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The UK brewing scene gets canned

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The UK’s beer market is mature and typical of one which is a post-industrial, production and sales are dipping. Today most British people work in the service sector and not heavy industry. Like it or not they drink less beer.

The latest quarterly UK beer sales show, there has been a 6.2 per cent decline in total sales in the 4th quarter of 2012. On-trade and off-trade sales both struggled, with off trade-sales (shops and) down 7.5 per cent and the on-trade (pubs, bars and restaurants) down 4.8 per cent.

The fall in consumption of what is largely a UK produced product, means that 78 million fewer litres were drunk in the quarter. However, despite the fall the size of the UK market is on most would envy and is still more than 40 million hectolitres a year.

It is tough for the country’s international and regional brewers – consolidation and rationalisation continue – only recently long-established regional brewer Charles Well has been takeover by national brewer Marston’s.

But all is not gloom, one sector of the market is vibrant and growing – craft beer. Currently there are more than 1,500 small brewers in the UK most of which were founded in the last 20 years. They have made beer fun again. It is sexy, modern and sales are growing.

Today’s craft brewers draw inspiration from across the world. Unfiltered, cloudy beers are being widely produced. And it is not just flavoursome hops which are being added to beers – brewers are experimenting ingredients such as coriander, lemon grass and grape must. The only limit is the extent of brewers’ imaginations.

Canned beers once regarded as an inferior product to be piled high and old cheaply in supermarkets have become as must have as the latest Apple iPhone. Many craft brewers are making expensive investments installing a canning line. Others are buying canning time in other people’s breweries or taking advantage of one of the mobile canning companies which are opening.

The debate over draught beer or in bottles versus cans is as old as the introduction of the first canned beer in the 1920s in the US. Once canned beer was said to taint the flavour of beer. Today, host brewers agree the modern aluminium can preserves beer from the demons of oxygen and light, which can change the flavour of the brew chemically. Beer from a can is fresher and more environmentally friendly.

One of London’s newest and hippest breweries is Hop Stuff. They are one of many brewers venturing nto canning and offering their brews in 33oml cans rather than the more traditional glass bottles.

Hop Stuff founder James Yeomans said: “The move into can has been a long time coming for us at Hop Stuff – the can allows portability in a way no bottle could.”

Martin Constable, Chairman of the Can Makers said: “Cans are increasing in popularity as brewers recognise the role they play in maintaining the integrity of their beer and their recyclability. The drink is protected, kept fresh, sealed from light and air and is quick to chill. It is served in the exact state that the brewer intended. The improved accessibility of the canned craft beer means that brewers and consumers alike have fallen in love with it.  It appears on the shelf in many independent stores and is increasingly listed in supermarkets. Plus, it is opening the craft beer market up to wider markets, attracting more females to what is often considered a male product.”

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