Friday, 30 October 2009

Local Beer

Cumbria has a number of breweries. Many of them bottle their beers. I have been challenged to send some local beers to another blogger as part of a blogging project called Beer Swap. I set off on Wednesday to find local beers. The rules stated 4 beers from at least two breweries , so I couldn't just send mine.

I first visited the off licence that also happens to be the depot I had planned to be sending the parcel from. All involved in the project had agreed to use this new economy service. It turned out the shop had a poor selection of beer. Oh well, no money out of me on this occasion, but at least I'll be returning later with my carefully packaged beer.

Next I tried Morrisons and then Tesco and several off licences in Whitehaven. All providing completely nothing by way of local beer. I was starting to feel severely underwhelmed. Is West Cumbria so damn devoid of beer brewed on it's doorstep? It does seem to be the case. The only shop in the locality is in Keswick. One that I know about but never had reason to visit - I don't buy bottled Cumbrian beer normally. I can get any amount on draft in the pubs around and about.

Finally I returned to our quiet, remote valley where there is a small and delightful little shop. Once a post office but alas scumming to the inevitability of the service failing to be economic. The shop is now a great purveyor of quality produce and outdoor clothing. Best of all they sell local beer. Mission accomplished.

My beer packaged up I returned to aforementioned crappy beer emporium. It also seems it's something of a master of messing up on the parcel-receiving-and-sending-on line of business. Initially the shop assistant tried to send it back to some catalogue company by putting an orange sticker on it. Eventually she found the menu option for scanning a customer sent parcel. But she refused to take my parcel because the bar code machine threw an error. I left and took it to another shop, a little further away where the parcel was accepted. Later I got an email to tell me the parcel was accepted by the first place. According to the tracking system my parcel is still in the shop I didn't leave it in. Some telephone calls may ensue tomorrow.

But it leaves me asking why, in the towns in my locale, there is no beer to be bought that is brewed in the county. Is it because there is no demand due to people like me preferring to drink local beer in local pubs? Is it because the people who live here don't care about the beers brewed on their doorstep? Perhaps the entrenched support of Jennings is deeper than I thought. Mind you, if the level of skills around here prevent successful use of a relatively simple bar code machine then what hope is there for appreciation of craft beer?

Well, whatever the reason it makes me think that perhaps there is a real gap in the market. I'm not sure I can make and bottle beer at a price that makes it economic for the cut throat pricing in off-sales retail, but it's worth a further look I feel.


Mark Dredge said...

This collect+ thing is a little worrying... fingers crossed on that one!!

I have been looking for local beer around here. Waitrose is the best of the supermarkets. The best local Sainsburys has is Sheps (and EVERYONE can get them), Tesco I don't see beyond BrewDog and Flying Dog and Asda is miles away. I have found a cracking like offie which sells take out cask beer - it's a strange and wonderful little place with bottles of beer that are years old!

There isn't much local beer in there though and that's a shame. I need to try and find some farmers' markets around here.

For me, the best thing about beer swap so far is that I'm buying local beers again and not overlooking them because they are brewed up the road. I'm drinking one now which is great - I'll be packing that off next week!

Brew Wales said...

You could always open a post office in your pub

G. Chapman said...

Being from Blackburn, I very rarely buy Thwaites bottled beer, because it's in all the pubs so I've had quite enough of it already. When I buy bottled beer I want to try something different, which tends to be from somewhere different.