the end of the 1990s demand for craft beer continued to rise year-on-year.

“The same dynamic is true for the UK: underlying demand from beer drinkers for new beers and new beer styles remains undiminished. In terms of brewing creativity we live in a golden age for the industry.”

The Brewery Manual’s enumeration of commercially operational breweries has been welcomed by the Society of Independent Brewers.

SIBA membership director Tony Jerome said, “Recognising that different authorities arrive at their estimates on different dates and assumptions, we applaud The Brewery Manual's definition of a brewery having to sell beer commercially. This research project seems to us to be the most reliable data source available.

“From these figures, SIBA estimates that we represent 80% of the beer produced by independent breweries brewing under 200,000hl. This does show that SIBA is the true voice of Britain's independent brewers.”

Attitudes remain upbeat

The Brewery Manual’s annual survey of craft brewer attitudes found that despite pressure on margins, a decreasing number of pubs and unprecedented of competition, a record number felt that their businesses would perform better in 2017 than in 2016.

Fully 77.5% said that 2017 would prove to be better for their businesses than the previous year. Against this only 1.5% said business would be worse and 21% said that 2017 would prove to be the same as 2016.

The finding is based on a survey of 120 randomly selected brewers who were interviewed by Brewery Manual researchers.


The Brewery Manual is published annually by Advantage Publishing Ltd, owners of Brewers’ Guardian.


The Beer World Cup

Rate this article