Tuesday 20 November 2007

Confused & Bemused

Beer sales have slumped to their lowest level since the Great Depression, according to figures released by the British Beer & Pub Association today (November 20, 2007).

But I'm a bit confused and bemused by this announcement and what it's trying to achieve; because, to my mind, all this proclamation is going to generate is stories about beer not being popular any more, which - if we're not careful - could surely just become a self-perpetuating prophesy.

Now the BBPA will doubtless claim that its aim is to highlight the rising costs and sinking sales of its members' products - but it is probably a good idea to remember that a significant number of its members are the big brewers and pub companies, which have a certain brewing and stocking policy that involves a lot of mainstream lager brands...

If you then think about this in light of the recent report written by Pete Brown* on the cask ale market, which showed most of the top-line 5% decline in the cask market comes from the ‘big four’ multi-national brewers, you begin to see a slightly different story emerging.

And if you then notice that these same companies are systematically withdrawing support from their cask brands.... I think you're beginning to get the outline of the picture here.

And now for the colour - independent and local brewers are reporting growth, on average, of 7.5% year-on-year, because they are enthusiastically investing in their brands which have genuine local provenance and are brewed in their country of origin, in many cases just down the road from where they are being drunk.

So why has this story been released? Well we all know that there is the threat of additional taxation on booze and this will undoubtedly be a bad thing for the brewing industry and pub trade - not to mention your pocket and mine - and I don't have a problem with trying to challenge that.

The major problem I DO have is that, once again, the BBPA's doom and gloom approach does nothing more than further damage beer's image by painting it as a product that nobody wants.

What this report seems to say to me, when viewed in light of Pete Brown's findings, is that, actually, fewer people want mass-produced products and that the big brewers are missing out by under-investing in their cask brands.

In fact, I remember very clearly nearly 10 years ago a representative of Bass Brewers saying that nobody wants cask any more because it's too complicated to have a living organism in the cellar and that consumers were 'voting with their throats' by moving to lager and smoothflow products.

And, whilst I am all for the Chancellor taking on board that there have been major increases in costs for nearly all the raw materials required for beer production, I think it's more than a little disingenuous of the big brewers to start crying now when they've held a lager/smoothflow monopoly over people's beer tastes for a good few decades.

Quite simply boys it's someone else's turn to play now so, rather than stamping your feet and taking your ball in, perhaps a look at the way consumers are 'voting with their throat' would do your business some good...

...but maybe that's just too simplistic a view.

*The Intelligent Choice Report on the state of the cask ale market was written by Pete Brown and co-published by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), the Independent Family Brewers of Britain, the Society of Independent Brewers, the Cask Marque Trust and the Why Handpull? group.

Monday 12 November 2007

Oldies but Goldies at White Horse

The White Horse is holding an old ale festival for the 25th year in a row on November 23 - I'm potentially running a seminar too, could be aimed at getting girls to like beer more so if you've got a wife/girlfriend or mate who needs convincing watch this space for some help!

The event starts on November 23, at 5pm, and runs over three days until the evening of Sunday November 25, with at least 50 beers representing these historic styles from around the world.

Large and small family, regional and microbrewers alike will feature in the White Horse’s festival line-up – with such name as Harveys, Bateman’s and Fullers, Freeminer, Brew Dog and Cottage all being represented.

And, subject to availability, the line up could also be supplemented by some of our innovative brewing cousins from over the water as well as up to 10 European beers and six ciders too.

Other events are planned throughout the weekend, live music on Friday and Saturday night, Morris Dancing from the Leominster Morris on Sunday, and live Jazz to nicely bring the festival to a close on Sunday afternoon. The BBQ will be running all weekend - featuring a hog and buffalo roast – and for those looking for some traditional pub entertainment there will be a variety of bar games like Shove Ha’Penny and Pub Skittles scattered around the pub for everybody’s enjoyment.

Tuesday 6 November 2007

What Beer Buying Sites Do You Rate?

Hiya all,
I'm writing an article for Beers of the World on the world's top beer retail sites - so if you have any suggestions please email me on melissa.cole@btopenworld.com

I'm only looking for retailing sites not blogs, websites or anything else so please just email with relevant information.

Cheers for all your input.