Sunday 26 July 2009

We innovate, the big boys don't

In the Morning Advertiser 23rd July there is a piece by Nigel McNally, the MD of Wells and Young, about how the micro breweries are damaging the regional breweries. It doesn't actually say that, but it's clear from the article that this is where their problem lies. "We invest, the small boys don't" is the title. I don't seem to be able to find it on the Internet. I'm beginning to suspect that Andrew Pring knows just the type of article I'd like to link to and misses it off the web site deliberately.

Cask sales have grown 1.1% in the last quarter with underlying total beer sales dropping 6.3%. Of the cask market the micros are now taking 22% of this. I think that's huge and probably shows that we, the micro breweries, are benefiting from the growth. However, Mr Neilson seems to think that it's due to regionals investing in marketing and crazy things like the new fangled pumps that I reported on previously.

The regionals are also annoyed that SIBA did not back Cask Ale Week. Probably because SIBA knows that cask ale week was really not going to make a huge difference to the drinking habits of the people who choose it's members beers.

The regionals and CAMRA seem to think they are the story. Perhaps they might be part of it but the micros are becoming an ever bigger part to.

Well I'm sorry, but all the evidence I have is that cask brands that become more ubiquitous loose their appeal. Marketing investment tends to turn off the cask market, not the other way round. Worthingtons 1744 by Coors being a case in point. Nigel, tell you what, save your marketing budget and put some money into making interesting beer instead. That's what I do.

The pump clip in the picture is of a new beer of mine. I'm quite pleased with it. It's uses American hops, is dry hopped and uses Belgian yeast. I'm waiting for my beer geek friend to sober up from last night so he can taste it and tell me it's as good as I think it is.


Tandleman said...

You were doing well Dave, until you lobbed CAMRA into the piece. Why was that?

Mark Dredge said...

The big breweries get creative with their marketing while the small breweries get creative with their beers. This to me seems like one of the most abt ways of putting it. As the beer gets more ubiqutous the brewery needs to concentrate more on keeping it there with marketing, whereas the micros don't have this financial capability so they just brew an exciting new beer instead.

Jeff Pickthall said...

Your beer geek friend has sworn off the booze for at least a week.

Cooking Lager said...

Innovation? Invent me an "in can scuba", then we'll talk innovation.

Unknown said...

Tandleman, Golly, late to bed or early rise? - I thought 05:57 was fictitious, except, perhaps, after a very good party.

Anyway, when Roger Protz complained about the BBC missing out reference to CAMRA in the James and Oz series I was on his side until he wrote "CAMRA is the story"

Mark, good summing up. It's a diverse scene and we should embrace it all.

Jeff, stick to beer. Leave all these strange foreign spirits alone.

Cooking, didn't somebody already do that?

Cooking Lager said...

But thats innovation Dave. Changing the recipe slightly isn't innovation. A few more hops? A slightly darker malt? Thats not innovaton, its just a different recipe. Anyone can do that. Whats the point? If you've found the best recipe, why change it? It just smacks of admitting the beer isn't that great, you have to experiment to improve it. That you've not yet achieved something of the quality of say a Foster's.

Now take a beer and think, how can I innovate this? Serve it ice cold, serve it fizzy and put an odd artificial foam on the top. Thats innovation.

Unknown said...

Cooking, bear with me, I'm off to start researching canning plants......maybe Castlemain are done with some of their plant and will accept a measly offer.

Tandleman said...

Up early Dave. Her Indoors off to Lahndahn on the 7 a.m. Me taking her to the station.

The CAMRA reference was just irrelevant, even with your contextual explanation - in my opinion of course.

Unknown said...

Tandleman, fair comment.

Curmudgeon said...

Do I detect a hint of "tall poppy syndrome" here? Just because something is widely available doesn't automatically make it dull and unappealing.

Although I recognise that in some people's minds obscurity in itself is a virtue.

Unknown said...

Curmudgeon, "Just because something is widely available doesn't automatically make it dull and unappealing" - that's true, but there is a strong correlation, in my view.

But equally, if rarity was not in itself part of the value then why is an original Monet priceless and yet you can buy a nice copy on a calender for next to nothing? An artist can sell a couple of hundred numbered prints for much more than a few thousand. The quality of the copy might be the same but the value is significantly different.

I think that means I agree?

Unknown said...

Stringers, I'm with you there.

Unknown said...

Things like this drive me insane, because both sides are right. cask ale is verging on growth because it is rich and varied. Regionals DO install the equipment and back up that helps pubs sell micro's beer. Micros DO provide the variety and eclecticism that makes beer so vital. Regionals DO provide high profile sponsorships of rugby and cricket, and their big brands give reassurance to people who've grown up on advertising and need big brands in cask if they're going to try them for the first time. Regionals DO highlight local sourcing and tie beer more closely to the whole 'farmers market' trend that's making beer interesting to a new audience.

FFS people - and I include everyone from Nigel McNally to the most hardcore geek - we need both. One doesn't have to be better than the other. It's like arguing that apples are better than pears. You might prefer one but your fruit bowl's more appealing with both in it.

And Dave - funny, but I was getting a very clear feeling that CAMRA were siding with the small guy. It's in their DNA that as the regionals get bigger, and SIBA thrives, most members tend to feel small is beautiful. Check out the complete lack of big display stands at last year's GBBF - regionals complained they'd been priced out of doing them. CAMRA bods on the floor grumbled "well, we don't need them anyway".

Going to be interesting to see what it's like on Tuesday - you there for the trade day?

Unknown said...

Pete, yes I'll be there on Tuesday. I've never been to the GBBF before and I'm sure it'll be an eye opener. It would have been nice to not have any preconceptions, but unfortunately, I'm human and have read what other people have said.