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Iconic Good Beer Guide issues stark COVID-19 warning, as brewery numbers decline for the first time in nearly two decades

  • The total number of UK breweries has declined for the first time since 2008 
  • Contributors warn of ‘devastating impact’ to British pub culture due to COVID-19 
  • Celebrity chef Tom Kerridge pens this year’s foreword, urging Brits to ‘stay supportive’ of the Great British Pub  

The 48th edition of the Campaign for Real Ale’s iconic Good Beer Guide 2021 hits bookshelves tomorrow, warning Brits of the devastating impact of COVID-19 on Britain’s pub culture and highlighting the first decline in the number of independent UK breweries in over a decade.

The Good Beer Guide is CAMRA’s premier publication, featuring the very best pubs to find a great pint in the UK.  Nationally, the 2021 Guide has found the total number of independent UK breweries has dipped from 1,823 in 2019 to 1,816 in 2020* – the first time CAMRA’s guide has recorded a decline in numbers since the explosion in UK breweries started in 2008. While 163 breweries have opened this year and are newly listed in the Guide, many more have closed their doors, reducing net figures.

While most of the recorded decline will be from data captured pre-COVID-19, the trends in breweries no longer producing raises concerns the real impact of COVID has yet to be felt. CAMRA is currently calling on the Government to go further with its support package, arguing that it has not been able to mitigate the damage done to a sector that has been scarred by ongoing restrictions and curfews.

CAMRA’s National Chairman, Nik Antona says: “Many pubs and breweries have fought hard and the majority have survived the first lockdown, but it’s clear the industry was already in a vulnerable position when COVID-19 hit. Since then, breweries have all but been forgotten about, and may even be hit with higher taxes as the Government considers changes to Small Brewers Relief.

“This is a pivotal time that could make or break the industry. Our pubs and breweries are going to need significant long-term support and funding throughout the coming months to survive. Otherwise, I expect to see substantial closures in future editions of our Guide.”

The Good Beer Guide has also warned of the impact of COVID-19 on pubs, with celebrity chef Tom Kerridge penning the foreword, urging the country to ‘stay strong and stay positive’ despite the ongoing challenges.

Kerridge says: “These figures are an early indication that all is not as it should be following a difficult year of lockdown restriction and social distancing measures. While every sector across the UK has felt the burden of COVID-19, brewers and pubs have most certainly taken the brunt of the impact.”

He adds: “The one thing that I think we have all missed during lockdown is human connection and social interaction, which above all else, is everything that the Great British Pub provides – a warm, happy and friendly place for people to drink and eat. It is imperative that we continue to support our breweries and pubs to preserve them for generations to come.”

Drinks Writer Jessica Mason, known as the ‘Drinks Maven’, echoes Kerridge’s sentiment, observing that COVID-19 reminds us why pub culture is still important and relevant.

Mason writes: “We knew lockdown kept our bodies safe. But what we didn’t know was how much the pub meant to us. How closely it was connected to our wellbeing. We didn’t know, because for so long beer and pubs have been highlighted as all that is wrong in the UK, never what is right. The eye contact. The greeting. The small unspoken geniality of being visible. The taste and the sounds connected to feeling a part of something. All these things happen in the pub. And when the pubs closed and the streets fell quiet, we lost some of our sparkle.”

The Guide, which surveys 4,500 pubs across the UK, is considered the definitive beer drinker’s guide to the very best pints in the most picturesque and friendly pubs. Despite being hampered by a national lockdown and ongoing restrictions, thousands of independent volunteers have worked together to compile this year’s entries, helping to identify significant trends and themes locally and nationally.

The Good Beer Guide 2021 is now available from the CAMRA shop at https://shop1.camra.org.uk/product/the-good-beer-guide-2021 and there is an updated app version available for download on both iOS and Android device.

Every effort has been made by CAMRA volunteers to ensure the accuracy of the Good Beer Guide but due to the ongoing restrictions and local lockdowns taking place, please ensure that you check directly with pubs for their latest opening times.

 Ends

Notes to editors: 

About the Good Beer Guide:

CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide is the original independent guide to good beer and good pubs. Now in its 48th edition, the fully revised and updated Guide recommends pubs in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and offshore islands that serve the best real ale. From country inns through to micropubs and taprooms – if you love pubs, don’t leave home without the Good Beer Guide.

The Guide is researched by independent volunteers across the UK with every pub featured visited at least once for assessment. It is the UK’s best-selling beer and pub guide, based on combined trade and direct sales.

The Good Beer Guide 2021 is published on Thursday, 29 October 2020 and is available to order at https://shop1.camra.org.uk/product/the-good-beer-guide-2021

Alternatively, discover all of the pubs listed, and more, with CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide app, available on both iOS and Android devices at https://gbgapp.camra.org.uk

Due to the ongoing restrictions and local lockdowns taking place, please ensure that you check directly with pubs for the latest opening times and requirements before booking your visit.

About CAMRA:  

CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, is a not-for-profit consumer group with over 180,000 members that has been operating since 1971. Our vision is to have quality real ale and thriving pubs in every community.

 

*The Good Beer Guide 2021 went to print on 18 September. The brewery closure data captures information up to the end of August. 

Year

# of breweries

1974

171

1983

209

1993

254

1997

389

1998

399

1999

435

2000

429

2001

448

2002

444

2003

465

2008

668

2009

711

2010

840

2011

1009

2012

1147

2013

1285

2015

1424

2016

1540

2017

1684

2018

1755

2019

1823

2020

1816


Press Release from CAMRA

For more information contact press@camra.org.uk or call 01727 337 863

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