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Best Online Craft Beer Stores: Beer bonanza, but it’s tough for Shropshire pubs
Real ale drinking is increasingly fashionable, yet the local is struggling to survive. So what’s going wrong? Business Editor Thom Kennedy reports.
If ever there has been a good time to be a brewer of real ale, this is it.
Drinkers of real ale have often been sneered at in the past – one Viz cartoon strip depicting them as pompous, self-important buffoons fitted the stereotype.
But increasingly, younger people are looking over the casks when they get to the bar, and a sturdier snifter is often the first choice for people in their 20s heading to the pub.
A report from the Society of Independent Brewers shows that small, local breweries are currently utterly outstripping major firms, with eight per cent growth in the independent market compared to an overall decline in the brewery market of 3.9 per cent.
Shropshire enjoys a number of independent brewers, who produce a wide range of craft beers, and Nick Davies, owner of the award winning Hobson’s Brewery in Cleobury Mortimer, said: “Smaller breweries provide what customers want more than your larger breweries do, they are becoming more sophisticated.
“And the drinking public are quite discerning now about what they want. The entry level to drinking real ale is about 22 or 23, whereas it used to be that people wouldn’t drink real ale until they were in their 30s.”
With that level of success in local drinks, it would be fair to assume that the purveyors of those drinks are enjoying a similar boom.
But the troubles faced by Shropshire’s pubs remain alive and kicking, and rural watering holes across the UK are still closing at the rate of three every week, and face a continuing struggle to survive.
What, then, is the problem with pubs?
Richard Sys, landlord of the Plough Inn at Wistanstow, says landlords associated with major pub chains are bound to struggle because of the size of the rents and fees associated with the companies that are being placed on them.
“I talk to so many landlords at big companies’ pubs, and the extra costs run through every element of the pub.
“They are no longer companies that own pubs, they are companies with a property portfolio, so when one closes down it doesn’t matter, it’s still an asset.
“If you look at a Punch or Enterprise pub where they are charging £40,000 a year rent, if you were to think about the kind of mortgage you could get, you realise the pub isn’t worth anything near that.”
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