The feeling of unease circulating within the craft beer industry has been hard to ignore of late. The rumbles of distant thunder signalled a storm was coming, and it seems the storm may well have arrived at our doorstep. It’s a storm that started gathering during the Covid pandemic and it’s about to unleash its full force on our beloved hospitality industry and breweries which we hold dear to our hearts.
In what has been a pretty devastating week for businesses closing their doors, it’s hard to ignore the feeling that we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg come into view. This week alone we have seen the closure of Kelham Island Brewery, Beatnikz Republic, Fallen Brewing and Exe Valley all with far-reaching reputations and influences. Whilst full disclosure on each hasn’t been given, a multitude of issues which we all face are clearly responsible for their sudden and unexpected closures.
Trying to live in a post-Covid world was going to prove difficult enough without adding in a humanitarian crisis into the already volatile mix. Russia’s hostile actions against the people of Ukraine have sent shockwaves across the world. Whilst the people of Ukraine have had to flee their homes, countries around the globe have been left reeling following sanctions placed upon Russia following their hostility. Shortages in resources has resulted in an exponential increase in their cost, and it’s an increase that breweries can ill afford…
With an increase in gas, electricity and water rates it’s almost somewhat inevitable that some breweries will be unable to keep up with spiralling production costs. They can charge more, of course, but it’s not quite as simple as that. Some breweries will live hand to mouth, with little/no reserve of cash available should their next order of grain, hops or energy bill suddenly increase in cost. Likewise, no landlord or consumer wants to see an increase in costs when their own cash reserves are being hit harder than ever before.
Slight increases due to inflation are to be expected, perhaps even above the expected rate as the country continues to recover from nationwide lockdowns. But when everyone is feeling the pinch, beer is likely to be the first luxury many cut out of their monthly budgets. For those happier drinking at home, availability of beer in both cans and bottles has arguably never been better. But, as we know, the trade is where all involved reap the greater rewards and the threat of Covid continues to ward people away from closed or indoor spaces. Fewer people through the door has never been so dangerous.
Sadly, the phrase ‘use it or lose it’ has never been more applicable and, as beer lovers, our support is needed more than ever. Pub closures are an unfortunately familiar sight and have been for some time, but the dominos have started falling at a faster pace. If we don’t try to limit the damage now, it’s unlikely our beer landscape will resemble anything close to the familiarity we have become used to. Bodies such as CAMRA and SIBA continue to lobby the powers that be and hopefully the calls will soon no longer fall on deaf ears.
But our support can be immediate and swift, no matter how small it may appear. Tucking into a can or bottle may be easy, but buying a pint at your local pub, bar or tap room is much more powerful and beneficial. As discussed, our budgets may be ever-tighter but spending our beer money more wisely could help sustain our industry for longer. Our actions may seem minor, insignificant even, but if we can each do our bit, we may well just keep our lovely industry alive that little bit longer…