Monday, 21 May 2012

SIBA North Council Rep

Bit of a canvassing post here. I'd write more, but I've got work to do.

There is a space on the SIBA council for a North region representative.

You may have seen Stringers comment on this blog. The man behind the persona is Jon Kyme and he's a mate, although you wouldn't have thought so by the way he baits me here.

He knows quite a lot of stuff about all sorts of things and is a witty and entertaining drinking companion. Although, that by itself is obviously not a good reason to vote for him.

I'm voting for him because I don't believe he would take any prisoners when it comes to defending the little guy. Want someone on council who knows the struggles facing little breweries? Jon's your man. Worried that SIBA might be too heavily biased with ambitious corporate empire building suites? Well, Jon is not that, trust me.

Please, if you are a SIBA North brewing member, vote for him too. Votes need to be in today; you should have had an email.

Thanks very much.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

It's all Rhetorical

What a great response I got for my previous post, inviting bloggers who are attending The European Bloggers Conference this coming weekend to give me reasons why I should give them a bottle of our new Rhetoric MKI. I of course reserve the right to give away beer to whoever I choose, and having now chosen the 24 lucky winners, I must now announce it, and I feel that some sort of explanation for each is required.

I realised that I have set myself a difficult task. I'm not sure I've managed to capture everyone who responded and there is a nagging doubt in the back of my mind that I saw a really great response that I cannot now find. Putting in everyone's links got to be very time consuming. I hope I got them all right. If not, many apologies.

There are other people who aren't going to the bloggers conference who may have missed out. I may get to you in time, you never know your luck.

Alex has already set off for Leeds, if you are in the list just make yourself known to him.

With no further ado, *drum roll* the winners are......

1. The Ormskirk Barron Baron

Because he has always supported Hardknott. He might have already received free beer from me in the past, or perhaps not, I can't remember. He has paid for Hardknott beer, I know, I was there. But also because he tackled the issue of blogging for free beer in an honest and forthright audio podcast.

Also, he gets it for his tweet; "you can't give happiness to charity"

Hopefully he'll share his bottle with Christopher R.

2. Andy Mogg

Andy didn't respond to my post. Actually, that's a lie, he re-tweeted it. However, he is one of the bloggers that I feel has the up-most blogging integrity. Also, he has recently joined the ranks of the self employed. In this age of economic uncertainty everyone who risks personal finance on the uncertainty of enterprise deserves my support.

3. Mark Charlwood

An example of a blogger who believes in what he is doing. A great guy too.

And also for this comment  "If you love craft beer, brewing and the beer industry then invest your disposable income in it. You don't take up golf as a hobby and then go asking for free 7-irons do you?"

4. Mitch Adams

For blatant flattery; "A great PR idea, and I wholly approve of your marketing/sales strategy" and for being a very hard-working publican. We should value good publicans, they are the salt of the earth.

5. Chris Williams

For his involvement in a brewery that has been on my radar for more years than I care to remember, long before this whole concept of "Craft Beer" sprang up.Also, for offering to test the ABV of the beer. Well worth giving it away for that.

6. Claire and Sam

For their refreshing, friendly and honest approach.

7. Glyn Roberts

Because he's a *censored word*........ I mean, great bloke who buys way more Hardknott beer than the ordinary blogger (in his professional capacity, of course) and because I hope he'll continue to do so.

8. Gregg Irwin

For coming to see us at the brewery, buying beer, and being jolly good company when we went for a pint. And because I think Alison would like this beer.

Oh, and for promising to drink it "while sitting cross legged on a cushion made of groomed cat fur, wearing nothing but a who ate all the pies T-shirt, listening to Metallica and doing the Times crossword."

