Many are still having to rely on issuing shares through crowdfunding to expand, but the Financial Conduct Authority has warned that investors should tread carefully.The FCA says: “Due to the potential for capital losses, we regard investment-based crowdfunding in particular to be a high-risk investment activity.“It is very likely that you will lose all your money.” The FCA says: “Due to the potential for capital losses, we regard investment-based crowdfunding in particular to be a high-risk investment activity.”Credit:Philip Toscano/PA The craft beer bubble is bursting, industry experts have warned, as the number of new breweries opening has dropped dramatically, the latest figures show.With question marks over the effectiveness of crowdfunding, high start-up costs and lack of expertise, “the ship has long sailed” for new entrants to the sector.In 2017, 434 new craft breweries opened in the UK, according to UHY Hacker Young, representing a major slowdown in the sector compared to the year before.The number has fallen by more than 15 per cent from 2016, when 520 opened.The market share of craft beers is still below five per cent of overall beer sales in the UK compared to 23 per cent in the US.“There is still growth, but the market is now much tougher for new entrants,” says Jonny Forsyth, global drinks analyst at market research group Mintel.“The number of brands is outstripping the growth and now people with money are wising up to the market.“If someone asked me to invest in a craft beer company now, I’d say ‘no way, that ship has long sailed.’”One long standing difficulty with the craft beer industry is funding, with banks reticent to hand over money that gets burnt very quickly on expensive start up costs. Of course, there have been some recent crowdfunding successes, with Leeds-based brewery Northern Monk raising £1.5m from 2,161 investors and East London brewery Five Points raising more than £950,000 from 1,350 investors, but the market is narrowing.Justin Hawke, who founded Bristol-based Moor Beer, told The Guardian that crowdfunding is “a largely unregulated and unknown way of investing used by people who a bank wouldn’t lend to because they don’t have a sound business model.“The UK seems to be the least regulated brewing industry in the world,” he added. “The cost of entry is virtually nothing.“You can just log on, get the form from HMRC, nobody inspects you initially to make sure you’re trading in a good way.“That’s great in that it gives everyone an opportunity but it allows people to enter the market who don’t have the skills or business acumen to be successful.” This view is shared by Mr Forsyth, who says that the quality of new craft beer is often not of a high standard.“We see a lot of brands starting from scratch, and a lot of these people are not expert brewers,” he said.“The best brewers tend to work for the bigger companies.“The quality can leave a bit to desire and although they can charge a lot of money, it doesn’t mean it’s made by experts.“I think going forwards, we will see a lot of brands simply drop out of the market. It isn’t a niche market anymore. It’s very congested and there is a lot of competition.” Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.