Three Bullet Tuesday – 28 March

Something slightly different this week. I’m taking some time to respond to some other blogs. Enjoy.

1. Why do we drink beer where we drink beer? by Peter McKerry

A thought provoking post as always from Pete, which also led to some responses from Boak and Bailey and Mark Johnson amongst others. There was a lot I could relate to from Boak and Bailey, and while I couldn’t relate to “A pint of cask beer in my favourite pub ranges from £2.60 – £3.60, dependant on strength and purchase price.” from Mark’s post, he does have a point. I recently bought 7 beers from Borough Wines in Kensal Rise for £29, just over £4 a bottle. When I was at Mother Kelly’s a few week back, I was drinking halfs and two third for around £4 a serve.

I love the pub. I was a pub quiz champ and would often go to my local 2-3 times a week. Its where I met my wife. Then we had kids. Despite assertions between my wife and I that “things wouldn’t change”, they invariably do. Of course they do and its wonderful. One of the consequences is that I don’t get to the pub as often as I would like. An occasional lunchtime pint aside (Friday’s mostly), my pub visits are less spontaneous and less frequent. If my wife and I wanted to head out, we would need a babysitter at added cost.  I will get out for a session every now and then where I might drink 5-6 beers, but at home I would never drink that much. Maybe a beer here and there, a few on the weekend. And yes, I do post the occasional beer (not all of them – I don’t think people want to see every time I drink a Gamma Ray) online too. Not sure how many others that drink at home more than before are recent parents too?

2. Confession Time – Which Beers are you Embarrased to Like? by Boak and Bailey

A light, fun and mischievous post. In my conversion to full beer snob, there is a number of beers that I once cherished that I have left behind. It wasn’t that long ago I was quaffing pints of Becks Vier from the local and drinking bottles of Becks in a multipack from Sainsburys. Guinness also served me well and still does. Its usually my default when there is macro’s or mediocre cask on offer. In recent times, a multipack of Dead Pony Club or Camden Hells cans has become a staple in the fridge.

3. Supermarket Craft. Various.

One of the things I do ponder is whether or not there is a craft beer bubble. Many point to the fact that craft beer only has less that 10% of the market therefore there is huge upside. While factually that might be the case, there are significant limitations to the addressable market for craft brewers and the potential upside is that craft beers maximum addressable market share might only be 25%. I’ll try and explain why below.


Recent BBPA figures show ontrade sales of 12.4m barrels of beer in 2016 (Barrel = 163L). This includes pubs, clubs, hotels and restaurants. I was unable to find a detailed breakdown beyond this, but let’s assume most of the beer is sold in pubs. I have used some old stats here to show the breakdown (from 2009) but directionally I am sure the are still relatively close. PubCos dominate the industry with over 50% of all pubs. It is difficult for craft breweries to get distribution into these PubCos. SIBA tries to assist with their BeerFlex scheme, but the addressable market for PubCos is small. Small and regional breweries make up 16%. Again, they will likely prioritise their own beer, therefore the addressable market is again relatively small. Freehouses are a third of all pubs, and the biggest opportunity for craft breweries. Other opportunities of course are taprooms and own premises here as you can sell 100% of your own beer at such premises.


Recent BBPA figures show ontrade sales of 13.7 m barrels of beer in 2016 (Barrel = 163L). Off-trade now exceeds on trade as outlined in the graph below which used BBPA figures.

