Five Trends in The UK Craft Beer Industry To Look For in 2016

Craft brewing has had a long period of steady growth in the UK, but now that the market is maturing, where can it go next? I’ve picked out five trends that show some of the directions craft brewing could take in 2016. And I’d love to hear about your expectations: do you share mine? Or do you have other predictions?

More Buy-Outs

One example: When Camden Town Brewery sold, it claimed that the takeover offer wasn’t a sell-out but leverage to fund the brewery’s international growth. In international market terms it’s a small deal, around £85 million but it has two significant outcomes:

  • The Camden brews now sit alongside big name brewers – a massive success for a new and small brand.
  • A well-known British craft brewer responded by saying Camden Town beers would no longer be stocked in its bars because they view their new parent company products as mass market.

Likely future outcomes – more big brewers will try to buy craft brands. Camden’s trajectory will definitely help brands decide if they want to join international stables or try to find other sources of funding for their ambitions.

Calorie Content Displays

Two industry giants have already committed to putting calorie information on beer packaging by 2017. It’s not a legal requirement but it’s increasingly being seen as a marketing tool, and a way to differentiate brands for the younger consumer who tends to focus on calories, after cost, as a way of making purchase decisions.

Likely future outcomes – greater nutritional differentiation is commonplace in the food sector. While some craft brewers will take the calorie content route, others may focus on their vegetarian, organic or gluten free status as a selling point.

Brewtels (brew hotels), Beer Crawls and Community Events

One response to the Camden Town take-over has been the development of craft brew based experiences such as the Bermondsey Beer Mile – a beer crawl from South Bermondsey to London Bridge taking in six craft breweries and giving opportunities to sample beers as well as exposing the pub crawlers to various food stalls and other craft products along the way. Quite a similar adventure is offered by London Brewery tours which you might already know from this blog.

Likely future outcomes – AirBnB and other social-media-based travel systems make Brewtels much more likely. The linkage between craft brewing, bespoke holidays and ‘experiences’ can only grow and deepen as individuals seek to enjoy their favourite pleasures all in one place. In addition, reduction in safe alcohol consumption levels (see below) will increase the desire to consume alcohol in environments where drink-driving is avoided.

Lower Alcohol Levels

The January 2016 alcohol consumption guidelines have changed the nature of the ‘safe drinking’ debate. The new guidance suggests both men and women aim for fewer than14 units of alcohol a week – the equivalent of six pints of average strength beer or seven glasses of wine – and that saving up units to consume over a weekend is not a good idea. Above all, the new Department of Health limits claim that any alcohol consumption is injurious to health except in a tiny proportion of cases (women over 55 drinking less than five units a week). Big brewers are likely to respond by reducing alcohol levels, particularly in ‘lite’ brands, to meet the perceived consumer need for less alcoholic drinks.

Likely future outcomes – for craft brewers this is expected to be a challenging scenario; where taste and alcohol levels combine to enhance the mouth-feel of a beer, alcoholic content reduction will be an unattractive option. Balancing the revised safe drinking guidelines with craft brewing will be an ongoing big ask.

Beer Degrees

Beer degrees are big business in the USA and they are becoming increasingly popular here too. Both Vermont and Portland State have ‘craft of brewing’ programmes and San Diego State has a ‘craft of beer’ certification course. Here in the UK, the focus has largely been on the sommelier and hospitality end of the market but Nottingham University has unveiled a postgraduate degree in Brewing Science and Practice whilst Heriot-Watt University offers a Brewing and Distilling BSc.

Likely future outcomes – syndicate craft brew teams are likely to form, based on a constellation of skills from fundraising to brewing to PR. The traditional route of apprenticeship or the IBD diploma will be broadened to include people with higher level qualifications working alongside the gifted amateur brewer.


Quite a few ongoing and new developments that is – we’ll see what happens in 2016. No matter what happens, I’m looking forward to a year full of interesting changes, innovations and tastes. And if you’re looking for some more information about myself, the Carling Partnership or the drinks industry, please see our website.


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