#tryanuary – Day 6 of #31BreweriesOfJanuary – Brew. Dog.

#tryanuary#tryanuary is about supporting the British beer and pub industry in January. It is a response to the fad of abstaining in January as part of a harebrained “health kick”. There’s nowt wrong with enjoying beer sensibly… so throughout January we’re encouraging everyone to try different beers. In moderation if you really must. With this in mind I’ll be trying at least one beer every day that I’ve never had before – each from a different British brewery. Plus, as a “tryanuary challenge”, I’m stepping WELL beyond my comfort zone and doing beer reviews (I _DO_NOT_ do beer reviews!! until now) and I’m doing them in VIDEO form… the horror… the horror… apologies in advance, etc.

Today I try a lager. But not just any lager… today I have my first Brew. Dog. This. Is. Lager. I’m not sure BrewDog need any “support” from the likes of me these days, but I’ll still support them over multinational corporations. By buying this beer I’ve also supported the fantastic Bacchanalia – a beer, wine, and other booze emporium in Cambridge. Bacchanalia are quite fantastic really. Back before most of you beer guzzling gentrified heathens had first uttered the word “craft” Bacchanalia was *there*. I was buying US imports here and other crazy stuff before BrewDog were a “thing”. Oh my, I’ve just had a Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron flashback.  [My god, that was 5 years ago.] Awesome flashback. But not as awesome as the actual beer, which doesn’t reach the UK any more :( [And if bloody Charlie Wells are exclusively involved with importing Dogfish Head probably never will.]

OK, way off topic! We. Are. Talking. About. This. Is. Lager. What bollocks did I say about it? What do I think of Brew Poodle? What. Did. I. Think. Of. The. Lager.!?

Disclaimer/plug: *I* sell beer, my own little beer business is Jolly Good Beer: http://jollygoodbeer.co.uk/ – beer distribution, events, and anything beery really. I’m far too much of a minnow to touch BrewDog goodness – and Bacchanalia are similarly well out of my league. These guys import De Molen and Rogue… They. Are. Ace.

See Also:

 

#tryanuary – Day 4 of #31BreweriesOfJanuary – Rocky Head Brewery

#tryanuary#tryanuary is about supporting the British beer and pub industry in January. It is a response to the fad of abstaining in January as part of a harebrained “health kick”. There’s nowt wrong with enjoying beer sensibly… so throughout January we’re encouraging everyone to try different beers. In moderation if you must. With this in mind I’ll be trying at least one beer every day that I’ve never had before – each from a different British brewery. Plus, as a “tryanuary challenge”, I’m stepping WELL beyond my comfort zone and doing beer reviews (I _DO_NOT_ do beer reviews!! until now) and I’m doing them in VIDEO form… the horror… the horror…

Today I discover Rocky Head Brewery (@TheRockyHead) for the first time. I’d never heard of them before… so expectations are low. Because I’m a pessimistic git when it comes to new (to me) breweries. But the point of #tryanuary is to try more things, different things, maybe cross some boundaries. So on day 4 I’m really getting into the essence of what this is all about. So, how’d it go…?

Today we also sort of shift from #31BeersOfJanuary to #31BreweriesOfJanuary too. Since I’ve tried two from Rocky Head. I’ve got some ideas for a couple of other “side by side” type tastings from the same brewery too. Watch this space…

These were bought at Cozzi & Boffa at Burwash Manor just outside of Cambridge. As well as these and many other beers Cozzi & Boffa currently have beers from me from Five Points, Hardknott, Stringers (gluten free), Summer Wine, and Weird Beard.

PANO_20150103_143445

Cozzi & Boffa beer shelves – click & you can probably see the range… (not all in shot!)

Disclaimer: *I* sell beer, my own little beer business is Jolly Good Beer: http://jollygoodbeer.co.uk/ – beer distribution, events, and anything beery really. I don’t sell Rocky Head beers – but Cozzi & Boffa are one of my customers. Go there for some good beers!

See Also:

Route to Market

OK, I’ve got a general whinge to get off my chest. It’s about sales and route to market and the seeming immaturity (infancy?) of the wider British craft/microbrewing market. Take it with a grain of salt if you will – what would I know? I’ve only been in the market for 9 months. But as in everything I do my natural tendency to analyse & optimise is insuppressible. However, as any fellow computer scientist knows, obvious optimisations often aren’t as useful as they seem. So perhaps I’m barking up the wrong tree… I don’t feel particularly well qualified to be talking about these things… but I will anyway… I lie awake at night with all this sort of crap running through my head and I need to purge it somehow.

