The 21 beers of the last 10 years has been a topic of conversation online recently and it got me thinking about the beers that have shaped my tastes over much more than 10 years of drinking.
1. Stones bitter (cask) – was the first beer I’d drunk and actually liked. Possibly first cask ale I had and was so much better than the electric metered fizz that seemed to be everywhere in the late 80’s to which at a young age I still preferred pop.
2. Wilsons bitter (cask) – I was working in the Sun Inn at Lepton when this new to me cask ale was introduced alongside the then only cask of John Smiths. What a flavour revelation it was then to my young taste buds. As Keith Ward, the landlord used to say – ‘its just like new milk’
3. Lowenbrau Pils (bottled) – Once you get to the age to go down town on a Saturday night and you go to pubs and bars that don’t sell proper beer or beer you’d trust it had to be lager. I didn’t like lager until I found the Lowenbrau Pils
4. Landlord (cask) – In the early 90’s the cask choice wasn’t great and in town it was even worse, however once The Albert with its perfectly kept Timothy Taylors Landlord was stumbled upon the starting point for any night out in town was found.
5. Caffreys (Keg) – Its now 1995 and Bass have brought out this cold smooth beer that tastes of something and you get merry on it much quicker and despite the terrible feeling the morning after the original Caffreys at 4.8% was and still is the only creamflow ale that I have ever stomached, I loved it during the summer of ’95.
6. Theakstons XB (cask) – fast forward to my first pub management and my choice on premium cask was Directors or XB but for brand standards the Courage had to dispensed without a sparkler in Yorkshire. Hence XB as Theakstons was dispensed regionally and I loved it.
7. Summer Lightning (cask) – As the Millennium approached the pubs of West Yorkshire were still dominated by John Smiths & Bass, national pub chains and smooth was kicking in. The regionals of Sheep & Taylors were taking up all the guest space and choice was limited. However the glimmer of today was on the rise as I found places that sold beer that tasted differently, the best two I remember were Summer Lightening & Red MacGregor, they were great and led me to want to find more and different beers to Yorkshire bitter.
8. Gulpener Korenwolf (bottle) – After leaver ScotCo I went to Bass and from the staff shop allowance it was Carling that everyone went for. However I was blown away by my first wheat beer – Gulpener Korenwolf and used my allowance on that every month and led me on to other wheat beers for a good few years.
9. Deuchars IPA (cask) – It was now the 21st century and a trip to Scotland for Hogmanay was marked by discovering what was to become a phenomenon – Deuchers IPA. Superb beer and one that I happily drunk for a couple of years as after the CAMRA win it was everywhere, so much that ScotCo bought it and knackered it up.
10. Belgian Beer (all) – Next was a mini-cruise to Brugge and that’s when my tastes were blown and my eyes opened. It’s hard to pin to one beer but those I vaguely remember from that 6 hours in Brugge were De Garre house beer, Gulden Draak, Tripel Karmeliet and the seasonal Stille Nachte. All still must buys when I go to Belgium (which is most years).
11. Ossett Silver King (cask) – UK craft as we know it hadn’t yet started but the local cask ale choice was ever improving, the first beer I remember that I had to try wherever I went was from a local brewery. It was pin bright, looked like a lager but what a taste – Ossett Silver King was a go to beer in the early noughties.
12. Summer Wine (cask) – I don’t remember much making an impression for the next 5 years until a new local brewery opened just down the road from me. It’s late 2008 and Summer Wine Brewery all of a sudden knock out some beers that I’ve never seen the likes of and I drunk and loved them all. Craft was beginning.
13. Magic Rock Dark Arts (cask) – It seemed we were lucky in Huddersfield in the late noughties The Grove opened, The Sportsman opened we had a couple of breweries in Summer Wine & Mallinsons taking up guest spots in pubs then this new brewery opened in my mates father-in laws business car park and was going to brew the next big thing. Everyone loved the pale stuff but for me the best cask stout I’ve had still to this day is Dark Arts and a go to beer whenever I see it.
14. Liverpool Organic Russian Imperial (cask) – I’d always loved stouts and the 6% Dark Arts took me down the stronger road. A trip to Liverpool led me to Liverpool Organic Russian Imperial Stout on cask. Sublime and I loved it and still the beer I measure cask Imperial stouts to.
15. Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen (bottle) – By now winter #BeerHolidays were a permanent thing for me and I loved drinking beer across Eastern Europe. A trip to Germany provides beer 15 and the best beer in the world – Schlenkerla. I’ve not been to Bamberg yet but I will get there.
16. Gaffel Kolsch (keg) – On the same Germany trip Kolsch was discovered. And despite the small glasses and the over the top-ness of the bar staff the 4 hours I sat in Gaffel house are still amongst one of the best days ever. 44 ticks on the drip mat and every single one was superb (not all mine – I think).
17. Red Willow Faithless number? (cask) – Craft was well and truly up and running, I liked the stuff but never blown away by the HyPeAyes. I always prefer the malt and yeast to dominate over the hops and still do but one beer I remember well and meant I am still a big fan of theirs was Red Willow Faithless, I don’t know which number it was but it must have been early numbers. A 7.3% IPA on cask, it is still remembered now (vaguely I’m sure it was over 7% anyway).
18. Unpasteurised Czech Beer (keg) – It must be about 2012 now, Craft is on the march, there are divisions in the beer drinking scene and I’ve just discovered beer Twitter proving I am not down with the cool kids with what I drink. Also I’m on a plane to Prague. I’m drinking unpasteurised Budvar (light and dark), Urquell, Beer X33 and everything that Pivovarsky Dum are brewing for 4 days solid and never felt better. I also now have a drink I want to drink when it’s not cask ale weather in the UK.
19. Siren Broken Dream (cask) – IPA is everywhere, every bar line is wall to wall IPA or APA or full of hops and to me it all tastes the same. We have a festival at Stalybridge Buffet Bar, on the line-up is Breakfast Stout from Siren on cask. Perfect for me and another pint I can still remember vividly, the one which all the new versions of stout are measured by to me and still the one that nothing has got close to yet.
20. North Riding Mosaic (cask) – At some point maybe a couple of years ago I’d fallen out of love with cask. It all tasted the same, the flavours were becoming boring, everything was pine resin, citrus fruits and zesty and there was little to tell one from another apart from condition. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d drunk from a beer and then looked at the pint and said wow that’s good. Enter North Riding Mosaic, and I say wow to it every time I drink it. Best drinking cask in the country at the moment.
21. Greek Amstel (keg) – A pint I remember so well – Pint of Amstel in a frozen glass in Rhodes Town looking at a thermometer displaying it to be 47 degrees in the sun, best pint I’ve ever had.
There never seems to be a week goes by without someone retweeting a picture of a pub price list from 1971 with bitter at 11p a pint or something similar followed by the comments on the ‘crazy prices’ of today. I wasn’t around in 1971 and neither was VAT, health & safety and human resources industries, national minimum wage, workers rights, part time staff holiday pay or compulsory pensions so just what does make up the price of a pint?
So what makes up the price of a pint?
First the pub has to buy the beer in. Let’s look at your standard 4.0% pale/blonde beer from a small brewer.
The level of duty does vary from brewer to brewer (a totally different topic) but in general its around £30 duty to start with on a 9 gallon cask. Since I like small brewers to make a living and be sustainable and I also like beer to be of good quality and brewed with quality ingredients – we therefore have to pay for this. Without giving away any trade secrets, small brewers probably need £40 per cask to buy ingredients, brew beer, run a business, deliver a cask and have enough staff to enable them to be moaning on twitter or take a day off. This means the average cask price of a 4% blonde is probably around £70 in free trade. Since casks are 72 pints, for the ease of this blog let’s take a cask beer sold at £72.
Prices vary by pubs and their costs but an average selling price is around £3 a pint (inclusive of VAT) in the pubs around West Yorkshire for this type of beer.
So once we’ve paid the brewer for the beer, we can now work out the gross profit from that pint:
Selling Price £3.00
Less VAT at 20% – 50p
Less cost of pint – £1.00
Leaving a pub with £1.50 in Gross Profit and the government with 92p in tax revenues (excluding all the other taxable items that may have gone into the production and sale of the pint).
What does this then pay for?
