You MUST Serve Half Pints

As I presume we all know in the UK it is the law that beer MUST be served in measures of: third of a pint, half a pint, two thirds of a pint; pints; and multiples of half-pints.

A lot of options. But also a bit of a pain for folk wanting to do “tasting flights” as breweries back home in Australia do. A third is too large for the purpose really. But hey ho… this is beside the point here.

The reason for this quick post is that whilst I knew it was mandatory for licensed premises to be able to serve beer in half pints I realised this is just what I’d been told and I didn’t know where it was in legislation. Google searching didn’t quickly lead me to the answer and I wasted half an hour pinning it down.

To answer the question: Yes, it is MANDATORY that you are able to serve beer (and cider) in ½ pint measures. You also MUST advertise the fact.

See page 9 of “Guidance on Mandatory Licensing Conditions”:…/file/3…/2014-08-29_MC_Guidance_v1_0.pdf

After some hunting, here is the relevant legislation – section 5 on page 3 of “The Licensing Act 2003 (Mandatory Licensing Conditions) Order 2010″:…/8…/pdfs/uksi_20100860_en.pdf

  • 5. The responsible person shall ensure that –
    • (a) where any of the following alcoholic drinks is sold or supplied for consumption on the premises (other than alcoholic drinks sold or supplied having been made up in advance ready for sale or supply in a securely closed container) it is available to customers in the following measures–
      • (i) beer or cider: ½ pint;
      • (ii) gin, rum, vodka or whisky: 25 ml or 35 ml; and
      • (iii) still wine in a glass: 125 ml; and
    • (b) customers are made aware of the availability of these measures.

Hopefully Google/etc picks this up and anyone else seeking the information in future has a quicker time of it than I did.

Brewery Data – Companies House

In the whole discussion about “the state of the industry” going on lately we see figures bandied about from CAMRA and the BBPA. I like to work some of my own data out from sources where possible… but unfortunately there is no clear source of “number of breweries in the UK”. This quick post was originally a comment on Boak & Bailey’s Beer Blog: Gauging the Mood of the British Beer Scene. But it became a bit too long for something a bit too tangential.

The comment started with me thinking to myself: I would put (not much) money on hitting 2000 breweries this year. I still hear of far more openings and planned openings than closures.

Not much of a stretch on the BBPA’s last figure of 1700 mind, but a bit of a jump from the 1500 I see most often (GBG/CAMRA?)

Where do they get the numbers from?

You can download all Companies House data here:

It is mahoosive of course – 5 separate zip files, about 1.5GB data uncompressed. (Fully shut down companies are not listed.)

You can count the number of ‘Active‘ entries marked as being in the business of ‘Manufacture of beer‘ (including as non-primary business)… the number is 1645… which seems “sane”. Some of which are likely bogus like the “Gourmet Jerk Chicken Company“. And bear in mind some breweries may be sole traders or partnerships not registered with Companies House so they will not show up in this data. I guess what we want to know really is from HMRC how many registered for beer duty are reporting a non-zero volume brewed – they’ll be the truly active breweries.

You could filter by date and see how many companies have been registered each year with the intention of being in the “manufacture of beer“. In 2016 this is 171 new companies formed with this intention. Bear in mind that we don’t know how many of these have gone on to be bona fide duty registered breweries. In fact how about the last 3 decades?

Year New Brewery LTDs
(Still Active)
2016 171 <- suspect
2015 288
2014 238
2013 169
2012 157
2011 127
2010 66
2009 64
2008 40
2007 36
2006 43
2005 26
2004 38
2003 30
2002 38
2001 11
2000 15
1999 15
1998 19
1997 20
1996 7
1995 11
1994 7
1993 6
1992 7
1991 4
1990 2
1989 4
1988 1
1987 2
1986 2

If this data is accurate in 2016 that could be quite interesting. (I wonder if there is any lag in registrations showing up?) [According to comment from MarkB below there probably IS a lag in the companies house data.] It could indicate 2015 was a peak in founding breweries. But we don’t have anywhere near enough data to come to that conclusion with much confidence. I would now be unlikely to bet on us hitting the 2000 brewery figure this year. This post is a bit drab, so how about I graph that too:

New Breweries Founded Per Year

You can also grep the file for things like ‘Liquidation‘ (there are other relevant states to examine) to see who’s marked as such by Companies House right now. (As of 1st January, say.) Bearing in mind companies can be in this state for months, years even. There are 33 in “Liquidation” right now – but including many most of us are aware of (and reasons for liquidation can be fairly benign I think), and there are red herrings aplenty so the data needs a careful cross-referencing.

There’s quite a few marked ‘proposal to strike off‘ – worth investigating (sometimes just because of badly run businesses tardy with filings?). And a handful in Administration or a Voluntary Arrangement, some I’ve never heard of others much higher profile.

This is just snapshot in time mind.

Someone seriously monitoring this stuff could download the data monthly and map some trends. But I suppose that what people at companies like CGA Strategy are paid to do for us, so we can buy expensive reports every year! (I don’t, I can’t afford expensive reports.)

But anyway, here’s a whole data project for some beery data-nerd. In a former life I’d have started doing something with this….

