Tuesday 7 February 2012

Proving an arrogance

I do like to get on with people. This blog perhaps portrays a brewery persona that exudes trouble making. However, my friends and family will attest that I only embark on a path of dissent when I believe it is really required. I don't like getting upset with people generally.

We have had various issues with SIBA over the years. We have approached the hierarchy on many occasions with various complaints. On almost no occasion has their been an attempt to reconciliate difficult positions. More often than not an arrogant "it's not our fault" and "we fail to see what you expect us to do about it" response.

When our beer was banned from the festival on Friday we did not contact SIBA direct because we knew there would be the usual arrogance. Their response is an incredulous denial of blame.

To me an organisation like SIBA is there to support its members. Therefore I fail to see how their position is defensible.

It turns out to be true that it was in fact the venue that refused to serve the stronger, but perfectly legitimate entries. SIBA must take responsibility for the fact that they were organising the competition and festival. If the venue was not going to be all inclusive then a different venue should have been chosen. We should remember that the venue is run by one of the cask and session ale centric brewing members. One has to suspect deliberate actions to quash the tide of new contemporary brewers.

Their response to the fact that we have legitimately put our complaint into the public domain proves a level of arrogance from the organisers that almost beggars belief. Where is my apology, for instance? Where is the apology to the festival goers who failed to be able to drink the beers that were advertised on the internet before the event?

Although there may not be an "automatic ‘right’ to then have the beers on display" in my view, and I am not alone in this belief, there has to be a very good reason to discriminate against a particular beer. A good reason would be that the beer is contaminated or otherwise unfit for consumption. A beer being outside the constraints of narrow minds is not a good reason, especially when the beer is an award winner.

The fact that SIBA is defending its position, rather than apologising to its members, shows an out of touch, stuffy and old fashioned approach to beer.

Hardknott is all about changing this outdated perspective of beer. We are hopeful that once this has all settled down that SIBA will embrace this small but important part of the UK brewing industry and hopefully I can help them to work out the way forward.

What we do not need is further fragmentation in the brewing world.


Curmudgeon said...

Where was the venue, as a matter of interest?

rabidbarfly said...

Thinking about starting an organisation with a cool acronym myself. now what should it be....ABA - Authority of Beery Awesomeness and anyone with a crafty brewery can join and win prizes and have their beer sold, anywhere they like.

Seriously though the level of ignorance amongst pub operators like the Barrels in Hereford is what needs to be addressed as well as some good 'old-fashioned' if you will, grovelling to you on SIBA's part.

And another thing...

'Responsible alcohol retailing'??!! - Give me a break! I have a rule for both The Rake and Tap East that beers over a certain abv are only to be sold in halves and thirds, it shows a total lack of common sense to not offer the same in my opinion, especially when running a festival!

I was going to write a blog on this...think I just did. Good luck getting an apology, after all aren't SIBA supposed to be on the little guys side?

Zak Avery said...

"We should remember that the venue is run by one of the cask and session ale centric brewing members. One has to suspect deliberate actions to quash the tide of new contemporary brewers"

To be fair Dave, that would only be a logical conclusion to reach if there was also a strong, traditional cask ale being sold at the venue - for example Coniston No 9, or Durham Temptation.

That said, deciding not to sell strong beer on the basis of responsible retailing is utter bullshit. As someone with a decade of experience in drinks retailing, all that attitude does is demonstrate a total lack of faith in your staff to be able to do the job properly.

Overall, it's certainly an embarrassing cock-up.

Anyway, here's one of my favourite music quotes - Derrick May, Detroit techno pioneer: "It's sad in the 1990s we have to still go the same bullshit route that other artists have to go to get acceptance....If it wasn't for the independents, if it wasn't for the small little dinky little cities, and the few little ghetto black guys trying to make music it would have never happened. As quiet as it's kept, some of these guys will never make a dime. Some of these guys will be poor and die alone. But in the process, they've been the true renegades. And the true rebels always walk alone anyway"

Kill your heroes, make you own idols, whatever.

dredpenguin said...

Struggling to understand this.

I bet a pound to a pinch of shit that "the barrels" serve wine in 175ml glasses which is approximately a third of a pint and considerably stronger then 8%

It makes no sense from a responsible alcohol retailing perspective and I'm inclined to agree with you Dave that they may be some other nefarious agenda at work here.

The whole episode makes me sad.

Neville Grundy said...

I agree they should have apologised, but far more disturbing is the reason given: responsible drinking. This is the kind of phrase used by the government and Alcohol Concern ~ it doesn't seem right that purveyors of beer should adopt their anti-alcohol rhetoric.

