Wednesday 21 March 2018

That's A Can Do?

As many of you know, when I'm not pissing people off on Twitter or rapidly depleting Preston's supply of beer, I work in a shop.  You may or may not have heard of it, but it's reasonably well known in "beer circles" for its above-average range of beer (though I recall signing a bit of paper a few years back promising I wouldn't reveal online who they are).

Among my many duties, I'm the person responsible for my branch's range compliance, which (if nothing else) means I get to see what the shop will be stocking in the near future before the public does.  Over the last few years, this has consisted to me trying to fit in yet another line of beer that the Buyers have deemed we have to stock and rearranging the shelves as result (brewers - do you have to put your cans in cases of 24?).

Since Christmas it seems to have changed a bit.  Somebody somewhere has decided that 150 lines of craft beer is too many to justify, given the sales of 75% of the range isn't the best.  I already knew this, as I'm in charge of the date checking, and with a lot of them we only managed to sell about half the case before we had to mark them down.  Not helped, of course, by getting stuff with only 6 weeks shelf life on them.  Yes, I'm looking at you Camden and Five Points.  So, over the space of a fortnight, a quarter of the Craft range was discontinued.

Eighteen months ago, "Craft Cans" were a big thing, and any old stuff seemed to sell if it was packaged in aluminium.  But from what I can see, apart from the "usual suspects" (BrewDog, Beavertown, Magic Rock), they don't seem to be doing anywhere near as well as they used to.

Part of this is due to peculiar ranging decisions.  I'm sure the people behind US Breweries such as Crazy Mountain and Two Roads are Awesome Dudes, and Camden's beers are just as "good" as they were before AB-Inbev took them over, but are they really what today's forward-looking and novelty-hungry craft consumer is looking for?

Far too many Craft Breweries seem to do a very similar range of packaged beers.  Our buyer's tactic was to list the IPA, the Pale Ale and the Pilsner from each as we got them.  And, yes, if you tasted them back-to-back, you could probably discern some differences.  But what of the customers who have heard of "craft beer" and merely want to to try it?  What do they think when faced with 10 shelves of seemingly similar products?  Probably something along the lines of  - "Well, at least I've heard of BrewDog.  Punk IPA it is."

What with the well-reported news this week, it's probably dawning on people that are there are too many breweries turning out too much of the same stuff over and over.  What with only being able to tell a lot of them apart by their graphic design choices, it's easy to get get left behind when new stuff comes along, all Beer-Communicated and Social-Media'd.

Me? I've pretty much given up trying to follow it all.  Mine's an Oakham Green Devil, thanks.


  1. Not confined to cans either. Some brewers seem determined never to produce the same beer twice. That's fine when in my beer ticking persona - easily ensuring never bother to drink any of their products more than once :-) - but not so good when out and about in my social persona. Then tend to look for brewers who have developed a core range of beers, and so allow me to know from experience which one's are going to hit the spot consistently.

  2. Is "craft beer" increasingly becoming an interchangeable commodity product? So long as you can get one variety of mega-hoppy IPA, what's the point in haring after a different one?

  3. "You gotta have a gimmick, kid"

  4. Very interesting report here. I have been in retail for 30 years, and invariably it is on the ground operators, particularly those looking at dead stock/ slow moving lines, and stocktakers,who pick up on trends at least six months(usually a year) ahead of company HQ and reported trends eventually.

  5. Funny how that is. My perspective is slightly different as I live in BC (British Columbia) on the west coast of Canada, but here goes:

    Back about 2011, when Guinness was starting to lose its shine for me, I worked 3 weeks every month in a remote area where alcohol was forbidden. My wife would pick up samples of various beers for me to try during my time at home. She did that for over a year and I did come to enjoy certain beers (ESB, IPA, Pale Ales etc.) that I enjoyed and continue to drink to this day. I am also now finding myself buying as many cans as I do bottles. But, nowadays I usually have 2 or 3 main beers in the fridge along with a bottle (or can) or two of others. Oh, and it doesn't hurt that where I live most cans come in six-packs and even singly in the 500ml size. Long gone are the days of picking up a "two-four" (as they're called over here) of whatever the big breweries are putting out. :)


  6. Ah..Green Devil, now that is a beer