Monday 14 January 2013

Beer Innovation

What does and doesn't constitute innovation in brewing is a debatable point. Brewing beer as strong as you possibly can, throwing in loads of hops, dry hopping, wood ageing and using crazy microbes are all things that have already been done. Mashing up styles or inventing brand new styles along with ever more funky packaging might all perhaps be innovative. Edgy PR campaigns and upsetting traditional establishments might be other innovative activities. The reader can form their own view as to whether this is innovation or not.

Be it innovation or be it just introducing ever more variety, it doesn't really matter. An increase of variety has occurred in the beer world over the last few years. It's good, I like it. Probably most of the beer enthusiasts I know would generally agree the UK beer scene is quite vibrant, even if some people don't like some of the stuff that goes on.

Personally I'd say it's the new and progressive breweries that are leading the way. For perhaps 10 years or so an explosion of beer producers who are making waves has shaken bigger players. I'd like to think Hardknott are part of this although of course there are many, many other notable breweries doing the same. The big boys are now starting to take real notice.

This is becoming increasingly evident by the effort of bigger, more established breweries. Many family brewers have joined in, perhaps of their own accord, or because they felt a real need to do so. Brewers like Fullers and Adnams have perhaps been ahead of the curve and engaged well with the more diverse market. Many of us would say this is a good thing. A switched on brewery salesman said to me almost 10 years ago that micro-brewing was certainly good for brewing as it keeps "the rest of us on our toes".

And here we see the most important thing about innovation. In reality the diversity is what is working, variety and interest. Our sector of the market is diverse, and I stress, it's a small market. But it is growing and this is why we now have a Beer Innovation Summit. Another clear sign of the big boys running scared.

I looked at going. It sounds like the sort of thing I might be interested in. I note that Pete Brown is speaking. That's good, I like Pete and he knows quite a lot about beer and what might, or might not be true innovation. Although I've heard him speak quite a lot and perhaps I know his thoughts well enough by now.

I thought there might have been a microbrewery making up one of the panels. I think perhaps Thornbridge is mentioned, and perhaps someone is speaking from this undeniable leader of diversity. I am not sure the rest of the speakers fill me with confidence at their huge knowledge of cutting edge beer.

I questioned this. I got this reply.

"The agenda is now set so there won't be any further speakers added. We may look more closely at the micro-brewing sector at next year's event, but for this event wanted to focus on the volume players in the beer category as they brew the products that most people drink."

That is right, they represent the volume players, the people who don't provide that variety, that innovation, if you like. The reply seemed a little arrogant and conceited. I feel there is an underlying tone of trying to avoid micro-brewers showing they are the ones that are indeed leading the way.

I'd like to go and take part in the discussions. I'm reluctant to go as I'd be too scared to speak out, due to feeling somewhat intimidated by these "volume players" Although, more likely, I'd start an argument and make yet another embarrassment of myself. I can assure the reader, I don't need to spend £195+VAT to make a fool of myself.



Cooking Lager said...

I dunno, volume player provide lots of innovation.

Ice beer, lite beer, widget beer, beer for lasses and soon to be
Carling Craft Fighting Beer.

Far more innovative than the beer concentrate the like of brewdog and their imitators knock up.

Unknown said...

Now, you are very naughty Cookie, I'd very carefully avoided mention of THAT particular brewery.

Owen said...

Brewdog, or their imitators?

treble9man said...

There is nowt wrong with speaking your mind - many peeps may well be prompted to respond / try something based on those comments. I'd rather try lots of different beers than a load of bland, similarion, dull brews.