Sheffield Beer Report 2024

Sheffield has retained its position as the real ale capital of the world, with the thriving brewing industry driving tourism and regeneration in the steel city, a new report reveals.

The new report, commissioned by the University of Sheffield, found the brewing scene in Sheffield and the wider South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority area is bucking the national trend for closures, despite the challenges of Covid and the cost-of-living crisis. The region is now home to 58 breweries, more per head of population than anywhere else in the country, producing around 1,800 different beers every year.

A strong culture of traditional pubs that “feel different” to elsewhere in the country, and which see over 600 different beers being served every day on its bars, means Sheffield is experiencing a beer tourism boom, the report found. Dozens of events are taking advantage of, and supporting, this pub culture.

First produced in 2016, the new report has been written by Norwich-based, award-winning beer writer, Pete Brown. The report surveyed breweries across Sheffield and the wider region about the state of the industry in the area. Key findings included:

Sheffield has four breweries per 100,000 head of population, many times higher than other cities. These breweries produce around 780 beers each year. Around 70% of the beer brewed by local brewers is drunk locally with 70% of cask ale brands sold in Sheffield brewed within 20 miles of the city centre. Around 300 different real ales are on sale in Sheffield on a daily basis, with the city and region’s breweries and pubs predominately cask focussed.

Sheffield remains the real ale capital of the world. 

Author, Pete Brown, said: “Sheffield’s prowess as a beer city won’t come as a surprise to anyone who drinks here. But it’s fascinating that when you do the research and generate the numbers, the claim of being one of the best beer cities in the world really stands up.” 

The report also notes that while breweries in the region have been resilient and adaptable thus far, they are in “survival mode”, with no capacity to expand. In 2016, two-thirds of the breweries surveyed said that they were planning significant expansion over the next twelve months; today that figure has dropped to around one in five. There is also a lack of support from local authorities which means that while Sheffield in many ways out-performs its brewing rivals, it could do even better with more active, broader involvement and promotion.

Professor Vanessa Toulmin, Director of City Culture and Public Engagement at the University of Sheffield, said: “Sheffield has always been a city of makers and what makes the report’s findings really interesting is the added value this industry of modern-day little mesters are bringing to the region. They are not just brewing beer; they are providing a huge tourism pull for people from far afield, while also regenerating neighbourhoods in organic, unplanned ways.

“To anyone living in Sheffield and visiting its pubs, it will come as no surprise that this new report has reaffirmed what we discovered in 2016; that Sheffield really can lay claim to being the ‘real ale capital of the world’.”

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