9. David Shipman

For this great post - 'nuff said

10. David Bascombe

Because of this post about Æther Blæc 2011 Epsilon - which I'd have missed if I hadn't run this competition. (I didn't send him a review bottle, by the way)

11. Dave Lozman

Because he's called Dave. And because he has bought quite a lot of Hardknott beer. He didn't join in, probably because he's in the middle of The North Sea, or planning for a wedding. I sometimes realise I have a good life when I hear what other people have to endure.

12. David Bishop

Because when I clicked on the large Hardknott Tag on his blog lots of great stuff came up.

13. Tandleman

Number 13, unlucky for some. I had to put Tandy, otherwise known as Peter Alexander, in somewhere. I thought about putting him last, or first, but he got in here instead.

I may not always agree with Tandy, but I am sure his integrity is beyond doubt. Also, he really genuinely doesn't want his free bottle. He's probably right, he won't like it. He can give it away if he likes to the blogger who most deserves it but didn't make the list.

That's probably Tyson, who does deserve it, but I couldn't think of a reason why. Hopefully he's more likely to like the beer. If not, he can give it to someone else.

14. Andy Parker

For occasional great comments on my blog and for posting about Æther Blæc 2011 Epsilon. And, for this gracious comment "If not, I'll probably buy it when it's released to the world anyway, so if they go to someone else, that's cool too."

15. Neil Walker

Well, for having a great blog, and for a great post about Infra Red He also promises to carry on buying Hardknott even if he doesn't get a free bottle.

16. Leigh Linley

Leigh didn't put in a submission, at least not to the best of my knowledge. He does write a great blog that deals a lot with beer and food matching and that is good enough for me.

17. Phil Hardy

Because he's been to our part of the world and blogged about it - and another example of a solid Hardknott supporter.

18. Reuben Gray

Because as part of a trip to England he visited us in our pub, when we had it. It was a hoot, especially the Tokyo Shandy.....

19. William Briggs

Ghostie to you and me. He sells Hardknott beer in BeerRitz. Needs no other excuse.

20. Zak Avery

Again, another who hasn't formally complied with the conditions of this competition. In fact, I sometimes wonder if he just isn't talking to me at all. But, he talks to Ann and orders beers for BeerParadise. So there.

You are right, I should have made Zak and Ghostie share, but you know, I think they both deserve a bottle each.

21. Des de Moor

As a serious writer who earns a living, at least in part, from beer writing and a thoroughly nice chap, Des had already made this list despite having not officially put forward a reason.

I make no pretence that if I give away beer the first port of call would be beer writers who will place in printed literature and those who have a solid track record of impartial and influential writing.

And then, at the last minute, up pops a splendid comment on my blog.

22. Adrian Tierney-Jones

As for Des, except he hasn't commented, or said anything about the matter at all. Perhaps he isn't talking to me either.

Actually, where is Sooty?

23. Steve Lamond

Again, another blogger who didn't join in, but when I saw his name on the delegates list, I knew I had to include him. Why? I'm not sure, but he's here and I'm the rule-maker and judge, so that's that.

24. Rob Derbyshire

Again, another who doesn't seem to have joined the request for beer. He has done some reviews of Hardknott beers in the past, although they seem a little difficult to find from his website

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Blogging Integrity

I'm not going to be at the Beer Bloggers Conference that is happening this weekend. But Alex Routledge is.

We've just bottled, well actually, still bottling, a very special prototype beer. It night be about 12.5% but we're not sure. You see, we dropped in loads of glucose during fermentation and so have not got an original gravity. We also used three different yeast strains. We have a calculated guess at what we think it is, but there are too many variables to know.

It's been in a conditioning tank for about a month along with a couple of special, secret ingredients. I think it tastes great.

I talked in my last post about integrity of awards. This post concerns the integrity of Beer Bloggers. I know some bloggers take the activity very seriously and are mostly concerned with making a good job of writing about beer. Other bloggers, it seems to me, are much more interested in getting free beer than becoming great beer writers.

We don't generally give away beer to bloggers. This is partly because you guys are a significant part of our customer base. It's not a great business strategy to give away products willy nilly.

