Raise glass to more 'real ale' breweries says Stone's Lymestone Brewery owner
BREWERY owners say the future of the industry is still fragile – despite more businesses opening than ever before.
The Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) said a record 158 new breweries had opened in the past year, the highest number ever recorded in the group's annual Good Beer Guide.
It means the number of breweries in the UK has topped 1,000, the highest figure for more than 70 years.
North Staffordshire success stories include Titanic in Burslem, and Lymestone in Stone.
Ian Bradford, owner of Lymestone, said while customers are lapping up the choice of real ale on offer, there is a danger of the bubble bursting.
He said: "On one hand it is a marvellous thing because it offers consumers choice and diversity.
"And it gives people the chance to drink truly wonderful beers.
"But on the other hand it could be seen as a negative because there may be too many breweries opening to be sustained.
"Pubs are closing at a record rate and breweries are opening at a record rate so eventually something is going to have to give.
"I would suggest that it is very likely that a lot of breweries will be forced to close at once in the future."
Mr Bradford and business partner Dr Ron Makins opened Lymestone in 2008 on the site of the former Bent's Brewery in Mount Road, which dates back to the 1880s.
Meanwhile Joules Brewery, which was established in Stone in 1780, was resurrected in Market Drayton, also in 2008.
Steve Nuttall, aged 46, director at Joules Brewery said: "I think it is a fantastic trend and the more people celebrate English ale the better.
"We now have 1,000 breweries dedicated to making this product which is fantastic.
"It is unique to Britain and we should really treasure it."
South Cheshire also has its share of brewery businesses included Beartown in Congleton and Woodlands in Nantwich.
Roger Protz, editor of the Good Beer Guide, said: "A double dip recession has done nothing to halt the incredible surge in the number of brewers coming on stream, making the small brewing sector surely one of the most remarkable UK industry success stories of the last decade.
"In fact, the boom in new breweries has, in many cases, made the term 'micro' obsolete, with some small brewers having become remarkably large, installing new equipment or doubling production to keep up with demand."
But Mr Bradford warned there is a danger that investing in breweries is just a fad.
He said: "You have to stay alert in this business because we are chasing a diminishing market.
"It is a difficult time for people to find jobs and it may be that those with a bit more money have chosen to invest it in the brewery industry."