Freeminer stars in Fairtrade Fortnight
The Co-operative supermarket group is highlighting the wider availability of its certified Fairtrade bottled beer range brewed by Freeminer during Fairtrade Fortnight (22 Feb-7 March) with a generous price promotion across the range.
The Co-op now owns Somerfield, which means its range of Freeminer-brewed beers will be available in around 450 new outlets across the country, given them greater access to beer drinkers. Both the Co-op Fairtrade Bumble Bee Honey Ale (4.6%) and Organic Premium Ale (5%) are available at a discount during Fairtrade Fortnight.
Organic Premium Ale is the first-ever nationally-listed beer to be both Fairtrade and organic. The brewery, based in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, uses floor-malted barley and traditional organic hops from Germany. They are blended with Fairtrade Demerara sugar. Bumble Bee Ale is the biggest-selling Fairtrade beer in Britain and uses honey from Fairtrade producers in Chile.
Freedom enters the 4% lager sector
Freedom Brewery in Abbots Bromley, Staffordshire, has entered the growing 4% lager sector with a new beer of that strength. The lager-only brewery, run by Ed and Susan Mayman, brews Organic Lager,Organic Dark Lager and Pilsener. The 4% sector was kick-started a few years ago by Beck's of Hamburg and has been followed by Stella Artois and other major lager brewers.
The Freedom 4% has a fine toasted malt aroma, with sweet malt, spicy hops and light citrus fruit in the mouth, and a dry and hoppy finish. By mainstream lager standards, it's a bitter beer.
The beer is currently only available on draught -- there are no immediate plans to bottle it. See www.freedomlager.com.
CAMRA appoints Scot as national chairman
Colin Valentine from Edinburgh is to be the first Scottish national chairman of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). He will take over the reins in April at the campaign's annual meeting in the Isle of Man as current chairman Paula Waters steps down after six years in the post. Valentine is currently CAMRA's vice-chairman and has also been Scottish organiser.
Local brewers chalk up success
22 February:-More than one million hectolitres brewed for the first time, sales growth of close to 4% in a year of deep recession, increased on-trade listings despite record pub closures and investment in the equipment, staff and technology for brewery expansion are all highlighted in the annual Local Brewing Industry Report published today by the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA).
While the overall UK beer market declined by 4.2% last year, the local brewing sector achieved an impressive 3.75% increase in volume sales. Threequarters of all local brewers recorded volume growth in 2009 and on average they achieved a 17% increase in turnover. And the number of pubs sourcing local beers through SIBA'S Direct Delivery Scheme (DDS) grew by 12% -- a reflection of local cask ale's unique ability to help pubs weather the recessionary storm.
SIBA's chief executive Julian Grocock said: "More than 60% of our members were founded after 2000, so the current recession is the most severe they have traded through. That the vast majority managed a sales uplift last year and are anticipating the same in 2010 speaks volumes about the resilience and resorcefulness of the UK's quality independent brewers."
This year's report from SIBA contains the organisation's pre-election manifesto, which highlights the current government's "schizophrenic" approach to the local brewing industry. The list leads with a call for a commitment to retain Progressive Beer Duty (PBD), introduced in 2002, and is followed by a series of other fiscal strategies such as cancelling the beer duty escalator, freezing beer duty and considering lower duty rates for lower-strength beers.
Julian Grocock says: "The government's support for PBD is welcomed and has helped the formation and growth of many smaller brewers, whom it claims to support. Yet, with its punitive taxation policies, which have meant a 20% rise in beer duty over the past two years, it appears set on destroying them.
"We urge, whoever is elected in May, to take a fresh look at the local brewing industry. Cask ale -- which accounts for more than 80% of SIBA members' output -- is a relatively low alcohol drink, served in the controlled environment of a pub where drinking is part of a social occasion, rather than an end in itself. As such, we deserve to be treated as part of the solution to alcohol-related harm, rather than being part of the problem."
The Local Brewing Industry Report says brewers continue to use PBD to build their businesses by adding capacity, buying new equipment and marketing their beers, while a sizeable minority also state an ambition to buy a pub during 2010.
SIBA members demonstrate exceptional green credentials. Some 80% are committed to reducing their energy use, more than half are looking at ways to reduce their packaging and "food miles", and a similar number source ingredients locally. Sixteen per cent either alerady brew organic beer or plan to do so.
*SIBA celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.
BBC boost for Guinness
I learn from the BBC that David Cameron, leader of the Tory Party, likes a game of darts down the pub with a pint of Guinness. Clearly "Bullingdon Dave" needs to attract support from the drinking classes but I find it curious that the publicly-funded BBC, which doesn't carry advertising, has given a free plug for the Irish stout.
It's not usually so generous. A few weeks ago, the BBC1 Country File programme featured "a brewery in Oxfordshire". The presenter said it was his local brewery and showed the magnificent Victorian buildings, complete with steam engine and traditional brewing vessels, along with horse-drawn drays delivering the beer. But the brewery wasn't named (it was Hook Norton).
Last year, the James May/Oz Clarke series on drinking beer, wine, whisky and anything they could get their hands on included a lengthy piece on a CAMRA beer festival. Except there was no mention of CAMRA. The organisers told me the production company that produed the series for the BBC told them to take down all brewery logos from the tents and even the CAMRA logo because "BBC guidelines say you cannot promote commercial organisations". Yet CAMRA is a consumer organisation, not a commercial company.