The other reason why we don't give away beer is because we have a firm conviction that if you want to write about our beer, then we don't want you biased by the fact you got it for free. Free beer always tastes better.

But, if I tried to pretend that I didn't think that some of you occasionally deserved a free beer off me I'd be lying. So, perhaps it's time to give some away, but you'll have to prove you deserve it.

The beer we are bottling is, like all our beers, bottle conditioned, so isn't ready to be drunk yet. It needs time to condition. However, if you are going to the European Beer Bloggers Conference this coming weekend, you could get a pre-release bottle to take home and wait for us to give the word that it's ready, and then we'll have a big inaugural opening with which you can join in.

I shall now introduce you to the ways in which you can win one of these bottles.

It's simple. Alex will take 24 bottles to the Conference. Between now and when Alex gets there you have to write something, on twitter, on your own blog, or in the comments on this blog, which will convince me you deserve a bottle. If you do write on twitter, please mention @Hardknott so we can find you. If on your own blog then either tweet the URL at me or post a link in the comments on this blog.

What do you have to write? Basically, a response to this post. It might be giving a reason why you like Hardknott, it might be a reason why you don't, but that is perhaps a more risky strategy. You might like to explain how you deal with getting free beer from breweries and then writing an honest blog without biting the hand that gave you the beer. It might be an example of your work, be it written, photography or video that you think especially shows off Hardknott beer. It might be some other response to this post, I'll leave it up to you.

Final word; my decision is final and I'll be making my mind up after Alex has left for Leeds. Talking nicely to Alex, bribing him or getting him completely drunk will not help you. However, do be nice to the chap, he's a good 'un. I may decide not to give away all 24 bottles if I don't think there are enough good entries and I may give more than one bottle to an entry who I think is exceptional.

And, if you do win, this beer should not be opened until we say it's ready to go. For a start, we're going to send it off to the lab so we can get the exact ABV. We also want everyone to open their bottles and tweet, blog or whatever on the same day, once we're sure it's got enough fizz.

Meanwhile, I hope you all enjoy your piss-up conference, and I'm really sorry I'm not going to be there.

Monday, 14 May 2012


I've won the occasional Award. I got one for this blog, once. I also got one for kegged Queboid at the last SIBA Craft Keg competition and another for Infra Red at the Northern festival. I think awards are important. There is the view out there that everyone is an award winner, and to some extent I can see why that view is held; most new breweries win something at local beer festivals when the punters are voting. I suspect it's a combination of novelty factor and perhaps a genuine eagerness, even if subliminal, by true beer enthusiasts to see the new guys do well, and perhaps that's no bad thing.

I also have a degree, not in very much you see, it's called an open degree, mainly because it was done with the Open University and back then they didn't really name the subject you studied. That was good for me, as I've got a short attention span and so could hop around studying modules in all sorts of interesting, and useless subjects. I have yet to find a use for Artificial Intelligence in the brewery, although some days any intelligence would do.

Am I digressing? Sorry. The point is, I value all the awards and qualifications I've got. Like many graduates, especially the ones that went to real Universities, there is the suspicion that as more people gain ever higher qualifications the value of any individual qualification is degraded.

I volunteered to sit on the British Guild of Beer Writers committee to try and help defend the value of the runners up award I got for this blog. If I gain another award at some time in the future I'll be pleased, although I feel like I'm sort of treading water with my writing at this time. But if I don't, I still want to defend the value of our awards and so develop and improve the quality of beer writing across  the spectrum, whether it be writing for a living, writing blogs for pleasure, or as with me, partly as an aside to my business. Even corporate writing is important, be it advertising, brewery newsletters or even, perhaps, beer menus. All these can be improved if an overseeing award recognises true achievement, and helps to maintain the value of that award.

