The 48th edition of the Campaign for Real Ale’s iconic Good Beer Guide 2021 hits bookshelves tomorrow, warning Brits of the devastating impact of COVID-19 on Britain’s pub culture and highlighting the first decline in the number of independent UK breweries in over a decade.
The Good Beer Guide is CAMRA’s premier publication, featuring the very best pubs to find a great pint in the UK. Nationally, the 2021 Guide has found the total number of independent UK breweries has dipped from 1,823 in 2019 to 1,816 in 2020* – the first time CAMRA’s guide has recorded a decline in numbers since the explosion in UK breweries started in 2008. While 163 breweries have opened this year and are newly listed in the Guide, many more have closed their doors, reducing net figures.
While most of the recorded decline will be from data captured pre-COVID-19, the trends in breweries no longer producing raises concerns the real impact of COVID has yet to be felt. CAMRA is currently calling on the Government to go further with its support package, arguing that it has not been able to mitigate the damage done to a sector that has been scarred by ongoing restrictions and curfews.
CAMRA’s National Chairman, Nik Antona says: “Many pubs and breweries have fought hard and the majority have survived the first lockdown, but it’s clear the industry was already in a vulnerable position when COVID-19 hit. Since then, breweries have all but been forgotten about, and may even be hit with higher taxes as the Government considers changes to Small Brewers Relief.
“This is a pivotal time that could make or break the industry. Our pubs and breweries are going to need significant long-term support and funding throughout the coming months to survive. Otherwise, I expect to see substantial closures in future editions of our Guide.”
The Good Beer Guide has also warned of the impact of COVID-19 on pubs, with celebrity chef Tom Kerridge penning the foreword, urging the country to ‘stay strong and stay positive’ despite the ongoing challenges.
Kerridge says: “These figures are an early indication that all is not as it should be following a difficult year of lockdown restriction and social distancing measures. While every sector across the UK has felt the burden of COVID-19, brewers and pubs have most certainly taken the brunt of the impact.”
He adds: “The one thing that I think we have all missed during lockdown is human connection and social interaction, which above all else, is everything that the Great British Pub provides – a warm, happy and friendly place for people to drink and eat. It is imperative that we continue to support our breweries and pubs to preserve them for generations to come.”
Drinks Writer Jessica Mason, known as the ‘Drinks Maven’, echoes Kerridge’s sentiment, observing that COVID-19 reminds us why pub culture is still important and relevant. Mason writes: “We knew lockdown kept our bodies safe. But what we didn’t know was how much the pub meant to us. How closely it was connected to our wellbeing. We didn’t know, because for so long beer and pubs have been highlighted as all that is wrong in the UK, never what is right. The eye contact. The greeting. The small unspoken geniality of being visible. The taste and the sounds connected to feeling a part of something. All these things happen in the pub. And when the pubs closed and the streets fell quiet, we lost some of our sparkle.”
The Guide, which surveys 4,500 pubs across the UK, is considered the definitive beer drinker’s guide to the very best pints in the most picturesque and friendly pubs. Despite being hampered by a national lockdown and ongoing restrictions, thousands of independent volunteers have worked together to compile this year’s entries, helping to identify significant trends and themes locally and nationally.