Brewery plans ‘micro pubs’ in beer wars

Moorhouse's brewery
Moorhouse's brewery

Empty shops in Burnley and beyond could soon become Moorhouse’s “micro-pubs” as the famous brewery outlines plans to fight back against the demise of the traditional local pub.

Managing director of the Accrington Road-based brewer, David Grant, has spoken of the challenges of a volatile market-place, and revealed that Moorhouse’s is “caught in a perfect storm” as more than 20 pubs close each week while micro–brewers mushroom at a rate of some 12 a month.

David Grant

David Grant

Currently the brewery owns three community pubs and has recently looked at acquiring small pub groups in the north. But with the traditional pub model struggling, one route to a healthy future could lie with the newly emerging micro-pubs concept – small outlets often set up in former shops to primarily sell cask ales.

Mr Grant said: “We are being caught in a perfect storm with a shrinking market. Consequently I am actively looking at shops or small spaces in good strategic locations to open micro-pubs to complement the traditional pub model.

“These outlets would be in our core northern area – possibly as far afield as York or Chester – and could operate for 48 hours a week. They would sell the very best quality beers – both ours and guest ales – and have a limited but first class wine and food offering.”

The historic Burnley company, which is celebrating its 150 anniversary this year, has seen a growth of 6% for the last financial year with a turnover of near £6m.

We are being caught in a perfect storm with a shrinking market

Brewery boss

Sales are expected to hit a record high for October – Moorhouse’s busiest time – up some 20% on last year with already more than half-a-million pints sold.

Mr Grant added: “We now have our championship cask beers on the national stage with pubs in the south and prestigious London venues. But, to survive as an emerging regional brewer, our challenge is to sell more beer in line with our new brewery plan when we invested to treble capacity five years ago.

“Having our own pubs is one way we can move forward. The whole pub and beer industry has changed immeasurably in the past few years. The number of micro breweries has tripled due to generous tax relief, giving them a trading advantage over bigger brewers. And they are all seeking local business – yet the number of pubs has fallen dramatically.”

The brewery is now seeing a sales surge for bottled beers with new business in top UK supermarkets while inroads are also being made in the emerging markets of China, Russia and Australia.