Britain has the greatest number of small breweries of any major industrialised nation, with 71 starting up in the last year alone, according to the Good Beer Guide.
Despite falling beer sales and pub closures running at 50 a week, enterprising enthusiasts have started micro-breweries to capitalise on demand for smaller, quirkier ales.
Of the 711 breweries in the UK, West Yorkshire has the most (34), followed by Norfolk (31), Derbyshire and North Yorkshire (both 28) and Devon (27).
Among the new breweries are Morrissey Fox, founded by the actor Neil Morrissey at Marton cum Grafton, near York, and Mill Green, which brews beer with energy from solar panels behind the White Horse in Sudbury, Suffolk.
Duncan Sambrook decided to ditch his job as a management accountant at Deloitte to start the Sambrook Brewery in Wandsworth, London, after having a “few too many” pints at a beer festival in 2006. A year after moving into old warehouses last August, the business employs five staff and supplies 9,000 pints of Wandle Ale weekly to 80 pubs.
“The concept is a London beer for Londoners,” he said.
“It’s gone fantastically well. We’ve had huge support from the local community, publicans and CAMRA. Because of support of local CAMRA members, pubs have been ringing us up.”
Good Beer Guide editor Roger Protz said the nationwide total of breweries made the UK “undisputed top brewing country in the world”. “Britain has more small craft breweries per head of population than all other major industrialised countries; but it also offers tremendous choice,” he said.
“While most other countries offer mainly mainstream lagers, Britain has enormous diversity - milds, bitters, strong ales, porters, stouts, barley wines, old ales, Christmas ales, spring beers, golden ales and harvest ales to name just a few.
“This rebirth of British brewing is due to the pioneering work of Camra – there are now more than twice as many breweries in Britain than when the campaign was launched in 1971 – and to the enthusiasm and innovation of independent brewers.”
The guide features 1297 new pub entries, but says goodbye to some old favourites that have shouted last orders for the last time, including the Jolly Anglers in Reading, Berkshire, and the Hope poles, at Risbury in Herefordshire.