The Six Nations starts next weekend and will hopefully break the gloom of mid-winter. Age-old rivalries, venues we know like the back of our hand, tradition after tradition (like Italy coming last) and perennial questions like ‘which French team is going to turn up’? The only meaningful change for 2018 is that there is a new sponsor, well sort of, with Natwest taking the naming rights instead of its parent brand, RBS. England, looking to become the first nation to win the Six Nations three times in a row, are the bookies’ favourites, closely followed by Ireland. This year’s tournament, coming right in the middle of the World Cup cycle, is a shop window for the players staking their claim for a seat to Japan in 2019. The problem is that the tournament is already being dubbed ‘the battle of the last men standing’, with the build-up dominated as much by the news of those not playing as those who are. England already have sixteen players ruled out, whilst Ireland, Scotland and Wales also have a catalogue of injured stars. The best-faring team on the injury front is currently Italy, in that their one player, Sergio Parisse, is fit.
 
It is widely recognised that the value of a mixed-use scheme can be significantly boosted through good ‘place-making’. Successful large-scale developments now need a mix of local amenities, shops, workplaces, schools and public areas to thrive. And, so now it seems, they need a micro-brewery at the heart of the scheme. Numerous developers, including the likes of Berkeley Homes, have jumped on this micro-brewery bandwagon. Even Tottenham Hotspur FC are planning their own brewery within their new stadium. And when you look at the industry in more detail, it’s hardly surprising why developers have been so keen to get this new crop of tenants signed up. Firstly micro-breweries are relatively cheap and easy to establish. They can be housed in industrial estates, old plant works, farm sheds and even campsites. And, of course, there’s the small matter of huge growth/demand. During the past six years, the number of micro-brewing businesses in Europe has nearly tripled, surpassing the 7,000 mark for the first time in 2016. Britain is now home to 2,200 micro-breweries alone, a direct response from beer drinkers demanding better quality, better flavour and more choice. The shift towards smaller brewers is also showing no sign of abating. Forecasts for the craft industry look strong, with Technavio projecting that revenues will grow by around 10% annually until 2021. Investors and developers will no doubt be toasting that!
 
Continuing with the theme of alcohol, it is now only four days until the end of January. The finish line for the estimated 3.1 million Brits committed to doing ‘Dry January’ (so expertly conveyed by Dave here) is now firmly in sight. The reality though is that a third of those who took up the challenge haven’t, or won’t last the course, with a lack of will-power the most commonly cited cause. For any of The Weekly’s readership who can resonate with that and perhaps haven't lasted the distance, the only positive we can provide is that recent research suggests that the act of abstinence for thirty-one days may make little meaningful difference to your health anyway! And what’s more, the results of the research by Dr Richard De Vrisser, a psychologist at Sussex University, found that 10% of abstainers actually exhibited a rebound effect and drink more afterwards than they did in the months before starting Dry January! Not joining that cohort is surely February’s resolution?

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