Saturday, 29 August 2009

Tennent's Lager sold to Irish cider group

As predicted here, ABInBev, the world's biggest brewer, has disposed of Tennent's in Scotland, including the Wellpark Brewery in Glasgow and Scotland's biggest lager brand. The group's desperation to raise cash has seen Tennent's sold to the unlikely ownership of the Irish Magners cider producer, C&C, for £180 million.
The deal incldues the historic Wellpark brewery -- believed to be first British brewery to make lager in the 19th century, and the rights to Tennent's beers and assets in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.
As part of the deal, ABInBev will appoint C&C as distributor of certain brands in Scotland and Ireland. In return, C&C will grant ABInBev the right to use the Tennent's Super and Tennent's Pilsner brands in certain world-wide localities.
The sale of Tennent's at what looks a knockdown price underscores the enormous cost of the merger last year of InBev with Anheuser-Busch, brewer of American Budweiser. The group has already announced that it will close the historic Stag Brewery at Morlake in London, where Budweiser is currently brewed.

Batemans boosts sales to more than 30,000 barrels

George Bateman & Son, the family-owned brewery based in Wainfleet, Lincolnshire, has reported an 8% increase in production over the past year to just over 30,000 barrels. But increases in raw materials and beer duty led to a drop in gross margin by 7.7% to £3.1 million in the year to 31 January and profit before tax fell to £358,140 compared to £466,671 in 2008.
The company made a profit of £398,516 profit on the sale of the Lion pub in Basford, Nottingham, to sitting multiple tenant Pub People.
Managing Director Stuart Bateman said: "We've been fortunate in improved growth in all sectors. We've been static on volumes in our pubs but have seen increases in guest beer volumes. We've also made good progress in national sales as well as in the off-trade. We've had a look at the Punch pub disposals but decided there are as many good opportunities to develop our own pubs and help tenants extend their offer."
Batemans spent around £500,000 on refurbishment schemes within its tied estate during the year, Mr Bateman added. He said costs, particularly in terms of raw materials and utilites, increaaed at an unpreceendted rate, pulling down the company's gross margin. He criticised increases in beer duty: "The government's determiantion to try and control unruly behaviour attributed to alcohol consumption with the blanket application of duty increases above the rate of inflation runs the risk of reducing market consumption while having no effect on the problem."

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Beer style row erupts in New Zealand

Heineken Kiwi subsidiary angers
beer lovers over style disputes

A major row has erupted in New Zealand over decisions to trade mark two beer styles -- Radler and Saison -- by DB Breweries. DB was previously known as Dominion Breweries and is now owned by the giant Asia Pacific group, in which Heineken controls more than 40 per cent of the shares.
DB's subsidiary Monteith brews two beers, Monteith Radler and Monteith Saison, that have become the cause of anger among beer lovers. SOBA, the Society of Beer Advocates, a CAMRA-style consumer group, has raised the issue with both Monteith's and the New Zealand government's trade mark authority but DB is standing firm and is using powerful lawyers to defend its case.
DB has even forced a small organic brewery, Green Man of Dunedin, to change the name of its version of Radler as, the big brewery claims, it infringes its trade mark.
Radler was invented by an innkeeper in Austria in the 1920s to refresh thirsty cyclists. Radler means cyclist in German and the beer is a low-strength mix of lager and lemonade -- what is called shandy in Britain. DB launched its version of Radler in 2000 and trade marked the brand two years later. Its lawyers then forced Green Man to change the name of its Radler to "Green Man Cyclist". The irony of the situation is that Green Man's version is a true Radler of 2.5% while Monteith's is twice the strength at 5% and is not a true representation of the Radler style.
DB's decision to trade mark Saison is of greater concern to beer lovers. Saison is a renowned Belgian beer style. In a country where beers from the Dutch-speaking region tend to dominate, French-speaking Walloons feel Saison is their best-known contribution to the world of beer.
Saison means "season". The beer style was first brewed by farmers to refresh their families and workforce during the summer and harvest periods. Before refrigeration was developed in the 19th century, seasonal beers were brewed in the spring and stored during the summer, when temperatures were too high to allow brewing to take place. Belgian saisons are similar to the bieres de gardes -- keeping beers -- brewed over the border in French Flanders.
The renewed interest in Belgian beers in the past 20 or 30 years has brought Saisons to a wider and appreciative audience beyond Wallonia. More than a dozen Belgian brewers now produce Saison. The best-known, Dupont of Tourpes, has been brewing Saison in former farm buildings since 1844 but now cannot export to New Zealand as a result of DB's trade mark.
As SOBA has pointed out, DB has trade marked two beer styles, Radler and Saison, that the brewery did not invent.
Fortunately, big brewers have had less success in Australia, where trade mark legislation is tougher than in New Zealand. Lion Nathan, a subsidiary of Kirin of Japan, has failed in an attempt to trade mark Radler there.

