Friday 15 September 2023

UK Breweries in the 1970s

The number of breweries in the UK had been in decline for more than a century. Other than the clubs breweries founded just after WW I, there had been almost no new in the 20th century.

But that changed in the 1970s. In 1977, the trend was reversed and for the first time in more than two centuries, the number of breweries increased. After a stuttering start, the number of new breweries exploded after 1980.

Most brewery closures were the result of takeovers. But some, like Melbourn of Stamford, was because a vital piece of equipment gave up and there wasn’t the cash, or the will, to replace it.

Owning pubs was the name of the game. Most beer was sold in pubs. But the number of pub licences was limited. And mostly owned by brewers. The only way to get new outlets was to buy another brewery. Take the pubs and close the brewery.

The Big Six dominated brewing in the 1970s. Owning a huge percentage of the UK’s pubs, how could it go wrong? Yet it did.

At the time, it looked like they had an unbreakable grip on UK brewing. Yet after the Beer Orders they would fade into nothing. 

Number of UK breweries 1969 - 1972
Year breweries
1969 177
1970 177
1971 170
1972 162
1973 162
1974 152
1975 147
1976 142
1977 144
1978 143
1979 145
1980 191
1981 210
1982 244
BBPA Statistical Handbook 2003, p. 92


Chris Pickles said...

Of those 177 breweries that were operational in 1970, I wonder how many are still going today.

I'd guess it will be well south of 50.

Anonymous said...

Quite sad when you think of it Jenning’s gone how many regional family breweries will shut.

Anonymous said...

Are the number of licenses still limited? I get the feeling in England (GB?) they aren't. In NI they certainly are. What legislation might have changed things in England?