Two popular south London craft breweries to appoint administrators
South London breweries Brew By Numbers and Brick Brewery have indicated intentions to call in the administrators.
According to reports via trade website just-drinks, notices of intent to appoint administrators were filed to court on behalf of the directors of Brew By Numbers and Brick Brewery on 5 May and 28 April, giving each company 10 days grace whereby creditors cannot take legal action against them for any outstanding debts.
Despite the filings, as well as much discussion about the issue on social media, neither of the south London breweries have publicly acknowledged the issues and even though the drinks business has reached out to both for comments, each of the businesses has remained silent.
Should neither of the craft brewery businesses find a solution, both are set to enter administration, adding to the list of independent British breweries facing closure. A gruelling 36 breweries have closed in the UK this year, equal to approximately two per week, according to Steve Dunkley, head brewer at Beer Nouveau based in Manchester, who has created a list of British breweries facing hard times throughout 2023.
Brew By Numbers, originally based in Bermondsey, was founded by Tom Hutchings and David Seymour back in 2011. In 2019, Seymour stepped down, leaving Hutchings at the helm as Brew By Numbers’ managing director. Then, near the end of 2021, Hutchings moved brewery production to a 6,000-square-foot site in Greenwich.
Brick Brewery, originally based in Peckham Rye, was founded in 2013 by Ian and Sally Stewart. In 2017, Brick also moved its brewery’s production to larger facilities, this time in Deptford, to keep up with demand, while the brewery still retained a taproom located at the original Peckham Rye site that has been popular with local residents and craft beer fans visiting London ever since opening.
The 5 May filing made by Brew By Numbers was allegedly the third notice the brewery has made in just over a month indicating that Hutchings is in the process of making a deal to restructure or sell the company. Similarly, Brick Brewery is said to have filed notices of intent on two occasions during April.
In what is being marked as a worrying time for breweries across the UK, the news follows Masham-based Black Sheep Brewery, headed up by brothers Rob and Jo Theakston, also unveiling plans to appoint administrators last week, shocking beer fans.
Back in December, Somerset’s The Wild Beer Co. entered administration, but was later bought by Curious Brewery, based in Kent, who signaled aims to revive the brand, despite the majority of staff working for the original brewery being laid off.
Speaking on social media, an outcry of craft beer fans echoed the damning nature of current state of the industry which has been swallowed up by high rents, energy price inflation, raw material costs, pandemic-survival loan payback as well as the competitive big brewers buying up smaller breweries and tying lines to macro beer.
When Heineken initially bought a stake in Beavertown in 2018 before the north London brewery sold up completely last year, along with AB InBev buying Camden Town, smaller breweries had to compete for tap space with the onset of challenges from deals the global beer companies made with pub companies.
From a consumer perspective, pub refurbishments, investment into their favourite breweries making them more widely available is on the surface of it all seen to be a good thing – from the dazzling array of ‘craft-pretenders’ seen on draught on many pump-clips and in cans on supermarket shelves – the news of pub, bar and brewery closures does not compute with the current issues the real independent industry faces. While big brewery businesses can make huge money-saving deals on ingredients, they can also mimic a craft movement with strategic acquisition and undercut the real craft breweries on price while absorbing listings and impelmenting far-reaching distribution networks.
Indeed, as the market has become more saturated, along with rafts of ‘big beer buys successful craft brand’ acquisitions with which to contend, so too have the challenges for the true indie brewery owners who put the love of beer itself and the people who work towards making it great, ahead of the grab for fiscal gain and universal brand domination.
As Dunkley reminded, the market is controlled and that “a few large multinational corporations use whatever tricks they can to tie up what used to be free lines in pubs. Without those free lines, the smaller breweries don’t have anywhere to sell their beer to” hinting that “bars that were previously free houses getting cellar installs from the multinationals in exchange for their keg lines selling a proportion of beers from those multinationals, which are almost always the faux craft like of Camden and Beavertown” is not helping either. He observed how “most consumers have no idea about their multinational owners” and reminded that it is not simply a case of a beer market being saturated by too many breweries, but added: “There aren’t too many brewers or beers, there’s too few free of tie lines”.
Whether the end consumer understands how the beer sector is being cannibalised by the big global brewery business or not leads to be seen, but if the situation continues then people who want to drink locally-made genuine craft beer and back small independent businesses will likely soon see their options becoming vastly reduced.
To alleviate some of the issues, craft breweries were recently urged to consider where their business stands based on looking at three business models along with the most cost-effective beer styles to brew. In a deep-dive advice piece exclusively for db, Lune Brew sales and marketing director Justin Rivett quashed drinks analysts claims that DIPAs and taproom sales could assist in craft brewery recovery following drinks analysts from Rabobank advising brewers to consider adapting market structure, timings, listings and beer recipes to stay in business this year.and instead reiterated that the answer to craft beer business success was more in looking at proven business models for “what does work, what has been shown to work” and to understand “why they work”.