Clearly I’m in pub mode at the moment, so I thought I’d write a few words on a couple of pub/beer related stories.
Spoonful of sugar
I could not resist commenting on the always funny – though rarely intentionally – Tim Martin of Wetherspoons. He was in the news last week worried about European businesses losing business it seems due to the bullying of the evil ‘eu’ overlords who are trying to put pressure on them not to just carry on, business as usual, with tariff-free transactions for the types of trade deals with suppliers that Wetherspoons normally agrees. According to Mr Martin this could put sales of champagne, German beer and Swedish cider to UK consumers “at extreme risk”.
He says this whilst at the same time saying they are the only ones who need to worry, as: “I don’t think Wetherspoon or British buyers are in a weak position because we can switch from Swedish cider to British cider. So the people put in a weak position are the sellers and I think that is the paradox that has not been illustrated. The UK is in a much more powerful position than most economists would assume.”
Now, this is probably going to be the first time that many drinkers have even realised where Rekorderlig (owned by Molson Coors) and Kopparberg actually come from. Think I’m kidding ask someone next time you’re in the pub. It’ll probably be a bit like asking them what country Stella comes from. Now, Tim could be promoting British cider alternatives over Rekorderlig and Kopparberg already in his pubs if he so choose – but oddly enough he doesn’t: he knows his customers like the big brand names, which is why he buys and sells them. I will admit that I am more than a little worried that supplies of champagne to Wetherspoons could be hit, as not a week goes by when I don’t get at least one bottle in on a night out at the Watch House in Lewisham. But, I’m sure I can find some other pub serving champers for those nights.
Now the press reports of all this have added two and two together to get five , as they do, and concluded that Martin was essentially saying his pub chain could stop selling drinks brands from other European countries. He didn’t: mainly because he wouldn’t have much to sell in his pubs if he did. He was taking the now standard ‘ they’ (any other EU member state and their businesses) have more to lose than ‘us’ (Brexit UK) if they don’t give us exactly the same trade terms we currently have stance. If we say it often enough and loud enough – and if we’ve learned one thing over the years on trips abroad, it is that if these foreigners don’t understand us the first time , repeating it loudly and pointing a lot usually does the trick – then they will eventually realise just how powerful our position is. Had I mentioned that Tim voted in favour of brexit?
Let’s be clear, Tim isn’t the first bit worried about European businesses losing business, he’s worried about potential rising costs for running his business. No more , no less.
This one passed me by a few months ago, but James Watt and Martin Dickie the joint founders of BrewDog were awarded MBEs in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in June, which they thought was ‘amazing’. Of course they accepted, because nothing says punks and rebels more than taking a gong from the Queen.
Chef and self publicist Anthony Bourdain has reportedly also taking issue with craft beer recently, and in particular going into a bar/pub only to find people sitting there with five small glasses in front of them, filled with different beers, taking notes: “This is not a bar. This is fucking Invasion of the Body Snatchers. This is wrong. This is not what a bar is about, ” he said. If a pub was full of people just doing this he might have a point, but I never been in one where this was the case. Also, if I am somewhere and people are doing that, good for them, it is not likely to be bothering me. I’ve done tasters myself from time to time, although this is not usually when I’m out for the evening and when I want to have a laugh, chat and get a little pissed. Live and let live Tony.
Finally for this post, a word on news from Marston’s that in an attempt to make some of its legacy beers more appealing to younger (craft) beer drinkers it has decided to spend around £1 million on a re-branding campaign. Nothing wrong with a re-brand, re-fresh from time to time. That said, some of this one is a bit odd. They have decides that Burton Bitter and Oyster Stout both needed new names and so have decided on Saddle Tank and Pearl Jet. I mean, I guess it’s better than Saddle Wank and Pearl Necklace, but what’s actually wrong with Oyster Stout as a name? But these both pale (pun intended) with news that Pedigree is now described as amber ale. Seriously, WTF? This is a beer that is one of the UK’s best known pale ales. That’s what it is – Pale ale, NOT bloody Amber ale. Also, the rebranding here also seems to think that slapping an image of a guy from the 1950s onto the bottle is somehow going to make it attractive to the younger drinkers Marston’s want to target. Big fail on that one for me.