British craft beer boom stalls as big drinks companies muscle in

Rebecca Smithers


The UK’s craft beer boom has stalled in the past year, with eight new breweries opening compared with 390 in the previous 12 months.

As global drinks companies have muscled in on the craft brewing sector, buying up several of the most successful “artisan” brands, the growth in the total number of breweries was the slowest in five years.

A report revealed on Monday that there were 2,274 breweries at the end of 2018, up from 1,352 in 2013.

Five years ago the sector was still in its “gold rush” stage, which made it easier for new brewers to start up and quickly gain market share, according to the research from the national accountancy group UHY Hacker Young.

But with the industry maturing, it is now much harder for startups to gain a foothold as multinational brewers buy and invest in existing craft and artisan breweries, the group says. “We’re not saying that the market is shrinking, just the number of players is consolidating and sales growth is going to be harder to come by,” said James Simmonds, a partner at UHY Hacker Young.

Camden Town Brewery beer

Camden Town Brewery was sold to Budweiser’s owner AB InBev in 2015 for a reputed £85m. Photograph: Bloomberg via Getty

Camden Town Brewery was sold in 2015 to the Budweiser maker AB InBev in 2015, in a deal reputedly worth £85m. Last year, Fuller’s purchased 100% of Dark Star, a craft beer business in West Sussex, for an undisclosed sum, and the Dutch brewer Heineken has snapped up stakes in Beavertown and Brixton breweries.