The impact of the craft beer revolution is being felt in pubs right across the UK and not just in its London headland, Good Beer Guide editor Roger Protz has told MCA.
While London pubs are leading the way on craft beer, Northern cities like Leeds, Newcastle, Manchester were also benefiting from a surge interest in new beer styles, spurred by an explosion in smaller independent breweries.
Speaking as CAMRA’s 2017 edition of the Good Beer Guide was launched yesterday, Protz said though pubs were closing and Brits were spending less on beer, a plethora of modern bars were opening in their place, with drinkers spending more on higher quality brews.
Calling for an end to bad feeling in the cask verses keg debate and insisting “good beer is good beer”, Protz admitted CAMRA has reached out to the younger generation with its 2017 edition after a period of soul-searching.
The beer author warned that rather than generational infighting, the real threat was from global brewing giants looking to muscle in on the craft market.
“Leeds, Newcastle, Manchester Scotland – the effects of craft beer are really being felt all over the country”, he said.
“I know pubs are sadly closing, but as we show in the guide lots of new bars are opening that do very well selling cask beer and newer kegged styles.
“The reason the global brewers are moving in is because the sales of their beers are declining and they’re looking at a growing market that they wish to get involved in.”
Protz doubted whether big brewers could do a good job producing craft beer because of their relentless focus on cost-cutting.
“The thrust of giant brewers is to produce beer as cheaply as possible”, he said. “They always want to take the costs out of production, which is totally against the ethos of modern craft brewing to use the best possible ingredients.”
He commended Stonegate for giving publicans freedom over their beer lists – while criticising Punch and Enterprise for stifling choice.
And he said research included in the guide predicted massive growth for real ale over the next four years.
“Beavertown in Tottenham have gone from 1,000HL a year 50,000HL in just five years which is a phenomenal rate of growth. Brewdog are opening not only in the States but around the world.
“Brits aren’t actually drinking any more beer, overall sales have declined, but they are drinking better quality beer, and spending more money on it, there is no doubt
“The big threat from big global brewers muscling on the craft sector is that they will undercut their rivals with cheaper beer.”
Citing the example of Camden Town Brewery selling to Ab InBev, he said it might be hard for small breweries to resist the lure of a £85m cheque.
Meanwhile, with a divide emerging between the younger generation spearheaded craft styles and the older more traditional real ale purists of CAMRA, Protz said it was time for the two sides to untie.
“CAMRA is having a very long hard look at its own role and function. We realise we’ve got reach out to younger people”, he said.
“My view is very simple – good beer is good beer, whether it’s cask conditioned or made in a different way by new craft brewers. There shouldn’t be any bad feelings between us. The real threat is the global brewers.
“With the new Good Beer Guide we’ve included lots of modern bars, and popup particular in Manchester. We’re not died in the wool at all. There’s something that appeal to all age groups.”