Now here I cannot speak for other pubs and their practices, but for us to maintain high standards of service and of product we have to spend time cellaring & conditioning the beer, cleaning the lines and equipment, testing & tasting the products and accept that there will be mistakes in serving the beer or times when we aren’t happy with the beer quality and take it off early. This means we don’t sell all the 72 pints we have bought, therefore adding cost. So back to the price of a pint:
Currently we have £1.50
Less 6.9% waste (Average yield of a cask is 67 pints with waste, cleaning, drip tray / waste, pull through and sediment ullage) – 21p a pint
Less line clean cost based on average waste per clean – 10p a pint
So we are now at £1.19
Again here, I can only speak for ourselves but in order to run a business successfully you need staff, a manager, supervisors & assistants, bar staff, cellar manager, cleaners and glass collectors. Pubs are very different to shops and supermarkets staff wise; in pubs we not only look after the product from ordering to serving but also whilst its consumed and the aftermath. To do this quickly, efficiently and to a high standard our staff need paying as such. They have skills which need training, they also have bills to pay and the job is demanding so need paying what they deserve. Wage costs on average are 88p per pint pulled because for every busy Saturday there is a graveyard midweek shift (plus there is NI, holiday pay & Pensions to pay for as well).
So take this from the £1.19 and we are down to 31p a pint profit.
That’s ok, you say – 31p a pint and you sell thousands a week, still doing well?
Well there are other things to come out of that 31p yet. We have to either rent or pay our mortgage on our properties, we have to heat and light them, paint & decorate them, fix and maintain them. We have to buy, provide and clean the glasses you drink from and replace those customers smash & steal. We have to insure the pubs and insure you lucky punters that come into them. We have to have running water (and have it hot), bins collected and clean the pubs. We have to provide you with facilities such as use of a toilet and you now all expect free WiFi. As a rule people like entertaining so we have free live music for which we pay the artists as well as then the PPL & PRS for that. We also have to maintain our customers safety by testing electrical equipment, having CCTV & fire equipment and ensuring gas & ventilation safety. This is not an endless list of costs that are incurred, there are many, many more and all this comes out of that 31p.
Hopefully though there is something left from that 31p after the overheads. This then goes to head office where the staff also need paying, payroll needs sorting, there is HR and H&S resource for our staff, our suppliers need their invoices paying our council tax needs paying etc..
What’s left the government then takes corporation tax out of and that’s before someone smashes a mirror, breaks a toilet seat or throws stones through your window for the fun of it
This is just some of what makes up the price of a pint for us and the reason why good beer should cost what it does today. So remember next time you think the beer is a crazy price in our pubs just consider – don’t go back to when you could go out, have a gallon, fish & chip supper and trolley bus home for a quid, its not 1971 anymore. Think of it giving much required taxation to the government, think of it of employing 90 local people who will spend their money in the local community, think of it of it helping many other thousands of people who work for, or own over 95% of our suppliers. Why not compare this to your cup of multinational chain coffee who don’t pay duty, tax or look after local communities yet charge more a pint than we do for beer rather than comparing it to 1971.
Cherish pubs and real ale for what it is and value the product. The social aspect of the pub is another blog just waiting to be written.
This week sees the introduction of another tax which will have a significant impact in the pub trade, a tax hike that seems to have gone quietly under the radar at present. However I’m sure it will get a bit more coverage in the coming weeks once everyone starts to feel & see the effects.
Since our kids getting fat because they are consuming gallons of sugar filled fizzy drinks Jamie Oliver thought it would be a good idea to get the government to tax them – to some this may seem a logical solution as who wants unhealthy kids. Go past any school in a morning and you will no doubt see kids downing large cans of energy drinks or creamy chocolate milkshakes crammed full of sugar and probably not doing much for the kids health and well-being, hence the sugar tax.
Drinks are taxed in two bands, there is a high band tax for those drinks that have more than 8g of sugar per 100ml and then a lower band for drinks of 5g to 8mg per 100ml with the rest being exempt. It is only applied to fizzy drinks and not pure fruit juices or milk based drinks (these are healthy?).
