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Breweries open as pubs shut

News, 12 August 2015
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LONDON: A new brewery is opening in the UK every two days as the craft beer boom continues, but British pubs, frequently depicted as being at the heart of a local community, are shutting at the rate of 29 a week.

The Great British Beer Festival currently taking place in London features products from more than 350 British breweries, including many microbreweries that have sprung up in recent years to cater to a new generation of drinkers that has shunned the mass-produced offerings of the brewing giants.

The extent of the shift was noted by officialdom earlier this year when the Office for National Statistics added craft beers to the basket of goods it uses to calculate inflation.

"The upsurge in craft beer has a lot to do with the huge increase in the numbers of brewers," according to beer sommelier Sophie Atherton. "There is simply much more beer around for people to try," she told the Guardian.

The internet and social media, Atherton added, had also spawned "an unofficial army of beer ambassadors" sharing information about their favourite tipples.

Craft beers and locally produced beers are now the fastest growing segment of the overall beer market, with supermarkets stepping in to fill part of the distribution gap that has resulted from pub closures.

Enterprising start-ups are also copying the example of the wine market, delivering curated boxes of different craft beers to buyers' homes or workplaces.

Researcher Mintel has observed that craft beers tend to be associated with a higher alcohol by volume (ABV), which drinks analyst Jonny Forsyth remarked was at odds with a recent government initiative where major brewers have voluntarily reduced the strength of some popular UK beer brands.

He suggested that drinkers needed to be offered more options to avoid a backlash against higher-strength beers.

"People want choices and for many consumers high ABV beers too quickly take them over the recommended drinking limit," he told The Drinks Business.

Meanwhile, pubs seeking to pull in punters need to look beyond entertainments such as quizzes and sporting events on TV. A recent survey by an audiovisual equipment supplier found that what was most likely to attract customers was live music.

Data sourced from The Guardian, The Drinks Business; additional content by Warc staff

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