Boost for Bristol brewery as more drinkers develop taste for its no-alcohol beer during dry Janaury

February 12, 2024

Sales of Bristol craft brewery Butcombe’s alcohol-free beer soared by 95% last month as more people took part in dry January or turned to so-called zebra drinking – alternating between alcoholic and non-alcoholic tipples.

Butcombe launched Goram IPA Zero nearly three years ago as its first foray into the rapidly growing no and low-alcohol drinks market.

Its strong performance during dry January helped Butcombe’s parent group Channel Islands-based Liberation clock up growth of 8.6% on its drinks in the year to 27 January.

Food sales were up 6.2% during the same period and revenue from accommodation rose by 11.6%.

Total group revenues at Liberation, which acquired Butcombe six years ago, increased by 22.5% to £147m during the period, including record strong Christmas trading in its managed, tenanted and drinks divisions.

Butcombe produced “a standout performance”, said Liberation, with annual sales up 23%, reflecting “the continued appeal of its brands, the quality of beers and a positive reaction to new product development in the keg ale market”.

The growth also reflected the contribution of the pubs acquired by Liberation from London-based Cirrus Inns in December 2022 and which have been fully integrated into the Butcombe managed estate, taking its portfolio to 137.

Liberation also said accommodation in its pubs had “ramped up in its importance” for the group and now drove a substantial proportion of food and drink sales.

Some 42 of the group’s 78 managed pubs now offer accommodation for customers looking for short breaks, business use and occasions.

Last year Liberation said it wanted Butcombe to be the leading provider of premium accommodation in the South of England.

Liberation CEO Jonathan Lawson said: “We should remind ourselves that in 2016 we only had 10 rooms and now we have well over 400, with the potential to achieve 700 in the existing estate.

“We are increasingly seeing accommodation as a substantial lever for our overall managed business and see events and occasions as a fourth revenue stream in its own right along with drink, food and accommodation.

“The headwinds on cost have eased and the outlook is better than the one in our rear-view mirror and the improvement in consumer confidence is noted and welcomed.

“Our performance at Christmas was testament to the hard work from our teams, but also a reflection of the long-term trend in consumers valuing experiences more than stuff.

“We need to build on this and continue to provide amazing experiences for our customers.”

Wrington-based Butcombe was launched in 1978. Its Bristol pubs include The Cottage Inn at Baltic Wharf, The Ostrich on Lower Guinea Street and The Whitmore Tap on Whiteladies Road, named after its founder and ex-courage director Simon Whitmore, who died in 2012.

It describes Goram IPA Zero as an easy-to-drink and refreshing ale based on the alcoholic Goram IPA and made with a punchy blend of English, US and New Zealand hops which balance stone fruit, citrus and bitter notes.

Its range of beers also includes Original Bitter, Underfall Lager and Golden Ale.

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