In London, craft beer goes upscale

The microbrew is making headway into Michelin-starred manses.

For whatever reason -- I'm still not clear exactly what changed -- the craft beer industry is on the rise.

It's not just in the U.S. that these small brewers are falling in favor, either. In the U.K., the microbrew has swiftly moved from an object of obsession for beer nerds to a fine way to boost the margin of a multi-course meal. (Indeed, our own Mark Halper has proven it .)

Bloomberg's Alex Pashley writes this morning that London's more than 40 microbrewers are appearing more often in Michelin-starred restaurants to add an air of exclusivity to an already exclusive meal.

Pashley reports:

“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.

It's a classic luxury market setup: small, quality-focused volumes sold at premium prices. (The quoted price for a 330-milliliter, or about 11 oz., bottle of Camden Town Brewery's Gentleman's Wit? 4.25 pounds, or about US$6.60.)

London restauranteurs are running with the concept, pairing distinct beers with their signature dishes for an arguably more memorable experience. In the age of farm-to-table, who needs wine, anyway?

It's a tough pill to swallow for the U.K.'s largest beer purveyors, including Anheuser-Busch InBev and Molson Coors; while they still collectively have the majority of the market, the winds are moving against them.

Then again, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

Photo courtesy Camden Brewing

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