What’s striking is how much on-trade has declined, rather than a huge increase from off-trade. There are around 10,000 less pubs over this timeframe which is driving the big reduction in numbers.  I couldn’t find any breakdown for off-trade so have made a few assumptions: supermarkets account for 70%, corner stores 20% and speciality beer and wine shops 10%. What this crude analysis shows me is that the biggest opportunity for the craft brewer is in the supermarket. M&S you could reasonable argue have led the way with bringing craft beer to their shelves. Tesco, under Project Reset, have completely redesigned their range of craft beers, favouring US craft beer imports (Oskar Blues, Stone – albeit their german brewery, and Brooklyn), some UK brands (BrewDog, Vocation) with some regional variety) at the expense of brands such as Heineken and Carlsberg. And they are doing it in the way the know how –  offering beer and cheap, cheap prices. Morrisons and Waitrose have also amended their beer range and it can’t be long before we see others such as Sainsburys and smaller players delve into craft beer. This will create opportunities for some breweries, should they wish to take it. And it is a big decision with big implications on the business model and brand of a craft brewery as well as the other routes to market.

How much impact will cheap, accessible and decent beer at supermarkets impact both other off-trade and on-trade beer sales?

Is really good beer, made and marketed well going to be enough to increase the addressable market for craft beer?

Or should craft breweries be looking at other ways to get to market?

Other opportunities of course are taprooms and own premises here as you can sell 100% of your own beer at such premises. As mentioned in a previous post, Wild Beer Cos crowdfunding campaign showed the revenue potential from their own premises. Magic Rock taproom has become such a destination, there is often lines out the door, much to Mark Johnson’s bemusement.

Time will tell.

Three Bullet Tuesday – 21 March

Bude, where’s my beer? Gipsy Hill Brewing Company, and why don’t more craft breweries contract brew?

  • Bude, wheres my beer? A funny thing happened. Like anyone else who is into beer twitter you will have heard of the phenomena that is #CraftBeerHour. The premise is simple, get online between 9pm and 10pm on a Tuesday and share a drink and interact with fellow beer enthusiasts. It has built such an audience that it now features breweries, festival organisers and other beer folk who use the hour like an online Q&A. To further enhance the experience, Tom arranges with the feature brewery for free samples to be sent in advance of the tasting. Back to my story. An email popped into my inbox asking people to enter the draw for free samples for next week’s brewery, Bude Brewery from Cornwall. Rather than wait until later I entered straight away. I must have been the first as it triggered a response from Tom on twitter. To keep it democratic Tom pulls the names from a hat and broadcasts the draw live on twitter. This is how far down the craft rabbit hole I have gone – I, along with around 20 others, watched the draw live. And whose name was deftly plucked from the hat first? Yours truly! Phoa! I never win anything, I said. Now to wait for the beer to arrive. Sadly it didn’t turn up in time for last Tuesday’s #CraftBeerHour, however did arrive in time for the weekend. I have managed to have at least one of the beers, the Black Rock Porter, which came in a 500ml bottle. Beautiful dark colour, with relatively thick head. Nice dark chocolate and roasted malts with just enough sweetness. Stay tuned for the Pale Ale.

You too can sign up for #CraftBeerHour samples right here

  • Gipsy Hill Brewing Company: I attended a meet the brewer event with Gipsy Hill Brewing Company at the shiny new Micro Beers craft beer shop in East Sheen, South West London. Micro Beers is relatively new and follows the trend of drink in / take away with four rotating keg lines in addition to well stocked selection of beers. East Sheen is in a bit of a no man’s land between Putney and Richmond and while it’s on the train line, the regular express services don’t stop here and its serviced mainly by the less frequent ‘all stations’ services. Regardless, and to my surprise, this suburban enclave drew a rather large, interested and educated crowd curious about Gipsy Hill and craft beer more generally. I first encountered Gipsy Hill at the now defunct Winter Brew Festival in November 2014. Their signage stood out, three white guys in coloured shirts holding a Gipsy Hill sign. Given we were at a craft beer festival, my initial reaction was that the Gipsy in Gipsy Hill referenced the fact they were Gipsy brewers. It only highlighted my lack of knowledge about the suburbs of South London. MBA educated Sam McMeekin gave up a promising career in venture capital micro-finance after becoming disillusioned with a new job. Rather than handing over cash to driven entrepreneurs, he wanted a challenge of running his own business front to back; branding, marketing, financials, really making and building something of his own. He teamed up with Charlie Shaw, who was working at 5 Points Brewery and Gipsy Hill was born. Sam explained the brewery, his story, walked through 4 beers including core beers Hepcat (Session IPA) and Southpaw (Amber Ale) and new beers Day Tripper (American Pale Ale) and Nomad (Milk Stout). Their beers are named after groups of people, with previous beers including Bogan (NZ Pale Ale), Drifter (IPA) and newly released Walloon (Belgian IPA) which pays homage to the Belgium region known for its cycling and brewing heritage and released right in time for the Belgian cobble classics. Sam also reflected on the challenges of scaling up given their recent expansion as well as their plans for improving quality and output with investments in water treatment and a canning line. All in all it was an enjoyable experience and great, as always, to hear from passionate craft brewers.

