Celebrating Four Decades of British Beer

On-Trade Progress’ Guest Columnist and CAMRA Chief Executive Tim Page provides us with his exclusive opinion on British beer:

With just a few weeks left until Britain’s largest beer festival returns to Olympia London, it’s an appropriate time to reflect on the changes to the British beer industry over the last four decades.

This month tens of thousands of people will flock to London for the 40th Great British Beer Festival. They will have the chance to sample nearly a thousand different real ales, ciders, perries, and even gins and fine English wines, from all corners of the UK and abroad.

Beer has never been as popular, as accessible, as innovative and as exciting as it is here and now in 2017. The beer lovers of today would struggle to imagine Britain when there were six big brewers dominating the market, pushing bland, fizzy beer onto the public.

More than 1,500 breweries now exist across the country and hundreds of beer festivals take place each year. Most local pubs can boast a revolving beer line up of 8-12 beers on tap with plenty of guest and foreign beers available.

It’s almost impossible to imagine the world of beer that existed when the Great British Beer Festival was first launched in 1977. For the visitors to that first Festival, held in Alexandra Palace, the opportunity to sample hundreds of beers in one place was completely revolutionary. Many were used to the few “regular” local beers down at the pub, and there were only a handful of independent brewers to choose from.

Thanks largely to CAMRA beer festivals making a huge range of flavours and styles available to drinkers, beer has been brought back from the brink of extinction to become an intrinsic part of English culture and heritage.

The world of beer has changed dramatically over the last four decades – and we are changing with it. To celebrate this fantastic achievement, this year’s Festival will have more choice, more variety and even more exclusive beers than ever before. Our brewery bars and sponsors will be able to meet over 50,000 visitors throughout the week, launching new ranges, brands and designs.

For the very first time, we will be expanding our drinks offering to introduce fine English wine and gins from some of the country’s top winemakers and distillers. A collaboration of Irish brewers will be travelling to London to showcase the very best of Irish real ale at the Festival, and the London Brewers Alliance will be celebrating everything that is great about beer.

An exciting line-up of brewery bars will see some festival-exclusive beers, including the debut of some brands of American craft beer that will be entering the UK market for the first time – ranging from raspberry stouts to gin barrel-aged IPAs. Some fantastic food and entertainment, including a range of tutored tastings and the announcement of the Champion Beer of Britain, will make this Festival unlike any before.

We hope you are looking forward to our trade day, one of the biggest networking events for the beer and pubs industry. We would love to see even more brewers and publicans involved in the Festival in the future. Why not consider being part of the Great British Beer Festival movement next year, and join our journey transforming the beer world for the next 40 years?