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  Brewing throughout crisis: exploring the future of UK craft breweries (RDF23/AFM/CABRAS1)

   Faculty of Business and Law

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  Prof Ignazio Cabras, Dr Ekaterina Shakina  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Craft breweries are defined by the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) as independent businesses which use traditional methods and ingredients in the brewing process and operate autonomously from larger corporations. Mirroring international trends (see Garavaglia and Swinnen, 2018), the number of craft breweries in the UK increased significantly in the last two decades, passing from 140 to 2,300 between 2000 and 2022 (BBPA, 2022). Craft breweries progressively passed from serving a localised niche market of pubs and small wholesalers predominantly located within their spatial proximity, to supplying distributors and customers located in the UK and overseas.

Craft breweries have been hit hard by the recent pandemic crisis. The closure of pubs, bars, and restaurants imposed by many governments worldwide shut down a key route to market for craft breweries, forcing them to reconfigure their business models, shifting a substantial proportion of sales to private custom mainly using online websites and marketplaces, and turning to local communities for support. Many breweries managed to survive this challenging period, although the post-pandemic world has been so far characterised by high-inflation and high-energy prices and uncertainty related to the Ukraine-Russia conflict. These issues will impact on the future of craft beer in the UK, as they will affect policies in support to the sector, for instance the review of the Small Brewers Relief (SBR), and other initiatives such as changes of the Alcohol Duty System, planned for early 2023. What will be the outcomes for UK craft breweries? What will be the economic and social impacts associated with changes in policies affecting the sector? And, how can future trajectories for the sector be modelled for and/or predicted?

The objective of this PhD proposal is to investigate SMEs operating in the UK craft brewing sector by examining their spatial and contextual factors. The proposal will focus on multiple aspects – economic and locational dimensions, entrepreneurial phenomenon, business models - related to craft breweries. It will examine the impact of the reforms to breweries under the move to SBR, for instance whether the Governments’ planned reforms will allow small breweries to grow, including any indirect that may affect bars and pubs. The project will also investigate fiscal changes in taxation and alcohol duties and their impact on breweries e.g. whether a lower duty will result in more lower alcohol products, or how larger multinational breweries could use it to underprice small ones.

The project will benefit from collaborating with SIBA, The Beeronomics Society, and other organisations in view of analysing data and information acquired from their members and non-members. Findings aim to support craft breweries as well as businesses operating in other sectors, providing a fresh instrument to policymakers and practitioners operating in the beer and brewing industry.

We would expect applicants to outline one potential methodological approach, mainly quantitative, and justify its potential appropriateness to the study including its strengths and limitations. Given the paucity of empirical studies on this theme, the study is likely to generate significant interest among practitioners and policymakers.

Academic Enquiries

This project is supervised by Prof Ignazio Cabras. For informal queries, please contact [Email Address Removed]. For all other enquiries relating to eligibility or application process please use the email form below to contact Admissions. 

Funding Information

Home and International students (inc. EU) are welcome to apply. The studentship is available to Home and International (including EU) students and includes a full stipend at UKRI rates (for 2022/23 full-time study this is £17,668 per year) and full tuition fees. Studentships are also available for applicants who wish to study on a part-time basis over 5 years (0.6 FTE, stipend £10,600 per year and full tuition fees) in combination with work or personal responsibilities).  

Please also see further advice below of additional costs that may apply to international applicants.

Eligibility Requirements:

  • Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
  • Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
  • Applicants cannot apply for this funding if they are already a PhD holder or if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

Please note: to be classed as a Home student, candidates must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a UK National (meeting residency requirements), or
  • have settled status, or
  • have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or
  • have indefinite leave to remain or enter.

If a candidate does not meet the criteria above, they would be classed as an International student.  Applicants will need to be in the UK and fully enrolled before stipend payments can commence, and be aware of the following additional costs that may be incurred, as these are not covered by the studentship.

  • Immigration Health Surcharge
  • If you need to apply for a Student Visa to enter the UK, please refer to the information on It is important that you read this information very carefully as it is your responsibility to ensure that you hold the correct funds required for your visa application otherwise your visa may be refused.
  • Check what COVID-19 tests you need to take and the quarantine rules for travel to England
  • Costs associated with English Language requirements which may be required for students not having completed a first degree in English, will not be borne by the university. Please see individual adverts for further details of the English Language requirements for the university you are applying to.

How to Apply

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see   

For applications to be considered for interview, please include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words and the advert reference (e.g. RDF23/…).

Deadline for applications: 27 January 2023

Start date of course: 1 October 2023 tbc

Business & Management (5) Economics (10)


Shakina, E., & Cabras, I. (2022). How do beer prices vary across different pubs? An empirical study. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, 34(5), 1984-2003.
Cabras, I., Lorusso, M. & Waehning, N. (2020), Measuring the economic contribution of beer festivals on local economies: The case of York, United Kingdom. International Journal of Tourism Research. 22 (6): 739-750
Cabras I., Higgins D. and Preece D. (2016) Beer, Brewing and Pubs: a Global Perspective. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Cabras I. and Bamforth C. (2016): ‘From reviving tradition to fostering innovation and changing marketing: The evolution of micro-brewing in UK and US 1980-2012‘. Business History 58(5): 625-646

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 About the Project