Saturday 28 November 2015

News in Brief #34

Who needs a profit margin!

Brewer Possibly Not Ending Cask Beer Production

Sometime Brewer and desperate East Cumbrian beer huckster Bob Motte this week endlessly equivocated about whether to abandon his real Ale production line.

"Weeeeel," he said "we've been really committed to our cask beer over the last eight years but the market is dominated by other breweries churning out the stuff brewed down to a price rather than up to a quality."

"We'd make so much more money by switching to keg only. And putting it into bottles where we can sell the sediment as part of the price of a 330 ml rather than the pubs chucking it and claiming it back from me." he continued as if trying to convince people about something he'd already made his mind up on.

We asked Bob that, if he put it like that, why not just ditch the Real Ale as it seemed like a no-brainer. "Oh no, I can't. I have a load of orders from CAMRA Festivals over the next year."

"They always order what I consider to be the wrong beer. But their money's as good as anyone else's "

Hot and filthy furniture action

Pub Table Goes Unmolested All Day

Shocking news has emerged from the Cat & Tractor, a busy pub in Shrewsbury town centre. Upon tidying up after closing time, the pub staff found the furniture in exactly the same places as they were on opening at midday.

Four-legged square table Woody Flatsurface  complained "I've been stuck in this spot all day. It's as if nobody cares."

"Generally, hordes of idiot students come in and shove me up against that well fit circular bar table over there and spend hours nudging me up against it while consuming halves of Guinness as slowly as possible."

"And then afterwards I get roughly handled back into my original place three yards away. But today all I had was old codgers dumping their Smooth and Daily Mirror on me in between buggering off for a piss."

"My life is pretty boring." whinged Woody "Being grabbed, held and pushed is pretty much the only excitement I get."

Yeah, but it's not for the likes of you

Beer Communicator Says Takeovers Good Thing

Storyteller and Positivity Merchant Curt Mattis this week blogged that, yeah, maybe, this massive drinks companies buying up Craft breweries stuff  is a good thing after all.

"I was at this Macrobrewery-paid event," burbled Mattis "and was given this IPA from a micro they'd taken over. Of course it was nowhere near as a good as it used to be, but it was better than the alternatives I was offered."

"I drank it, if course, and maybe a few of those barrel aged Stouts they do. As I looked round the hall at my fellow Awesome Beer People, I had, like, this massive revelation. Maybe these buyouts of microbreweries by the big boys is a good thing after all "

"Put it like this," emphasised Curty "if big beer hadn't taken over this brewery, there wouldn't be events like this, and I wouldn't get this complimentary hospitality and free stuff. It's great!"

"The regular beers normal people buy won't be as good, of course. But I'll get to try the good stuff they can't afford. It's a win-win."

"Or something."

Friday 27 November 2015

Castle Goes Craft

Craft, Stokie-style

When I were a lad, and by this definition it will be 1988 until 2007, Newcastle-under-Lyme was crap for beer. You had a couple of brewery-owned places with a very limited selection. Or you had a Yates's. Yes, it was so bad, we didn't even have a Wetherspoons.

If I were a more paranoid man, I would suspect a conspiracy. But since I moved away, the beer scene seems to have improved out of all recognition. The cosy Ansell's/Marston's duoply has gone, the shit Vaux pub has closed, and Titanic Brewery have opened a pub where you have a fighting chance of getting decent beer.

But things move on from SIBA approved real ale. Craft Beer has been marching across the country since 2007, and it's inevitable it would reach Newcastle-under-Lyme eventually.

I'll be honest here and say North Staffordshire is a dump. Every time I go back there more has closed and more has been demolished. Apparently, the council get a lot of money from the EU for this purpose on the spurious grounds of "improvement". It never gets any better. More local businesses close, people desert the urban centres and never go back. Even here in Preston I work with a Stoke native. And, to put it mildly, she is less than complementary about the place.

And so, Craft Beer has reached North Staffs. Not in the classic Five Towns of Stoke-on-Trent. That would be silly. But Newcastle-under-Lyme is the place where it's at. After all, even in my experience, it's one of the wealthier parts of the area.

