Thursday 17 February 2011

Barley's Angels Take Flight to Fight Bad Beer

All the women who independent, thrown your glass up at meee-hee!
Ladies, help fight against bad beer and become founder members of the Barley's Angels London chapter.

What's Barley's Angels? Well, it's a global beer movement just for women and this weekend everywhere from Portland, Oregon to Sydney Australia and the Canadian cities of Toronto and Vancouver to Sao Paulo in Brazil will be throwing their inaugural girls-only shindigs!

As a founder member you'll get money off future events like brewery tours, exclusive women-only meet the brewer events and beer & food matchings - and at the first organised future event you'll also qualify for a very snazzy t-shirt that I'll be modelling on Friday night as well.

The facebook group is here

The future events will be held all over London, including above the fabulous Rake bar in Borough, where our inaugural meeting is Friday February 18 at 6.30pm. 

We are already speaking with Fuller's to organise an unforgettable tasting evening at their Chiswick HQ and with the explosion of great beer bars all over town we will soon be kicking down the doors of places like the White Horse, Euston Tap and Draft House. And for those ladies who are with us from the beginning you'll received a tshirt with our fab and groovy logo on it at future events!

The event on Friday night is just a fiver on the door for a cornucopia of beer and half of that goes to the founding of Pink Boots Society UK, which I will explain more about on the night.

So, independent women, I look forward to seeing you there!

BTW: Barley's Angels being women only doesn't mean we hate men, we just don't like sharing great beer with them! Just kidding, it's about creating a great environment for women to learn more about beer and take that information back to the pub to share or just enjoy for yourself!

Friday 4 February 2011

Can It!

I've been asked to participate in the Sessions - where beer bloggers all over the world comment on a single topic (I've been so busy I didn't get a chance to check out what it was all about earlier and I wrote a slightly rude intro about no knowing what I was up to, for which I must apologise, I'm going a bit mental this end finishing this damn book!)

So, firstly the below is a very bullet point version of my general opinions (again apologies!) but I hope it gives a general gist of how I feel; I've only had a chance to read Pete Brown's entry so far and I must confess that if I was to write a post entirely on keg vs cask then I'd have written exactly what he has, although maybe not as eruditely, but I've gone a bit wider and hope it all makes sense!

The original American canned craft beer,
Oskar Blues cites the can as a major saving
Glass - always brown, never clear, especially craft brewers; Badger, Greene King & St Austell have all been guilty of bottling good beers because they want to pander to the marketing departments. Why the hell do you let your brewers spend all that money on raw ingredients, utilities and manpower if you're just going to balls up the end result by putting it in a clear bottle.

For any brewery reading this, if profit is your primary concern then let me put why this is bad in terms you'll understand, it's short-sighted in terms of brand equity and longevity, unless you're Corona and you can convince the gullible that sticking lime in the top is a Mexican tradition to keep out flies, not to cover up the fetid stench of light strike as the hop oils degrade into something resembling a damp corgi who's been rolling in a swamp.

Cask vs. keg - different strokes for different folks, I think keg is a very different beast these days and the word no longer represents poor quality products (smoothflow on the other hand is the devil's own work!).

Cans - use the American method, use soda cans, they are a pleasing size to drink beer from, they keep beer super-fresh and it's my new favourite way of enjoying beer when not in a pub environment; I grant you I tend to drink American offerings so I don't get to enjoy them very often but the sooner more breweries follow in BrewDog's paw prints and band together to run a consumer campaign to get them to understand how much better the beer is when packaged this way the better everyone will be.

And why? Well for starters you can get across more information about your beer on cans as you have the whole surface of the container to use, they will save you transport costs as the are lighter and fill space on your transport more efficiently, so you will be able to get more pallets on one truck, they are better for the environment as they are more recyclable than glass and, finally and most importantly, if your product is designed to be served fresh then the can (when lined with a protective membrane like a soda can) will do a better job than any other container of protecting it.*

I know I've said all that before, but it bears repeating and besides, someone asked me to do it (still not sure why but hell, I'm a helpful kinda gal!).

*Caveat is obviously bottle conditioned beer, I can't see how you would be able to do that in can without it exploding, but I'm sure smarter people than I can tell me whether that's the case or not

Thursday 3 February 2011

A Far Scarier Merger Being Mooted

You've probably already hear that Molson Coors has bought Cornish brewery Sharp's; head brewer Stuart Howe rang to assure me that the specials would continue unhindered and that I might be in danger of seeing him more than twice a year for a beer! All good news for ale lovers everywhere.