 

Small operators like myself are not simply shopfronts for beer. We’re very much unlike online retail for example, who have a wide customer base across the UK. To sell your beer we do a lot of legwork going out forming relationships with pubs, promoting beer at both a time and financial cost to ourselves. So if we’re doing all this hard work on behalf of a brewery and that brewery then go and sells to someone competing on the same turf it costs us – to small operators like myself it can be a huge blow to morale to boot. Bypassing the distributor and selling direct is very similar… we’ve got your beer into there, they’ve liked it, and after that effort of promotion and logistics (and financial risk) on our parts we’re cut out of the picture. Thanks folks!

I understand why bigger pubs may do this. If they get the same price from the brewer as the distributor then it cuts maybe 20p per pint from their costs, which could be as much as 60p to the consumer after being amplified by pub GPs. The onus here is somewhat on the brewery – the cost to them of effectively outsourcing sales to the distributor ought to be a sufficient discount on the beer to make it not worth a pub ordering direct. Across distribution for regions UK-wide (6 distributors, say?) the brewery is definitely saving themselves the salary of at least one full-time sales body. This secures the distributors’ route to the big customers, which in turn makes it possible for them to keep stock to shift to the wider market of smaller customers.

I’d like to see distribution valued higher by small breweries… of course I would say that though, I’m a distributor. So rather than just put that out there, here’s a couple of reasons this is good for you – the brewer:

  1. Marketing: You get an actual representative – someone keen on and loyal to your “brand”. If the distributor has the security of exclusivity then they can safely invest more in growing their business around your beers. No exclusivity contracts are needed, just a good set of ground rules laid down to define the relationship.
  2. Sales: You have a reliable go-to contact in a region that you can direct people to for your beer. If you have a willy-nilly bunch of distributors out there who can you point a potential new outlet to? All of them? Do you think pubs really want to chase your beer with 3 different contacts? Will those 3 distributors see buying a pallet of your beer as too risky in case one of the other 2 does as well?

Sure – we may start out as a relatively small account and also shifting a pallet to the chap next door may be quite tempting to a brewery keen on growth. But think long-term. Be committed in your relationship with one of them – to buy their loyalty and then ride with them as they achieve sales growth with your beer.

Further to that I’ll add why I think *I* am the guy you should go to. I care passionately about good beer, I’m no mere sales channel. I am versed in cellarmanship, beer care, and have a lot of beer knowledge. I work hard to ensure your beers go to the right venues and are served in good form. At our end everything is received and kept in temperature regulated storage until delivery – this is expensive in rent and electricity (as you as a brewer probably know).

Some breweries understand all this. Unsurprisingly if you knew which they were you’d be looking at a list of some of the most sought-after craft brewers in the UK. These guys value their route to market and through that relationship build a better sales channel. At times I resent it because I really want to be able to get beers from some of these guys to my customers but I cannot because they’re tied up with other folk in the region. But I respect this too… these guys are doing unto their distributors and I would have my suppliers do unto me.

Also, I’m a very small operator currently, only just starting out. So I can see why you’d want to sell to someone more established – the term “ability to execute” comes to mind. My small size makes my “ability to execute” low – thus I come with my own risks. (Who wants to do a Gartner Magic Quadrant for UK beer distribution?) Then again because I’m small I’ve got more personally invested, and more riding on making those breweries I work with successful for me. I’m also too small to deal with *all* the breweries I want to of course. So by all means if I can’t shift your beer look elsewhere. No worries at all with that. (I wish I could do all the breweries I actually have access to… but it is impractical at my scale unless I just want to be exist only in the crowded “guest ales” market.)

Anyway, please – take note – distribution is your sales channel to the wider UK market. Foster good relationships with your distributors, let them flourish with your brand – your trust in them will be returned by their willingness to invest in representing your brewery as best they can.

 

This is a bit of a wild thought-exercise on my part. And perhaps I just haven’t a clue. This is a most definite possibility. But something strikes me as broken about the way things work currently. I started doing this as the only one in my region focusing on what I consider the “craft sector”. Within three months 2 other distributors had shown up, both started by folk signed up to my mailing list. Both approaching many of the same breweries. Which makes no sense – why sell the same stuff? There’s loads to choose from out there! I should be flattered perhaps, I’ve clearly chosen the best… but that is a small consolation for ending up in some daft & unviable “price war”. Don’t get me wrong – competition is a fine thing, and part of how any market works. But forging stable business relationships is part of how markets work too. It’s just common sense, no?

