Off-sales of beer are outstripping on-sales. This is of course very sad. More beer is sold through off-licences and supermarkets than is sold in bars, restaurants, hotels and pubs. I can, and frequently do, lament this situation. I could stick to my principles and say that I will not sell my beer to the off-trade and maintain a on-trade only brand. This, in some ways, would seem to be a nobel thing to do.
I'm a business man. Not a very good one it seems as I've yet to be hugely rich. Indeed, for a while I was able to claim free prescriptions, for instance, so low was my disposable income1. We have consistently found it easier and more profitable to sell bottled beer than cask. We are very happy to sell cask beer, but if we divert more of our output into bottle and avoid the inevitable fact that cask competes largely on price, we can perhaps make an honest living.
So, when we got to the New Year that was nearly 12 months ago I had a couple of business goals. Apparently that is the thing one is supposed to do in the New Year, make resolutions. As giving up beer wasn't an option, I vowed to make the process of bottling easier and more efficient. I vowed to get a bottling machine. You see, hand bottling is all very well, but it's just not cost effective. To be honest, it's a right pain in the arse and no one really cared for bottling days.
On Monday we put a little bit of Azimuth in bottles. It went quite well, although we have a few tweaks to do.
Today we got our new labels, so I'm hoping we are getting very close to full production runs of all our beers.
It's been hard work getting this far. Put simply, we couldn't really afford to buy a bottling machine. When we went to the banks with our business plan they pointed out that we hadn't made enough profit yet. Explaining, patiently, that the business plan showed that we would make a profit if we had the efficiencies of the bottling machine got the persistent insistence that we hadn't made a profit yet.
However, a couple of public funded schemes have made it work. Lots more paperwork, business plans and a forecast on something called gross added value. It's all to do with jobs and profit seemingly. I guess if I employ more people they pay tax they mightn't have done, and if I make a profit I pay tax. I'll even have to start paying for my prescriptions, although not for long, as the way life is flying by at the moment I'll be retired before I know what happened.
But we did it, we got a working bottling machine that'll probably spit out up to 1000 330ml bottles an hour, provided Alex and Jules load and unload at that rate. Watch out, before long we'll have loads more beer in loads more places, and that has to be good for us and you.
1And at times, negative. That's the nature of business, you have to invest to get anywhere.