I could understand the festival organiser banning these beers if there had been a load of drunkards who were necking pints of the stuff with a view to early oblivion, but even before that, I'd have expected them to limit sales to halves or thirds, and only move to a ban if there was still a problem. I'm not convinced by your conspiracy theory, but I fully understand why you feel angry and aggrieved.

Phil said...

When our beer was banned from the festival on Friday we did not contact SIBA direct because we knew there would be the usual arrogance.

Sorry, Dave, but that's a bit pathetic. It just sounds as if you're trying to pick a fight with SIBA, when as far as anyone can tell the decision was made by the pub landlord.

Unknown said...

Phil, you are entitled to believe what you want.

However, I still blame SIBA; they chose the venue. We had a strong suspicion that it was the venue, even though the manager told us by telephone on Saturday night that it was SIBAs fault.

I'm not entirely sure it would have made that much difference to my actions in any case. If a brewer sends a beer to a festival for free it is completely unreasonable not to serve the beer unless it turns out to be unfit for human consumption.

I disagree with SIBA in that I think I have an automatic right to expect it to be served, that is part of the discretionary exchange that takes place for giving up beer that I could have sold.

StringersBeer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kristy said...

Oh Dave, this constant paranoia that everyone's out to get the little guys must be awful stressful for you!

I can't help think you're making a fuss for fusses sake rather than maintaining a valid point. Unless I'm wrong you didn't enter your beers into a "festival" you entered into a competition. No one wants to give away free beer as you rightly point out http://www.brewerymanual.com/newspage(8).html but that's the gamble you take, if it pays off the resulting PR and quality credentials make it worth the investment, not whether a handful of people on the night get to try your beer.

I do think the pub's stance on responsibility is ludicrous and outdated and should be challenged but that is there decision, not SIBA's and you entered a competition not a festival. It feels telling that your initial beef was with SIBA "banning your beer" which as soon as they came out with a position was "SIBA picking the wrong pub", they were damned either way. And as for the venue not understanding "craft keg", why would they - it's a made up term that no bugger else really understands either!

Courting controversy for controversy's sake is a very short lived PR tactic - already it's gone largely unnoticed that you actually won a medal which is what you invested in, that's what will help you sell more beer so celebrate the win, not highlight the perceived slight.

It's that kind of behaviour that causes further fragmentation which you're right - we absolutely do not need

Ale Qaeda said...

It is indeed worrying that SIBA are involved in this craft keg movement.

Unknown said...

Kristy, yes, actually, it is stressful.

For a start, it is the bigger companies that take longer to pay the invoices. And yet, it is the bigger companies who are more aggressive at getting their invoices paid.

It was not just a competition. If I had thought it to be so I'd have not entered. Last year there was significant coverage on twitter and on blogs. This year there was nothing. Absolutely nothing. The choice of venue is part of the problem here.

We gave away beer. We could have sold that beer. The loss, directly off our bottom line, out of our pockets, is not to be sniffed at. If you like, I'll do a deal, and you forfeit the value of our loss out of your Molson Coors bonus and then perhaps I'll be quiet.

We have risked a lot to go forward in our plan. We've tested the market and we've listened to what is happening. We've stretched out to those who might want to help and partnered with some who have shown real business advantage. We've put a lot of personal investment into Hardknott and we're through playing around at the game, making friends, which has been fun, but not paying back on the investment.

We have a lot personally at stake here. 2012 is our year. I doubt this will be the last thing we do that will shock.

We now feel fairly well placed to know where to maintain bridges, where perhaps to build new ones, where to test the strength of the ones we're still unsure about, and which ones we are quite happy to risk and move forward from there.

Kristy said...

"small producer sparks tirade against trade body" is not a shock tactic, it's been done to death (and I'm sure will continue to be so) in most industries, not just ours and is yet to deliver anyone commercial success.

As I said, in my view the real win from you giving away the beer was the bronze medal and that's what you should be shouting about from the rooftops. Very few drinkers know or care who SIBA are but they do care when they see a beer is award winning, even if they don't know who made the award, that will help you sell more but it's all but been forgotten in the noise you've created. That's a real miss in my book.

By giving away beer and subsequently winning a medal you could sell more beer in the long term. If anything has lost that opportunity it's your own reaction not SIBA's behaviour in the first place.