" 10 Green Bottles " opened earlier this month on Merrial Street in Newcastle. Many (many) years ago when I was a kid, this shop was occupied by Wain's electrical shop, one of the many family businesses that have died a death in Britain's market towns in the last 30 years. But with closures comes lower-than-average rents, and with that comes the hipsters. As I said, Craft Beer will reach everywhere eventually.

As a bar, 10 Green Bottles is fairly typical of the breed. Wall full of taps of Bristol or London Beer priced at £3 for two-thirds, shelves of Craft and craftesque beer at between £3.50 and £5. Talking to the barman, I reckoned be knew what he was talking abou, and was completely into the awesome Craft Beer scene. His customers, however, were mostly from the council building next door. They were nice enough, but whether they knew much about what they were buying is a moot point.

To be quite honest, I like the place, and wish to God there was something like that in Newcastle-under-Lyme when I lived there. But I do wonder if the notoriously thrifty North Staffs. customers will pay as much for beer as is feasible for a Craft Bar to charge.

Friday 20 November 2015

What is a Pub?

Happy times. Happy times. Yes, happy times

You go to the pub. Why do you go?

A pub is many things. In Law, it's a place licenced to serve alcoholic beverages to those over 18. But if you look around you, you'll see something else.

At the end of the bar is the 63-year-old on disability. He trundles down here on his mobility scooter, even though you've seen him walk to the toilet perfectly ably. He orders three pints, one after the other, but is otherwise silent. When he leaves, the barman says "Oh, thank God he's gone."

In the middle of the bar are two middle-aged men. They each read their paper. One the local rag, one the Daily Mail. Every so often one will say "How about that game on Saturday, then?" and the other will grunt. After a suitable pause of twenty minutes, the other will say "What abous that ISIS, then?", and the original one will grunt in reply.

At the end of the bar is a man drinking pint after pint of Lager. He talks about his wife often, all the more so because he avoids her wherever possible. You get the impression he will only ever be at home and sober with the threat of counselling sessions at Relate. You resolve never to get married

And then there's you. You're here by choice, and you're listening to this.  And you're drinking more than anyone else.

So, why do you go? Well, to meet people, obviously.

Monday 2 November 2015

I Can See All Obstacles in My Way

"Everybody knows / Badger loves / Clear bottles!"

Ah, the bottled beer in clear glass debate. It's kicked off again on Twitter this week, with the usual run down of the usual offenders  It's well known that using clear rather than brown bottles will bugger up the beer, so why do Shepherd Neame, Greene King, Badger etc. do it?

For me, clear glass bottled beer is the main sign that the Marketing tail is wagging the Brewery dog. Apparently, market research shows that your average PBA consumer (as opposed to the beer geek of either the Beardy or Crafty persuasion), likes to see what the beer looks like, and don't seem to know that the taste will be affected by UV light breaking down the hip oils.

The Brewers know this happens, and presumably have told the people in charge of Marketing & Sales. But for somebody working in the dark arts of Selling, what the customer wants the customer gets. Whether it good for them or not

Looking at it that way, this is actually a good thing for the discerning beer consumer, as it tells them whether the company in question cares about the beer itself being any good when it reaches the shop. This way, such alleged products as Bishop's Finger, Hopping Hare and Old Golden Hen can be safely avoided.

With the increased interest in "Beer Appreciation", some producers have noticed the complaints about clear bottles, the best known being Marston's (they even put blurb on the bottles explaining this). Even Innis & Gunn have gone brown, even though their beers had no discernible hop flavour to begin with.

Round here, Lancaster Brewery were notorious for their dodgy clear glass bottles. Again, an effect of marketing. If you promote and even name your beers on their colours, the sales team are going to want those colours to be seen on the shelf. Presumably after numerous complaints, the bottles went brown when they redesigned the labels to look more Craft.

Brown glass is not a reliable indicator of beer quality in itself, but it at least does show that the Sales Team regard their customers with a bit of sense and aren't trying to take the piss.