Tuesday 24 October 2017

The Thinking Drinkers

"Drink less, drink better" is a mantra I can get behind. Especially in this era of sin-bashing by a plethora of kill-joys masquerading as people concerned for the wellbeing of humanity, it is perhaps useful to consider that being discerning about what we drink is no bad thing. Looking out for and making an effort to find better alcoholic drinks helps re-capture the moral high-ground. At the very least ensuring we are not at the bottom of the hill.

I've known Ben McFarland for a while, I mean, he is a thrice Beer Writer of the Year and writes a fair bit about beer. He's even included us in one of his books1. Tom Sandham it seems is also a renowned drinks writer, although his specialism seems somewhat broader than Ben's. I suppose cocktails might be a thing for some people, even if this particular imbiber prefers not to be so pretentious.2

This duo was created some time ago, as best I can work out around 2011 when they debuted at The Edinburgh Fringe with "The Thinking Drinker’s Guide to Alcohol" - This seems to coincide with my own conscious recognition of their existence as a duo.

I guess I was confused about what exactly they did. Did they do drinks tastings? Are they a comedy act? Was it perhaps more serious a message they wanted to put across. I have remained healthily intrigued about their act, but had never been in the right place at the right time and available enough to be bothered to drag my sorry arse along to see them live.

"There is something on at the Begger's I think we should go and see" said Ann "Oh?" I said dismissively, as at times our agreement on what makes a good show may differ.Still, The Beggar's Theatre in Millom does bring some good shows from time-to-time, so I guess I was ready to be open minded.

"Yeah, a comedy act, something to do with drinkers or something" she declared, thinking she had knowledge I didn't. "Yeah, know about them" I replied nonchalantly. "Fairly sure this is a brand new show" Ann was determined to maintain that air of superior knowledge. I shattered her illusions "The Thinking Drinkers, Ben and Tom, I think you'll find"

Ann must think I walk around eyes wide shut. I mean, there'd been publicity and stuff, of course I knew about it. Anyway, with a bit of various juggling of other important activities we managed to get to see the show last Friday, and so glad we did.

It was billed as comedy, but with serious faces of apparent drinks connoisseurs on the publicity posters and promise of free drinks, as well as their by now well known mantra we were unsure exactly what to expect. Would it be a drinks tasting event with a few gags? Would it be a lecture on responsible drinking? Oh, wait, the title of the show is "Thinking Drinkers' History of Alcohol" - so, it's a history lesson, perhaps? Indeed, I had heard various comments from idle armchair critiques amongst beer writing circles declare that they "....did not really understand what those two were up to...."

The mistake, I guess, is to think that serious drinks writers can't do comedy. Ben is three times Beer Writer of the Year, he shouldn't be lowering the tone by making people laugh, that's disrespectful.

Well laugh we did. Without doubt the prime genre is that of comedy, up front and in your face.Yes, there is some historical stuff in there, but much more by way of creating a vague storyline. There are some drinks tastings to be had, which was kinda good, as we were promised that. But predominantly it was a broad appeal, slightly adult, clever and fast-paced comedy piece. One of those great bits of comedy where you groan at the obvious puns, guffaw at the innuendoes, bravo the clever more subtle jokes and still feel there was more you didn't quite understand, but didn't mind because you were still recovering from the last gag.

We enjoyed the evening, and sharing a few beers after the show. We even gave in and bought their latest book, Thinking Drinkers: The Enlightened Imbiber's Guide to Alcohol.

So, if you get a chance, go and see the show, we had a great time.


1We are fairly sure it is Boutique Beer: 500 Quality Craft Beers, but as we haven't actually got a copy we can't check. Jeez, we can't be going and buying every book that we happen to get mentioned in.

2It's relative I guess. Most regular beer drinkers probably think I'm pretentious in my outlook towards beer. However, most cocktails seem to have left me feeling like I just wasted a whole lot more money than I needed to and sent me right back to enjoying some good beer.

3Ann still thinks The Sound of Music is a great show. I mean.....

4And some of the risqué costumes did leave a little bit too much in your face. My mind is still tainted by the sight of way too much ... Although it appears the girls didn't mind too much, they told me afterwards, so perhaps drinks writers can be sex symbols after all.

Tuesday 17 October 2017

Hardknott Crowd Rewards

This post is about our new rewards engagement scheme, Hardknott Crowd Rewards. No, it's not another crowd funding scheme, indeed it is the exact opposite. You can skip the post below and just hit the link to find out what it's all about.

"Find somewhere with lots of chimney pots" he said. Because smoke makes people want to drink more beer? I have to admit I found the connection between chimneys and a demand for beer somewhat confusing when I initially heard the adage. The confusion only lasted a few seconds as my decaying grey matter caught up with the metaphor. It is the case that for some decades that heavily populated areas no longer rely on open fires to heat houses and chimney pots are indeed artefacts of a bygone age, what with central heating and such like.

It is true, it is much easier to sell beer in areas that have a reasonable population density, like big towns, cities and large conurbations. Hardknott certainly is not located in an area that could be classed as highly populated. Indeed, if we measured the total population we could reach in 30 minutes from our town of Millom and compared to all the other towns in Cumbria we would rank very low indeed, beaten perhaps only by Kirby Stephen1

Our success at Hardknott has undeniably been as a result of our activities online. Selling outside of Cumbria by reaching out through this blog, Twitter, Facebook and developing a reputation via these means. Selling into city centres via various distribution modes has helped us get where we are.

As the Craft Beer scene matures, as it certainly is doing, and more and more breweries become savvy to the power of social media it becomes more difficult to be heard. Equally, more and more breweries are setting up closer to, or even in the middle of cities. Right there, right where they need to be and very visible to the local populations, especially if they stand on their chimney pots.

On top of that maintaining social media accounts is something of a time-consuming activity. Lately I've been trying to claw-back parts of my life that have been missing over that last 12 years, mainly because my knees will fail me before long and I want to use them whilst they still work. I have rekindled two of my favourite passions lately, mountaineering2 and musical theatre3. Doing all of this means that I do not spend all my waking hours tweeting, blogging and makes it more difficult to attend beer events and the like.

So, how to engage with people? How to reach more people and get Hardknott more noticed?

I had an idea a few months back, and I've spent most of my time since developing it. Today I decided it was good enough to launch.

Hardknott Crowd Rewards

Go on, click on the link. I'm hopeful it'll be self explanatory, but it is brand new and we'll be developing it over the next few weeks. Either way, help us out by sharing the love and you might end up with some really great goodies. We've even had some t-shirts made as you can see from the pictures here.


1I did consider Kirby Lonsdale and Grange-over-sands in that list, but they are both less than 30 minutes from Kendal. Yes, these places do seem to be listed as towns. I do look at these things as part of my research into development of my business.

2I spent two very glorious weeks in Chamonix this summer. I climbed a mountain called Mont Blanc du Tacul (4248m, my first and hopefully not last 4,000m peak). Next year I hope to summit Mont Blanc itself. The reader is highly unlikely to know just how important this is to me.

3This year I took part in a fantastic musical in Abbey Musical Society production of Barnum. I enjoyed it hugely and was a brilliant diversion from some of the nonsense I have to deal with in the beer world.

Next spring I'm in a production of Cats with the same group. If you have ever seen the show you will understand why I need my knees. I'm playing Alonzo, in case you are interested.