Monday, April 13, 2015

Key brewery staff.

You're all rabbits to us.
A misdirected press release marked "for the attention of lazy churnalists" came to our attention recently. 

"We plan to market our beers as great tasting craft beers" said PR hack Billy Bigarms, "I've been doing this kind of shit for years, talking up useless dreck, and kissing the arses of absolutely anyone who might get me ahead"

"Friends?" He laughed, "I have no friends, but I've made loads of contacts over the years. I suppose you could call me a psychopath - Don't get me wrong, I'll do a favour for anyone, anyone who can scratch my back in return!"

Billy's partner, 198-year-old virgin's blood bather and corporate vampire Trisha Alucard nodded, "There are many people who owe us favours. It's time for us to call some of those favours in. For instance, we have people who will make the beer for us, but frankly, that's a detail." 

"Brewers and consultants are ten a penny. We may buy them, or, if it amuses me, I'll turn them." 

She laughed, "No, but seriously, I have access to capital sources that most start-up businesses couldn't even dream of." She paused and the point of her tongue touched her perfect teeth for a heartbeat. 

"We will, of course, be crowdfunding, not so much for the money, but more to give the cattle an opportunity to invite us in, as it were."

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Have a pop at Jon here.

Go on, you know you want to. Comments are open. Referring to this of course. But if there's anything you'd like to get off your chest, to my face (well, virtually) go for it. It'll be good for you. "Better out than in", my Grandma always said.
new heights of passive-aggression

Saturday, January 10, 2015

What is (not "was") the difference between a stout and a porter?

Roast barley, earlier.
A while ago the mighty zythophile was able to clarify: "historically, to say roast barley is a differentiator between porter and stout is wrong".

Of course, "historically" there's a great deal of truth in that.  Naturally, it depends what you mean by "historically", but we'll let that stand. But what about non-historically? Or, as we might say, "now".
It occurred to me that I had an interesting reference staring at me from a bookshelf in the office. To wit; CAMRA's "Good Bottled Beer Guide" (Update: Jeff Evans's, I should say).  This doesn't list every stout and porter currently brewed (or even at the time of publication), and of course it's only British beers, but I feel it's an interesting selection.  What's particularly valuable is that it lists ingredients for most of the beers it covers.

How many beers are there that we can be sure the brewers are calling stouts and list their ingredients?
Let's have a quick look...
29 stouts, 21 with roast barley.
15 imperial stouts, 13 with roast barley.

And the "porters"?
23, 5 with roast barley.

There's a handful where it's hard to tell if they're being thought of as a stout or a porter. And a couple explicitly referred to as sort of hybrids (both contain roast barley, FWIW).

So let's consider the incidence of roast barley in stouts v. porters.

Imperial Stouts: 87%
Other Stouts: 72%

All stouts: 77%

Porters: 22%

So, you pick up a bottle conditioned stout, it's more than three times as likely to have been made with roast barley than a random porter.  That's to say, the majority of stouts are made with it (based on this selection), while the majority of porters exclude roast barley.

Now you might argue, as does Mr Cornell, that this distinction has no "historic validity", and you'd have a good point. You might even choose to stress that here we have "beers being called porter" rather than the true descendants of historical porters.  But you know, history tells us mostly about change. And clearly, now isn't entirely like then was.

diachronic approach to the "porter" / roast barley question?  Or a synchronic one? As someone who brews beer nowadays, it's quite clear:

What's the difference between most modern, British stouts and porters? Well for one thing, and much more often than not, the use of roast barley.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Not a list.

Best thing about this year?  The end of it. Getting through it.

Anyone who has had as bad a year (or worse) than us, cheer up.  The next one will be better.
Or not, in which case -  at least we're in practice.

I should say that business-wise, and in spite of everything, it's been an excellent year. Well done you customers.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Unique? Selling? Proposition?
News just in. Optimists trying to raise funds for a GF (only?) brewery.  Good for them, I say. I'm all for optimism.  