But when it comes to Guinness, the BBC has no such inhibitions. It was good to know, as a licence payer, that Cameron likes to play arrers down the rub-a-dub with a glass of Barmaid's Pout.
Worth missing a train for...
I'm a bit of a Johnny-cum-lately where the Sheffield Tap is concerned -- see Pete Brown's Blog on the subject -- but I had half an hour to wait at Sheffield railway station for a train to Wombwell (home of Acorn Brewery -- more anon) so I naturally gravitated to Platform One for the recently opened bar in the former First Class Refreshment Rooms.
The spacious bar is a wonderfully ornate blend of tiles, hanging globe lights and wooden settles. The servery is immense, running almost the length of the room, with a massive bank of keg founts that serve tempting beers from around the world, including Bernard lagers from the Czech Republic and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. But I knew the Tap is the result of co-operation between Thornbridge Brewery in Derbyshire and the specialist beer importer Pivovar (the word is Czech for beer), so I naturally headed for the Thornbridge pumps and had a delicious pint of White Swan, with hop resins dancing out of the foam and tingling the nostrils.
The Tap is great news for travellers. It means you no longer have to leave the station and cross dangerous roads to get to the nearest pub, a shabby montrosity with badly-kept cask beer.
My watch was running one minute late and I had barely finished my pint when I saw the doors of my train starting to close. Shock news -- British train leaves on time. I managed to scramble on board but I shall return to Platform One at Sheffield station at the first opportunity.
Beer is good for your bones
Beer is a rich source of a nutrient that can help prevent weak bones -- but it depends what type you drink, researchers at the University of California, Davis, say. Beer is a rich source of dietary silicon, which can help cut the chance of developing diseases such as osteoporosis, the researchers conclude.
But not all beers are the same and those containing malted brley and hops have higher silicon content than beers made from wheat. The research, published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, examined 100 commercial beers and their production methods.
5GBP million new brewery for Badger beers
Dorset brewer Hall & Woodhouse is to invest 5GBP million in a new 21st century brewery at its existing site in Blandford St Mary. The new plant will be dedicated to brewing its range of cask and bottled Badger beers.
The beers will continue to use high-quality ingredients, including Dorset spring water that has been naturally filtered for up to a century through the Cretaceous chalk downs and drawn from the brewery's own wells. Work on the new brewery will start in October this year.
Brewery vice-chairman Mark Woodhouse said: "Hall & Woodhouse has been brewing Badger ales for more than 225 years and this excitingt development ensures we will be doing so for many more generations to come. I believe an investment of this magnitude also demonstrates our commitment to brewing and the growth of our premium bottled and cask ales."
OFT to reopen pubs inquiry
CAMRA -- the Campaign for Real Ale -- has reached an agreement with the Office of Fair Trading to stay its appeal to the Competition Appeal Tribunal challenging the OFT's initial response to the campaign's super-complaint in October 2009. CAMRA's appeal is now put on hold until 1 August this year to enable the OFT to consider further evidence of anti-competitive behaviour by the large pub-owning companies. The OFT will now conduct an open public consultation before reaching a final decision.
CAMRA's super complaint argued that anti-competitive practices are inflating beer prices in pubs by around 50 pence a pint, restricting consumer choice and leading to chronic under-investment in the nation's pubs.
The campaign's chief executive, Mike Benner, said: "We are delighted that the OFT has responded to our appeal by agreeing to conduct an open consultation and I will encourage all parties to use this opportunity to submit further evidence of anti-competitive practice. The consultation will lead to a new and final decision from the OFT."
Mike Benner added that he hoped the re-examination of the pubs market will lead to the OFT acting against anti-competitive behaviour in order to deliver a fair deal for consumers.
CAMRA's fund-raising appeal for the reform of the beer tie, which raised more than £8,000 since January, will be suspended during the consultation period. The funds will go towards CAMRA's legal fees. The campaign says it reserves the right to re-activate its appeal should it be dissatisfied with the OFT's final decision following the conultation.
Batemans toasts record sales
Proving it's not all doom and gloom in the brewing industry, Lincolnshire family brewer George Bateman & Son has reported record beer sales for 2009. Batemans saw a 5% increase in its beer trade, distributing more than 40,000 barrels through its retail estate of 65 pubs as well as supermarkets, national drinks distributors and other leading wholesalers.
Managing Director Stuart Bateman said: "I believe that one of the keys to our success is that we have better and more innovative licensess today. And our customers and suppliers tell the brewery team they like dealing with us, rather than a faceless corporate group. We have increased our training levels through both the brewery and the pubs and we believe our licensees feel very well supported. We also happen to brew great tasting beer!"
Bateman's beer are now available in 14 markets, including Australia, Brazil, Channel Islands, Cyrpus, Denmark, France, Finland, Ireland, North America, Norway, Russia, Scandinavia, South Africa and Spain. The brewery's Christmas ale, Rosey Nosey, had another bumper year in 2009, performing exceptionally well through major multiples and selected independents. All Bateman's bottled beers are vegetarian and vegan friendly.
*There's more good news further south in Suffolk, where Adnams of Southwold has announced it's to hold its beer prices for a further 12 months until the end of
2010. Following a price freeze throughout 2009, Adnams beer prices have been held for its tied and free trade customers since March 2008 -- that's excluding duty rises.
Adnams owns 74 pubs in East Anglia and London while its cask and bottled ales, including Bitter, Broadside, Explorer and East Green, are available throughout the country.