UK – More than 300 new breweries were launched in the UK last year as a boom in craft beer sales encouraged startups with specialist offers ranging from gluten-free beer to ale made from leftover bread.

Growth in sales of craft beer in both pubs and supermarkets has encouraged more people interested in home brewing to raise money and open their own microbreweries.

The number of new breweries rose by 18% in 2016 to 1,994, according to a report by the accountancy firm UHY Hacker Young, taking growth over the past five years to 64%.

The trend has continued this year, with the number of breweries rising above 2,000 for the first time since the 1930s, the company said.

“The craft beer boom has reversed around 70 years of consolidation in the brewing industry and there is plenty of growth still to come,” said James Simmonds, partner at UHY Hacker Young.

The company said smaller breweries also continued to benefit from a tax break introduced in 2002 by the then chancellor, Gordon Brown, paying 50% less beer duty than their larger counterparts.

Bellfield Brewery was launched in Edinburgh in March 2016 as a dedicated gluten-free craft brewer, after one of its founders was diagnosed with coeliac disease and struggled to find a gluten-free beer that he enjoyed.

Marie Brown, the Bellfield director, said the business was founded with the aim of hitting the “sweet spot” between the rise of craft brewing and the explosive demand for gluten-free products.

“The founders of Bellfield are either coeliac or have loved ones who are. After being diagnosed coeliac and coming to terms with the realisation that beer was ‘off the menu’ we decided to do something about it and turn a negative into a positive,” Brown said.

Bellfield sells its beer across the UK and has recently started exporting to Malta, Singapore and Switzerland.

Both of its beers – Lawless Village IPA and Bohemian Pilsner – are available in Aldi stores across Scotland.

At London’s Toast Ale, craft ale is made from leftover bread as part of a campaign to reduce food waste.

The company says 44% of bread is wasted, and has made it the brand’s mission to reduce that by brewing beer with unsold loaves from bakeries and unused crusts from sandwich makers.

Profits go to the charity Feedback, which campaigns to end food waste.

“There has been a huge growth in independent craft breweries over the last few years, which has led to greater consumer choice and more different beer styles being available in the UK than ever before,” said Neil Walker at the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA).

“This growth has been in direct response to increasing demand from beer drinkers, who are demanding better quality, better flavour and more choice – all things which independent craft breweries can offer.”

However, rising demand for craft ale has created more competition for smaller breweries from some of the bigger names who have either bought up existing brands or launched their own in an effort to exploit the trend.

Among them is Hop House 13, a Guinness brand which itself is part of the global drinks business Diageo.

“The majors are beginning to make a fightback by acquiring craft brewers and launching their own artisan-style brands,” Simmonds said.

“The craft brewers can’t afford to rest on their laurels; they will need to work hard to get their product into that limited shelf space and bar space.”

Siba, which represents more than 870 independent craft breweries across the UK, has sought to protect the “craft” label with a kitemarking system, the Assured Independent British Craft Brewer seal, which highlights beer from brewers that are “relatively small, fully independent and brewing quality beer”.

“Unfortunately the growth in popularity of independent craft beer has not gone unnoticed by the global beer companies, who are losing market share and increasingly looking to capture their own piece of the craft beer market,” said Walker.

The Guardian