Budvar's 'yeast lager' to hit London

Natural Czech beer will
brighten Bank Holiday

A rose among the thorns? Unusually, a famous London pub -- the White Horse at Parson's Green -- will include a Czech lager when it hosts a Belgian beer festival over the August Bank Holiday, 28-31 August.
Accompanying 20 Belgian cask ales will be a special version of Budweiser Budvar golden lager. It's dubbed "yeast lager" in its own country and is an unpasteurised version of the world-famous lager that is matured for 90 days in cellars beneath the brewery in Ceske Budejovice.
The beer has only a short shelf life and is sold to just 50 nominated outlets in the Czech Republic. The bars are chosen by the brewery and they have to convince Bduvar's brewing staff they have sufficient quality of cellar and dispense management to look after the beer, which has to be sold within a few dasy of kegs being broached.
According to White Horse manager Dan Fox, who struck the deal with Budvar, the south London pub has passed the brewery's test to become the first retail outlet in Britain to dispense the beer. According to Budvar Technical Director Tony Perkins, there is no mystique about installing unpasteurised beer "as long as you observe scrupulous hygiene standards and give the keg sufficient time to settle after delivery you will be fine," he says.
The initial process for yeast lager is the same as Budvar's classic original. Both beers have an ABV of 5% and are brewed in a 100-day cycle from the same natural ingredients: water from an ancient lake beneath the brewery, whole Zatec hops, Moravian barley malt and the brewery's own yeast culture active since 1895. The beers diverge when "rings" or living yeast cells are added to the lager yeast when the fermentation cycle is at its high point.
Following kegging, a further level of fermentation takes place, giving the beer its unique taste. In the glass it has a golden yellow colour. The yeast causes the beer to be non-sparkling but with a light opalescene and a compact and stable head.
*White Horse,1-3 Parson's Green, London SW6 4UL.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Panorama on the binge-drink crawl again

One-sided and distorted image
of drinking in northern town

Panorama, once the BBC's flagship, serious news programme, has an obession with binge drinking. Last night's programme (10 August) was the third one it has devoted to the subject. It featured Oldham in Greater Manchester -- or rather just one street in Oldham. The image of drunken young people behaving badly was an unappealing one but it was not true of the whole of the city. The constant refrain that "this will soon be happening in your town" was not backed by any evidence and was weakened by the admission that this type of behaviour did not happen to such an extent in neighbouring Manchester.
The street in question was packed with bars and nightclubs. There was not one single traditional pub shown. The bars and clubs competed by offering heavily discounted drinks, an activity that is not followed by most pubs.
But at least there was one step forward in this programme. For the first time, Panorama got stuck into supermarkets and admitted that it was their policy of selling massively discounted vodkas and other spirits that encouraged young people to "front load" before heading off to clubs and bars.
But in general there was no balancve to the programme. Panorama could have shown last week's Great British Beer Festival in London, attended by a record 64,000 people. There was no drunkenness, no fighting and no occasion to call the police.
But why let the truth interfere with a good distortion?

Friday, 7 August 2009

Craft brewers record sales boost

SIBA says consumers prefer local ales

Sales of local ales have risen by 11.9% over the past 12 months to the end of June, according to the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA). The group's Direct Delivery Scheme -- which takes beer straight to pubs, avoiding pub companies' depots -- has recorded a 5.8% increase over the same period. The number of pubs buying beer from SIBA members has increased by 5.7%.
Julian Grocock, SIBA's chief executive, said today (7 August): "Local ales are in growth because they satisfy consumer demand for food and drink with genuine provenance, low food miles and sustainable production.
"Despite the recession, the demand seems to be holding firm and an increasing number of pubs are realising that having at least one local ale on the bar is now a business 'need to do' rather than an optional 'nice to do'."

