Tuesday, 22 September 2009

711 breweries! (part 2, or: Beat the Hun!)

More on the good news that there are now more breweries in the UK than at any time since 1945. CAMRA have Roger Protz saying that Britain now has more small breweries per head than any other country:

For the first time since the 19th century, Britain is the undisputed top brewing country in the world. It has over 700 breweries and has more small craft breweries per head of population than all other major industrialised countries; but it also offers tremendous choice.

Well, for one thing, the incredible number of different beers currently being brewed in the United States make a credible case against the idea that Britain is Top Nation in brewing in absolute terms. But I have no difficulty believing that the number of breweries per head in the US is still tiny, so let's leave the US out for the sake of argument.

Let's have a rough look.

Going on the CAMRA figures, Britain has 711 real ale breweries: one brewery per 84,388 people assuming a population of 60 million.

Germany has 1319 breweries as of 2008. That's one brewery per 60,652 people, assuming a population of 80 million. We can therefore see that the qualifier "small brewery" has been deliberately introduced so that Britain comes out on top.

We can only assume that Protz is using the same definition of a small brewery that the government uses for its small brewer tax relief scheme: under 5000 hectolitres a year.

Of the 1319 German breweries, 870 had an output of less than 5000 hectolitres a year. (source: http://www.brauer-bund.de/brauereien/statistik/brau_aus.htm). Using that measure, the Germans have one small brewery per 91,954 people.

I'd love to find statistics for how many of the 711 British breweries fall into this category and determine whether or not Protz is correct. I have an answer from Hansard from the end of 2008, but given the very rapid growth in the sector over the last year, can't take the figures there as reliable.

Now, as far as I can see, there is no need to limit our attention to microbreweries producing less than 5000 hl, other than some desire to beat the Germans.

If CAMRA is full of lefties as some claim, why does Protz feel the need to link good news about beer to this embarrassing Britain-is-top nationalism?


  1. You might find the SIBA Local Brewing Report a little helpful in getting a breakdown. Page 3 is the relevant section. It's compiled from just under 200 member responses but interesting to see if it confirms what you learned from Hansard. You can also look back over the previous year reports and get an idea of the trend.


  2. Hi Urban,
    I did come across that report while researching this, but given the extremely rapid growth I considered even that would be out of date.

    The SIBA report had 88% of the 200 respondents classed as under 5000 hl.

    For a bit of fun, let's assume that this 88% is representative, which would give us 626 small breweries, or one for every 95,846 people. Hmm. The Germans are still ahead.

    OK, let's try one more hypothesis. Let's assume every single one of the 71 new breweries is under 5000 hl, which seems plausible if they don't have any customers yet. Hmm. It doesn't make too much difference. 71 + ((711-71) * 0.88) = 634, or 94,637 people per brewery.

    I expect that Roger Protz has more accurate figures than I do which enable Britain to just scrape past Germany in the small-breweries-per-head stakes, but there can't be much in it. Mind you, the Germans are guilty of just sipping their lager these days (the Czechs overtook them for the amount of beer consumed per head a few years ago, and the gap has been widening).

    However, my enthusiasm for statistics has distracted me from my point. It's not a competition. We should be celebrating great beer wherever it's brewed.

  3. Are you heading to the beer festival in Troon? I land in Scotland on Friday and I'll be heading to the festival on Sat. Drop me a mail if you're going to be there.