I cannot of course separate the thought process from my own involvement so like any such a thing is it a POINT OF VIEW. And points of view are subject to bias and quite often not well grounded in fact. At the same time I have thousands of my savings invested in a business with which it thus is strongly in my interests to ponder the viability of and act to strengthen said viability as best I can. Personally I wish we could all, as much as possible, work together to grow our overall market… it’s such a tiny tiny slice of the beer pie as it is. But perhaps that’s just foolish… if there isn’t enough pie someone’s gotta starve.

I’ve made plenty of mistakes of my own in the last 9 months. Too many to list. A major one is not saying “no” often enough – so simple, but so hard. In 2015 I hope to find focus…

I may have simply got into a bung market! C’est la vie.

#tryanuary – Day 3 of #31BeersOfJanuary – Summer Wine Brewery

#tryanuary#tryanuary is about supporting the British beer and pub industry in January. It is a response to the fad of abstaining in January as part of a harebrained “health kick”. There’s nowt wrong with enjoying beer sensibly… so throughout January we’re encouraging everyone to try different beers. In moderation if you must. With this in mind I’ll be trying a beer every day that I’ve never had before – each from a different British brewery. Plus, as a “tryanuary challenge”, I’m stepping WELL beyond my comfort zone and doing beer reviews (I _DO_NOT_ do beer reviews!! until now) and I’m doing them in VIDEO form…
the horror… the horror…

Summer Wine Brewery Logo

Ahhh… Summer Wine! One of my favourite breweries… and I’m lucky enough to be selling Summer Wine through my part of my UK. The Surfing Monk “South Pacific Belgian IPA” is one of their specials I’d not had before. I sold a case to Cozzi & Boffa wines just outside Cambridge recently so I popped in there to pick some up today (and a few other goodies! Some will be in my next videos.)

Well, the rest is in the video…

Cozzi & Boffa currently have beers from me from Five Points, Hardknott, Stringers (gluten free), Summer Wine, and Weird Beard.

PANO_20150103_143445

Cozzi & Boffa beer shelves – click & you can probably see the range… (not all in shot!)

 

Disclaimer: *I* sell beer, my own little beer business is Jolly Good Beer: http://jollygoodbeer.co.uk/ – beer distribution, events, and anything beery really. I sell Summer Wine beers – and sold these two to Cozzi & Boffa in fact. I sell them because they are awesome.

#tryanuary – Day 2 of #31BeersOfJanuary – Black Sun Brewing

#tryanuary

#tryanuary is about supporting the British beer and pub industry in January. It is a response to the fad of abstaining in January as part of a harebrained “health kick”. There’s nowt wrong with enjoying beer sensibly… so throughout January we’re encouraging everyone to try new and different beers. In moderation if you must.

Well, #tryanuary day 2 happened despite being short of suitable beer. What we have is Bob Arnott’s homebrew to the rescue! (See day 1 and an explanation of what this is about by clicking here.)

Bob, aka @RecentlyDrunk, is a local chap who’s very keen on his beer, we connected via Twitter and since then I’ve had the good fortune of being able to try a few of his homebrews (all good, a couple really good.)

In this #tryanuary video I’m trying his ‘Binary Star: Chinook, Citra‘. Bob has brewed a ‘Binary Star’ series of beers that combine two hops like this. Nifty naming right?

Sampling a homebrew goes a little off-plot from supporting the brewing industry… well, then again… the homebrew “industry” covers suppliers of homebrewers, who’re well worth supporting and through them in its own small way maltsters, hop merchants, and the farmers behind them. Plus today’s homebrewers are tomorrows brewing industry to some extent. Many of the funkier craft brewers out there have a keen homebrewing history behind them. (NZ friends of mine tell me the whole vibrant NZ craft beer scene is basically built on homebrewing! So there you go – for our beery future support a strong homebrewing culture in the UK!)

Anyway, here’s the gawdawful video – I think it is actually worse than the 1st one. But we live and learn… well, we live… learning is less guaranteed.

Disclaimer: *I* sell beer, my own little beer business is Jolly Good Beer: http://jollygoodbeer.co.uk/ – beer distribution, events, and anything beery really. I don’t sell Bob’s homebrew – but if he ever goes pro then maybe I will!