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Competition’s a terror, eh?

Rise in UK breweries going bust amid thirst for cheaper craft beers
45 breweries, mostly smaller makers, enter insolvency in last 12 months, up from 15 the previous year

25 thoughts on “Competition’s a terror, eh?”

  1. There’s just too many people. The male version of a little Cotswold bookshop. I’ve met people who were thinking of doing it, even though they had never even worked in brewing. Were going to sink redundancy cheques into a brewery. I tried to talk them out of it. Definitely succeeded with one, not sure about the other two.

    Brewing’s a scale thing. Wadworth, Fuller etc run well because when you treble capacity, you don’t treble the people. The only way to compete as a small brewer is to find a niche, like porters, flavoured beers etc. But that got exhausted in the 1990s.

  2. Competition sure, but rampant inflation and a population with lower disposable income can’t help.

    Gin distilleries will be next.

  3. And cos ‘craft beer’ is a fashion thing, most of which tastes like crap. Over-hopped, over-hyped and over-priced.
    The cool kids are drinking Madri now (which is equally shite).

  4. In olden days retired footballers often wanted to run a pub. Do they now become micro-brewers? I quite like the idea of Mr Haaland as a micro-brewer.

  5. Peter Storey ex Arsenal midfielder was just duch a footballer who owned a pub. He went down for a few years for laundering the proceeds of a bank job.

    Being a Viking type Haaland will probably go into the mead business.

  6. Jimmers – I much prefer today’s widespread availability of craft beer / real ale to the shit on offer in most pubs when I first started drinking in the late 80s. I agree there’s too many over-hopped US IPA-style beers but that’s probably just a phase.

    My home town now has at least two breweries established within the past 20 years selling excellent beer in the British style. Both brew lower alcohol ‘session ales’ which I’d like to see more of.

  7. MC,

    “Gin distilleries will be next.”

    As Jimmers says, there’s a lot of fashion to this. I’ve tried fancy gins, and once you add tonic, ice and a wedge of lime they all taste about the same to me. I have supermarket premium gin at home or Gordon’s/Beefeater when I’m out.

  8. Small gin distilleries are already closing down.

    Now that the novelty has worn off (remember “craft gin of the month” clubs?) people are reluctant to pay £35-40 when a large number will drown any individual taste by mixing it with flavoured tonics from FeverTree etc.

    I’m not decrying the tonics, many are extremely pleasant on a warm day, but you might just as well mix them with a standard £17 bottle of Gordon’s for all the difference it makes.

  9. Fundamental problem, is scale and price.

    At the moment, in my local Sainsbury’s there’s a couple of shelves of various “craft ales”, priced at £3-4 per 440ml can.

    A few paces along, Wychwood’s Hobgoblin IPA is priced at £5.50 for four x 440ml cans.

    When the “craft” stuff was new and on “2 for £3” promotions, some of it was quite good; but not four times as good…

  10. Too expensive by half. As households look to trim their expenditures, posh beers will be first to fall. Tesco do multipacks of Bud Light for just £1.36/litre.

  11. “Tesco do multipacks of Bud Light for just £1.36/litre.”

    Yes, but how much do they charge for beer?

    I am an unashamed west coast IPA drinker.

  12. Question for the engineers among us. Can you convert an internal combustion engine to run on bud light?

  13. The market for undrinkable IPAs has dried up.

    Out here, they can’t even give Bud Light away. Some promotions lowered the price to zero, you just had to pay the tax. Bud Light is now seen as transbeer.

  14. @Rhoda

    Have you tried the East Coast? The Co-op have Shipyard Brewery from Portland ME (3x500ml for £5.50) – it’s brewed over here, of course (by Marstons, I think). I’ve seen it on draught, but only in London.

  15. The Bud Light story has to be one of the most remarkable business screwups since New Coke. It’s not a good beer, but it is low calorie and cheap so it had its market, or at least it did. If ever a business didn’t understand its customers it had to be the Budweiser marketing people who should be trampled by Clydesdales.

    I enjoy a good stout or porter, and would try them regularly in a new place, but so many microbreweries are now making them too chocolatey or sweet, or with way too much coffee, that I now just stick with buying the ones I know I like.

  16. @ John

    Can you convert an internal combustion engine to run on bud light

    Yes. It’s 4.2% ABV so firstly you need to distill it to push it up to near 100%. This also removes the taste which many would consider an improvement. Given modern cars are now made to run on E25 which is 25% alcohol and 75% petrol, modifying an older engine to run on pure alcohol is quite doable.

  17. I’d have thought that vastly increased operating costs might also play a major part in this…

  18. TD: “If ever a business didn’t understand its customers it had to be the Budweiser marketing people who should be trampled by Clydesdales.”

    Oh, they understand them. They just despise them.

  19. TD,

    “If ever a business didn’t understand its customers it had to be the Budweiser marketing people who should be trampled by Clydesdales.”

    The truth about most giant corporations is that after the first generation of management, they’re run by lucky dickheads on autopilot who inherited a money printer that keeps on working for a while as long as they don’t do anything too stupid. They follow what McKinsey say, what is the current politics, and when a new kid arrives that makes money, they follow them.

    When things get difficult, most of them don’t have a scooby. They’ve never built a business before. Never had to go through that. The people running AB didn’t start a little brewery and try to flog beer and learn what worked and what didn’t. Who bought it, who didn’t. So when the brand was flagging, they went looking for other markets. Like women and hipsters. This despite the fact that women mostly don’t like beer. It’s been tried, changing the recipe, changing the marketing. Doesn’t work.

    And I’m guessing the people in charge probably aren’t people who hang around with blue collar guys. The people who ran the board when it started and for a generation would have done. Like I honestly thought they knew something I didn’t. Bud Light is for the sort of men who have pick up trucks and don’t go to the opera.

  20. You do have to be a bit dumb to think that there are more potential transgender customers for your cheap swill than there are guys with pickups who don’t go to the opera. Shoot, Bud probably has more Clydesdales who do go to the opera than transgender customers.

  21. @TD

    As the saying goes ,’empty vessels make the most noise’

    Given the marketing drones at AB probably spend their entire lives on social media they probably consider the alphabet people a huge untapped market not realising all the furore leads back to a few activists with mental health issues living in bedsits on benefits

  22. TD,

    Aye, but there’s always this idea in of chasing new markets. They’re just focussed on that pot of gold in the distance without considering the effect of that on current. There’s definitely been cases in software of someone trying to take a product and consumerise it to get more customers, but the professionals that use it hate it and switch to something else.

  23. As already mentioned, above, scale problems. There’s also another issue with the market – there aren’t enough general outlets, pubs, convenience stores and the like, that have the independence to take on a local product on a regular basis.

    Additionally, product lines are too complex;,,, or

    Roughly three core beers, then 5-7 or more where they’ve invested in the capacity, but decided not to deploy it on the core range.

    There’s only two core outlets; local tap room, or online. and there’s not really enough local pubs/clubs and events to stop sales from being anything other than volatile.

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