  • Why don’t more craft breweries contract brew?: I watched this very funny video parodying things Australian craft beer drinker say. You can watch it here on vimeo.

One thing I got a chuckle out of is the ‘contract brewed’ gag. But openly talking about contract brewing seems rare in the UK, or is it that it’s just not that common? Five Points Brewing Co announced in their year-end blog that they were contract brewing some (only Kegs, cans are brewed and packaged at Five Points) of its Pils beer to a ‘family owned, independent brewery in Belgium’, in an arrangement reminiscent of Camden Town’s. I can understand their rationale too, which is outlined in the blog, but can be summarised as “At Hackney Downs we are hemmed in on all sides, and after several months of (currently unsuccessful) negotiation with our neighbours and with Network Rail, sadly it looks like we’ve run out of expansion options at our current site”. But surely 5 Points aren’t the only ones with this problem? That sounds like any typical craft brewer, in an industrial estate or in a railway arch – hemmed in – waiting for an opportunity for a close or woe-betide adjacent lot to become available. Often this leads to inefficiency, such as taking an hour to unpack assorted brewery paraphernalia only to spend the same amount of time repacking it that same evening. A quick google search of contract brewers in the UK reveals a number of options, namely traditional brewers with extra capacity to spare. But again, it’s unclear whether, when faced with barriers to expansion, craft breweries seriously consider contract brewing as another way to grow in the face of barriers to scaling up quickly to meet demand.

Three Bullet Tuesday – 7 March

What Toast Ale and Brewgooder can learn from Kickstarter, Brewing Business Models and Left Hand Brewing Co

