Here’s everything in the world of beer and pubs that’s grabbed us in the last week, from pricing politics to, er, the politics of pricing.
First, there have been a couple of bits of properly newsy news:
- The BBC reports that plans to back minimum pricing for alcohol in Scotland have been given the legal go-ahead. It’s a controversial policy strongly opposed by some drinks producers and anti-regulation free market campaigners; but favoured by academics as a way of targeting ‘hazardous, and particularly harmful drinkers’ (PDF link).
- In conversation with the Morning Advertiser Kevin Marsh of property firm Savills warns that the new Market Rent Only (MRO) option for publicans might well trigger big changes in the ownership structure of the UK pub market: ‘I would think that in some circumstances where the pub company is vulnerable to a significant decrease in income as a result of MRO then quite possibly they will look at selling them.’
And now for some fun. First, Black Country pub advocate The Wench (@BlackCountryPub) reflects on a project recording the region’s ‘Desi pubs’ in a post written partly — brilliantly — in dialect:
Yow dow av to go deep, or far, for Desi in the Black Country. No, not at all. Yow only av to scratch the surface to find one of the many delightful Desi pubs that are scattered, like precious Punjabi jewels, across ower industrial heartland… Precious indeed they are, for often – under the clever custodianship of Asian landlords – they have been injected with new life and saved from that fate worse than death: decline, abandonment and redevelopment (usually as something unhelpful, like yet another supermarket).
Rob Lovatt (@ThornbridgeRob), head brewer at Thornbridge, shares two related articles previously published in the Brewers’ Journal, offering a characteristically sharp-edged take on trends in the industry. The first part is interesting in light of our post from earlier this week on the German influence, or lack of it, in craft beer culture:
Other than buying imported German Helles, it is almost impossible to enjoy a well-crafted, authentic German style example in the UK. Unfortunately, your average drinker really hasn’t been exposed to such a perfectly crafted beer. UK lagers from the big brewers are so far removed from the style it’s an absolute travesty. With frequent visits to Bavaria, when I was a young brewer, and with some help from some amazing brewers in Bavaria, I really got a feel for German brewing traditions and the thought processes behind these beers and I now feel very comfortable brewing almost any German style.
The second, on the relationship between big brewers and craft beer, is interesting for many reasons but this bit stuck out especially bearing in mind that we’ve long felt Thornbridge is a prime target for acquisition by a big multinational:
Often craft beer can be not just hazy but actively soupy, flat and/or oxidised and people are expected to pay a premium for these beers. In addition, some newer craft breweries are concentrating heavily on marketing without paying the same attention to the quality of their beer something they could probably learn from the big boys. So, for the customer it can only be good news when and if the big brewers continue to run the breweries they have purchased the way they were before and beer quality is maintained and widely available.
On a related note is this post from Matt Curtis entitled ‘Discount Culture: the Race to the Bottom’ which has been the trigger for much discussion in the comments thread, around the blogoshire, and on Twitter. Some have unfairly paraphrased it as ‘Craft beer is too cheap — plebs can afford it now!’ while others, no less uneasy about what it might mean, have acknowledged that the discussion is one worth having. Perhaps the most interesting side note came from Keith Flett who, with his knowledge of 19th Century industrial history, draws a parallel between supermarket craft beer and the ‘slop trade’, which ‘[undercut] good quality goods with cheaper, less well made items that however appeared pretty similar’. Good beer in supermarkets at affordable prices? Great! Mediocre beer that merely looks a bit ‘craft’, designed to exploit consumers, and probably disappoint them? Not such good news.
David Turner (@TurnipRail) has launched a new academic project charting the connections between the railways and brewing and is recording the progress of his research on a blog, commencing with a short post about Whitbread’s expenditure on rail transport. (Via Tim Holt.)
That’s a pretty substantial amount of stuff to chew on but there’s always room for one last little nibble:
— Emily Brand (@EJBrand) October 19, 2016