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Craft brewers hammered by lockdown

Added: Friday, April 17th 2020

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Results released today from a survey of small independent breweries across the UK show on average beer sales are down by 82% since the outbreak of Covid-19, with many businesses struggling to survive. 

8 out of 10 brewers do not believe the government is doing enough to support them with more than half (54%) of the UK’s independent breweries being unable to access any government support. Nearly a third (29%) are now considering redundancies.

Despite beer production being part of the food supply chain -- meaning brewers are designated key workers -- with pubs, bars and restaurants closed the main route to market for independent breweries has been entirely cut-off, leading to 65% of breweries stopping production altogether. 

The survey of 282 UK breweries by the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) reveals the devastating impact of the Covid-19 lockdown measures on one of the UK’s most successful manufacturing industries.

“Unlike the global beer brands who can supply supermarkets in great volume, small independent breweries sell the majority of their beer through pubs, bars and restaurants, meaning the lockdown measures have hit them much harder. While many have launched local delivery services or online shops to try to stay afloat, the increase in online sales is a drop in the ocean compared to the overall decrease their beer sales have seen” said James Calder, SIBA’s Chief Executive.

“Pubs, bars and restaurants have been receiving help from the government, but none of the same schemes apply to our small breweries who saw their sales fall off a cliff almost overnight. They urgently need a package of measures to keep them going otherwise many won’t be able to reopen.”

The survey shows that 70% of breweries are offering new delivery or takeaway services in order to help supply their local communities with quality independent craft beer, with around 61% of those breweries now offering free delivery to local beer lovers. 

SIBA are calling on the overnment to relax licensing laws to allow the 1 in 4 breweries who don’t have the relevant licences in place to deliver beer direct to consumers in a variety of ways. The trade association say this should come as part of a targeted package of support for breweries and the brewery supply chain to match the level received by pubs, including making the grants and exemptions from business rates offered to pubs applicable to breweries. 

In addition beer duty payments, which are often a brewers single biggest cost which account for 35% of turnover should be deferred by the government to help weather this storm. 

The trade association is also working with beer consumer group CAMRA on the "Pulling Together" initiative, which links independent breweries and pubs offering beer delivery and takeaway services with beer lovers across the UK.

Commenting on new SIBA figures showing craft beer sales have dropped 82% during the COVID-19 lockdown, CAMRA Chief Executive Tom Stainer said: 

“The stark figures released by SIBA, which show an 82% drop in craft beer sales since the COVID-19 crisis began, highlights the devastating impact that lockdown is having on the brewing industry.

“Whilst we have seen an explosion in the brewing industry over recent years, this sombre report is a strong warning that the industry will not emerge unchanged from this crisis. Without swift and substantial support, consumer choice will be hard-hit after the lockdown passes.

“Much more needs to be done to support brewers during this time. With their route to markets all but blocked through pub closures, we need to ensure that brewers have the same access to business rate reliefs, loans and grants that is currently available for pubs. We’d also like to see beer duty payments deferred and licensing laws relaxed so that brewers and pubs that only have on sale licenses can sell to the off trade during the crisis.

“Beer drinkers also have a vital role to play in sustaining the breweries they love. We encourage customers to source their beer locally and directly from brewers. CAMRA now has over 2,000 breweries, cideries and pubs offering takeaway and delivery services listed on its Pulling Together page to make this as easy as possible for consumers – simply visit to find out how you can support a brewer near you.”

To find out more, visit www.camra.org.uk/pullingtogether/