Ochakovo Brewery Pollution Scandal

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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.

More boring lagers launched

Carls­berg have decid­ed to dis­trib­ute Pol­ish lager Okocim on tap, across the UK.

Okocim is not an espe­cial­ly excit­ing beer. It is not even the best Pol­ish lager – and Pol­ish lagers are a sor­ry bunch, to be hon­est.

It’s an attempt to tap into the mar­ket for “world lagers” – a bizarre sub-cat­e­go­ry much loved by chain pubs, which includes San Miguel, Kirin Ichiban, Per­oni and so on.

I wish some­one would dis­trib­ute Jev­er Pils, for exam­ple, or Kostriz­er Schwarz­bier. That would be news.

Heineken UK relaunch

Today’s issue of Mar­ket­ing Week car­ries a sto­ry about Heineken, who are appar­ent­ly relaunch­ing in the UK with a more “con­ti­nen­tal” image. They want peo­ple to drink Heineken in small­er mea­sures, with a thick­er head, as a “pre­mi­um beer”.

This won’t do any­thing about the actu­al taste of their beer – it’s still “cook­ing lager” – but it is an inter­est­ing step away from British lager cul­ture.

Mar­ket­ing Week also points out how bad­ly Heineken goofed when they relaunched last time, putting their beer’s ABV up to 5% just when every­one got upset about binge-drink­ing. They spent a for­tune on announc­ing “new, stronger Heineken”, and then a year or so lat­er their com­peti­tors were all announc­ing, for exam­ple, “new, weak­er Becks”, or Stel­la, or Car­ling.

They’re also announc­ing a new “draught keg” for home use. Er… Par­ty Sev­en?