I don't have a view on SIBA, I probably should, but I do have a view on Hardknott and want you to more than get a return on your own personal investment. I'd just urge you to invest your own time in finding the right way to do that - which is getting more people to drink your beer, more often - not petty squabbling.

Unknown said...

Come on Kristy, you don't really believe what you just wrote do you?

Everyone wins awards for their beers. There is not one single commercial brewery in the whole country that isn't "award winning"

I wanted people to drink my beer and enjoy it. That's what I sent the beer for. I don't think that is too much to ask.

Neville Grundy said...

"If you like, I'll do a deal, and you forfeit the value of our loss out of your Molson Coors bonus and then perhaps I'll be quiet."

Oh dear! I got the impression that, while disagreeing with you, Kristy was trying to be supportive. Do you always lash out in all directions when you're angry? I'll now elaborate on a point I made earlier: I do not believe there was any SIBA conspiracy against you, just as I don't accept that CAMRA is against you, as you have strongly implied in previous posts.

The middle of a recession is a lousy time to do business, but throwing out conspiracy theories at SIBA, CAMRA and Uncle Tom Cobley & All without any credible evidence seems quite pointless.

I seem to recall that you didn't like the way free beer supplied by you was treated at a beer and food matching dinner. Perhaps you should stop giving away free beer altogether, as it only seems to lead to you getting extremely angry.

Unknown said...

Nev, absolutely. If I give away free beer I expect full value in return.

I probably respond to around 10% of the actual requests for free beer.

On some very rare occasions it is actually worth doing. When it is worth doing it is because what is promised in return for the free beer is actually delivered.

So perhaps you are right, and other have advised me so, I should not ever give away beer.

But, when there is the pretence of the big business not being a threat to small independent traders, used in a mocking opening paragraph of what is supposed to be support, then I'm sorry, but it was hard to concentrate on the rest.

Ed said...

I always thought the point of beer competitions was the chance to win things, not an opportunity to give away free beer.

Unknown said...

Ed, I am not aware of any competitions that do not occur without a festival. If I thought that this was what was happening here I would not have sent beer.

There is a larger chance of not winning anything that there is of winning something. The beer simply has to be showcased too for it to be worth entering.

Our beer was not showcased and there is no good excuse.

Hardknott Ann said...

Kristy, I look forward to celebrating Queboid winning Bronze and maybe if we had heard the results on twitter or the Siba website or received a certificate, then maybe we would've concentrated on the winning. Instead, there was no certificates and no announcements outside of the venue on Friday night. We were unable to attend and all we saw on twitter was people being unable to buy our beer.

A phone call to a friend told us we had won Bronze but we didn't know how anyone else had done and neither did they until Stringers brewery returned home on Saturday night. Although their beers hadn't won anything John kindly posted the results of the competition. http://stringersbeer.blogspot.com/2012/02/siba-craft-beer-in-keg-comp-2012.html

There was nothing from Siba at all. We did receive one tweet from Siba confirming the award after Dave had already posted one to say we had won. Siba eventually posted the results on their website.

I promise to enjoy the award if and when we receive any certificate or confirmation from Siba

Kristy said...

Dave - am not sure when I said big business wasn't a threat to independent traders, more a glib remark that your constant conspiracy theories against pretty much everyone must be exhausting.

Seemingly my employment status negates my right to an opinion in your eyes, although I wonder if that would still be the case if my opinion was the same as yours?!

And of course I believe what I said, as do you or none of this would have happened would it? If all you wanted to do was sample beer then it's an odd coincidence that it happened to be on the night of the SIBA Craft Keg Competition or why it matters whether SIBA announced the winners on Monday rather than Friday (god forbid their people should enjoy the weekend!)or why it has anything to do with SIBA at all since they didn't ban your beer from being served.

The bronze medal is something to be rightly proud of but I suspect were SIBA to personally deliver it to the brewery with a parade of dancing girls and elephants you'd complain the elephants had the wrong size ears.

Hardknott Ann said...

Kristy, I am not saying that Siba organisers didnt deserve to relax and enjoy themselves after the competition was over. I am just disappointed that there wasn't any tweeters there who were able and willing to take it upon themselves to tweet the results of the night for the benefit of the brewers who were unable to attend.

I know we were not the only brewery who were unable to attend. In fact if you check the twitter stream for Friday night you will find that hardly any, if any at all, tweeted about their success. In fact I know that many were unaware of their success for 24 hours until the results were posted by Stringers on Saturday Night.

In other competitions and events there is usually a much greater twitter response during events which was none existant on Friday for what should have been a prestigious competition.

