Everyone loves a local product. That could be the butcher’s on the corner, a stall that’s been running for fifty years, or a farmers’ market that brings produce direct to the many Cheshire town centres. The same applies to beer and brewers. There’s a special affection for the micro brewer, the quaint business that produces just a handful of barrels each week.
The growth of the industry can be traced back to 2002 in the UK, when the Progressive Beer Duty was introduced. The duty’s conception can probably be credited to Bavaria in Germany, rolled out to encourage local production. The idea is simple: tax smaller producers less. This attracts more start-ups, promotes unique, niche styles. As drinkers we get fantastic diversity, micro-breweries with their own stories that add mystique, charm and intrigue to their labels.
We’re very lucky in Cheshire. To name but a few, Off Beat (Crewe), Weetwood (Tarporley), Merlins (Arclid) and Otherton (Crewe, but with Staffordshire roots. In fact, you have to love their tag line: The Staffordshire cuckoo brewing in Crewe). Beer Dock is lucky enough to stock craft beers from them all. The list goes on: Storm Brewing (Congleton), Woodlands (Nantwich), Beartown (Congleton), Spitting Feathers (nr Chester) and Blakemere (Northwich). Don’t be surprised the see the list of local suppliers continues to grow in 2016/17. While Beer Dock has labels from all over the world, the local scene is very important to us. Just ask any of the staff to tell you what’s currently in-store.
The snob in many of us hopes that the small brewers will remain just that – small but perfectly formed, modest and compact. It’s a tough call, as those companies will surely want to enjoy growth, benefit from economies of scale just like the monsters in the industry. Perhaps more so than many sectors, the beer scene is driven by enthusiasts with genuine passion for their product. It’s not all about the cash. They want to delight, raise the beer bar and leave customers coming back for more. That’s why it’s such an incredible industry, and a key reason that Beer Dock was born.
We can only hope that our micro-brewers can avoid the net of larger companies, as they look to gobble up the best-performing small suppliers. It’s happened in the USA already, with Anheuser-Busch InBev dominating the buy-outs, with Duval and Green Flash also involved in acquisitions. Such takeovers don’t spell doom for lovers of craft ales, but some of the romance dies when anonymous suits start running the once-cosy operations, often from sheds and simple cellars.
But worry not; the British beer scene shows no sign of slowing (sales rose about 8% in 2015). Long may it continue.