  • Kickstarter: this week saw Kickstarter, the creativity focused crowdfunding platform, release its first Benefit Statement since becoming a Public Benefit Corporation. In 2015 Kickstarter changed its corporate entity from a for-profits, incorporated company to a public benefit corporation. According to their statement at the time, this means “positive impact on society becomes part of a Benefit Corporation’s legally defined goals.”. You can read their charter here and their first benefit statement here. While they remain a for-profit organisation, they have some very specific goals, including their approach to diversity, executive pay and taxation. In addition, Kickstarter will annually donate 5% of its after-tax profit towards arts and music education, and to organizations fighting to end systemic inequality and in their statement have outlined the projects that have received the funding. This got me thinking about both Toast Ale and Brewgooder, both breweries founded on a similar mission to benefit the public. Both Toast Ale and Brewgooder are focused on totally admirable causes and both are garnering no shortage of publicity and that should be applauded and appreciated. Toast Ale is focused on the problem of food waste, to help turn food, and more specifically bread waste into a product that can be used and sold. Brewgooder focused on bringing fresh water to people that need it most. Both have a stated goal to donate 100% of profits. This is where I have questions. Firstly, how profitable are a start up brewery? If Cloudwater’s results after 2 years of trading are anything to go by, it’s a challenge. Stella Artois have this week announced a similar water campaign, with a donation based on units sold, rather than profits. Kew Brewery also provides a charitable donation on units sold. This is more guaranteed, and punters who support the beer know their contribution is based on the fact they have bought the beer, rather than the breweries ability to turn a profit. But even if they are turning a profit and donating that to their admirable causes, why haven’t they announced it? I know there is a huge difference between Kickstarter, a company with an 8 year track record and a multi-million dollar revenue line, and start ups like Toast Ale and Brewgooder, however when marketing is based solely on this messaging, a little more transparency regarding their philanthropic pursuits, would be appreciated.
  • Business models: unless you didn’t read last week’s post, by now you will have noticed that Wild Beer Co is crowdfunding in a bid to raise £1m (which at the time of writing they had raised £993,080). They are on track to smash their target and rightly so as they appear to have done their homework, with a very well prepared campaign and business case. You would expect no less however when one of your non-executive directors is the COO/CFO of Crowdcube. What stood out for me in the financials was how much having two pubs, Jessop House in Cheltenham and Wapping Wharf in Bristol, strengthened their financial position. It got me thinking about the different business models of craft breweries. There is the opposite of the Wild Beer Co approach where pubs have started breweries, such as Long Arm Brewing started by the ETM Group, or the plans for the new brewery on the site of The Prince, N22, sister pub of the Dukes Head. Both Camden and Beavertown started in the basement of pubs. Or the traditional craft brewery in a railway arch / industrial lot with a makeshift taproom, or even Yeastie Boys, who design recipes, packaging, undertake the marketing and sales and partner with a brewery to brew the beers to their exacting standards. I’m sure there is advantages and disadvantages to every business model, but its up to the founders to really decide where they want to begin and what they want from their brewery. Do the drinkers really care?
  • Left Hand Brewing Company: I attended a fantastic event at Brew by Numbers last week, who hosted Left Hand Brewing Company, from Longmont Colorado for a special event of big beers. Chris Hall was delighted to start the night with their 55|04, an 8.5%ABV Double IPA. Chris Lennert, the effervescent COO of Left Hand was also there, the final stop of a whirlwind visit to Britain and Ireland, championing independence and appreciating good beer. I had met Chris at an event Left Hand did with Camden and Beavertown around 2 years ago. What really stood out for me that night was how Chris was the only one from the three breweries there who made the effort to go and speak with everyone in the room – It certainly made an impression. What I remembered this time was their beer – St Vrain, a 3 year old Belgian Tripel, Widdershins, a 3 year old oak aged Barley Wine, and Wake Up Dead, a 2 year old oak aged Imperial Stout. (You can find some picture of the event on my instagram @bushcraftbeer) All were exquisitely made and aged, especially when compared with some of the younger, but no less accomplished beers Brew by Numbers were serving. While you may know Left Hand Brewing from their Nitro Stout, and having a flagship beer certainly helps (think Brooklyn Lager, Goose IPA), there is always more to a good American Craft Brewery, especially one that is 24 years old, than a flagship beer. And usually some really great people too.

Three Bullet Tuesday – 28 February

Fullers goes keg, Wild Beer Co to crowdfund and an update on the 20* most important beers

  • Fullers goes keg: there is lot’s of news coming out of the Chiswick brewery this year and it’s still only February. The first big piece of news was that Georgina Young has been appointed Head Brewer, replacing John Keeling, who is staying on in an ambassadorial role. Georgina has been with Fullers since 1999 and becomes the first woman in Fuller’s 172 history to hold the role. They also recently announced their seasonal calendar for the year which included a number of keg beers; a Black IPA in the spring, Unfiltered Lager for Summer, a Table Beer for Autumn and an Espresso Stout for Winter. They also unveiled a new take on an old classic, announcing London Pride Unfiltered at Craft Beer Rising. This beer is an unfiltered, unpasteurised, dry hopped (although unsure if this is different to Cask Pride) version of London Pride, served in 30L kegs at 4-6°. If you listened to my Beer O’Clock Show Hopinions appearance where Fullers was discussed, I shared my views that Fullers have a disappointing keg line up in their pubs, including their own relatively recently developed ‘craft brands’. While this new announcement shows they are committed to experimenting with more modern styles of beer, they are still locking out other independent brewers from their pubs, which is a little disappointing. Nevertheless I look forward to trying the new beers.