So let’s just have a look at two bottles of drink and see how the sugar tax works in practice
FRIJJ Chocolate Milk:
7.6g of fat
40.4g of sugar (10 teaspoons) – No Sugar Tax
FEVER TREE Elderflower tonic
0g of fat
16g of sugar (4 teaspoons) – Sugar Tax
Now I aren’t a dietary expert, as people who know we will testify, however if this tax is aimed at child obesity then why does a bottle of tonic water get taxed but not a chocolate milkshake? In my experience it isn’t very often that I see loads of kids in the pub swigging tonic water, just adults who can make their own decisions on buying what they like. So who exactly is the tax targeting because it surely can’t be childhood obesity on this logic?
It can’t be that much though surely I hear you say?
Everything varies and it is dependent on pack size and sugar content as to which band the products fall into, however it ranges 10% to 30% plus VAT cost price increases on the products we sell. Obviously pubs and retailers can’t absorb this cost and will have to pass it on to consumers, however this rise at the bar will make a considerable amount of difference to the selling price of with nobody gaining from it apart from £500m to the treasury in an attempt help make our children healthy.
So next time you go to the bar and your drink of pop or G&T has gone up by 30p or 40p please don’t moan at your friendly bar person, it isn’t their fault. Just give thanks to Jamie Oliver (please do let him know) and sleep easy in the knowledge that little Jonny or Jemma is not going to get fat because they now can’t afford to drink gallons of Elderflower tonic and the government has £500m to spend on getting them healthy.
Why sexism is bad for business
In the week where the Professional Darts Corporation decided to stop walk on girls for the dart players and Cloudwater continued to split opinions with the dodgy branding on their latest collaboration, project sexism has never been higher on the agenda.
Last week I had the pleasure to sit on the panel for the discussion at Manchester Beer Festival which asked ‘why is sexism bad for business and what are we going to do about it?’ This debate coming after many issues at the festival last year and a year of criticism for CAMRA, prompting them into issuing a statement in which it highlighted that it would not condone any of its members found to be using sexist images or slogans and condemned any discriminatory behaviour.
When the issue is highlighted online or on social media there never seems to be an end of commentators who throw in ‘it doesn’t hurt anyone’, ‘it’s just a bit of fun’, ‘PC gone mad’, or ‘it’s only a silly name on a pump clip’. Is it? Really? Is it PC gone mad that staff are judged on gender rather ability? That staff are abused because of gender? I don’t think so.
So why is Sexism bad for business?
Prior to the discussion I asked many of my well trained female staff, including my female managers (5 out of 6), as to what level of abuse they received and how often. Every single one of them had examples of the discrimination they faced almost every week ranging from men asking to be served by a man that knows about the beer, their knowledge being dismissed as they were women, to downright disgusting sexual remarks. This is not right, it is putting people off coming into the trade, it is making good staff leave the trade and one of the many reasons sexism is bad for business.
Beer, in the time I have worked in the industry (a long time!), has generally been a boys club. Men drink beer with a small white wine or fruit based drink for the lady, as the joke goes. Men were the brewers & sales reps, whilst the girls were in the office, big brands aimed solely at the men and joked that a bottle of sherry was overdoing it for the Sheilas. This lazy stereotyping and marketing does nothing for either beer or the pub trade and will only hasten its demise. It doesn’t make the pub welcoming or inclusive – it puts off more than just the 50% of the female population. Not appealing to over half of your possible customer base is definitely bad for business.
So what are we going to do about?
Pubs have a duty to be inclusive, train their staff well and understand their customers. We have to challenge up the supply chain to brewers or organisations if behaviour by their staff or the marketing is not acceptable or discriminatory in any way. We have to look after our staff and challenge customers who are happy to be discriminatory or worse to our staff, that behaviour cannot be accepted. We also have responsibility to promote positive behaviour and highlight the good that is done. It is a problem, just because the majority of people haven’t encountered it much in their life doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, without action it will continue or get worse.
It is a subject that needs tackling and talking about as it not going to improve in silence. The stance of CAMRA has changed and this can only be for the better, but it has to go further, be part of the revitalisation project and address every single incident that is done in the name of CAMRA. Other trade bodies should also make a stand and a statement because sexism is clearly bad for business. Our business, my trade, can only improve by being a welcoming and inclusive industry for all.
I can’t speak for brewers about their branding or marketing decisions but just a note to them: five of the six people that make beer purchasing decisions for us are female, over 60% of our staff are female and our pubs are inclusive to all so the chances of selling us beer with rude, crude or sexist pump clips is zero and I’d say that’s bad for their business.