London’s Crafty Microbreweries Invade Posh Restaurants

Tom Byng’s London patrons wash down their burgers with 11,000 craft beers a week, paying 13 percent more for the privilege of supping artisanal Camden Town Gentleman’s Wit rather than mass-produced Peroni Nastro Azzuro.

“Craft is really accessible, it’s made with passion,” said Byng, founder of the Byron restaurant chain which has 29 London branches. “Craft brewers do it for love and consumers really embrace that.”

The London Brewers Alliance says there are more than 40 microbrewers within the M25 motorway that encircles the U.K. capital. That’s a 13-fold increase in less than a decade as Michelin-starred restaurants including Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in Chelsea and St. John at Smithfield Market add bottled beers to their drink menus.

“I used to be able to name on one hand craft beer bars, and on the other restaurants offering the beer,” said Duncan Sambrook, who founded Sambrook’s Brewery in Battersea in 2008 and counts Lavender Hill ale among his brews. “Today, it’s almost incalculable. I’m amazed at the transformation.”

The U.K. tax system provides incentives to small brewers by imposing lower duties on those producing no more than 60,000 hectoliters, or 10.6 million imperial pints, per year. Sambrook, for example, produced 10,000 hectoliters of beer in 2012.