Olly Graham, general manager of Crouch Vale Brewery, which won the title from Camra (the Campaign for Real Ale) at the Great British Beer Festival for its beer Brewers Gold, said: “For many small brewers it takes a lot of energy to go into bottling with not much to show at the end of it.
“An enormous number of small brewers have gone into bottling and a lot say that it’s hard to get profit and distribution is difficult.”
Currently, Brewers Gold is available only in casks and the plant is operating at maximum capacity. However, Graham said
he hoped that 2005 would be the year the brand moved into the off-trade.
Previous winners said that the title had helped them expand into the off-trade.
Oakham Ales only bottled its Oakham Ales JHB after the beer
won the title in 2001, and Harviestoun Brewery’s Bitter & Twisted secured a hugely increased off-trade distribution when it won in 2003.
“We always intended to go into bottles at some point but this gave us the push we needed,” said John Brian, head brewer at Oakham Ales.
Ken Brooker, the owner of Harviestoun Brewery, said its JHB beer was already listed in local Sainsbury stores before winning the award in 2003, but the prize had led to nationwide distribution. “It helped to give us credibility and to get the name in people’s minds,” said Brooker.
But both breweries admitted that bottling is a difficult exercise for a small brewer. “There is no money in bottling for us, but it was a good marketing exercise,” said Brian. “It is a bit of a wing and a prayer as you have to guess how much you think you will need.”
Tony Jerome, spokesperson for Camra, said it offered advice and media support to small brewers in this position.