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UK craft brewery openings hit record levels

Published:  15 March, 2021

Flying in the face of on-trade closures during the pandemic, the number of craft breweries operating in the UK has reached levels not seen since 1930s.

The number of UK breweries grew by 7.5% during 2020, despite the closures of pubs, bars and restaurants, to reach over 3,000, according to new research from accounting firm UHY Hacker Young,

The research found that 55 new breweries opened during the first lockdown (16 March to 1 June) alone, suggesting that the closure of on-trade “may even have acted as a catalyst for some entrepreneurs to start new brewing businesses”.

The research also noted that the loss of sales via hospitality had led to many breweries finding alternative, direct to consumer and ecommerce routes to market.

A Society of Independent Brewers report in in April 2020, however, had found that 30% of independent breweries were still not offering direct-to-consumer delivery or takeaway services.

Some of the wave of new independent brewers is believed to have been driven by the continued interest by big brewers in purchasing the former once established, both making the sector an investable opportunity and raising the profile further of craft beers.

“Growth in breweries during a very difficult period for the drinks industry is a positive sign. Entrepreneurs clearly feel confident in the prospects for a bounce back once pubs and bars can open again,” said James Simmonds, partner at UHY Hacker Young.

“There is also the prospect of an exit to a major brewer if you can build a valuable brand,” he added.

“With the closure of pubs and bars, smaller breweries have had to adapt to direct-to-consumer models. As hospitality begins to reopen, these new breweries will need to build on the momentum they have created through their direct-to-consumer sales.”