OPINION: Sheffield’s brewing community should be celebrated for its fraternal spirit
Our green and pleasant city in God’s own country has a long and proud brewing heritage that stretches back to the 18th century and continues to be a draw today.
While we don’t crow about it, Sheffield has one of the greatest brewing scenes in England, if not the United Kingdom.
The city is home to at least 26 independent breweries, which means it has one for every 28,269 people in the city and has at least three times more brewers per capita than Central London.
And yet, the capital is still widely regarded as the England’s brewing hub.
But thanks to the incredible, and widely distributed, offering from the likes of St Mars of the Desert and Abbeydale, it surely can’t be long before the rest of the country catches on.
You would be forgiven for assuming that Sheffield’s comparatively crowded beer market would cultivate a competitive atmosphere that would pit brewer against brewer, and pub against pub.
It’s been lovely, but not entirely surprising, to discover that the opposite is true; and that there is a genuine and fraternal sense of community among many of Sheffield’s brewers.
I’ve spent a lot of time speaking to brewers and people involved in the industry over the last few weeks, and have been told time and time again about the comeraderie that exists.
Head Brewer at Neepsend Brewery, Gavin Martin, whose interview features in today’s Weekend supplement, explained: "Although we’re technically competitors, everyone finds their niche in the market, and the community is very mutually supportive. The enemy isn’t the small, independent breweries, it’s the macro lagers and the chains.
"What’s good for any one of the independent breweries is good for all of us.”
Mark Booth from Crosspool Ale Makers Society has said that he has also found that the city’s brewers to be a supportive bunch, and are on hand to provide advice if needed.
Mark says he picked the brains of fellow brewers including Dan Baxter of Abbeydale Brewery Ltd and James Eardley at the Brew Foundation when he was starting out.
"There’s always someone who’s willing to give you advice. I don’t think people want to give their secrets away but they are there if you want advice,” Mark said.
That community spirit should be celebrated, and long may it continue.