I don't think Banksy has anything to worry about...
However, I'd suggest you brace yourself for this news - AB-Inbev is allegedly considering a merger with SAB Miller. Credit Suisse has recommended that the way for the Budweiser owner to battle its current domestic beer market woes in the US is to take on board some SAB's commercial savvy.

Personally I think there's an easier fix - brew better beer. There, that should earn me millions in consultancy fees! Or not...

Anyway, obviously it doesn't only have ramifications for the US market it could create a truly terrifying two-brewer market over here as well.

Let's face it, Carlsberg and Heineken could rapidly lose their volumes solely on the basis that one lager is pretty much like the other to most commodtiy brand drinkers and the new SAB/AB-InBev leviathon would be able to charge a lot less than their rivals 

And more to the point they have few products that engender customer loyalty through a lack of innovation. The 'girly non-beer' from Carlsberg (Eve) seems to have sunk without trace (I presume. No one seems to want to talk to me about it anyway and I've never seen it in a pub) and they are now more of a distribution company than a brand per se.

I'm not aware of any innovation from Heineken in the UK market either, and it does seem pretty intent on buggering up its ale side (which let's remember is the only on trade growth category), I know I'm not alone in believing Deuchars has become a mere shadow of its former self and let's not forget this is the company that moved the brewing of Newcastle Brown Ale to another county!

So, that pretty much leaves you with Molson Coors up against a two-headed giant in the form of a merged SAB & AB-Inbev (which given their giant creativity for their last name change I presume they're just going to call SAB-InBev?).

Molson Coors seems to be the least of any beer lover's worries right now, the company appears to 'get' the craft beer scene, investing in the Worthington brand and tapping into that market in the States and over here with Blue Moon. I also know a couple of the senior brewers who work for Molson Coors in Denver and it would appear they get given quite a lot of latitude to play and experiment and are also well-liked and respected in the industry.

So, why does that two-headed monster of SAB and AB-Inbev worry me?

Well, to be honest, I quite like that AB-Inbev seems to seize every chance to implode its business in the UK (see below) with alacrity. How they've managed to foul up the Stella brand so immensely it utterly beyond me, Beck's which has credibility has taken a back seat and they've ruined draught Bass beyond all recognition, as just a few starting points!

Whereas I consider the guys at SAB Miller to be quite smart as a general rule, measured and fairly immune to knee-jerk reactions.

So, just think what could happen if they got together? AB-InBev could not only own some very powerful brands, they could get some sane leadership in the UK too, which offers a high potential for market dominance.

If nothing else they create a terrifying front of cheap booze in supermarkets, which could easily put another nail in the coffin of borderline pubs. If this does come to pass, I for one will be writing to everyone I can to refer this to the Competition Commission and for it to be knocked back.

How Do You Like Them Apples
Whilst we're on the subject of AB-InBev I can't not comment on their announcement yesterday of a new cider product under the Stella brand.

Seriously, I have no idea what they've been smoking over in Luton but the utter lunacy of their product launches in the last three years alone is truly flabbergasting! They have actually managed to take any form of brand equity Stella had and, frankly, p*ss it up the wall.

The Stella family - that included Eiken, Bock & Peeterman's - sank without trace before even being given six months on the shelves I believe (could be wrong but they didn't exactly get much of a run) and then just last year there was Stella Black, which I finally had the horror of trying before Christmas, and it was fittingly like drinking sprout water - rancid! When I was trying to be so positive that it might actually taste nice in my previous post about it too...

And it never ceased to amaze me that despite proudly touting that it was matured for twice as long, they were never willing to reveal how long maturation was - let alone the whole debacle of calling a blonde lager black - I presume their PR department spent days just banging their heads on the desk in despair.

And, as if that wasn't enough, they've gone and launched a cider - sorry, cidre!

Without a hint of irony the release tells me that it's a Belgian cider, made in Belgium, but solely for the UK market... can you guess what it is yet?

Yep, a completely made up product! For us stupid British who just like shiny packaging! It's not as if we have any cider industry over here already!

Requests to find out what percentage of the drink are pure apple juice have gone unanswered, I presume that this will remain the case for the forseeable future!

If you try it, let me know, I'm not sure I can face doing so...