There can be no doubt that beer is the U.K’s national drink. Its overall market worth is estimated at being over 53 billion. In comparison, the U.K’s soft drink market is estimated at having a market worth of only 13 billion.
There are two distinct layers to the beer production industry in the U.K. There is the mass-market brewing industry, consisting of a few huge multi-national companies that cater for the majority of U.K. beer drinkers by producing fairly standardized and wide-appealing lager beers, and then there is the craft brewing industry, consisting of a large number of small breweries, or micro-breweries, which concentrate on brewing the more traditional ales and cater for the more sophisticated of the U.K. beer drinkers.
Lager caters for just under 70% of the total beer market in the U.K. and is produced by four major, mostly foreign associated, breweries; the Scottish and Newcastle which produces the Australian beer, Fosters, and the French beer, Kronenbourg, Coors which is U.S. owned, Inbev which produces the Belgian beer, Stella Artois, and Carlsberg which is Danish owned.
These producers brew their lagers in the most modern of breweries by a very industrialized style of brewing, and the lagers are all based on very standardized recipes. The beers are designed to appeal to the mass population and are marketed for their ease of sale in this respect. The majority of U.K. pubs and bars, where in the past they would have served beer relating to village and regional loyalties, now serve these mass-produced beers on tap. To find an ale of any kind on tap over the last couple of decades has been some great challenge, and if you did manage to find one, it was more often than not an ale that one of the above companies had mass-produced to try and cater for this smaller market as well as the mass-market in order to increase that multi-national’s overall U.K. share.
However, in recent times, the U.K. market, like that of the Australian and U.S. markets, has begun a shift in focus back towards boutique breweries and the bars and pubs that specialize in serving these boutique beers from these micro-breweries. Although these beers are often more expensive, their unique tastes and interesting textures and flavors have found them dedicated drinkers and a significant share amongst the U.K’s multi-billion pound industry.
As a result of the increasing popularity of the micro-breweries, the U.K. market is somewhat polarized between the mass-produced lager and the micro-brewed ales. The multi-nationals, however, are gradually bringing in their own boutique ales to compete with the craft breweries, as has been the case in Australia. But this will not greatly affect the micro-brewers, or the consumers. It will simply, as it has done in Australia, allow more choice for the consumer and allow the U.K. beer drinker to enjoy their drink at a continued affordable price with even greater variety. In fact, beer is in a period of renaissance throughout the U.K, Australia, and the U.S, and it has never been a better time to be a beer drinker.
1. Beer in the United Kingdom
2. Beer in the United Kingdom – Euromonitor International