Repton brewer says craft beer revolution is a ‘double edged sword’

by The Rhea Turner, for the Burton Mail

The number of breweries has broken through the 2,000 barrier for the first time since the 1930s

A master brewer whose ales are enjoyed by many in Burton and South Derbyshire says the growing success of breweries throughout the UK is a “double-edged sword” for the town.

Jon Archer, brewer at the Boot, in Repton, shared his thoughts on the industry boom after the number of breweries in the UK broke through the 2,000 barrier for the first time since the 1930s.

The UK has experienced a craft beer “revolution,” with rising sales of artisan beers in pubs and supermarkets and more micro-breweries opening, with a 64 per cent increase over the past five years, according to accountancy group UHY Hacker Young.

James Simmonds, who works for the accountancy group, said: “The craft beer boom has reversed around 70 years of consolidation in the brewing industry. There is plenty of growth still to come.

“However, the majors are beginning to make a fightback by acquiring craft brewers and launching their own artisan-style brands.

“The craft brewers can’t afford to rest on their laurels – they will need to work hard to get their product into that limited shelf space and bar space.”

Jon said he was not surprised by the recent achievement of breweries, which is pushing traditional brewers to “exceed expectations.”

Jon Archer at the Boot Beer Brewery in Repton

He said: “I think the market has shifted axis from big commerce as consumers actively seek more local, exciting and flavoursome product choices. Individuals are becoming more discerning about what they eat and drink.

“They want high quality and they are enthusiastic to support small local entrepreneurs. There’s a great opportunity to exceed expectations and the demand is definitely there if the quality, surprise and uniqueness is right.

“The major breweries are fighting back with “craft” selections or swallowing up small emerging breweries to create the illusion of craft but it is still the same mega-commerce business model trying to hold on to market share. Craft brewers are putting the beer first versus the macro brewers who are continually driven by the bottom line and shareholder value.

“I go to work to make the very best beer I can and let that drive the business performance. I think consumers are deliberately making the alternative choice because not only does it feel right, it is unique and not something that can be mass-produced.”

Jon said brewers were now looking to react to demand by “exploiting new and bold flavours” and “introducing consumers to the latest on-trend styles and flavours such as milky and murky New England IPAs.”

He said: “I exited long term employment looking for a more balanced lifestyle, and turned my home brew hobby into an employment choice to pay the mortgage. Lots of people make the move into craft and artisan employments, cake baking, artisan breads etc. I genuinely think people want to be self-sufficient and turn their skills into their source of income and this connection turns into support when they see others make that leap and do it.

“You have to get the quality right. I imagine that lots of people can make beer, it is whether it tastes good or not, is supplied consistently and secures repeat sales.

“Modern beer drinkers like to try out different beers and the quality and flavour will ultimately define who succeeds in this highly competitive market.

“It takes an awful lot of hard physical effort and practice for small brewers that don’t have the advantage of all the automated kit the macro-brewers have at their disposal.

“So it is a bit of a double-edged sword, the demand is there but it remains survival of the fittest and there can be no complacency for those that fail to maintain exceptional taste, freshness, quality and consistency because that is what our discerning customers demand.”

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Boot Beer - Good for the Sole

Boot Beer – Good for the Sole