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Tuesday, June 18, 2024
EditorialsUp Front 08/10

Up Front 08/10

Back in the late 70s and early 80s I was a member of an organisation called the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). Membership was a perfect excuse to travel around the country, sampling bitters from different breweries, whilst protesting against bland, mass-produced beers. At that time it was an entertaining exercise that offered social interaction and also had an educational element. The possibility that it might make any real change to the corporate structure of the brewing industry, though always at the forefront of our thoughts, was often forgotten as evenings wore on. However, according to a study carried out at Nottingham University Business School, Britain’s beer drinkers could now serve as role models for the nation as it struggles to emerge from recession. Between 1900 and 1970 the range of products and the number of centres of production in brewing in England declined dramatically. By 1970 the number of breweries was just 141, compared to 1,324 in 1900. Most of these were located in a few cities and towns. The trend for bland, big-name products became so dominant that Ind Coope advertised its Long Life brand with the slogan ‘It never varies!’ But CAMRA’s arrival, and the group’s campaign for variety and quality, resulted in the now ongoing boom in microbreweries. By 2004 the number of breweries in England stood at 480 – approximately the same as in 1939. If the trend continues the situation here could one day rival that of Bavaria, where almost every village has at least one brewery. Professor Peter Swann, the study’s author, believes that the beer industry’s rebirth, in the wake of the Campaign for Real Ale’s founding in 1971, offers us a perfect example of ‘small is beautiful’, and that many lessons could be learned from it.

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