Top economics'n'biz brainboxes, having performed a detailed analysis, have announced that the way for the UK economy to revitalise itself is for us all to emulate beer-swilling real ale drinkers.
“The fact is that the business world can learn an enormous amount from our beer buffs," insists Professor Peter Swann of the Nottingham University Business School (NUBS).
"The range of products and the number of centres of production in brewing in England declined dramatically between 1900 and 1970," continues the prof.
“As is widely accepted, that process began to reverse with the formation of CAMRA* and its fight against bland, mass-produced beers. This has led us to the position we’re in now, with hundreds of small breweries spread all over the country and making thousands of different beers. In technical terms, this represents horizontal product differentiation and a reduction in the importance of the economies of scale.
“That’s basically a clever way of saying variety is the spice of life and that more discerning tastes can be good for the economy.”
The 1950s and 60s were frightful times indeed, a nadir for British culture. By 1970 the number of breweries in England was just 141 — compared to 1,324 in 1900. Small village breweries had been forced out of existence by bloated factories pumping out dross, aided by low transport costs.
But nowadays Blighty's beer lovers have bootstrapped the country up out of the awful 1970s. Microbreweries, making interesting beer on short production runs, are enjoying a boom. As of 2004 we had 480 breweries and the number is still climbing.
“We’re often told small businesses will be key to the UK’s financial recovery," says Prof Swann.
“The fall and rise of the local brew offers us a perfect example of ‘small is beautiful’, so it’s vital to see what lessons we can learn from it. One of the most important is that a demand for the predictable can lead to the greater geographical concentration of an industry.
“By contrast, a demand for diversity can lead to greater geographic dispersion — which is the excellent position brewing finds itself in now. CAMRA and the microbreweries should serve as an economic inspiration — and I say that as a man who doesn’t even like beer.”
So there you have it. Get some patches sewn on the sleeves of your jacket, let that beard grow, and get yourself outside a few foaming tankards of Old Parson's Nut-Brown Finger or whatever. It's your patriotic duty.
Full details from NUBS here. ®
*Note for overseas/younger readers: The CAMpaign for Real Ale.