How breweries in Berkshire have fared during the pandemic

The number of breweries in Berkshire has dipped during the pandemic, after a tough year for businesses.

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics reveal there were around 10 local units brewing beer across Berkshire as of March 2021.

That was down from 15 breweries operating in the area in March 2020.

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The decrease was driven by a drop in the number of breweries in Windsor and Maidenhead, with the number falling from around five to fewer than three.

Elsewhere in Berkshire, the number remained stable.

The situation in Windsor and Maidenhead bucks the national trend, which has actually seen the number of breweries increase in the last year – suggesting businesses in the area have been hit harder than other parts of the country.

Across the UK, there were 1,545 units brewing beer as of March 2021 – up from 1,420 the year before, and a record high.

The number had dropped from 1,440 breweries in March 2019, which was the first time the number had dipped in at least the last decade – but the recent increase suggests the brewery boom is not over.

The vast majority of brewers are what the ONS refer to as micro businesses – those with fewer than 10 employees.

The number of micro businesses remained at 1,180 in March 2021, as did the number of medium and large brewers, but the number of small brewers (with 10-49 employees) increased significantly from 195 to 315.

The long-term boom in smaller businesses is partly down to a surge in the popularity of craft beer, with increasing demand for more choice and specialist options such as vegan or gluten free beer.

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The craft beer revolution was also fuelled by something called “small brewers’ relief” (SBR) – a tax break introduced in 2002 by then Labour chancellor, Gordon Brown.

However, the more recent increase in the number of breweries may have been impacted by the pandemic.

During lockdowns when pubs and bars were closed, many people turned to ordering online to try craft beers at home – with customers particularly keen to support local, independent businesses.

Meanwhile, some new brewers may have decided to turn their passion for beer into a business after being made redundant or put on furlough.

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Nik Antona, national chairman of CAMRA, said: “After the struggles of the past two years, it is good to see the industry continue to demonstrate resilience against all odds.

“The pandemic has had a massive impact on brewers who have had to be nimble and innovative to meet the new challenges of lockdowns, restrictions and reduced consumer confidence – from offering takeaway services to expanding online deliveries.

“However, these figures do not mean that we can rest on our laurels – the industry is still vulnerable. There are still ongoing issues around the cost of goods, lack of business rate relief and important details that need deciding as part of the Alcohol Duty Review.

“That is why CAMRA continues to call on the Government to lower the threshold for the new draught duty rate so that it applies to containers 20L and up, so as not to exclude small and independent brewers from the benefits of a lower tax on beer served on tap.”

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