The East Sussex microbrewery trade experienced 1500% growth in the last year, outperforming every other UK county, according to a new study.
Business finance specialist Rangewell found that the craft beer industry in East Sussex showed 25% better revenue growth than Greater London. High growth areas include Heathfield, Brighton, Forest Row, Rye and Bexhill-on-Sea. The single highest revenue growth was 655%, in Heathfield.
East Sussex is fast becoming a beer enthusiast’s paradise. The county currently has 33 breweries, which equates to 6.4 breweries per 100,000 people, in comparison to London’s 0.4 breweries per 100,000 people.
In 2015, the number of breweries in the South East region grew from 133 to 192, a 44% increase from 2013. That’s 153% more than those that opened in London.
Mark Berry, Co-Founder and Director of Gun Brewery, in East Sussex, said: “East Sussex has a long history of brewing and a long established beer culture. Craft beer is really just the latest chapter.
“Any brewery starting out here is entering a market that’s comfortable trying new beers and supportive of new enterprises. At the same time, it is also demanding when it comes to quality.”
Platform for growth
He added: “Entering a strong local market that demands quality makes sure that brewers are on their game. This, in turn, is a great platform for national growth. Once you’ve tried an IPA, made from Sussex Spring water, alive with lip-tingling tropical fruit and citrus flavours, or a complex warming stout, why would you drink anything else?”
Wild hops were discovered in East Sussex in 2005. Named the Sussex Hop, they were found to be ideal for brewing, thanks to their resistance to both mildew and wilt. Local brewery Harvey’s uses the Sussex Hop, which boasts earthy, grassy aromas, in its award-winning Wild Hop beer.
Local breweries are also catering to more specific tastes, such as Bartleby’s Brewery, which offers vegetarian brews, and Gun Brewery which caters to the vegan and gluten-free market.
The small breweries’ tax relief has contributed to the growth of microbreweries over the past five years and UK now sees three breweries opening up per week. The scheme offers tax breaks to small breweries that produce no more than 60,000 hectolitres each year.
The South East is the second most affluent region in the UK, after London, with an average household disposable income of between £35,000 and £40,000, and with accessibility to London, it is attracting young people, often those who leave good paying jobs to start their own small business ventures.