The recent report from SIBA indicates that there is growth of success for the many microbreweries in the country. This is such fantastic news for anyone in the freetrade or who are owners of a small local independent brewery. It is also good news for the discerning beer drinker as the opportunity for choice increases. The only limiting factor to this success is probably a limit to the number of freehouses that these breweries have as outlets. Hopefully the Fair Pint Campaign will help to do something about this.
The Independent Family Brewers of Britain are obviously worried. In the Morning Advertiser there is an article that rather over exaggerates the role of the family brewers in providing choice. Furthermore, there is a claim that cask ale would have died out had it not been for the family brewers. Interestingly, I cannot find the article online but only in the printed version of the trade publication.
In the article, Paul Wells who is the chairman of the IFBB is quoted as saying.
"Cask ale has only survived because of the tie. Consumers only have choice of beer and regional diversity thanks to it. It is only because of the tie we have been able to resist the lager tide that Edward Taylor created with Carling Black Label through the '50s and '60s onwards, and the subsequent rise of the property pubcos."
The article seems to me to be suggesting that if the tie were to be outlawed then we would see the end of real ale and choice. I'm sorry Paul, but from where I am the freehouse is where you find good real ale. The freehouse is where you often find interesting beers from small independent microbreweries.
The industry figures would suggest that as a proportion of the total number of pubs there is a continual increase of tied houses. If we believe that the tie should remain to keep the family brewers in business then I don't think that's a good enough reason. When there is an increasing demand for micro brewed beer and an increasing number of microbreweries starting up, maybe we should consider how valuable the tie really is.
If a brewery is good enough and the beer is good enough it should not need to monopolise an estate of pubs to survive.