  • Wild Beer Co to crowdfund: the exciting news coming out of Somerset is that the Wild Beer Co will be crowdfunding to help fund their expansions plans. Wild Beer Co, who specialise in making beer using wild ingredients, aren’t the first brewery to turn to crowdfunding for investment. I’m sure they can ask their brewing brethren at Camden, BrewDog, Redchurch, Signature Brew and UBREW (to name but a few) for tips. While I am sure they could have sourced private investment, one of the advantages of crowdfunding is that you build an advocate base around your brewery who have a vested interested in supporting the business they have invested in as well as creating an opportunity for media exposure. BrewDog have done this very well with their 34,000 Equity Punks gained over four funding rounds. With no guarantee of returns for investors, good incentives for investment, even for smaller investors, are a must. Camden did this very well in their Hells Raiser campaign. One of consequences is that you are putting a lot of information about your business in the public domain; your current financials and your future business plan and strategy and I’d be advising the team at Wild Beer Co to be prepared for the barrage of tough questions and meetings requests from potential investors. This is something I look out for when breweries crowdfund as it gives you a real insight into the business side of things. Keep an eye on the Wild Beer website, twitter feed and Crowdcube for more information from tomorrow.


  • An update on the 20* most important British craft beers: in reaction to my post last week, I’ve 65 responses to the online survey. Its already led to debate and it’s spawned a few posts; this one from Boak and Bailey, and another from Myles Lambert. A number of additional beers have been mentioned in the comments section including; Summer Lightning by Hop Back, Roosters Yankee (rather than Baby Faced Assason, that was on the initial list), Moor Revival and Meantime Pale Ale. I will be keeping it open until Friday so if you haven’t had your say yet, there is is still time to get involved. Here is the link

Fosters, Australian craft beer and Pirate Life

Everyone knows that Fosters is Australian for beer. We know this because they have spent millions upon millions of marketing dollars re-enforcing this message. The message lands too by harnessing the power of the Australian stereo-type. Its simple blokes, mates, who love the beach, sport and taking the piss. And now for what might shock you.

Fosters is not Australian.

In fact you could argue Fosters branding is the worst case of cultural appropriation since Katy Perry performed in a Geisha outfit at the 2013 AMAs. Reading the Fosters Wikipedia page is like following the story of who owns the rights to a bad 1980s movie that is trying to be remade. The only problem is that, like any good stereotype, it exists because it is a familiar.

Times they are a’changing. Australia has a real appreciation for food and drink, provenance and craft, taking foreign influences and adding a local touch, or bringing their own to the world. Australian’s are behind a wave of third wave coffee to influence changing tastes and preferences here in London. Taylor Street Baristas was founded in 2006 by three Aussie siblings who noticed a depressing dearth of good quality coffee in London. It’s another reason why the previously successful Walkabout pub chains closed – people’s tastes and experiences have shifted. Australians views have shifted to a focus on good food and drink, a healthy lifestyle and quality.

So when I saw this poster being used at the recent Australia Day Beer Festival I really felt it was wide of the mark in terms of how Australian craft beer should be marketing and positioning itself. At the risk of sounding petty, this is what put me off. The abbreviation of Australia to Oz felt too casual. Sure maybe it’s to keep the twitter handle to a minimum. The budgie smugglers picture is all kinds of wrong. The exact tongue in cheek, wink at the camera shenanigans that you would see form a Foster advert.

