Monday 30 July 2012

Olympic Doubt

I think The Olympics are great. I really enjoyed watching the opening ceremony in our local. I was a little apprehensive about the brand new big screen, but actually, it works and the bar is long and narrow enough to be able to escape its intrusiveness. I'm sure it'll help drive customers to the pub, especially as places without any TV often suffer during major sporting events.

I'm digressing from my main point. Although the Olympics are great, and I understand the need for both acceptance of some inconvenience and the need for big business sponsors, I am concerned that in reality there is little payback and much inconvenience for small business.

I've been told that there is a strict ban on any use of the Olympics by businesses for promotion unless they are directly sponsoring the games. I have heard some horror stories about various small concerns being forcibly told not to support the Olympics. I haven't got direct corroboration of this, but my information is from a reliable source. Update: Found the story.  One story is about a small shop that got raided simply for putting up a few balloons (and, it turns out, banners, flags and stuff). The shop thought they was just joining in with the spirit of the thing.

I do know that some places in central London have found that their businesses have been disrupted by The Games. In particular, deliveries have been made more difficult by insisting deliveries are made at night. I'm sure London in general will benefit from the event, and perhaps most small businesses will also see an increased footfall negating the disadvantages. However, there seems to be an indication that the extra people in London have been countered by people staying away due to the fear of it being busy, I wonder if the overall effect is positive.

We have been indirectly impacted in various ways. We do sell some beer to places in London. We have seen disruption to ordering patterns that we are told is a result of The Games. We decided not to do anything Olympic orientated for fear of reprisals. We could have been bold and provoked controversy, of course, but that seems to be the wrong thing to do.

So, in summary, the little guy is told to put up with the disruption because it's good for the country, but we are prevented by law from taking advantage of the publicity because the big sponsors have insisted.

I'd love to know if this is just a jaded view, an overly biased conspiracy theory about big multinationals stamping on small business under the name of a common good. Perhaps I am paranoid. Or perhaps small business has been shit on again.

Friday 20 July 2012

Progressive Beer Festivals

It has been an increasing irritation for some time that there has yet to be a really great, all embracing beer festival in this country. Beer enthusiasts and progressive brewers alike have been frustrated that there is yet to be non-constraining festival where beers can be shown off irrespective of dispense method.

It was only a matter of time, of course, but it seems that the chit-chat about it has finally turned into real action.

There are to be at least two events happening this autumn which will include beer dispensed in a variety of ways. One is the Leeds International Beer Festival. We will be there.

This event is taking place in the Leeds Town Hall1 6th-9th September 2012.

We have agreed to take part in this great event. The organisers are allowing breweries to pitch up with whatever format of beer they wish. For logistical reasons we have taken the decision to serve only keg and bottled beers. As it is, with our small team, it will be something of a challenge, so we feel that the extra problems of cask would make it impossible.

There is also a second event we have heard about, which will be great fun, but as yet news is sketchy. This is the Independent Manchester Beer Convention, which will be held on 5th and 6th October 2012. We've been invited to this too. Watch this space for more news.

We're all full of nervous anticipation about these great events. 2012 is turning out to be a fantastic year for all sorts of reasons.


1I'm sure Leeds is a city, surely it should be a city hall?

Friday 13 July 2012

Busy pubs and bars

I was in one of my favourite pubs last night. They had a beer festival last weekend. We went on Friday night, which was nice, it was busy enough, a bit of live, acoustic music and a selection of beers. They had some Hardknott beer on the temporary bar in the marquee. A lot of work had been put in by the manager and his staff and I was a little worried, with the weather and everything, that the event might not have been a success. Friday night, after all, was quiet enough for me, and really not the roaringly busy thing that was needed to shift beer and make all the effort worthwhile.

Last night I returned, being Thursday, it was quiet. I was enjoying a couple of quiet pints and a nice chat with the guys in the pub. One chap I was chatting to, who was helping out at the beer festival at the weekend, was asked if it was busy on Saturday. "Rammed" he assured me "Needed shoehorns to get more people in" he continued, with obvious glee "Great" I was also really pleased, if for no other reason than I want the pub to do well so that they buy more beer off me.

"I prefer mid-week nights in here, to be honest" I confessed "It gets too busy in here on a Saturday, even when there isn't a beer festival" This particular pub has just had a makeover which has made it a little more contemporary. Most of the carpet has been removed and the walls re-plastered and re-painted making the whole place a little more sterile and echoey. Quite a few folk don't really like it as much, and complain there should be more pictures to break it up. It can easily get noisy and difficult to be understood by other people, or hear what they are saying to you. When there is live music it gets to be impossible to hold a conversation.

But the pub is doing very well. Often busy and getting busier. It is most often full of younger people and has a real buzz about it. I wish they would have some craft keg. I wish they would buy more Hardknott. I suspect that will come with time.

Port Street Beer House
a cool contemporary velvet-less paradise
Pete Brown is now complaining that the new age, contemporary craft beer bar scene is full of boxy, echoey and sterile establishments. No soft furnishings, and nothing to break up the noisiness of the place. I understand Pete, I do, I'm getting old as well. It's crap, having to say "eh" all the time, but it's what happens. Though really, do we think that velvet drapes would be cool, or hip, or funky?

Craft beer bars are successful because of what they are; modern and trendy. I'm also not convinced that sound proofing is what would help. Generally, busy bars are noisy because they are busy. Indeed, I'd even argue that people are in themselves sound absorbers. If you have ever tried to set up a sound system in an empty room and then noticed how much it needs to be turned up when the room is full, you'd know.

Pete does have a point. Some places could be less sterile, they could break up the lines a little and perhaps just a little bit of softness. Just don't make it velvet, for goodness sake, that isn't cool at all.

There are pubs that span the gap and provide a little of both. The White Horse at Parson Green for instance is, in my view, providing a balance. My way of thinking is that the craft beer bar growth will be followed by less trendy places moving in a copy-cat fashion. I think it's happening, a fusion of ideas where some of Pete's wishes are being implemented. The surviving businesses will be the ones that are popular, whatever they do.

Still, I do worry that Pete is coming across a little like the old man who has his peace and quiet ruined by the youngsters in the pub. I've so many times heard people complain about a place being OK, but it does seem to get a little too busy sometimes. All that noise and people, you can't hear what people say.

I think the future of pubs, beer and nearly everything else is in the youngsters. Success is in being busy and thriving and having a little bit of a buzz. Yes, some of us old fogeys might not like it, but that's fact.


Sorry, I had to Google Keira Knightley, but then did go "phoar"

Thursday 12 July 2012

Back to Port Street

We've made a couple of new beers lately.

One is The English Experiment.We brewed this with John Keeling of Fullers. We had great fun making it and it's been so popular that we've made it again, of course, using every last little bit of advice and instructions from John himself. The second batch is soaking up dry-hop flavours and aromas right now and will be packaged shortly.

The other, Rhetoric Ed.I, is a crazy star anise infused "Quasi-Bombastic Belgique quad" - whatever that is. We like it a lot, although it might not make the hop-heads swoon with ecstasy, we still think it's a great full flavoured beer.

We filled a KeyKeg with some of the first batch of The English Experiment. This is the genuine article, made with John waving his brewers magic around the place. We put some of the Rhetoric Ed.I in a regular keg. Our Alex dropped them off at Port Street Beer House when we sent him round Manchester in the trusty Hardknott Van.

We're all going to storm over there next Wednesday, 18th July and be our usual entertaining selves. It's a chance to try a couple of rare keg beers that don't normally get presented in this format.