It is with this backdrop of underlying principles which causes me to be a little concerned over the recent BrewDog bar award. Yes, we all know BrewDog won massive PR well over and above what they would have got if they had been presented it fairly on the night. And of course, anyone who has been in a BrewDog bar will know, save for one or two teething troubles, the quality is exceptional. They should really have won the award.

What concerns me is two fold.

1. Of course, we know that back-room dealings happen. But, there is a concern to me that sponsoring organisations can have an influence on awards and this detracts from any award. There is no way of eliminating bias; judges are human and have opinions and preconceptions. For instance I have many times had discussions with people about a beer I think is great, and other people don't and vicer-verser. Bias comes from all sorts of influences, but are always going to affected by organisations one belongs.

But, how to ensure that sponsors cannot influence the outcome is a concern. Inevitably judges of any competition will have close ties with the subject and will inextricably have paymaster loyalties.

2. To me, a bigger concern, that of the award winners gaining enough recognition without recourse to guerilla public relations to get sufficient recognition.

I was most shocked by the lack of real information from the BII - as yet I have not found any official confirmation that BrewDog should have won the award. BrewDog say they should have, and everyone else involved is apologising. It remains, even if the facts are that Diageo did swing the events of the night, I've yet to see, in plain type, on the BII web site anything that resembles "BrewDog won, sorry" - I know The BII is a small trade organisation, but they do need to do something. The last award listed I could find was from 2011.

So for awards to count, and to mean something, they have to be made to count. Transparency and fairness in the judging has to be paramount only with one other thing even more important; independence of the judges.

One last thought on the subject; It might be right that the winner of an award is the one who should be responsible for organising any PR gains. But what if the winner is really good at PR and uses badness to gain the upper-hand? It is unfortunate that the BII have also not come out of this well, but perhaps they need to do more about their own PR. I do think that many awards fail to be worth anything because the organisers fail to put out satisfactory publicity after the event.

I did email the BII to see if I could get a comment, and to ask who actually did win. No reply was forthcoming. I do believe I have an interest. I used to own a pub and so was a member of the BII organisation. If Hardknott ever opens a brewery tap, I'd consider joining again. My considerations will certainly be more cautious next time.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Stop the Beer Duty Escalator

I've said before, I'm not sure that beer duty isn't actually a good thing for pubs. Equally, more expensive craft beer suffers less than lower priced beer. The more you pay per pint, litre, or whatever, the less of a proportion of the price goes in duty and more goes into the quality of the beer, or the quality of the pub you drink it in.

It is also true that the duty escalator is applied to all types of alcohol. Wine, whisky and even the ridiculously low cider duty is still escalated by 2% above inflation. S,o I'm not sure why everyone is calling it the Beer Duty Escalator.

Never-the-less, beer duty has very nearly doubled in the last 10 years, most of the increases have happened since I started in the beer industry. Microbrewers, despite getting a discount, now pay nearly the same amount of duty that large brewers paid when I started to brew. Larger brewers must really now be feeling the pain.

Which ever way you look at it, it is not good.

There was an e-Petition set up on the Governments official petition site. Originally by the Goblin haunted Wychwood Brewery was behind the petition, but CAMRA then took up the cudgels big time.

There are a few issues I have with the exact wording of the petition. For instance, dropping the duty rate isn't going to help the pub over supermarkets. The continual use of the word tradition as an excuse for reducing beer duty.

It is a fact that duty is a tax that has seen the costs of producing alcohol increase significantly for producers big and small.

CAMRA have firmly taken hold of the torch and are running like a good'un. Yes, I'm not so sure I condone the rhetoric, but it's one that will work with many who do like a good pint, so why not?

CAMRA have even launched a web site where you can order posters and beer mats. Go on, do it, it doesn't cost anything, and then get the posters up in your local and spread the beer mats about.

I want this petition to reach 100,000 signatures and make the Government reassess its duty escalator. If we don't when will they stop the escalator?

Please sign the petition and please get anyone else you know to do so too.