How do you win converts to real ale?

Thanks to Stonch, for posting this link to a BBC article on CAMRA‘s bid to make ales women-friendly.

“Paula Waters [CAMRA’s first ever chairwoman] said most adverts for beer were biased towards male drinkers: “When is the last time you saw any press or TV advert for beer which is meant to attract women?

“At best they are inoffensively aimed at men and at worst they are downright patronising to women.”

She has a point – although I wouldn’t say I’d noticed that many adverts for real ale outside of specialist magazines and beer festivals. And I wonder what an advert aimed at women would look like (would I find it more patronising, like the idea of “girls’ bars” at beer festivals?)

Does marketing play that big a part in attracting people (male or female) to real ale? I think it can have a part to play, based on my own experiences.

fixed_perspective.jpgWhy did I get into real ale? Well, I almost didn’t – it took a long time because, frankly, so many of the pints were bad. At the time, I just assumed that’s what real ale tasted like. Now I can see that the kind of places I was drinking were not looking after their beer terribly well.

Why did I keep persisting with ale? It was because I liked the idea of drinking something traditional and “real” (and so did the crowd I was with) This seemed much cooler than drinking Guinness or mass-produced lager – even if I didn’t enjoy it at first.

So perhaps marketing does help in arousing the initial interest. The “real ale” concept is a great asset to start with – even more could be made of this to emphasise how natural and traditional real ale is. The “local” angle is important here, too – people are increasingly trying to eat locally-sourced food, and there’s no reason why this shouldn’t help sell real ale too.

However, a marketing campaign on its own is no good if you go into a pub for your first pint (or half) of real ale and it’s stale or off. So perhaps CAMRA could put more effort into promoting knowledge amongst landlords and bar staff on keeping and serving real ale (I’m sure CAMRA already does this, but there’s definitely still work to be done)

Here are my thoughts on how you introduce people (male or female) to real ale .Proper Job!

  1. Make sure it’s a good beer, in a pub where they know how to keep it! Sounds obvious, but you don’t want their first pint to be the last. You also want there to be a range available, so they don’t have to stick to the one drink, and so that they get a sense of the fantastic variety in real ale.
  2. Alternatively, consider introducing your victim to a range of bottle-conditioned beers in the comfort of your own home (or theirs). Bottle-conditioned beers are often less variable, fresher, and if you’re serving it at home, you have the advantage of controlling the glassware (which we’re very keen on) and the serving temperature.
  3. I’d usually start with something pale, but definitely not bland – a well-balanced IPA for example. I’ve got a friend coming round tonight, and I’m going to try her on a St Austell “Proper Job” IPA (bottle-conditioned, of course). Then possibly Hopback Summer Lightning.
  4. Resist the temptation to demonstrate all your knowledge about hop varieties and malt complexity. Unless you are trying to convert a nerd, in which case go in all guns blazing – even if they don’t like the beer, it’s something to else to be nerdy about.
  5. Be patient! You probably aren’t going to convert someone to real ale overnight – it may take a prolongued campaign.

Has anyone got any success stories in converting people to real ale? Is a beer festival, such as the Great British Beer Festival, the place to do it?

Boak

Meantime at Large?

This just in, courtesy of Marketing magazine: Adnams have just acquired the rights to distribute and sell Meantime draught beers in the UK, and the sales rights to all of their bottled beers.

I’m taking this as good news — if it means we start to see their London Porter or IPA in more pubs, I’ll be a very happy chap.

The same magazine also brings us news that German brewery Flensburger is launching a draft beer in the UK.

Ochakovo Brewery Pollution Scandal

baltic_mild.jpg

We posted enthusiastically on the subject of Ochakovo a few weeks ago, so this story from the Russian News and Information Agency caught my eye.

The Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and its watchdog accused Ochakovo of spilling unfiltered industrial sewage, possibly containing malt into the offshoots of the Moskva River in the west of the city in early July.

Mmmmm. Industrial sewage — with added malt. Gargle.

But that’s not the whole story. There’s a suggestion that there might be some corruption at the top of the Russian environment agency:

“We cannot consider the test results objective, knowing the originally prejudiced attitude by a senior environmental official against Ochakovo,” Yury Lobanov, vice president and chief engineer of the company, said in an apparent reference to Oleg Mitvol, deputy chief of the environmental regulator.

It’s a nice beer, but clearly pumping rubbish into the environment isn’t a good thing. Perhaps they could do to learn a few lesson from Adnams.

Marston’s Buys Ringwood

product_oldthump_pump.gifRingwood have been taken over by Marston’s, as this article in the Times explains. Mike Benner, Chief Executive of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) says:

As one of the larger companies buys a brewery and expands its estate, competitors start hunting for their next purchase to keep up. Our fear is that an increasing number of smaller breweries will be lost if this race continues and consumer choice will suffer as a result.

That’s an astute bit of market analysis. Marston’s seem to think they’ll make more money out of allowing the smaller breweries they buy to remain independent and local, rather than bringing production of their beers “into the mothership”, as Charles Wells and Greene King have done:

Ralph Findlay, Marston’s chief executive, said that while the wider ale market was declining, many niche brewers were still doing well. “There is good growth in brands with strong imagery and a strong presence in their locality,” he said.

This is a topic we’ve posted on before — the value to the “big boys” of having some smaller, more credible brands to hide behind — but it’s worrying to think that if the market changes, those smaller breweries could be snuffed out, or at least neutered, overnight.

Of course, the former owner of Ringwood can’t be blamed: he’s pocketed nearly £20m, which is what the Godfather would call an offer you can’t refuse.

Ruddles Rebranded

Marketing magazine (July 11, p.6) says that Greene King is rebranding Ruddles — they’re changing the slogan from “serious country” to “proper country”, so they can “run a range of fun activities”. They’ll be giving drinkers the chance to win a tractor, for example.

They’ve also come up with a new “fun” variant on the beer: I don’t know about you, but I’m almost as excited about the exclusive “rhubarb flavoured” Ruddles they’ll be selling in branches of Tescos as I was to see “Greene King IPA — Extra Chilled” on a pump the other day…

If you do have a yearning for a real country beer, I’d highly recommend anything from the Cotleigh brewery in Wiveliscombe, Somerset.