We have had a blog for four years now. We started off with great enthusiasm with all sorts of interview and CV tips but inevitably over time it inevitably became more difficult to think of what we could to tell you about. We put up sample job descriptions for the posts which regularly appear in the drinks industry and even posted the jobs themselves. Meanwhile LinkedIn, Twitter and to some extent Facebook took over as our main lines of communications with the outside world. The blog finally ran out of steam around a year ago.
It is now time for a total rejuvenation and we have asked a number of commentators in the brewing, distilling, cider and soft drinks industries to contribute their thoughts on the thorny issues which are bubbling around our industry at the moment. Then we thought it might be useful to explain some of the processes and materials used in the brewing and distilling industries in order to dispel the myth amongst non production people that beer is made of chemicals and that there is a giant tap labelled Carling which you can simply turn on and off. Do you really know the difference between an ale and a lager? Is bottled beer better than canned? There has been a proliferation in beer competitions but does the public really care if your brand wins a prize?
Recently an Australian brewery tried to launch a beer called Pussy Juice complete with some very suggestive advertising copy, we ask why brewers persist is using names which they know will cause offence and outcry; how do you name a beer anyway when the number of beer brands in the UK is now well into five figures? The errant Aussie brew is a peach flavoured NEIPA, we’ll explain all about that as well. Brewing beer is easy, selling it is the difficult bit; why are some much more successful than others, Brewdog, Thornbridge, Moorhouses, Camden Town, Hawkshead, Butcombe and Bath for instance. The latter four have been taken over by larger competitors; is that a good or a bad thing? As proprietors reach retirement age and their children have no interest in shovelling the grains out of a mash tun, what do they do to keep the business going?
Of course we all want to know whether the ‘craft’ revolution will continue as the newly published Good Beer Guide has 2500 UK breweries, will CAMRA embrace keg ‘craft’ ales and should the term ‘craft’ be ditched in favour of the term ‘independent’? What do you know about growing barley for brewing or distilling, a lot happens before you stick the seed in the ground and continues long after you turn the key in the combine ignition in order to ensure storage does not impact on quality. Similarly in whisky making, what is the importance of wood in the maturation process and can it be accelerated to help cash flow without harming the product quality?
Latest figures show that Brits purchased some 60million bottles of gin in the year to June worth £1.6bn and up 38%. Sales have doubled in five years; can this continue and should the industry address a tighter definition for the product which by law only has to have a ‘predominant’ flavour of juniper. While a loose definition allows creativity amongst the many new gin makers, what is the difference between a gin and a flavoured vodka? Some newcomers bang on about local terroir when the ingredient you are supposed to taste comes from Italy or Bulgaria!
There are many other issues facing us at the moment which are worth exploring. The recent hot weather in the UK has caused a spike in raw materials prices with malting barley costing 37% more. Pundits suggested beer prices must rise by 16% which the Sun newspaper suggested equates to the prospect of a 59p a pint price increase. Should all brewers be collecting their own CO2 after we discovered supplies are intimately connected to the vagaries of the fertiliser business?
Do you know how is cider made, is it wrong that apple juice can be supplemented with sugar, does it matter which apples are used as we have seen the rise of the urban apple orphanage? Can artisan cider makers be as successful as smaller brewers?
Looking more widely. Should alcohol producers be worried about cannabis? Sustainability and social responsibility in the drinks industry continue to attract attention while getting in touch with millennial customers demands the effective use of social media. How you ever wondered what all those drinks industry trade bodies actually do – ALMR, BBPA, BFBi, BRC, BSDA, CAMRA, EWP, FDF, IBD, NACM, SALSA, SIBA, SWA, UKVA, WSET et al – there must be some duplication in activities amongst that lot! Then, do alcohol watchdogs really work? If alcohol is not good for us, why do we keep drinking it? Does the traditional English pub, beloved of foreign tourist brochures, have a future? Is kombucha (fermented tea) going to be the next big thing?
Do let us know which topics you would like aired and we’ll find an industry expert to weigh up all the pros and cons. In the meantime watch out for our first new posting – Should alcohol producers be worried about legal marijuana?