On reading that another new brewery was to open in Knaresborough, I gave a sharp intake of breath and wondered. A bit of research revealed that this year alone we have 117 new breweries from all over the country, following on from 107 the previous year. That is one hell of a lot of breweries, and a lot of new beer to shift. In these times, with everyone saying that money is tight, can the market actually support all these new initiatives?
I know some will be older breweries renamed or which have moved to new premises and the like, and I assume they will already have a faithful following. Others are brew pubs who will brew mainly for themselves or just send a small amount into the free trade or festivals, and they too will have a ready made market. If you drink at pub A, and they start brewing, most of their clientele will drink beer brewed on site, and they may even gain a small trade in passing beer 'tickers' wanting to try beer from a new brewery. Possibly a few may move on because they do not like the beer, but many of us are faithful to a pub, rather than the beer, and will adapt our taste in time to the new product.
What that leaves is the vast majority of new breweries, so what of them? Although there has been a rise in the number of outlets for cask beer, are there enough to support the great increase in new beer on the market? Of course some are supported by good marketing campaigns (Magic Rock for instance), others by making their mark in the more specialist markets (Brewdog spring to mind), but the rest still have to sell their beer into the free trade. Initially this should not be a problem. Everyone wants to sample beer from a new brewery. But gradually this interest will wain and the brewery will need a consistent source of drinkers to support their endeavour, some times this will work (as with Mallinsons), but not every brewery will manage.
However, when I checked my source (actually Quaffale) to compare closures with openings, I discovered that less than 25 have closed in the last two years, which surprised me somewhat. Looking closer, only two have closed within two years of opening, and several have closed to reopen under different names, or at different locations (or possibly relocated to provide more brewing capacity). Maybe my pessimism was misplaced, maybe brewing is one of the few industries on the rise in these difficult times. If this is the case long may it continue, and lets get out and support these new breweries. I am more than happy to give my money to a small cask ale brewer rather than spend it at a supermarket on a cheaper, and usually, less good product from a large multi national. But that is another issue for another time.
Thanks to Will for tidying this post up.