“Survival” was listed as the main priority for 43% of UK independent brewers following further closures in the opening three months of 2024, according to a recent report.

The Society of Independent Brewers and Associates (SIBA) revealed in its Independent Beer Report 2024 that nearly half of its members claim “survival” is their chief concern after a long stretch of consolidation and closures in the UK.

The association added that the figure actually fell from 63% the year before but said it “is still way too high”.

The number of SIBA breweries at the start of 2024 was only 1% down on the year before, standing at 680.

However, the group revealed that the UK total number of active brewers now stands at 1,777, 38 fewer than at the end of the last quarter of 2023.

SIBA wrote the drop in the number of brewers concerned about staying afloat actually “suggests that brewers have made the adjustments necessary to get through this challenging period, and are able to focus now on maintaining their business”.

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The association said: “However, perhaps not a big surprise, but we can also see that one of the things that brewers have had to reign in during these tough times is investment in growth, with only 23% saying expansion of their brewery is a focus this year compared to almost 30% last year.”

Twenty four per cent of SIBA members expect their turnover to fall this year compared to 16% in last year’s survey. On top of this, only 60% of brewers expect to see any increase, down 3% on last year’s numbers.

Nevertheless, the association reported that beer production volumes among its UK-based members have risen to pre-pandemic levels for the first time in four years, jumping 14% on 2023’s report and now 1% higher than 2019’s level.

UK cask beer production has also seen a big increase, with volumes up 10% year-on-year.

Andy Slee, SIBA CEO, said that “demand for local, independently brewed beer in the UK is strong”.

He added: “The short-term issue for small independent breweries isn‘t demand; it’s profitability, rising costs and financial pressures such as lingering Covid debt. Far too many breweries are simply trying to survive rather than thrive, so whilst there are many positive signs highlighted in the report, for now it’s cautious optimism.”

Another point of concern for SIBA is that it reported just 30% of 18- to 24-year-olds ever drink beer, falling behind wines and spirits, while 12% said they drink beer more than once a week, down from 18% in 2023.

The group reported that the number of 18- to 24-year-olds who have gone teetotal rose 4% to 27% overall as alcohol moderation continues to trend upwards.

In January, a YouGov survey showed 44% of 18- to 24-year-olds consider themselves either an “occasional or regular drinker of alcohol alternatives”, compared to 31% in 2022. The online study also revealed that 39% of the age group do not drink alcohol at all.