Friday, 4 July 2014

Containing a Problem

There are many interesting issues associated with running a brewery. It is not unreasonable for those who don't work in a brewery to be blissfully unaware of many of these problems. It's not their fault.

One very interesting problem is that of containers. Casks, kegs, KeyKegs and other draught beer transport mechanisms.

They cost money. Sometimes quite a lot of money. There are ways of reducing those costs, i.e. through the use of plastic casks for instance. However, there is generally a cost of ownership somewhere along the line.

We like eCasks and eKegs. We like them a lot because we simply call up our friends over in the depot, they send a pallet or two, or three and we get along with filling them. We generally buy them in clean, which costs a little more, but we reckon it's worth it as cask washing is somewhat labour intensive. We could reduce the man-hours for cask washing by buying a big expensive machine, but then we'd have costs associated with the big bank loan we'd need to take out.

Plastic casks are less expense than stainless steel, but our experience is that they also have a significantly shorter life span and eventually you'll loose more than the savings in lost beer due to split casks. Stainless casks cost around £75 each to buy. Some might be less, and better ones a little more. There is second hand, but often the differences are not that great.

We are lucky at the moment that none of our finance is associated with our container population. This probably won't last long as we need to up our population. We do have some kegs on lease, which is not too bad, but there is a monthly charge.

All in all there is no wary around the fact that there is a "cost of ownership" associated with container populations. There is an inevitable shrinkage of this asset pool and every day a container is out of the brewery it's costing money.

Pubs probably don't think too much about it. It's not uncommon for pubs to have the clever idea of cutting casks open to use as planters, or make hand stools from, or even to use as parking bollards.

This last example did sort of annoy me as they were our casks. We uplifted them. I considered many courses of action including sending the offender a bill or asking the police to look at the criminal damage aspect. I also considered contacting the paper and putting our case, but thought that might just be bad PR. I ended up doing very little on the grounds that it might just spiral out of control resulting in an unpleasant tit-for-tat fight with the pub out of which no one would win. After all, the pub landlord probably didn't really understand.

You can perhaps understand my bewilderment when I saw the Publican Morning Advertiser piece where the pub has clearly decided to use their criminal behaviour1 to gain more publicity.

You can imagine I was somewhat further annoyed by the audacity of the pub's landlady for clearly going out of her way to publicise her clear vandalism. However, after further consideration we still decided to do very little2.

But I duo want to record some errors and misinformation in the report.

1. We have more than once tried to recover the casks, but had been told they were not there. We have also phoned the pub for orders, but they hadn't ordered since those casks were delivered. They had every opportunity to inform us that the casks were there to be picked up. One can only assume they knew the state of the casks.

2. The casks have been out of the brewery for less then 2 years and not the stated 6 years in the article. We know this from our cask tracking software.

3. We did not "confiscate" them. They our ours, we were simply reclaiming our own property.

But meanwhile, there is a nice thread on Facebook regarding the matter. Certainly those in the know in the industry seem to think the pub is out of order.

In other news, we have a nice table in our new bar.


1We have since gained advice from various sources and we could indeed ask the police to consider a case of criminal damage. We would of course be totally within our rights to send a bill for either refurbishment or replacement and follow up with debt collection should it remain unpaid.

1Write this blog post, actually, was the agreed course of action. I suspect few of my readers will side with the landlady. Also, I think there might be an attitude that casks are free for operators of pubs to do with as they wish. I mean, leave them out in the hot sunshine, without a bung, so as the files lay eggs and cutovers post in fag ends. Makes the job of cask cleaning such a delight.

The point is that there is a lot of work to do to inform the on-trade of the costs they push onto breweries and so the cost of beer due mainly to a lack of appreciation rather than maliciousness. I can imagine that out there in pub land many publicans actually don't see a problem. It's not their fault, bless them.


beersiveknown said...

The fbk link is down...simple way to get casks back, charge refundable deposit

Yvan said...

On the face of it a deposit seems logical... but in reality it'll just drive custom away. It's bad enough for a pub/distributor having to tie up loads of cash in the actual beer, adding another 50/whatever quid on top and they'll just go to another brewery. (Unless there are really strong incentives to get a particular beer/brewery - I've paid deposits on casks, but very rarely.)

eCask/eKeg is fantastic for this. I love them because I don't need to fret about brewery containers. My side of the deal is simply that I collect them whenever I see them... and every so often CBR/eCask come and pick them up.

eKeg is also, AFIAK, a cheaper alternative to EcoKeg/KeyKeg... even better for everyone if that can be passed down the chain (some breweries offer separate prices for the different containers). EcoKeg/KeyKeg are great for export... but I'd not miss them at all for domestic beer supply. (KeyKegs may have other advantages of course, although some may see them as disadvantages.)

As for the pub... bloody idiots. Someone needs to go spray paint the publican's car funny colours...

StringersBeer said...

Yes, you confiscated them. That's the right word for a legal seizure. I've just checked and our cask tracking says that we've got one of our plastic casks there. We'll have made best effort to recover it, but have been unable to for some reason. It's not sensible to break into pub cellars or locked yards to get these things back. There is, indeed, such a problem with access to the pub in question. And of course, given that time & diesel cost, we can't keep swinging by on the chance that we can grap an empty. We count on the publicans to behave sensibly - give us a call - we all put our phone numbers on the casks, or on our paperwork.

It's suggested that all brewers be prepared to pick up any cask judged to be "at risk". We're usually happy when another brewer takes the trouble to save one of ours and return it to us.

Tandleman said...

This whole thing is quite astonishing. Of course you legally reclaimed your property and of course what happened to it was not only. Continuing with the "of course" theme, of course your property has been damaged and of course you could sue for this. You may judge it expedient not to,but it would be well within your rights to bill them for the costs of re-instating as was.

I think you are being more than reasonable. It seems you have tried to recover your property and have been obstructed and misled in trying to do so. You might consider changing your trading terms and conditions to include words about containers that would at least give you an underpinning case in court or elsewhere.

As for the MA, that's astonishing too. Surely they know about the costs of containers to brewers big and small and don't condone their abuse? Doesn't read like it.

So landlady out of order and MA out of order.

You not.