Harrogate indies back bid to defend craft beer from big brewers

Ian Fozard,  chairman of Roosters, founder of Market Town Taverns and regional chair of SIBA.
Ian Fozard, chairman of Roosters, founder of Market Town Taverns and regional chair of SIBA.

How do you sort out the wheat from the chaff, the hops from the pops, in the lawless new world of craft beer?

The Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA for short) are taking steps to protect the small independents leading the drinks revolution from the Johnny-come-latelys and corporate-backed imposters.

And supporting that move is one of the leading players in the microbrewery scene in the Harrogate district.

As well as being chairman of Roosters Brewery in Knaresborough, Ian Fozard has also been elected regional chair for the North East region of SIBA.

Ian told the Harrogate Advertiser he was right behind SIBA’s new initiative to highlight beers brewed by ‘Assured Independent British Craft Brewers’.

Ian said: “It’s good to know that we belong to a professionally run organisation dedicated to our industry which offers support and advice.

“SIBA is a great networking organisation and via its annual conference (BeerX) hosts, probably, the best Trade Exhibition in the UK for brewing industry suppliers.”

The problem identified by SIBA boils down to the fact that, although market research commissioned by SIBA shows that 46% of beer drinkers, regard craft beer as “made by small brewers rather than large corporations”, there’s no easy way of them being sure who is actually behind their pint and what standards they aim for.

Mike Benner, managing director of SIBA, said: “As the craft beer market has grown it is being flooded with beers from across the world, often from large global brewers.

“We have launched our ‘Assured’ initiative to help consumers make informed decisions about where their beer comes from and who has brewed it.”

Other local microbreweries that are members of SIBA include The Harrogate Brewing Co while, further afield, independents such as Hawkshead Brewery in the Lake District are also members.

Ian Fozard says it’s an organisation whose time has come. He said: “SIBA now has around 850 members out of a total UK brewing population of around 1500.

“Its biggest achievement so far was in persuading the Government in 2002 to introduce progressive beer Duty which allows smaller brewers to pay a reduced rate of duty.”

Breweries who sign up to SIBA’s new initiative will be able to use the stamp on their pump clips, bottles, cans, point of sale and websites - making it crystal clear for consumers that what they are drinking is a genuine independently brewed craft beer.

Mike Benner said: “ The future credibility and growth of the craft beer market would be seriously threatened if consumers simply associated it with a handful of brands from global brewers and not from their very own local brewery.

“Consumer access to beers from truly independent craft brewers is key to the future of British beer.”