PubPaper 578 – Don’t patronise your patrons

Posted: 21st October 2010 by admin in Pub Paper, Writing

This article appeared in Issue 578 of Pubpaper

The obvious topic for this weeks column is the failure of the super complaint to the Office of Fair Trading by CAMRA regarding the tied PubCo model of trading. However I’m sure the editor of this paper will be covering the issue on the front page, so I thought I would cover another story I discovered.

Whilst looking around the internet for inspiration for this weeks column, I stumbled on the website of the trade paper “The Publican”. One of the stories on there was that Greene King were sponsoring the magazines “Beer Matters” campaign. Among the blurb accompanying this was the following line “Beer Matters includes extensive ‘How to…’ guides on improving your beer offering.”. I could sum this up in 1 sentence “Don’t buy Greene King Beer, especially the IPA”.

As I featured in my column a couple of weeks ago, if you have a bad experience with a place or product it is very hard to go back to it. The seminal moment where me and Greene King went our seperate ways was over a month of poorly kept or boring beer whilst working away in Anglia. We haven’t spoken since. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has avoided a certain beer since having a bad experience, why should we, with the choice we have today in the ale market.

Reading further into this article, I went into the guide to selling real ale. One of the things which makes a pint of real ale is that it is hand pumped in the correct manner, a badly poured pint of good ale can taste many times worse than a well poured one of the same. This brewery have now got a new high tech pump for its beer which “allows consumers to choose whether their pint is poured with a tight, creamy head characteristic of beers in the north of England, or with the looser, fizzier consistency favoured in the south”. The reason for this is “This new wave of innovation is designed to help attract more diverse consumers into ale, they get rid of the baggage”.

Thats right, apparently us existing real ale drinker are “baggage” according to a major ale brewer. But also we are marks in their guide to selling ales “Meanwhile, the typical cask drinker has a higher income than drinkers of other brands, so recruiting more of them could “bullet proof” you against the recession”. It’s like they are putting their arm around you whilst hiding the dagger up their sleeve. It shows contempt for the customer who is loyal to a quality product, by which means they are missing us as targets totally with their beer.

It’s a step change from how the small breweries think of their customers, these smaller companies do not have the luxury of being able to pump out an average beer, knowing that you have the distribution and pub network forced to buy the product for 2 of their 3 ale pumps. If a small brewer puts out a beer that the customer and landlord does not like, other providers are likely to be chosen over them in the future. I’ve had lots of poor beers from major mainstream ale brewers such as Greene King, John Smiths, Tetleys and Everards. This has never happened with smaller providers and medium sized organisations like Copper Dragon, Timothy Taylor or Black Sheep. I admit a good number were not entirely to my personal taste, but they were never poor.

Not all beer drinkers are going to consume real ale or even try mainstream ales, that is a fact, some people are just very resistant to change. As Wychwoods’ Hobgoblin (which is now owned by Marstons) marketing line says “What’s the matter, lager boy – afraid you might taste something?”. However as the figures show from CAMRA more people are trying and consuming the product on subsequent visits. Brewers who tar us in a negative way will not get our business. Those who value us will do instead.

You can find the original article here