The new Good Beer Guide, published today, warns readers of the devastating impact of covid on pub culture, as well as highlighting the first decline in the number of British breweries for more than a decade.

The guide found the total number of independent UK breweries has dipped from 1,823 in 2019 to 1,816 in 2020, the first time CAMRA’s book has recorded a decline in numbers since the explosion in UK breweries started in 2008.

While 163 breweries have opened this year and are newly listed in the guide, many more have closed their doors. While most of the decline will be from data captured pre-covid, the trend raises concern that the real impact of covid has yet to be felt.

CAMRA chairman, Nik Antona, said: “Many pubs and breweries have fought hard, and the majority have survived the first lockdown, but it’s clear the industry was already in a vulnerable position when covid-19 hit. Since then, breweries have all but been forgotten about, and may even be hit with higher taxes as the government considers changes to Small Brewers Relief. 

“This is a pivotal time that could make or break the industry. Our pubs and breweries are going to need significant long-term support and funding throughout the coming months to survive. Otherwise, I expect to see substantial closures in future editions of our guide.” 

‘While every sector across the UK has felt the burden of covid-19, brewers and pubs have most certainly taken the brunt of the impact’

Chef and publican Tom Kerridge has written the foreword, urging the country to “stay strong and stay positive” despite the ongoing challenges.  He has a programme on Britain’s pubs crisis starting on the BBC in November.

He said: “These figures are an early indication that all is not as it should be following a difficult year of lockdown restriction and social distancing measures. While every sector across the UK has felt the burden of covid-19, brewers and pubs have most certainly taken the brunt of the impact.

“The one thing that I think we have all missed during lockdown is human connection and social interaction, which above all else, is everything that the Great British pub provides — a warm, happy and friendly place for people to drink and eat. It is imperative that we continue to support our breweries and pubs to preserve them for generations to come.” 

Drinks writer Jessica Mason echoes Tom’s sentiment, observing that covid9 reminds us why pub culture is still important and relevant. “We knew lockdown kept our bodies safe. But what we didn’t know was how much the pub meant to us. How closely it was connected to our wellbeing. We didn’t know because, for so long, beer and pubs have been highlighted as all that is wrong in the UK, never what is right.

“The eye contact. The greeting. The small unspoken geniality of being visible. The taste and the sounds connected to feeling a part of something. All these things happen in the pub. And when the pubs closed and the streets fell quiet, we lost some of our sparkle.”

• The Good Beer Guide 2021 is available now from the CAMRA bookshop, and there is an updated app version available for download for both iOS and Android.

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