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Kelham Island was the latest in a slew of craft brewers to close over recent months

Independent brewers unable to recover from the pandemic are buckling under the pressure, with a raft closing their doors over recent weeks.

Sheffield brewer Kelham Island announced on Friday (6 May) it was closing its brewery after 32 years, citing a desire to repay all its creditors in full. The Grocer has approached liquidator Begbies Traynor for comment.

The brand’s pub, The Fat Cat, would remain open and sell Kelham Island beers until stock ran out, it said.

But Kelham Island is just the latest in a slew of much-loved craft brewers to close this spring.

Stirling-based Fallen Brewing, for instance, entered liquidation in mid-April, blaming the pandemic, with a statement from liquidator Brian Milne claiming it had been “unable to recover to a sufficiently profitable level” despite restrictions easing.

Prior to the pandemic, Fallen had been in talks with “a worldwide brewing company” interested in establishing a partnership, Milne said. However, “by mutual agreement both parties walked away from the proposed partnership” when it became clear “that the pandemic was going to be protracted and that it was going to have a significant impact on the licenced on-trade”.

Manchester brewery Beatnikz Republic, meanwhile, announced two weeks ago it had ceased trading. Its founder Paul Greetham had “tried our best to make it through Covid, but the negative impact over the last two years has proven too much”.

“From the initial shock, to constantly starting and stopping production due to the various lockdowns, to lower sales this year, the financial implications have been disastrous,” he said.

It comes as costs are surging across the beer industry. Huge brewers such as Heineken and Carlsberg have already warned of significant increases in production costs filtering through to shelves.

And it’s not just independents feeling the squeeze. Beer brands owned by bigger players have closed over the past year, too – for example Carlsberg-owned London Fields, or Fourpure and Magic Rock, which owner Lion has placed up for sale.

It was “always difficult to comment on factors in other people’s business, but to come out of the pandemic and then find surging costs putting huge pressures on breweries… I’m sure there will be other fallers along the way”, said Thornbridge Brewery CEO Simon Webster.

“I think the surging costs now and in the future represent a bigger challenge to some businesses than the pandemic,” he added.

Read more: the craft beer crush - beer & cider category report 2022