With brewers having to deal with changes in UK laws such as changes in tax and duty. How are they able to get their say across to governments and seek representation for what is best for them? This is where the Small Independent Brewers Association comes into its own. They represent brewers on a national and international level as well as provide support through training and promotion. I believe they have a vital role in the growth of the beer market in the UK. Here are their responses to some of my questions.
SIBA has been the voice of the small independent brewer since 1980, and under its current guise since 1995. During this time it has been instrumental in a number of new governmental and regulatory changes. What would you say are the top three that you believe have been of greatest benefit?
SIBA's greatest success was the introduction of Progressive Beer Duty (PBD) in 2002. This beer duty system allows small breweries to pay less tax on the beer they produce. This discount, a full 50% on production up to 5,000 HL (and then given on a sliding scale up to 60,000 HL), has encouraged competition and seen the number of breweries quadruple in the last 13 years from approx. 400 to 1,600. This has created many local jobs and means the consumer now has more choice at the bar.
SIBA alongside other organisations such as CAMRA, also played pivotal role in the outcome of the recent three beer duty cuts of a penny on the pint that George Osbourne introduced and also the scrapping of the Beer Duty escalator. This has helped to control the price of a pint, with CEBR estimating the price of a pint in a pub would have been more than 20p more expensive had these measures not been brought in.
With more and more patrons looking to buy and support local brewers do you believe that your awards supporting localism help to highlight the amazing products and people behind the pint? And that this is then reflected in your members local support?
If you are referring to SIBA's regional beer awards, then yes, I do think these types of awards allow small brewers to market themselves in a more positive way in community pubs.
With around 1,600 different breweries spread across Britain, nearly every community now has at least one small brewery in their area. These breweries create thousands of beers with a local interest and create jobs for local people.
With the number of pubs in the UK declining and the number of breweries opening in the UK increasing it seems like there is a change in the drinking habits of the population. Do you believe that this is a trend that is due to continue into the long term (5-10 years) and if so what sort of challenges do you envisage for the independent brewer in getting their product to the public?Also do you believe that there are other ways in which brewers and publicans can work together with the government to try and reverse this trend?
The recent annual Cask Report, published in September, shows that cask ale is performing well compared to the rest of the beer market, and small breweries produce some cask ale. However, drinking in beer continues to decrease, whilst pubs close, but more breweries open.
There is, however, a far greater interest int he type of beer people are drinking. There is more interest in beer brewed by craft breweries, and this includes beer in all formats - cask, bottle, can and keg, and it is this consumer demand that has led to the exciting rise in number of breweries and the innovative products they are producing.
I do believe this is a trend that will continue long term but with so many breweries and beers on the market and the number of pubs continuing to increase, brewers will not see to find out more access to market. So whilst the pub is still important the market is saturated and therefore craft breweries will have to look at how they can sell beer in new outlets / markets such as coffee shops, hotels, restaurants, possibly open small micro pubs or introduce a bar into the brewery's premises and the export market so they can sell directly without huge investment into buying their own pubs.
Training and education of staff is also important. Those selling beer need to understand the different styles, how beer is brewed, what it should taste like, the ingredients etc. to help sell this to people. We have to proudly sell beer in our English pubs like the French sell their wine.
The There's A Beer For That campaign in an industry campaign funded by the 5 Global brewers, but supported by the industry under the title of Britain's Beer Alliance. This generic campaign is raising the profile of drinking all styles of beer and in particularly matching it with food. This campaign has achieved huge success in its first few years and it is important for the whole industry to keep supporting it as working together and by supporting their initiatives we will get more people giving beer a try.
A similar campaign took place in Spain some years back. This took 13 years to return the beer sector back to growth but it did work and the government did fully back it. I think I am right that they even had a Minister for Beer, or something like the Ministry of Beer. In the end all different sectors of Spain pulled together to raise the profile of beer, even to the extent of sporting events celebrating with Spanish beer and not champagne.
Obviously the tax issues have helped control beer prices and the Pubs Minister, Marcus Jones, and the likes of Andrew Griffiths MP and the All Party Parliamentary Beer Group have done a great job keeping beer and pubs on the government's agenda.
Through the success and rise of the 'craft beer' movement in the USA, do you envisage the same type of change in the industry here in the UK? Or do you see the UK learning from what has gone on it the USA and taking the successful aspects of this and adding our own twists?
I think this is already happening. Britain's craft breweries are now producing a huge variety of crafted products in cask, keg, bottle and can. This innovation means there is an exciting range out there now for everybody to enjoy.
I personally feel that we need to be careful not to make all beer too hoppy, like a lot of beer that was arriving here from the states. Of course, great hoppy beers are loved by many British beer fans, but we must remember that some cask drinkers also love the more traditional bitters that Britain are famous for. In fact, some American brewers & journalists have told me that their market is now trying to produce more balanced beer due to many overly hopped beer out there. Too challenging beer can also stop new people entering the market, so there needs to the right mix in pubs, bars, supermarkets etc.
By offering training and documentation for guidance you are striving to ensure the highest quality and standards in practice and product. This is a fantastic role of SIBA and has helped to build the reputation of the brewing members. With new techniques and equipment coming onto the market how do you ensure that you keep your training as relevant as possible for your members.
SIBA has a commitment in its three years Strategic Plan to introduce a training programme for its members, so watch this space. We need to make sure as a trade organisation, we offer our members the training they need to make sure they can brew the best quality beer around that not only sits well in the UK but can also do well in export markets.
SIBA has also recently introduced its new Food & Safety Qualification that will improve the quality of beer our members produce and gives retailers the confidence needed in working with small breweries.
The work that SIBA have been doing in the background has been invaluable for the industry and the associations members. Its lobbying of the government and regulators to help support the small brewers is something to be lauded and supported.