A key thing Australian craft breweries need to sell is Australia as a craft beer producer. As a beer drinker, why should people care about Australian craft beer? What does Australian craft beer have to offer? There are a few things I would be doing. Highlight the provenance of Australian ingredients – our barley, hops and water bring something slightly different. Whether its Stone & Wood highlighting Australian hops in their Pacific Ale, or Moo Brewery’s stunning beers showcasing Tasmania water. Highlight our influences – whether it’s US, German or British brewing that is the inspiration, how have we taken that and reinterpreted styles and flavours for an Australia consumer. The other thing, in the age of appreciating beer as a fresh product that needs to be treated properly, is ensuring you have a supply chain that looks after the beers. Cold storage on the trip to the UK is an absolute must. Avoid the easy Australian stereo-type.

Once you’ve got people excited about Australian beer, you need to get them excited about you as a brewery. For me there are two key things to consider. The first is obviously the beer. Making great beer gets people talking about what you are doing. People taking leads to recognition, which leads to Hype. Awards are always helpful. The second is a strong individuality, uniqueness and narrative around the brand. Avoid the easy Australian stereo-type.

The Australian craft beer scene has its own nuances. Firstly the big breweries, Lion Nathan (subsidiary of Kirin) and Carlton and United breweries (subsidiary of ABInbev) came to the party very early on. Establishing craft brands (James Squire) and buying craft breweries (Matilda Bay) and marketing their beer as craft. This Australian Craft Beer Industry Association (CBIA) endorsed this view with the definition for craft that included these breweries as long as they were under a certain size.

But there is some really great independent breweries that have sprung up too. They are young, ambitious, passionate and determined – sound familiar?

While relatively new to the party, having launched in March 2015 (around the same time as Cloudwater), Pirate Life is among the vanguard of the independent craft beer scene. They come with pedigree. CEO Michael Cameron is a beer industry veteran. Brewers Jack Cameron, Michael’s son, has stints at BrewDog and Little Creatures on his brewery resume. Red Proudfoot worked with Jack at BrewDog and also spent time brewing with Cheeky Monkey in Margaret River, another of Australia’s wine producing regions.

A name like Pirate Life comes with obvious connotations; swashbuckling, carefree, bravado. It also comes with a feeling if youth rebelling. Perhaps a bit of BrewDog’s ethos rubbed off on Jack and Red. For them it also means not compromising on quality and flavour.

Adelaide is their home, which is close to the heart of Australia wine country, with the Barossa and McLaren Vale regions known for their quality producers. There is also a number of other craft breweries in Adelaide including Vale Brewery and Prancing Pony. There is also the large traditional brewer, Coopers, who could arguably be described as Australia’s original craft brewery, specialising in bottle conditioned ales. In fact their Pale Ale was once my absolute go to beer. This plays to my earlier point around what modern Australia means.

With a relatively tight core range, their beers have become instantly recognised for their flavour and quality. They have won a swag of awards for both their beers and as a brewery, and achieved unprecedented recognition in the GABS Hottest 100 craft beer countdown, a list based on public votes. In 2015 they had 3 of their core beers in the top 11 and backed that up with similar performances in 2016.

They have fours beers in their core range which they bringing to the UK. The Throwback IPA is a 3.5% ABV session IPA, a light hoppy number. The 5.4% ABV Pale Ale is a very drinkable malt forward Pale Ale, think Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or Oskar Blues Dales Pale Ale. The 6.8% ABV IPA is more of a West Coast IPA, bright and hoppy. The 8.8% ABV IIPA is more like a bigger version of their Pale Ale, rather than a juicy hop or murk bomb you see from other DIPAs on the market at this current point in time.

Freshness is key in beer, especially hoppy pale ales, and Adelaide is a long way from the UK. Pirate Life are committed to ensuring that their beers arrive in the UK and Europe in the best possible condition, using a cold storage supply chain. This re-enforces the commitment to quality.

There is a lot Pirate Life are doing right at the moment. Entering into the competitive and increasingly crowded UK market place is ambitious for a brewery on the other side of the world. I believe they have the credentials, the story and narrative around their brand and importantly the beers to make it a success.

Pirate Life will be sharing a stand at CraftBeerRising with Kegstar. Be sure to pop by to say hello to the team and try some of their beers. You can also find them at selected pubs and bottle shops across the UK.

