Scots brewery numbers soar in last year

THE number of breweries in Scotland has rocketed by more than 10 per cent over the past year, with experts saying the increase was driven by demand for locally produced food and drink and a trend for small artisan brands.

The Cobbles, Kelso, has been named the best pub in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Picture: Contributed
The Cobbles, Kelso, has been named the best pub in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Picture: Contributed

A total of 187 breweries were launched in the UK in the past year – more than one every two days and including eight in Scotland – an industry guide has revealed.

The latest edition of The Good Beer Guide 2014, released by the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra), reveals that the number of businesses producing beer nationwide now totals 1,147.

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Experts said the explosion in smaller, local breweries was in response to a growing demand for drinks that have not been transported around the world and instead were created close to local pubs – as well as increased focus on food and drink provenance across the board.

The vast majority of the start-ups are “craft” or “micro” breweries – small-scale operations which manufacture under 5,000 hectolitres (50,000 litres) of beer a year.

Independent Scottish brewers such as Innis & Gunn and Brewdog have become global players in the past few years – attracting attention for both their success and their range of non-traditional beers.

“There has been phenomenal growth in the number of breweries producing real ale across the UK, which is fantastic news for drinkers as this creates more choice and more opportunity to buy locally produced beers,” said Roger Protz, editor of the guide.

“When Camra started in 1971, there were just four pubs in the whole of the UK which produced their own beer and now there are more than 200.”

He added: “People are becoming very keen on drinking local beers – they are no longer happy with products that have been trailed all around the place.”

There are now 76 breweries in Scotland, including three new ones in Aberdeenshire: Sixdegrees North in Stonehaven, Speyside Craft and Windswept in Lossiemouth. A further two, Beeches Brewery in Lochgelly and Eden Brewery St Andrews at Guardbridge, have recently opened in Fife. The other new Scottish breweries are in Prestonpans (Prestonpans Ales), Balmaha, on Loch Lomond (Balmaha Brewery) and in Livingston (Elixir Brew Co).

Fergus Clark, trustee for Scotland of the Society of Independent Brewers (Siba), said the growth began ten years ago, when government legislation resulted in a 50 per cent tax reduction for breweries producing less than 5,000hl of drink a year.

“Certainly, that became an incentive for people to look at opening smaller breweries in a market that had previously been dominated by the major players,” he said. “There has also been a rise in interest in people knowing where their food and drink is coming from.”

Patrick Browne, chief executive of the Scottish Beer and Pubs Association, said: “Craft brewing is one of the most successful elements of the brewing sector of the past five to ten years. Customers are looking for something different.”

Paul Waterson, chief executive of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, said the sector had bucked the recession, which has seen pubs closing in Scotland every week.

“It is quite an exciting development that people are prepared to start up, especially at a time like this,” he said.

Borders pub with its own beer takes Scottish crown

A GASTRO pub in the Borders has been named as the best pub in Scotland and Northern Ireland by the latest edition of The Good Beer Guide.

The book, published today by the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra), named the Cobbles in Kelso as its top pub in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

It will now be shortlisted along with 15 other pubs nationwide for the title of Camra’s National Pub of the Year.

The Cobbles, a 19th century coaching inn, was singled out by reviewers for its high quality beer –some from its in-house micro brewery – and its locally sourced food and seasonal ingredients.

“To the right of the main dining area is a lounge bar where beers from Tempest, the pub’s own microbrewery, are featured,” says the entry in The Good Beer Guide. “Though the focus is on food, drinkers are welcome here.”

Owner Annika Meiklejohn, who bought the pub with her husband, Gavin, six years ago, said the pub was dedicated to providing good beer. Mr Meiklejohn set up the Tempest micro brewery three years ago.

“I am delighted we have won this award,” Mrs Meiklejohn said.

“I think it is due to a combination of factors, but it being the Camra guide, the main thing is the excellent beer.”