A tax break introduced more than a decade ago has created a microbrewery boom. Here’s how you can whet your whistle

Whether you prefer a pale ale, porter, ruby, IPA, DIPA or stout, the choice of beer at pubs across the UK has changed beyond recognition mostly thanks to the rise of craft breweries. Here’s how you can turn making your own tipple into a brewing business.

The microbrewery revolution started with a tax change. In 2002 then chancellor Gordon Brown introduced the ‘small breweries’ relief’ scheme. Also known as Progressive Beer Duty (PBD), the incentive gave huge tax breaks to small breweries.

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It might sound like a lot, but breweries producing less than 600,000 hectolitres each year – or about ten million pints – qualify for a discount on the amount of duty they pay. A microbrewery, producing only 5,000 hectolitres each year, pay 50 per cent of the duty compared to large companies.

In 2000 there were around 500 breweries in the UK. In October last year, there were 1,700 – and this trend is only going one way. In the US, the number of craft microbreweries jumped by 21 per cent to 3,132 from 2015 to 2017, according to the Brewers Association.

There are two main routes people can go to start their own brewery, says Seb Brink, head brewer at North Brewing Co, based in Leeds. Either start out as an enthusiastic home-brewer, like he did, or get an apprenticeship at a brewery and learn the trade from there.

With a few bars dotted around Leeds, North Brewing Co. already had somewhere to sell its beer. Now, just over a year and a half years late, North Brewing Co. is receiving orders from across the world and finding it difficult to keep up with demand.

Brink says home brewing is now much easier than when he started out, with websites and shops now dedicated to the hobby. Even if you have no scientific knowledge, brewing is simple. It requires four ingredients: water, yeast, hops and some form of sugar. The sugar normally comes from grains like malted barley, which is germinated in a metal container called a mash. The grains are then moved into a mash tun which soaks the grains, converting all the starches to fermentable sugars.

The grains are also where the colour comes into it. Lighter beers start out with paler grains, with grains are roasted to give them a more golden colour, or even to make them black, which makes dark beers.

Homebrewers tend to buy the sugar in a kind of malt extract state to avoid these steps. Most breweries will buy their grains already roasted, depending on what colour of beer they want to achieve.

The next step is boiling the liquid to create something walled wort. At this stage, hops are added to give the beer a bitter flavour. More hops are normally added towards the end of the boiling stage, which can take up to 90 minutes, to give more delicate flavours.

Once the wort has been cooled it is moved to a fermenter, usually just a large stainless steel vat, where yeast is added. The last stage is conditioning and allowing the yeast to settle. Depending on what kind of beer you are after, each step is slightly different, but the general process remains the same.

Once you’ve become a master home brewer, the step to turning it into a microbrewery can be difficult, Brink says. The main difficulty, he explains, is finding the finances and opportunity to rent large-scale equipment. You might want to think about attracting investors. Getting everything you need to start producing on a large scale can cost between £50,000 and £100,000, Brink estimates.

With the huge increase in craft breweries popping up, it may sound like the market is saturated, but Brink does not think so. “There’s still time to get involved,” he says. “Places like Leeds are full of microbreweries, but I’ve been to other cities around the UK that definitely still have room for more.”

As the name suggests, here at The Contract Brewing Company, we can help you with all your brewing, canning, bottling and kegging needs. Get in touch today on 01751 484 002 to discuss how we can help you scale or fill in the contact form and will call you right back. Happy brewing!

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