More power to the rise of those bijou breweries

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Chances are that you saw in 2013 with a pint or two of beer. Real beer that is, not the homogenised fizzy stuff that for so long threatened our fine ale-drinking heritage.

And perhaps the beer you were quaffing as the chimes of Big Ben approached came from one of the many homespun breweries which have popped up in Hampshire and West Sussex.

They are some of the great success stories of the past 10 years or so and most are flourishing despite the threat of triple dips and fiscal cliffs. Or, perhaps, they are doing well because of them.

Their startling growth is even more remarkable because it has coincided with the sad but predictable demise of record numbers of pubs.

According to the 2012 Good Beer Guide, there are now 840 breweries in the UK. This means there are now more than four times the number than when the Campaign for Read Ale was founded in 1971.

They range from breweries attached to pubs producing a couple of barrels of beer at a time to massive brewing factories churning out millions of pints a day.

Or they might be like the Havant Brewery run by brewers Mike and Caroline Charlton.

The Cowplain couple took a gamble three years ago and started brewing in their garage. Now their beer, with idiosyncratic names such as Havant Finished, HavantTime and Havant Unwrapped, has proved so popular that they are moving to large, new premises in the town centre.

The reason is interesting. Mike says: ‘It all started because Fullers closed down Gales Brewery [at Horndean] in what was essentially a hostile takeover. It was a brewery with a very long tradition and it annoyed me.’

Many of us bemoaned the end of Gales’s ales, brewed with our special, chalk-filtered water in this part of the world, not that from the Thames catchment.

But Mike and Caroline did something about it and like many others have capitalised on the growing small-is-beautiful zeitgeist.

More power to their elbows, their drinking arms and the wonderfully distinctive beers they produce.