We all bandy around the term USP like we know what we're talking about, but let's examine this one.

UK's First Gluten Free Brewery.  Well, bless them, they wouldn't be. Of course. There's lot's of breweries making GF beer.  Ah, perhaps they mean that they would be the first brewery making nothing but GF beer.   If you ignore the tiny brewery that's already doing it.   And if they raise the funding to, you know, actually open a brewery. So, their (not quite unique) proposition is something like:

Buy our GF beer. At some point in the future we will make only GF beer. Unlike pretty much everyone else, we think.

Fine, but is this a selling proposition?  Only time will tell of course,  but I suspect most of their customers will be focusing on product rather than brand attributes.  i.e. the gluten-freeness of the beer, not the brewery. Unless, as was pointed out to me on the twitter, "even tiny contamination could be an issue".  Is that a real issue? Or is it just FUD? Or bullshit, even?

Course, nowadays the whole USP idea is old hat.  In a dynamic market, differentiating yourself by "uniqueness" is problematic. Unless you've got well-protected intellectual property what's to stop someone doing the same thing?  And if no-one does do the same thing, doesn't this imply they don't think it's much of a selling proposition?

I suppose the question becomes: Is a beer easier to sell by virtue of being made in a facility that only makes GF products?  Or is it better to have GF products as part of a wider, established portfolio?  Which plan would you lend money on?

Friday, December 05, 2014


Lots of people chucking coriander in beer at the moment. Gose(s) (Gosen?), Wits, whatever.

There's a bit of a gotcha associated with this spice.  You see, there are two main varieties. A small seeded one and the other one.  Mainly grown in tropical and sub-tropical parts, the large-seeded has low levels of the essential oils you want in brewing.

Your small-seeded variety is the temperate plant. Pretty much. This is the one you want.  Unless you can see what you're buying,  look for a country of origin that isn't, say, Morocco, India or Australia. Check a map if your geography is a bit weak. There's some good small stuff grown in the Caucasus.  Confusingly, there's a large-seeded variety grown in Canada (on the praries).  More confusingly, there's a lot of variation in the large one. If you're interested you can weigh the seeds. Simply take a thousand seeds and weigh them. You probably want this to come out less than 8g. If it's only 5g it's deffo small. And you should get a life.

You'll find you need to use much less and the aroma will be finer.

Update: There's some stuff out there on the interwebs that's saying precisely the opposite to this.  And making out that the large seeded one is better for brewing.    Hmm. Best advice? Be aware that there's more than one kind of coriander seed and decide yourself which you prefer.

You probably don't want to buy ready ground coriander.  You don't know which one you're getting (but it's almost certainly the wrong one), how much of it is twigs, grasshopper heads, etc, or how old it is.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Beer belongs

You might have noticed some of the chuntering about the recent launch of the "There's a beer for that" campaign.  I can't work out exactly what the problem that people like Matthew Curtis, Chris Hall or (for that matter) HardknottDave are having with this thing.

They seem either to be saying it won't sell more beer, or if it does, it'll be the wrong kind of beer. Allegations of being gagged by the man. There's also a hint of whining about having their brains picked while soaking up free beer at some corporately funded bloggerfest.* Which seems, well,  ungrateful. And really, really, naive.

Whatever, it's maybe a good time to have a look back at some other beer industry campaigns...

Over the last few years we've acquired a few examples of the delightfully dated "Beer belongs" thing, the famous ad campaign by the United States Brewers Foundation that ran from 1945-1956.

It's an interesting campaign, aimed (I'd say) at the newly affluent, those with home refrigerators. No sad old men drinking in crummy bars.

I was going to write at length about it, but it's been done really rather well by one in "All about Beer" magazine in Nov 2009. You can read the article here.  There's additional material by the same author here.  With lots of images. (Scroll down if you're not a reader).


* Not Dave, the other chaps.