Thursday 22 November 2012


Off-sales of beer are outstripping on-sales. This is of course very sad. More beer is sold through off-licences and supermarkets than is sold  in bars, restaurants, hotels and pubs. I can, and frequently do, lament this situation. I could stick to my principles and say that I will not sell my beer to the off-trade and maintain a on-trade only brand. This, in some ways, would seem to be a nobel thing to do.

I'm a business man. Not a very good one it seems as I've yet to be hugely rich. Indeed, for a while I was able to claim free prescriptions, for instance, so low was my disposable income1. We have consistently found it easier and more profitable to sell bottled beer than cask. We are very happy to sell cask beer, but if we divert more of our output into bottle and avoid the inevitable fact that cask competes largely on price, we can perhaps make an honest living.

So, when we got to the New Year that was nearly 12 months ago I had a couple of business goals. Apparently that is the thing one is supposed to do in the New Year, make resolutions. As giving up beer wasn't an option, I vowed to make the process of bottling easier and more efficient. I vowed to get a bottling machine. You see, hand bottling is all very well, but it's just not cost effective. To be honest, it's a right pain in the arse and no one really cared for bottling days.

On Monday we put a little bit of Azimuth in bottles. It went quite well, although we have a few tweaks to do.

Today we got our new labels, so I'm hoping we are getting very close to full production runs of all our beers.

It's been hard work getting this far. Put simply, we couldn't really afford to buy a bottling machine. When we went to the banks with our business plan they pointed out that we hadn't made enough profit yet. Explaining, patiently, that the business plan showed that we would make a profit if we had the efficiencies of the bottling machine got the persistent insistence that we hadn't made a profit yet.

However, a couple of public funded schemes have made it work. Lots more paperwork, business plans and a forecast on something called gross added value. It's all to do with jobs and profit seemingly. I guess if I employ more people they pay tax they mightn't have done, and if I make a profit I pay tax. I'll even have to start paying for my prescriptions, although not for long, as the way life is flying by at the moment I'll be retired before I know what happened.

But we did it, we got a working bottling machine that'll probably spit out up to 1000 330ml bottles an hour, provided Alex and Jules load and unload at that rate. Watch out, before long we'll have loads more beer in loads more places, and that has to be good for us and you.


1And at times, negative. That's the nature of business, you have to invest to get anywhere.


Jake said...

This is great news. Looking forward to buying your stuff in places your casks don't reach.

Curmudgeon said...

Actually, according to the BBPA stats, off-trade beer sales are still 6% below on-trade, although off-trade exceeds on-trade in all other drinks categories.

Jeff Pickthall said...

Will it bottle tomato sauce?

Unknown said...

Thanks Jake, I'm looking forward to more people being able to buy our beers.

Mudgie, you got me there. Last time I checked the truth was more or less as you state. I have made an assumption that based on the fact that the trend is moving towards a state whereby off-sales have overtaken on-sales that indeed the measured facts are lagging behind reality.

It is not an accurate assumption and we need to wait to see what happens. It may be that the upsurge of great craft beer bars might have reversed the trend. I wonder what the flat-earthers would think of that.


Let us suppose for the moment that I wanted to bottle ketchup. It would, of course, have to be craft ketchup. I think I could find a way to make it happen.

However, good ketchup, as you will know, seeing as you are a connoisseur of such things, is quote viscous. In deed, the better the ketchup the more viscous it should be. It wouldn't flow well through the filling heads.

Additionally, I would be concerned that a good tasty ketchup would be full of spices, and other strong flavours, that might then taint any future filling of bottles through the same machine.

I doubt I'm going to check how practical it might be in the near future. When I get the business to the point where bottling great ketchup becomes part of the empire I'll buy a dedicated machine. And probably set it up in a dedicated factory rather than in the brewery.

I do hope that is a better answer than "no" or even the first two word answer that came into my head when I saw your comment arrive.

Alistair Reece said...

Would said 'loads more places' include the US?

Unknown said...

Al, I can't promise at this stage, but we're seriously looking at the options. There are issues, not least of which are getting new labels accepted by the US COLA system.

Also, we still need to find a USA importer, not an easy task due to the three tier system.

However, we are trying and have our DTI on the job.

Brewers Union Local 180 said...

Did the prep time get reduced on this batch?

Unknown said...

BUL180, firstly, and most importantly, Happy Belated Thanksgiving, I trust you got home OK.

You have been slightly deceived here, although the intention was not deliberate. These bottles are the ones you helped to fill, which we simply ran through the labeller and then I placed on the output tray for the photograph.

This weekend is about improving stuff and kicking the gremlins right out the door. Monday I hope to do a bigger run of Continuum.

Fingers crossed.