Monday, 9 January 2017

What's wrong with SIBA?

I've long known that there are problems with SIBA, the Society of Independent Brewers (formerly the Small Independent Brewers Association). Like many organisations SIBA is run on a local level by volunteers, and has a central professional staff.

At one point I was the secretary for the South Eastern region and never had any problems dealing with the members. Dealing with the professional staff was at times more problematic though, I certainly thought they came across as rude at times, and I had a few complaints from members saying the same thing.

Not everything's bad with SIBA
When I was involved with SIBA I could also see there was also a political divide amongst the membership. Some were very committed to SIBA being the association for small brewers, whereas others wanted it to replace the Brewers' Society. As far as I can gather the latter won for the most part. "Small" is no longer part of SIBA's name, and the slogan "working for the smallest brewer" has been dropped. I can also remember a striking incident at a SIBA meeting a few years back. When a brewer asked could SIBA actively campaign to promote local real ale the reply from the an official was that Heineken (an associate member) wouldn't be happy with it!

The Direct Delivery Scheme (or Brewflex now) causes problems too, perhaps related to the previous ones. It certainly opened up large pub chains to SIBA members' beer, but the prices are poor and SIBA central take a cut too. That a lot of SIBA's money comes from selling beer to big companies must influence the decisions made at head office.

The recent 'negotiated' sharp reduction in the price the pub chain Enterprise will pay for beer has brought the problems many have with SIBA to a head. I've heard reports of dozens of members leaving from just one region, and it will be interesting to see how the discontent of the remaining members is expressed at the next conference. SIBA's problems could be coming home to roost.


  1. Unfortunately Ed is reflecting what I think is a reasonable summary of the true picture.