Monday 9 March 2015

Pubco Craft

Available soon from a "Craft" bar near you

As you may or may not have noticed, "craft beer" is becoming popular. If only because the stereotypical consumer of the products has a large disposable income and the profit margin on them is really good.

If you have noticed, you're not the only one. Greene King for one are busy rolling out their "craft concept", The Grain Store in Cambridge. Looking their beer list, it appears to be be 'Craft by Numbers'. Typical stuff, plus the brands they have distribution rights too (Goose Island etc.)

This is the problem with pub companies approaching the concept of Craft Beer by the numbers. Install a design aesthetic in a bar (brick walls, girders, exposed pipes, slate, concrete); put in the beers from your surreptitious "craft" offshoot; order a bottle selection from James Clay; and base your draught selection on whoever has the most distressed looking pumpclips.

One pub of my acquaintance opened as a " Craft Beer Shrine" in 2012.  As said, it's owned by a pubco (not a big one, around 100 outlets), and they noticed the bandwagon going past and decided to jump on it before it got too far away. It started off with the best of intentions. But a slow drift and decay eventually took hold.

The craft lager was replaced with Amstel (because people would recognise the brand better). Then the Veltins (hardly the craftiest of German beers, but reasonably unusual) was replaced with Peroni. Because they could charge more. Then the bottle fridge mysteriously morphed into what James Clay were getting rid of cheap. It certainly was "craft", but "craft" as it was thought of in 2009.

The last straw was when I walked in one day and found Bombardier on the pumps. Apparently, Wells had told the pubco it was a 'premium beer'. They were also supplied with a pumpclip that had the ABV wrong, but that's by-the-by.

And such is the problem with Craft- by-numbers. The pubco doesn't care what is or isn't decent beer. They've just seen a potentially good GP. And if the "craft" doesn't meet expectations, then it will be ditched for the regular stuff you can get anywhere. Because that's what a pubco think people want. They have the figures from their other pubs to "prove" it.

Once the "craft fad' dies down, such places will disappear, as the Sports Bars and Fun Pubs before them did. There will always be places to get decent craft beer, but they'll be independents rather than a pubco producing a "concept".

Avoid the faux-craft places. They're not as good as you like to think. They have no regard for the beer, just the money they think they can make from it.


  1. Reminds me of when the big brewers tried to jump on the "bare boards alehouse" bandwagon. Whitbread's Tut'n'Shive was a particularly bad example. As you say, it's not something you can do by numbers.

    And surely Bombardier has been 4.1% for about three years!

    (I assume you are talking about the Moorbrook)

  2. No, the Moorbrook is independently run. This is a place in Lancaster run by the Mitchells Pubco

  3. Ahh, this might be because of some issue with head office imposing payment terms not acceptable to some suppliers. He said, carefully.

  4. Yes, I have heard a few things about the Pubco in question...