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SIBA’s 800th brewer signals craft growth

The Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA), the trade body representing smaller “craft” beer producers in the UK, has welcomed its 800th brewery member and announced plans to expand by 20% this year.

Mike Benner, CEO of SIBA, has said he expects to grow the organisation of small-to-medium sized brewers by 20% this year (Photo: SIBA)

The organisation predicts to have around 1,000 members by the turn of the year, as it tacks on to the burgeoning UK craft beer market.

SIBA members range in size, from microbreweries producing fewer than 1,000 hectolitres (176,000 pints) per year through to regional breweries with an output of up to 200,000 hectolitres (35,200,000 pints) – the limit for membership.

Beyond the rising popularity of more unique brews in the country, SIBA managing director Mike Benner also commends the work of his organisation in lobbying for tax cuts to allow more breweries to be established and nurtured.

He said, “With 800 members, SIBA represents more than half of the estimated 1,400 brewers in the UK.

“Over recent years, SIBA has become a more effective and high-profile organisation, thanks in large part to our successful lobbying for the three cuts in beer duty, which have benefited every brewer in the land,” he stated.

Cathedral Heights Brewery, near Lincoln, England, became SIBA’s 800th full brewery member. Steve Marston, who founded the brewery with wife Sammi, said, “We’ve grown from small beginnings in 2011 to a more sizeable operation now, and have ambitions to grow further.”

The lack of clear industry definition of the term “craft” in the UK has been viewed as both an hindrance and a benefit to the category.

In the US, four criteria need to be met to be defined as a craft brewer by the Brewers’ Association, the industry body for small-to-medium sized beer producers.

Production must be under 6 million barrels per year, no more than 25% of the company can be owned by a non-craft producer, and it must use “traditional” methods in its production to be considered “craft” by the US trade body.

Without such exact rules in the UK, “craft” has already become a debateable term. In February, Alexandre Ricard, CEO of global drinks giant Pernod Ricard, said that he “struggles” with the definition of craft, arguing that his products are arguably more “craft” than those produced by small companies.

He said, “We need to communicate to consumers what ‘real’ craft is”, before arguing that it is less about the size of production than the “story” behind a brand.

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