News, Nuggets & Longreads 15 October 2016: Takeovers, Lay-Offs and Argy-Bargy

PUB: Porters, Plymouth, with date overlaid.

Here’s everything that’s grabbed our attention in the world of beer and pubs in the last week, from seismic industry movements to historic lagers.

For starters, there’s been quite a bit of news from the US.

We got to all of this news via Jason Notte (@Notteham) who also offers com­men­tary on Brook­lyn. Whether this is the cat­a­clysmic ‘shake out’ peo­ple have been proph­esy­ing (hop­ing for?) remains to be seen but it cer­tain­ly feels as if some big plates are shift­ing.

The debate at IndyManBeerCon
SOURCE: Kei­th Flett (@kmflett) via Twit­ter.

Clos­er to home, but not unre­lat­ed, accounts of an appar­ent­ly frac­tious debate at the Inde­pen­dent Man­ches­ter Beer Con­ven­tion (Indy­Man­Beer­Con) have begun to emerge. Soap opera aside there is some inter­est­ing con­tent here. Clau­dia Asch’s sum­ma­ry (she’s one of the organ­is­ers) reports that the slick, well-fund­ed Cloud­wa­ter is appar­ent­ly regard­ed as almost as big a threat as those shod­dy under­cut­ting brew­eries:

Sue [Hay­ward of Waen Brew­ery] and Gazza[[Prescott] from Hopcraft had a bit of a go at Cloud­wa­ter, for lack of a bet­ter word… The gist of Gaz­za and Sue’s argu­ment seemed to be: we can’t sell our beer because of Cloud­wa­ter. Can it be that sim­ple? Maybe, just maybe, Cloud­wa­ter are giv­ing the mar­ket what it wants? The beers sell eas­i­ly?

Sue Hay­ward recent­ly retired her brew­ery, though the brand lives on, and you can read her account of the debate here, which rather than eas­ing off, ham­mers home the point:

For us, no amount of hard work and brew­ing of great nation­al award win­ning beers, that appeared in some of the best craft beer hous­es all over the UK, was ever going to be enough in the last cou­ple of years, with the influx of the mon­ey-laden start up ‘hip­ster’ brew­ers. I in no way aim that at any­one in par­tic­u­lar in real­i­ty but a lot of us have seen it many times. 

SOURCE: The Beer Nut.
SOURCE: The Beer Nut.

The Beer Nut (@thebeernut), AKA The Big Palate, AKA John­ny Taste­buds, reflects on Carls­berg’s attempt to revive a beer from their own his­to­ry:

When sam­ples of the beer were first dis­trib­uted to the crowd it was inter­est­ing to observe the effect of appear­ance on taste per­cep­tion. The room was dark, the beer appeared dark and it most def­i­nite­ly tast­ed dark: lots of caramel and even choco­late, a bit like an Eng­lish strong ale or Ger­man dop­pel­bock. Anoth­er taster in a more bright­ly-lit area real­ly lacked the rich dark flavours, though was still undoubt­ed­ly malt-for­ward.

The Cartoon -- entrance.
SOURCE: Adapt­ed from ‘Car­toon, West Croy­don’ by Ewan Munro, from Flickr under Cre­ative Com­mons.

The Croy­don Adver­tis­er (warn­ing: annoy­ing ads) has a pic­ture-laden fea­ture on the town’s lost pubs includ­ing one par­tic­u­lar­ly love­ly post-war booze bunker, ‘The Car­toon’, which was also report­ed­ly the first pub in Croy­don to embrace the mid-1970s real ale revival. (Via @jamesevison.)

