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|
|BBPA Statistical Handbook 2003, p. 92|