Are coffee shops missing out on profits from British craft-brewed beer?

  • A fifth of consumers say they would visit coffee shops more often if they served a range of British craft beers
  • Specialist ‘Beer Cafes’ growing in number across the UK
  • UK’s largest coffee shop chains already extending the number of branches selling alcohol

New research from the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) has highlighted a consumer demand for British craft brewed beers to be sold in coffee shops, something which the brewing trade organisation are now looking to supply via their adapted BeerFlex service.  

The research, carried out by independent research company M&C Allegra, shows a fifth of people in the UK would visit coffee shops more often if they sold British craft beers. It’s a trend the UK’s biggest coffee companies are already looking to capitalise on, having continued to extend the number of branches selling alcohol in recent years.

“Many of the UK’s large coffee chains, Costa Coffee, Starbucks, Harris + Hoole – who are owned by Tescos – have already begun to look to increase the number of outlets with alcohol licenses and the idea of Coffee Shops as all day venues is something they are taking extremely seriously. It’s important, though, that Coffee Shops which pride themselves on serving high quality, expertly prepared coffee, don’t let their offering slip when it comes to beer. The UK’s craft brewing industry has never been stronger or more exciting and there is a clear fit between coffee shops and craft-brewed beer – particularly craft canned and bottled beers, which are small, light and easy to store, but offer amazing flavour and quality.” Mike Benner, SIBA Managing Director


To meet the demand SIBA have adapted their existing BeerFlex service, which supplies the UK’s biggest pub companies with independent beer from SIBA breweries, to work for the UK’s coffee shops. SIBA say the focus of the new venture will be bottled and canned beers, which are easier to store, chill and serve – but all formats will be supplied.

The ‘bier cafe’ culture of places like Belgium is also making an impact in the UK with beer often being served in smaller stemmed glasses than the traditional pint glass associated with beer in the past. In fact when people are trying new beers 34% of people opt for a half pint glass, whereas just 26% opt for a pint glass, according to research conducted by YouGov last year**.

This ties in with research released by SIBA this year which shows 9 out of 10 consumers are interested in learning about different types of beer – a clear sign consumers are moving away from mass produced lagers towards craft-brewed beer, where a much larger range of styles and flavours are available.

“Excellence and quality over quantity is clearly the direction the industry is headed and it is great to see more breweries and bars considering how their beers should be best served, with many pubs, bars and restaurants choosing specific glassware which showcases a particular beer at its best – the Belgians have known for years that a glass can have a huge affect on the aroma and flavour of a beer, something the UK is just catching up with!” Mike added.



 Rise of the Beer Cafe – the UK’s answer to continental cafe culture
As well the large coffee chains looking to cash in on the growing trend for serving alcohol there are a new wave of small, independent, ‘Beer Cafes’ cropping up across the UK which fuse the laid back look of continental coffee shops with British and international craft beer.

Examples in London include the wonderfully esoteric ‘Look Mum No Hands!’, a fusion of hipster bike shop, coffee shop and craft beer bar with outlets in Shoreditch and Brixton. In Yorkshire there is the Sparrow Bier Cafe, in Edinburgh you have The Hanging Bat, interestingly the first bar in the UK not to offer pints, Tunbridge Wells has The Fuggles Beer Cafe, Berwickshire, now part of the Scottish Borders region has the Hemelvaart Bier Cafe which nails its continental influences to the door.

“Beer from craft breweries lends itself to being drunk in a variety of outlets and increasingly we are seeing crossover businesses fusing British independent craft beer with a coffee shop style. These outlets are popular with a wide and diverse demographic and offer beers which present a true range of flavours meaning there really is something for everybody to enjoy – from punchy, intense and bitter to smooth, roasted and full-bodied – the flavours associated with great beer could just as easily be describing coffee. In fact the artisan, hand-crafted nature of fantastic coffee has many parallels with the world of independent beer – not least the increasingly young, discerning drinkers that choose it.” Mike Benner added.