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19th July 2017

London’s beer heritage at risk

London’s diverse beer landscape is under threat as multinational brewers target the capital, according to the founder of the city’s original beer week.

Will Hawkes, who set up London Beer City in 2014, says the recent purchase of London Fields by Carlsberg and AB InBev’s plans to expand its Goose Island bar estate in the city demonstrates that big brewers are gunning for craft beer.

“There’s no doubt that – having finally woken up to the possibilities of craft beer – the big brewers are keen to swallow it whole,” he says. “If drinkers are not careful, they could soon find themselves with a few big companies controlling the market.”

The purpose of London Beer City, which takes place between 3-13 August, is to fly the flag for good-quality beer, particularly London-brewed beer, but also that made elsewhere in the UK and overseas.

This year’s event takes in the two-day, 45-brewer London Craft Beer Festival, embassies for beer from Australia, America, Yorkshire, Kent and Sussex and elsewhere, a closing party with 16 of London’s best breweries and two collaboration brews (representing South and North London). There will be around 100 different events in total.

That includes the 40th iteration of the Great British Beer Festival, whose presence in this first week of August inspired London Beer City. “We wanted to take the energy of GBBF and spread it around the city,” says Hawkes.

There are now more than 100 breweries in London, from the venerable Fuller’s (founded 1845) down to the tiny Temple Brew House, London’s most central brewery, in Essex Street. More and more pubs are converting to good beer while restaurants like Hawksmoor – which this year hosts Brew By Numbers – and Pitt Cue are increasingly beer-friendly.

“London now has more breweries than any other city in Europe, and standards are constantly rising,” says Hawkes. “In 2006, thanks to consolidation and avaricious big brewers, we were down to fewer than 10. That’s why it’s really important to nurture and protect this diversity.”

For more information, contact Images attached by Dianne Tanner of last year’s London Beer City opening party.