Disclosure: I met with Sean Robertson, sales and marketing for Pirate Life Europe, in researching this post. He also provided free samples of the beer. Images are from the Press Release.

Three Bullet Tuesday – 21 February

The 20* most important British craft beers ever, Beavertown and sexism in beer

  • 20* Most important UK craft beers: there was article being shared in twitter called ‘The 25 most important American craft beers ever’. It was written by Chicago Tribune writer Josh Noel, which itself was inspired by another post by Food and Wine. While the American craft beer scene is more mature and the legacy of the beers on these lists are clearly more time-honoured, it got me thinking about what a list such as this would look like for the British Craft Beer scene. A key challenge is defining the parameters. Nevertheless, I think we can define ‘craft’ relatively loosely and ‘important’ in a similar way to our US colleagues: It’s one that either changed consumer tastes or how breweries approach making beer. There are a few obvious ones: Punk IPA by Brewdog, Jaipur by Thornbridge, ESB by Fullers. I reached out on twitter and sourced a list of 20 to begin with. Click here to access the draft list and get involved. Please, I invite you to review the list and vote, provide a comment or make a suggestion of your own. I intend to keep this open for a week and will share the results here in a future post (any maybe even a podcast)

*the final list may end up being a different number

  • Five go to Beavertown: Beavertown Brewery held their 5th birthday celebration on Saturday with a party at their brewery. They invited 5 other breweries to collaborate naming each beer after the Famous Five; Julian, Dick, Anne, George and Timmy. Each brewery brought three other beers, plus there was the core range from Beavertown and a few specials thrown in (including Stockholm’s Bretted Saison they were pouring from large bottles). It was everything you could expect from a craft beer festival and I really enjoyed it; a great atmosphere, yet wasn’t too busy; you never waited too long for a drink; all the beers were great (expect for one that I was a little disappointed with) and it was great to see some old friends and meet new ones. I can’t really fault the event. One thing that really hit me was how much they have grown in such a short space of time. I was last at the brewery just under two years ago and since then a room that was previously empty is now stacked with brewery kit. Towers of kegs lined the estate and a new lot filled with barrels was hidden away from the paying public. Happy Birthday to Beavertown and congratulations. Looking forward to seeing what the next five years brings.
  • Sexism in beer: I’ve read some really good posts on this subject over the past few weeks. Kudos to Mark Johnson for calling out his experiences at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival. His post basically broke the comments section of his website. The counter argument from one of the organisers was a bit weak, which basically said ‘I’ve chaired lots of these panels and he didn’t ask his question properly’. Canadian Ben Johnson (not that one), explores sexist beer marketing, given breweries that use sexist images to market beers the right of reply. You can see that one here. And finally, this one really nails it for me – entitled LOL Sexism in Beer, from Emma, a senior Biomedical Scientist, home brewer and beer blogger. Hopefully these posts challenge peoples thinking on the subject.

Three Bullet Tuesday – 31 January 2017

Cloudwater kings of Ratebeer, Brewery Growth Models, and the Ealing Park Tavern, Home of Long Arm Brewing 

  • Cloudwater: the Manchester-based craft brewer are the kings of Ratebeer, the popular beer rating site/app after picking up a swag of awards in a ceremony in Santa Rosa California on Sunday 29th January. Full details of the results will be released throughout this week, but according to their twitter feed they picked up at least 8 awards including best brewery in the UK. To be fair, I am unsure of who makes up the Ratebeer community here in the UK, but the award does carry certain weight, especially in the US where Ratebeer is more popular. Critics however compare this to a popularity contest. Either way, it’s a global awards ceremony that comes with a certain gravitas and I’m sure for them to pick up these awards in from a room full of their global peers gives them great satisfaction. As a result, I believe it should be celebrated.
Paul from Cloudwater doing his best Michael Phelps impersonation
Paul from Cloudwater doing his best Michael Phelps impersonation
  • Brewing growth models: the ‘year in review’ blogs of a number of craft breweries opened the kimono on the growth curve some find themselves on. I’ve been reflecting on the challenges these breweries are likely to be considering, plus those on different growth profiles using a bastardised version of the BCG growth matrix. The BCG growth matrix is a strategic tool designed for large corporations with a portfolio of businesses to use to determine strategic direction. In my growth matrix, the x axis is relative size of the brewery and on the y axis is the growth the brewery is experiencing.