Hopefully next year it will be in a much more suitable venue with better organisation and publicity.

Hopefully next year all beers will be allowed to enter. Unlike this year when one third of beers were turned away because the venue chosen could not cope with the number of beers applying to be entered.

Hopefully next year there will be no refusal to serve beers because they are too strong. Surely one of the benefits of Kegged beer is that you can have a stronger beer available for a longer time without the risk of it deteriorating because it is served in smaller measures to less people.

StringersBeer said...

Beats me why we couldn't get the results on t'Interweb as soon as they were worked out at 5pm-ish on the Friday. It's not hard once it's on the old computer is it? Obviously, people were rushing to catch their trains home - fair enough I suppose, Hereford is quite a long way from most places. And besides, it's not particularly important to anyone, is it?

I suppose Dave is thinking that this has anything to do with SIBA because (a) it's a SIBA organised event. (b) there was a big sign saying SIBA and (c) the venue is under the control of a former SIBA chairman. But yeah, he's most likely just being paranoid. We are of course very grateful to the venue for providing the space for the event, in exchange for a measly couple of grands worth of free beer.

As to the conspiracy against small producers - well, as we all know, the distorted market we're operating in wouldn't require any conspiracy. The vast bulk of business is between a few producers and a handful of buyers. Recognition of this distortion is written into the duty system in the form of PBD.

Of course SIBA dropped the "small" bit of their name some time ago, we're nowadays very keen to welcome large producers into the gang. The argument is that this makes a stronger voice - a voice for brewing. But not the voice of the small brewer.

Jeff Pickthall said...

This is the bit that bothers me - "on the grounds of responsible alcohol retailing".

Just what are SIBA doing associating themselves with a publican who believes selling strong beer is, by implication, irresponsible?

Wine and spirits are just fine I suppose.

Sat In A Pub said...

That's keg festivals for you...

StringersBeer said...

P.S. I wasn't being sarcastic above, I'm absolutely sure that the carry-on was more cock-up than conspiracy.

Ed said...

As soon as you get one of Dave's tin foil hats you'll see things as they really are! ;-)

Unknown said...

Kristy, it is extremely important that elephants have the right size ears. Goodness me, you should know that.

Your opinion is always welcome, even when you are wrong. It is certain that your opinion is shaped by your employer, just the same as mine, and Ann's, is shaped by the fact we work very long and hard hours just to keep solvent.

I've tried the "lets all be buddies in the beer world" - I like it, it's fun, but it simply isn't working as a way of making an acceptable profit.

It's tough. We need to raise our profile. I know that to do that I need to grow a bigger pair.

My respect for you and Molson Coors will not be diminished, but it unlikely that there is any practical way that this respect can be applied in a way the will improve Hardknott's profitability.

To everyone, paranoia? conspiracy? or just the fact that SIBA now has some fairly big members? The effect may not be deliberate conspiracy, but with a large proactive element that is above the upper PBD limit there is bound to be a perspective, deliberate or not.

And, being paranoid does not stop people being out to get you.

Phil said...

We have a lot personally at stake here. 2012 is our year. I doubt this will be the last thing we do that will shock.

The thing about BrewDog - not that anyone's mentioned BrewDog, but if we're talking about confrontation-as-marketing and shock tactics in general, they're the elephant in the room - the thing about BrewDog is... well, three things. First, they make taking on the world look like fun. Second, they make it look fresh - they come out with some awful, hackneyed, dregs-of-BeerAdvocate lines about boring brewers brewing boring beer and manage to make it look like nobody's ever done it before, possibly because it looks like they're having fun doing it. And third, they look like they don't necessarily mean any of it (most of the time) - they're not really angry with CAMRA, they're not really paranoid about the brewing establishment, it's just BrewDog doing what they do.

Boiling all that down, they do confrontation-as-marketing and it works for them - because it looks like confrontation-as-marketing. This barney with SIBA doesn't look like fun, it doesn't look fresh and you do look genuinely angry. Of course, this may be because it isn't any fun and you are genuinely angry, but in that case it ain't going to work as marketing.

Like Kristy, I suspect that a "2012 SIBA Bronze Award" flash on labels would do you more good than all of this. Not that you can't do both, of course.

Unknown said...

Phil, actually, whilst getting a little irritated, it's true, I did find it fun.

Moved on to the next one now.

Phil said...

I'll look forward to it. I'm convinced HK's well-established association with Sooty has potential, although I'm not sure precisely where the crossover between much-loved hand puppets and high-ABV craft beer lies...