To mark International Beer Day, David Beaumont, regional director for Wales at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, examines why craft brewers in Wales still have plenty of opportunities to prosper despite a maturing market...

Today sees pubs and brewers from more than 200 cities across the world come together in celebration of International Beer Day – and Welsh beer lovers will be no exception.

While organisations like the Campaign for Real Ale have raised awareness that a quarter of pubs in the UK have closed since the first International Beer Day in 2007, the industry still remains in good shape.

In fact, government figures highlight that overall spending in pubs has remained in line with inflation over the last decade.

An influencing factor in this has been the global rise in popularity of craft ales.

If it’s true that variety is the spice of life, the UK ale industry has delivered in abundance, bringing to market all manner of blends. Stouts, porters, amber and pale ales will all be firm favourites among those celebrating today – a trend that few would have anticipated a decade ago.

Though the craft ale market is maturing, there are still opportunities for micro-brewers and more established independents with the right product and a passion for brewing. The overall value of the market in the UK now stands at more than £175m, and while growth has slowed, it still delivered a hefty 16 per cent year-on-year increase in 2018.

A common issue for those looking to scale up their brewing enterprise is that it is often a project born out of passion – which can often mean a lack business experience. Backing that entrepreneurial spirit with the right commercial guidance is therefore crucial.

A great example of a company that has blossomed as part of the real ale revolution is Newport-based independent brewery Tiny Rebel, which won CAMRA’s Champion Beer of Britain in 2015. Founders Brad Cummings and Gaz Williams started the business in Brad’s dad’s garage eight years ago. Today, their business is capable of producing more than 12 million litres of ale a year.

We’ve supported Tiny Rebel from start-up stage through to its current near-£10m turnover, most recently with a funding package to acquire the site for a new 30,000 sq ft distribution centre.

When we announced the deal earlier this year, Brad cited just how invaluable having the right commercial guidance has been during every phase of their growth.

We’ve committed to lending more than £1.1bn to businesses in Wales this year, and SMEs play a huge part in that.

The challenges they face are numerous; whether it’s managing cashflow, investing in essential facilities and equipment or simply understanding how best to scale their business – be that through distributors or online sales. The good news is that the support is out there, and part of the process is educating fledgling business owners on how tools like invoice finance or asset-based lending can provide them with the momentum they need to drive sustainable growth.

Consumer insight from the Society of Independent Brewers highlights that beer drinkers in the UK are happy to pay a premium to support independent brewers, so there’s little evidence that the craft industry is a bubble waiting to burst. On International Beer Day, and every day thereafter, we’ll be by the side of those Welsh businesses looking to help the nation enjoy itself responsibly.