This Saturday morning just gone, my copy of ‘Beer’ dropped on to the door mat, and due to rigourously enforced exclusion zones, didn’t get shredded by the dog. I like ‘Beer’, and clearly others do too – Pete Brown finally joined CAMRA last year because it’s the only decent magazine available on the topic on these shores.
But it was ‘What’s Brewing’ tthat accompanied it that struck me most. ‘Triumphalism’ is too strong – but it’s not far off. The front page: ‘Growing Cask Ale Sales Inspire Confidence’; page 5, an ad for SIBA Beer X, ‘British beer is thriving as never before’… it’s a vein that’s been showing through the skin more and more in recent months. There’s a warm glow emanating off brewers and cask drinkers up and down the line.
It’s like Railway Mania all over again. Look at the facts, if you will. One: the UK economy has been flat lining – going into the sixth consecutive year. Two: beer sales are down. Hellooo? Anyone here me? Down. The on trade was down 5% in the run up to Christmas and it’s accelerating as the annual figure is 3%. Three: it’s because we’re all drinking at home, right? Wrong. The off trade was down 7.5% in the last 3 months of 2012 and almost 5% in the full year. Four: in the last 10 years, the UK beer market has declined by, wait for it, 23%. Twenty Three Per Cent. Five: there are now over 1000 craft brewers in the UK. Six: yet cask beer remains in decline by 2.5% (better in the run up to Christmas 2012 – only down 1.5%)
I draw three conclusions from this:
a) Now is not the time to be opening a new brewery if you have any ambition of scale. The honeymoon but will be lovely but give it a year or two and you’ll be struggling for sales.
b) Behaviour has changed. Beer is no longer recession proof because it’s no longer the default thing we do when we socialise. Breweries need to face the new – repertoire – reality.
c) I intend to enjoy as many interesting beers up and down the land before the next round of consolidation.
So am I? Am I missing something?
*Thanks to Chris at Ashdale Business Consulting for the up to date figures – forgive me Chris if I have used them rather imprecisely, I know what you’re like for your decimal points (www.ashdale-consulting.com)
©Beer Tinted Spectacles, January 2013