Local beer for local people

Beer mat detail: Tisbury Local Bitter -- a Local Authority.

We think we’ve iden­ti­fied one of the ear­li­est exam­ples of ‘local’ being used as mar­ket­ing schtick for a post-CAM­RA ‘real ale rev­o­lu­tion’ beer.

In 1980, a Vic­to­ri­an brew­ery build­ing at Tis­bury in Wilt­shire was tak­en over by a civ­il ser­vant, Alis­tair Wal­lace, and an ‘exec­u­tive’, Christo­pher Bak­er. With a for­mer Whit­bread brew­er, John Wilmot, who also had con­nec­tions with God­son’s in East Lon­don (aka God­son, Free­man & Wilmot), they start­ed turn­ing out a beer aimed at the local mar­ket. They called it Local Bit­ter.

Their mar­ket­ing, han­dled by a local agency, empha­sised that the ingre­di­ents were local (‘except the hops’), and that is was brewed to local tastes, to be drunk in local pubs, at a price local peo­ple could afford – they under­cut the big­ger brew­ers by between three to five pence a pint.

The prob­lem with mak­ing a spe­cif­ic loca­tion your ‘unique sell­ing point’, how­ev­er, is the lack of flex­i­bil­i­ty that comes with it. Like a lot of brew­eries found­ed c.1980, they strug­gled for var­i­ous rea­sons, and, for a time, Local Bit­ter had to be brewed about a hun­dred miles away at God­son’s, in Bow. The name, dur­ing that peri­od, must have seemed a lit­tle unfor­tu­nate.

Tis­bury ceased oper­a­tions in 1985.

Sources: ‘The local brew adds strength to the vil­lage’, Trevor Bai­ley, The Guardian, 11 Sep­tem­ber 1981, p.16; Twen­ty Five Years of New British Brew­eries, Ian Mack­ey, 1998.

4 thoughts on “Local beer for local people”

  1. Tis­bury is a great lit­tle vil­lage and well worth stop­ping at for an hour or two if you’re train­ing it down to Corn­wall from that there Lon­don.

    The Boot Inn, run by the iras­ci­ble Ron is at the top of the hill and serves pints direct from the bar-top bar­rels.

    The Ben­net Arms next down always has real­ly inter­est­ing guest beers.

    The Crown is a good spot for lunch with a decent selec­tion of ales.

    And final­ly The South West­ern Hotel next to the sta­tion is run by a local insti­tu­tion called Pat Ost MBE. Nice lady,Nice pub.

  2. And just to throw in an obser­va­tion on price: under­cut­ting the big brew­eries does not a sus­tain­able busi­ness strat­e­gy make. They only have to re-under­cut you, in a small area, for the time it takes to put you out of busi­ness.

  3. I was going to say what Mudgie said, but will add that it was a sus­tained cam­paign over a long time and prob­a­bly pre-dat­ing your exam­ple.

    I lament them. I supped a shed load of their bit­ter.

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