Here’s the 2017-01-01 data filtered down to just ‘Manufacturers of beer’, which is a much more digestable 119kB: brewers-basiccompanydata-2017-01-01-csv

We can do without “craft” elitism…

Dabbled in Facebook briefly. I use it as a “business tool” mainly (and it is a useful one), but if you’re there you get dragged into being “friends” and into “groups”. There’s a “Craft Beer” group where you’re only allowed to talk about “craft beer”. Some poor chap got told off for mentioning Robinsons beer…


I’m not a big fan of Robbies. Old Tom on cask can be a delight mind you. Like most trad brewers their sterile shelflife-first flavour-second bottled stuff is mostly not great compared to their cask, and their cask is mostly a bit unexciting. But entirely pleasant when found in good condition.

But just because they’re a bit trad, presumably pay full duty rate, are more than 10 years old as a brewery, and that you find their beers in Tesco… seems little reason to blithely dismiss them as “not craft” in my mind. Let alone get on a high horse about it.

They’re independent and family run… do not represent a huge chunk of the UK beer market… well below the 3% that makes up the US definition for craft brewers, let alone the overall volume of beer produced under the US market definition. I’d be curious to know if they brew less or more than BrewDog at the moment. BrewDog… that common, or garden variety, Tesco brewer who most certainly are on the full duty rate.

Craft defined by style? Maybe craft defined by hops?

The mindless faddishness of it gets my goat and I want no part in it. It reflects badly on the industry as a whole, and it makes folk who claim that they like beer look like a bag of fashion-victim style tossers.


The British beer industry has an oxidised, over-conditioned, possibly-infected elephant in the room. Frankly, sometimes, it is hard to imagine there is room for anyone in the ROOM other than the ELEPHANT.

Look… good beer needs to be a) GOOD, b) kept well, c) served well. Sadly given the failure of at least one of these factors in MOST CASES you’re unlikely to experience “GOOD BEER”. Ah, beer NIRVANA… where can it be found? My current answer: move to another country.

I’m a bit sick of it all to be honest. I jumped into the industry on a platform of giving a real utter fuck about quality. Here I am now with a 9C coldstore (warm?!) for cask and a 4C coldstore for keg/bottle/can. I don’t do (spend) this flippantly – I do it because in my own tests it REALLY FUCKING MATTERS.

But the British? They care not. They drink the brand. The breweries, they sell to who’llever buy. Sales channel… quality…? These things mean nothing to the British Craft Brewer… they’ll sell their yeasty end-runnings to your poor demented grandmother if they can get a quid out of it.

And the publicans are actually worse than the brewers.

Kwality is all in the brand. And the best you can hope to do is build a “brand” to sell to ABInHeineMolsenThingamy.

My value is as nowt to both brewers and publicans. I may as well be a bucket-chain as far as beer quality in the UK is concerned.


I think we need a better vocabulary around the subject of sourness in beer. I hear a lot of stuff described as sour and I’m rarely quite sure what someone means. Usually it just means they’re a malty beer drinker and they don’t like a thin pale ale. (Such as Oakham Citra being described as “sharp”.)

Keep in mind that beer is always acidic… be it berlinerweisse at a pH of 3 or malty ale at a pH in the low fours… and palates vary… but some things are definitely detectable and definable.

Here’s a few forms of “sour” I come across:

Sharp – what I call the sharpness of thin pale ales, the Session IPAs of this world, I actually hear people take a sip and say “oh, that’s sour”… I’d not use the word sour personally, but I do use the term “sharp”. See also: being contacted by a bar and asked why a beer is so sour… worrying about infection… then hearing it is a 3% session pale and thinking: ah-hah… Some I know think of this as a lack of “balance”, especially in new-style Brit-IPAs that lack the meatier crystal malt character of some of their US counterparts.

Lactic – this is a properly biting lemon-juice sour which can be often found in mouth-puckeringly dry berlinerweisse, but also sometimes in bigger sweeter beers which take the edge off it. It is a “clean” sourness, not one that usually comes with a “sour” aroma, it can be described as enamel-stripping at times, but shouldn’t be too challenging to the white wine or cider drinker. Ice cold it is amongst my favourite type of summer refresher, especially at typical sub-4% strengths.

Acetic – always bad in my opinion, but accepted by some in some styles. Basically this is vinegar, sometimes complete with malt-vinegar pong. Usually a sign of badly kept cask ales. Sometimes mildly deliberate – notably in the (in)famous Duchess de Brogdoggognogwhateveritisyer...

Brett – I still don’t quite understand this one. I see bretted beers decribed as a “sour style” and I’ve had folk say they won’t have bretted beers because they “don’t like sours”. I’m still a bit confused by this. I’ve had some sour-ish bretted beers but I don’t think of brett as a giver of sourness. Usually it is more umami and woody spiciness… but hey ho, it is worth mentioning. The sense of “sourness” could come from them often being dry (little sweetness) and not hugely hopped (little bitterness). Perhaps this subject needs a bit of deeper exploration beyond Orval ;)

Ropey – this is sort of my own one. Is is that specific sourness you only seem to get in old fined cask ale. I suspect it is the finings going “off”… it’s a sort of tang, I call it a “twang”, a discord in the beer flavour. It is distinct from any of the above… think old pongy cheap port perhaps, not acetic but soured. Needs more analysis… unpleasantly.

There are probably others but these are what I some across most often in talking to folk who buy beer at various levels and drinking beer myself. Are their tannic sours, citric? Not sure. But the point is we need more precision as currently the word “sour” is doing me ‘ed in.