I’ve been away from the blog for a week now, due to a rather pressing family matter that I’ve had to deal with. I won’t elaborate further, at present, but it wasn’t an event that was totally unexpected. All will be revealed in due course, but for the time being I just want to take a step back and reflect on some of the things that have been going on during my absence, especially those affecting the world of beer and brewing.
How utterly absurd! Has no-one in government given a thought to how cold it is outside? It’s certainly not relaxing in a beer garden type of weather. Have they also not thought that if people really wished to meet up and consume alcohol in this fashion, they could pick up a few tinnies or the odd bottle or two from their local supermarket?
Let’s move on to another story, and one that is a particularly sad one. It concerns Cardiff based brewer, SA Brain, who are/were the largest independent brewer in Wales. The company has been particularly hard hit by Covid-19, and had already leased its 156, mainly wet-led pubs, to national brewer, Marston’s. Now it looks like Marston’s will be supplying beer to the Brain’s tied estate once pubs are eventually allowed to reopen. This has raised a large question mark over the future of Brain’s own brewery; a state-of-the-art facility that only commenced production in 2019.
Veteran blogger and CAMRA activist Tandleman, has written an extensive and informative article about the problems that Brain’s are facing, and you can read it in full by clicking the link above. I posted my own comments on TM’s post and apart from the obvious condolences over what is happening in Welsh brewing, I picked up on a point made by the author, that I want to elaborate on further.
They find it increasingly hard to compete in a market dominated by large national and multi-national brewing concerns but are also coming under pressure from many of the much more recently established brewers – the proverbial “man in a shed brewers” mentioned above.
As is often the case with well-intended legislation (some might call it interference), it was some of the long-established family-owned brewers who started feeling the pinch. Unable to compete with the discounts offered by the national and multi-national chains and finding themselves undercut by many of the micros (due to lower duty costs), many family-owned concerns found themselves caught between a rock and a hard place. Talk about the law of unintended consequences!
I’ve come across this myself, and have fallen foul of some of the younger, and more radical members of the local CAMRA branch. A small, but significant number of these more fanatical members have been calling for a boycott of established family brewers such as Adnams, Badger, Harvey’s and Timothy Taylor's, because of their support for a levelling up of beer duty.Although I’m no longer a CAMRA member, I have pointed out that CAMRA exists to promote and encourage ALL brewers of Real Ale, regardless of size, quality or provenance, so such behaviour is counterproductive.
I’ve also reminded the individuals concerned that, back in 2019, they were willing enough to participate in a tour of Harvey’s, drink the copious amounts of free beer provided, and partake of the excellent buffet that the brewery laid on for us. Now they describe the brewery as “evil,” talk about hypocrisy.
This type of behaviour really annoys me and deserves calling
out, but I know I am not alone in noticing an increasing snobbery creeping into
CAMRA circles. Well respected brewers who kept the flag flying for cask ale during the
dark days of the 1970’s, are now being shunned and even disparaged in favour of the
newer concerns, with their hop-led and heavily citrus-infused “more exciting”
ranges of beers.
This news is hardly surprising as cask ale and pubs are inexorably intertwined, but it’s not all bad as the Keighley-based brewery will continue to brew bottled beer to support the retail side of the business, which includes their own online shop. The majority of the brewery’s workforce will be furloughed during this period, with only key members of the team working part-time to keep the business active.
So, here we have a medium sized brewery that’s doing what it takes to keep itself afloat during these unprecedented times. Would you describe them as “evil?” I know I wouldn’t.