If we start in the bottom left, I’ve dubbed this group the Ateliers. This is breweries that are relatively small in scale and with a low growth profile. The archetype Atelier for me is The Kernel Brewery. I’ve interviewed Evin from The Kernel in a previous podcast and he makes it clear he believes the brewery could be capable of growing to be 15-20 times the size but is happy with the current size of the brewery, the quality of the beers they are making and the conversations he can have with his customers. The key challenge for Ateliers is finding a sustainable differentiator and for The Kernel, this is the stunning quality of their beers. The Stars are those breweries that are relatively small but are going through significant growth. Think Cloudwater, Five Points and Beavertown. Interestingly, they are all going about that growth in slightly different ways. Cloudwater are streamlining beer dispense to just can and keg and focusing on maximising the efficiency of their brewing. Five Points are facing growing pains in their current site and have started contract brewing to increase capacity. Beavertown are maximing their brewing schedule and expanding their current presence with one eye on moving to a big new premises in the near future. For these breweries the key challenge is likely to be managing the financials. When making capital investments a sharp eye on cash flow and expense management is critical. Ensuring the quality and consistency of their beers don’t suffer is another key challenge. The Cannonballs are those that have relative size and are also going through significant growth. BrewDog are the ultimate Cannonballs. They continue to expand their brewing capacity in Ellon, have set out plans to create Overworks, their Sour facility, expanding their bar network both domestically and abroad as well as launching BrewDog USA.  That is a huge agenda and good management, governance and control is critical to ensure they are delivering against all their plans. And finally the Cows. These are relatively large breweries experiencing low growth. Their challenge is how to push the business back into growth mode (or restructure). Whilst I wouldn’t put Fullers into this category (they seem to be focused on expanding their range of pubs), many appear to be responding to this challenge by doing things like rebranding or creating craft ranges to try to tap faster growing segments of the market. Some feel like half-hearted attempts at change given that authentic and sustainable cultural and strategic change takes more than some new packaging.

  • Ealing Park Tavern: after many aborted attempts, I finally made it to the Ealing Park Tavern for an early dinner on Saturday with the family. Its been on my to do list for some time, given its relatively close to where I live. Its also the home of Long Arm Brewing, the winner of RateBeers best new brewery in Greater London. For those unfamiliar, Long Arm Brewing is a new brewery that is part of the ETM Group, a restaurant and bar group with 12 venues across London and one venue in Suffolk. To date, I believe they only sell their beer in their venues. They also previous owned The Gun in the Docklands, which they sold in June 2016 to Fullers. The Ealing Park Tavern is a lovely pub, adorned with taxidermy and open fires, separate formal and informal dining areas, a beer garden, and a long bar with around 12 keg lines (including Beavertown Gamma Ray and Four Pure Flatiron Red), 6 cask lines and an extensive can and bottle selection (I recall seeing Moor cans and bottles of Wild Beer Co). We sat in the formal dining area where the ambiance was lovely, the menu engaging and the service attentive. I had a pint of Thornbridge Lord Maples, a 4% cask bitter to start and a bottle of Wild Beer Millionaire with my braised Herdwick lamb serviced with sautéed sweetbreads, smoked aubergine, chick peas, chilli and apricots. My one criticism is that while they have an extension wine list to accompany the food menu, they don’t extend the same courtesy to their beer. All in all The Ealing Park tavern is pub with a pedigree beer and wine selection, excitable food menu and enjoyable ambiance.