How independent local breweries are withstanding supply chain problems

Two independent Welsh brewers say they’ve had fewer problems with recent supply issues caused by Brexit than the bigger players 

To be or not to be, vat is the question: head brewer at Rhymney Brewery Tim Roderick

Craft beer has conquered the mainstream since its early days as the hipster’s drink of choice – South Walians are no exception in their enjoyment of an independently-produced pint. It’s good news then that two local independent craft breweries have avoided recent Brexit-related supply chain problems.

The Welsh Government has commented on problems caused by both shortages of carbon dioxide – used in the brewing process – and labour in the form of delivery drivers; a spokesperson acknowledges that these struggles are due to “labour shortages in manufacturing and distribution.” The issues are making it difficult for some producers to move their deliveries, leading to some big-name beers being unavailable to pub-going customers in Wales and around the UK.

A table with taster glasses of beer from an independent craft brewery
Trouble brewing? Industry experts have reported supply chain woes for big producers

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, has painted a gloomy picture of the transport problems in the trade in recent months: “From large brewers and managed pub operators to smaller breweries, leased and tenanted pubs and the independent free trade, the HGV driver shortage is affecting the entirety of our sector.”

Local breweries are, however, upbeat in their assessment for this quarter. In an email, Steve Evans, managing director of Rumney brewery in Pontypool, said: “Smaller brewers are much quicker to react to any negative issues which may affect business. The situation for November and December for the big brewers will inevitably be much worse.” 

When asked why independents are more responsive, he said: “Decision-making is simpler and more immediate. Corporates always want and need consensus to cover themselves if things go wrong.”

Neil Randle, boss at Bridgend microbrewery Bang-On Brewery, agrees: “I don’t think any smaller breweries have any issues with supply chain as long as they’re organised – the problem is with the big boys.”