Save Tetley's petition launched

Call for Carlsberg to keep
open iconic Yorkshire plant

Yorkshire branches of CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, have joined forces at the Great British Beer Festival in London in a quest to save the iconic Tetley's brewery in Leeds with a petition that will be presented to brewery owner Carlsberg.
The decision to close the historic Hunslet brewing site was met by criticisn from CAMRA last November. Carlsberg was attacked for failing to promote Tetley's beer at a time of increasing consumer demand for real ale.
The petition from CAMRA's Yorkshire branches follows a resolution at the campaign's annual conference in April that called for a national campaign to save Tetley's. CAMRA's aim is to ensure that cask brands continue to be brewed in the city of Leeds, preferably at the existing Hunslet site. The petition will be presented to Carlsberg's British head office in Northampton once members of the public have had the chance to voice their concerns by signing the document.
Mick Moss, CAMRA's Yorkshire Regional Director, said: "Taking the fight to the Great British Beer Festival has been a great ploy for raising the awareness of this potential closure outside Yorkshire, with festival-goers of all ages expressing grave concern at a brewery closure that would drastically affect the community of Leeds.
"To brew Tetley's anywhere other than in Yorkshire will simply mean it's not Tetley's. This petition, we believe, will generate a groundswell of support during and after GBBF. We aim to present the petition to Carlsberg in a bid to convey the dissatisfaction of British drinkers at this potential closure.
"If Carlsberg is unable to keep brewing Tetley's in Leeds, we urge the company to offer other breweries the chance to take over the Hunslet site and keep the brands, the recipes and the traditions alive in Yorkshire."
*To sign the petition go to

American stout wows the Brits

Beer from Cambridge
wins top GBBF prize

A dark beer from Cambridge, Massachusetts has won the American Cask Beer competition at the Great British Beer Festival in London. YouEnjoyMyStout is brewed by Will Meyers in Cambridge. It's 10.5% and is an Imperial Stout aged for two years in American bourbon whiskey barrels. The stout in full-bodied with notes of caramel, treacle and espresso coffee underscored by vanilla and tannins from the wood.
The beer was judged by an internation panel of beer experts.
The runner-up was Brooklyn Brewery's India Pale Ale while third place went to Stone Brewery's Levitation Ale.
The Bieres Sans Frontieres bar at the festival this year features a record 55 American cask-conditioned beers from breweries as diverse as Stone Brewery in California, Deschutes in Oregon and Victory Brewing in Pennsylvania.
The Bieres Sans Frontieres international bar features 300 beers from around the world, including Japan.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Call to abolish tax on low-strength beer

CAMRA says move will boost
pubs and sensible drinking

The Campaign for Real Ale has called today (5 August) for low-strength draught beers to be "zero rated" for excise duty in a bid to win people back to pubs. CAMRA says that beers of 2.8% ABV or less should not be taxed in a bid to counter cheap beers sold in supermarkets.
If duty were removed, the price of low-strength draught beers would be reduced by around 60 pence a pint, the campaign claims. The consumer group is showcasing Welton's Pride 'n Joy, 2.8%, at this week's Great British Beer Festival at Earl's Court in London.
CAMRA chief executive Mike Benner, said: "Zero duty on low-strength beer is a win-win scenario for brewers, pubs and consumers. Low-strength beer can be packed with flavour -- low strength does not translate into a reduction in flavour. It also makes it easier for people to drink responsibly."
*CAMRA is celebrating reaching the milestone of 100,000 members, the highest number in its history.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Honey Dew storms to success

Organic beer breaks into Top 20

Fuller's Organic Honey Dew has broken into the elite Top 20 premium bottled beer in Britain, according to new statistics from A C Nielsen. It's one of the country's fastest-growing brands, with sales up 42%.
The 100% organic beer is now on sale in 200 Sainsbury's stores and will be further boosted by 500 poster sites. The beer is also available on draught, in keg form, in Fuller's pubs.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Craft brewers unimpressed by "beer summit"

