UK on verge of beer shortage as brewers struggle to keep up with demand

UK on verge of beer shortage as brewers struggle to keep up with demand
Credit: Connor Ki (CC-SA BY 4.0)

Pub and restaurant terraces have reopened across the whole of the UK, and in combination with sunny weather and the expanding of people's social bubble, this has led to pubs and brewers struggling to keep up with the demand for beer.

After three months of closed doors, pubs in England hit record sales of beer, wine, and sparkling wine, which were 113% higher on 12 April, when they opened up their terraces, than on the same day in 2019, the last comparable date before the pandemic took hold.

Ahead of this bank holiday weekend, pubs were reportedly scrambling to secure supplies, particularly of craft beers and premium lagers, according to Financial Times, even though only about 40% of the UK's pubs have the capacity to serve people outdoors.

"The weather had been so good since venues in England were allowed to reopen to outdoor drinkers on April 12 that we overshot our forecasts. Operators felt confident to open more sites and suppliers aren’t able to move quickly enough to keep up," said Phil Urban, chief executive of Mitchells & Butlers, the UK’s largest listed pub group.

According to new reports, Budweiser, which brews Stella Artois and Camden Hells, has increased production, brewing keg beer around the clock. Other suppliers have had to limit supplies per pub as they didn't predict demand would be this high.

Smaller craft brewers, meanwhile, are struggling to find the manpower to keep up with demand to get back to full production on such short notice.

Following initial reports of beer sales going up in England in April, beer brewers in Belgium, including AB Inbev, said they had already increased production and would have enough beers ready for when terraces reopen on 8 May. 

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