Beer in the United Kingdom
- For more in-depth articles about beer in the United Kingdom, see Beer in England, Beer in Scotland and Beer in Wales.
Beer in the United Kingdom has a rich history, and has quite distinct traditions. Historically the main styles were top-fermented Bitters, Porters, Stouts and Milds, but after World War II lagers took over half the market by volume. The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) was founded in 1971 and has encouraged the preservation and revival of traditional styles of ale. In particular CAMRA has promoted cask conditioned beer, which completes its maturation in casks in the cellar of the pub rather than at the brewery. As of 2014[update] the UK drank 634 million pints (3.6 million hectolitres) of cask ale, representing 60% of ale in pubs and restaurants and 17% of all beer in pubs. In total 42.42 million hectolitres of beer were produced in 2013 of which 48% was sold in the off-trade (retail shops).
In the Middle Ages beer was brewed by abbeys and independent alehouses, but the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century meant British brewing lost its connection with religious houses earlier than in other European countries. As a result the industry has some of the oldest names in British corporate history - Shepherd Neame were incorporated in 1698, and the Bass Red Triangle was the first trademark to be registered. Family companies became national brands during the 19th century, many based in Burton-on-Trent which had particularly good water for brewing. By the 1970s brewing became concentrated in a handful of large national companies, which became building blocks of major multinationals such as AB InBev. A tax cut for small breweries in 2002 has seen an explosion of new breweries - as of September 2014[update] there were over 1472 breweries in the UK, with three new breweries starting every week. This is the most breweries per capita in the world; they produce over 8,000 regular beers and thousands more seasonal and one-off brews.
982 ha (2,430 acres) of hops were grown in 2014, down from a peak of 31,161 ha (77,000 acres) in 1878. British varieties and their offspring have come to dominate world hop production, both landraces such as Fuggles or Goldings and products of the breeding programme at Wye College such as Challenger and Target. The cool maritime climate means that British-grown hops have less myrcene than the same varieties grown elsewhere, allowing more delicate, complex aromas to come through. British ales tend to reflect these characteristics and have more of a balance between bitterness and aroma compared to New World craft ales, although in the 2010s many British breweries added an American Pale Ale to their range with very citrussy, hoppy aromas.
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Production of beer in the UK faces a challenge from the rising cost of raw materials and high taxes. The regional breweries are developing contract brewing to keep up production, while the production of ale by the newer, smaller breweries grows. Despite an overall drop in beer sales, real ale has increased its market share. Brewers such as Shepherd Neame, Greene King and Marston's have invested in cheaper, faster and more efficient production facilities which increase capacity.
Imported beers are increasingly popular. Brewers from Eastern Europe are introducing their brands to the UK. Polish brands Okocim, Lech, Tyskie and Zywiec have also gained a foothold in some areas, especially amongst young Polish migrant workers.
Traditional beer styles originating in the United Kingdom
Nations of the UK
- Beer in England
- Beer in Scotland
- Beer in Wales
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- "The Barth Report 2012/13" (PDF). Joh. Barth & Sohn GmbH. July 2014. p. 8.
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- Cabras, Ignazio (March 2015). "British Beer" (PDF). SIBA. p. 2 format=pdf.
- Capper, Alison (November 2014). (PDF). Nuffield UK. p. 9 http://www.nuffieldinternational.org/rep_pdf/1416931256AliCappereditedreport.pdf#page=15. Missing or empty
- Capper, Alison (November 2014). (PDF). Nuffield UK. p. 27 http://www.nuffieldinternational.org/rep_pdf/1416931256AliCappereditedreport.pdf#page=33. Missing or empty
- "Beer in the United Kingdom". www.euromonitor.com. Archived from the original on 5 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-06.