Obama and chums do beer image
no favours in the Rose Garden

American craft brewers are angry over the choice of beers sampled in the "beer summit" hosted by President Obama in the White House Rose Garden in Washington DC last week. The event was an attempt to heal the rift between eminent Harvard professor Gates and Cambridge (Massachusetts) police sergeant Crowley: the latter arrested the black American professor for allegedly breaking into his own house.
Whether the beer summit has healed the racial divide is not for us to speculate but it has certainly caused a furore in the craft brewing movement in the U.S., a sector that now accounts for around 10% of total beer sales. Craft brewers complained bitterly that the choice of beer did not more accurately reflect the state of the brewing industry and that most of the beers came from foreign-owned companies.
According to Harry Schuhmacher, who edits the Beer Business Daily website, Professor Gates had asked for Red Stripe, the Jamaican-brewed lager owned by global drinks giant Diageo. At the last moment he was prevailed upon to switch to a Sam Adams' brew from the Boston Beer Co in his home state. Sadly, with such fine beers as Sam Adams Lager and Sam Adams Ale to choose from, he went instead for Sam Adams Light.
But at least it's an American brew. Sgt Crowley chose Blue Moon, a Hoegaarden-style spiced wheat beer that is perfectly fine save for the fact that it's owned by Molson Coors, an American-Canadian giant. The beer is believed to be brewed in Canada.
As for the president himself, how could a man of intellect and good taste choose Bud Light? Would he order jug wine for a White House banquet? Aside from the fact that America's leading beer brand is undistinguished to the point of invisibility, it's now owned by AB InBev, the world's biggest brewing group controlled by Belgians and Brazilians.
And then came the splendid walk-on role played by Vice-President Joe Biden, who arrived late and ordered Buckler, a non-alcohol beverage. He should have asked for water.
Complaints came thick and fast. "We would have hoped they would pick a family-owned, American beer to lubricate the conversation," said Sierra Nevada's Bill Manley. A spokesman for the Genesee brewery added: "We just hope the next time the president has a beer he chooses an American beer, made by American workers and an American-owned brewery."
Magic Hat's Martin Kelly said he was disappointed that an American-owned brew was not featured at the White House.
But we can draw some comfort from the fact that all the participants in the Rose Garden beer summit did drink their beers from glasses and not straight from the bottle.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Experts say cask beer ready to return to growth

Real ale only sign of sunshine
in the gloomy UK beer market

Beer statistical company AC Nielsen says in its latest Cask Ale Report that cask volumes in Britain were down by 3.3% year-on-year in 2008 but this compared to total beer sales down by 9.5%. Nielsen says cask ale now has 13.5% of the draught beer market and also accounts for 34.5% of all ale in pubs.
The report adds that 40% of pubs now stock cask beer. Nielsen adds that some regional and craft brewers are reporting a sales of growth of 20% for cask beer. The report concludes that by 2010 the cask ale sector could be back in growth.

World Beer Awards announced

International craft brewers triumph
as judges search for the best beers

The World Beer Awards, run in conjunction with Beers of the World magazine, were announced on 30 July. The judges were Roger Protz (chairman), Zak Avery, Melissa Cole, Richard Dinwoodie, Jeff Evans, Laurent Mousson, Ron Pattinson, Conrad Seidl, Adrian Tierney-Jones and Sally Toms.

The results were:

Robinson's Old Tom (8.5%): UK

Rogue Dry Hopped Red (5.3%): US

Harvey's Old Ale (3.6%) UK

Swan Lake Amber Swan Ale (5%): Japan

Waldhaus Diplom Pils (4.9%): Germany

Great Western Light(4.5%): Japan

Cruzcampo Gran Reserva (6.4%): Spain

Krusovice Cerne (3.8%) Czech Republic

Baltika No 6 Porter (7%): Russia

Minoh Beer Stout (5.5%): Japan

Meantime London Porter (6.5%): UK

Brasserie Du Bocq Blanche de Namur (4.5%): Belgium

Sam Adams Imperial White (10.3%): US

Weinhenstephaner Hefeweissbier Dunkel (5.3%): Germany

Dark Star Espresso (4.2%): UK

Rogue Smoke Ale (7%): US

Fuller's Vintage Ale 2008 (9%): UK