Prop­er­ty jour­nal­ist George Turn­er writes in detail about how a Lon­don devel­op­er went about attempt­ing to decom­mis­sion a Lon­don pub in the face of local and legal oppo­si­tion:

As cus­tomers start­ed to arrive at the Star on Sat­ur­day they saw that rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the own­er of the free­hold, Mar­cus Coop­er, had arrived with a new ten­ant, Gray Cham­pi­on. Gray had worked for the Mar­cus Coop­er group a decade ear­li­er and was now keen to set up his own estate agency. Luck­i­ly for Gray, an oppor­tu­ni­ty had just opened up! Over the next cou­ple of days, Gray moved in a desk and a com­put­er into the seat­ing area of the pub and board­ed up the bar, ready for the grand open­ing of Cham­pi­on Estates on Mon­day March 23rd… But West­min­ster Coun­cil were sus­pi­cious. Was Gray Cham­pi­on a bonafide estate agent, or was this a sham by Mar­cus Coop­er to try and close down the Star before the gov­ern­ment closed the very loop­hole he was try­ing to exploit?

(Via @johncryne.)

7 thoughts on “News, Nuggets & Longreads 15 October 2016: Takeovers, Lay-Offs and Argy-Bargy”

  1. I’m cer­tain­ly no cheer­leader for Cloud­wa­ter, but they have built up their rep­u­ta­tion through pro­duc­ing well-made, inno­v­a­tive beers that peo­ple actu­al­ly want to drink – sure­ly the recipe for suc­cess in the craft beer mar­ket. The fact that it was brewed by Cloud­wa­ter would make it more like­ly that I would sam­ple some­thing unusu­al, sim­ply because I’d be con­fi­dent they’d done a good job of it.

    There seems to be a large ele­ment of “tall pop­py syn­drome” about all of this. I’m not aware that Cloud­wa­ter beers are par­tic­u­lar­ly cheap (indeed often the oppo­site), nor that they are engag­ing in loss-lead­ing. Com­pe­ti­tion can be a harsh mis­tress.

    1. Sue had blogged a reply here:

      I note that the dis­cus­sion seems to con­flate two prob­lems:

      1. low price
      2. ‘hip­ster’ brew­eries*

      They are not caused by the same brew­eries – because the lead­ing names in UK micro­brew­ery “craft” most cer­tain­ly do not sell cheap. But there are oth­er small brew­eries who do. So the prob­lem is the pre­mi­um-end is stolen by the the trendy brew­eries, whilst the cheap ones knock your feet out from under you. Brew­eries like Waen, and dozens (hun­dreds?) of oth­ers are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Want­i­ng to brew beers at the pre­mi­um end (with the costs asso­ci­at­ed) but hav­ing nowhere to sell them… city/craft mar­ket vol­ume most­ly going to trendy brew­eries, and local mar­ket sat­u­rat­ed by not great beer that sets a cheap local price expec­ta­tion.

      What we’re observ­ing “craft beer” sat­u­ra­tion… whilst the sec­tor is cer­tain­ly in growth the brew­ing vol­ume try­ing to sup­ply it is grow­ing faster than the out­let vol­ume.

      * To steal the term Sue uses…

    2. …which is what you get when your head brew­er has decades of expe­ri­ence at a top macro brew­ery – bloody well-made beer. Cloud­wa­ter are often knocked for the ‘hype’ around their beers and their ‘hip­ster’ brand – accu­sa­tions of which imply an ele­ment of style and gim­mick­ry over sub­stance.

      Nev­er mind that Cloud­wa­ter remain, in prac­ti­cal and phys­i­cal terms, a tiny brew­ery whose mar­ket­ing bud­get is effec­tive­ly zero – they are one of a few brew­eries (Bux­ton and Ker­nel also spring to mind) who are able to not only inno­vate, but to fol­low through on their ideas with the skill (or craft!?) to make beer of a con­sis­tent­ly high qual­i­ty, whether it’s a 4% bit­ter or a bar­rel-aged impe­r­i­al stout.

      As the craft audi­ence matures, it will find that con­sis­ten­cy and reli­a­bil­i­ty will start to out­weigh nov­el­ty and fash­ion, and so brew­ers like Cloud­wa­ter should endure. Or maybe I’m get­ting old?!

      1. Yeah, if Cloud­wa­ter was styl­ish but crap, I could under­stand a degree of frus­tra­tion. But let’s be hon­est – the beer is absolute­ly pre­mier league.

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