Friday, May 28, 2010

Why won't they brew strong?

"Why is it "traditional" English breweries won't brew anything stronger than 4.8%", it has been tweeted.

Taking a random selection of "trad" brewers -

Adnams: there's a couple of strong seasonals, currently "May Day" 5.0% ABV.

Cains: "FA" 5.0% ABV

Fullers: "ESB" 5.5% ABV

Hook Norton: "Haymaker" 5.0% ABV

Jennings: "Snecklifter" 5.1% ABV

Marstons: "Old Empire" 5.7% ABV

Shepherd Neame: "Bishops Finger" 5.4% ABV (bottle)

Thwaite's: "Double Century" 5.2% ABV (bottle)

Right, that's that canard shot and stuffed.

FWIW, we always have at least one stronger beer on. And, in fact, most proper brewers have (at least in bottle) a strong beer in their line-up, as well as their session beers.

I was talking with a local publican the other day - it's part of the job. He tells me that he has customers who come in straight from work at 4 or 5 pm, and drink 'til closing time (at least, I should think). Now I know this is a terribly déclassé drinking style, and must seem very strange to all you jaded urban sophisticates out there, but that's what happens in some pubs.

Anyway, he goes on to explain that this means that he takes 30 quid off them in a night, they have a lovely evening talking shite with their mates, and everyone is happy.

Furthermore, he points out, if he could get them to start on lovely 6.5% super-hoppy lovingly hand-crafted and challenging - whatever, they'd tilt after 3 or 4 pints. He'd take, at most, a tenner off them ('cos he's not going to charge a tenner a pint, is he?), and he'll turn his beer over at rate that would lead to wastage.

How do you like them apples?


Velky Al said...

I often wonder what business sense many of the hop and booze heads actually have - pubs need to make a living by providing the kind of beer most people want to drink, and most people aren't bothered about IBUs, ABV and any other acronym that gets banded about, all they care about is tasty beer with their mates in a pleasant environment, and I know which group of people I would rather hang out with.

StringersBeer said...

Indeed. Of course there's nothing wrong with strong beers, it's just that the volume will always be session beers (I hope). It's no real surprise that while in the US there's a positive, educated movement supporting session beers - like for example - here some of the twitterati just don't seem to get it. Yet.

Velky Al said...

You do get the sense sometimes that the British and US beer scenes are constantly chasing each others tails, with American's starting to discover the delights of mild and best, while the Brits are going nuts over very hoppy American IPAs.

StringersBeer said...

P.S. Of course they need a pro-session campaign more than we do (yet). Great graphs here.

Tandleman said...

Couldn't agree with the sentiment more. Unless you brew for the majority, you aren't likely to make any dosh.

HardKnott Dave said...

I'd pay £10 a pint if it were good.

I was in a pub the other day and bought a Rochefort 10. The licensee apologised about it being £5 a bottle. It's flippin' 11.3% for goodness sake, a bottle has the same alcohol in it as several pints. I think it was damn good value and probably the equivalent of £10 a pint.

StringersBeer said...

Dave, I'm sure you would pay a tenner for something that's worth it. And there's fair few people who'd be with you. I just don't think there's enough of them living in (insert name of west cumbrian village) for it to be a viable business model for a "valuable community resource".

It's not so much about the total amount of alcohol consumed, as about a drinking style and the rate of liquid intake that people are used to. If you've learned your drinking at about 4%, you'll peak early if you go much higher even though you might end up with a total alcohol burden rather lower.

I'm not saying it's a good, or even healthy, drinking style, I'm just observing that it exists. Widely.

I'd be happy to sell a smaller volume of more expensive beer, but the £3 pint takes some getting used to (and not 'round here yet) - we'll have to wait a while before there's a volume market for howeverso delicious beer at more than £5 a pop.

So then, the high price, high value beers are going to be in small pack, at relatively small volumes. We'll be competing in a different crowded market against Rochefort rather than just against the other bloke in the other shed. Good luck to us all.

BeerReviewsAndy said...

Fair play, when you put it like that it's hard to argue from a business sense.

I did forget about a couple of great beers, Adnams innovation for one!!

The tweet should have probably been worded differently but to put it in context I was having a discussion with some guys in a brewery and i thought it would be interesting to see what twitter had to say.

It's not always down to strength (some strong beers are terrible) but it seems that people are scared to experiment with bigger, bolder, stronger beers the problem is that it can lead to a huge range of beers that are pretty similar and not exciting for regular drinkers.

on the other hand there are some brewers that are trying to make different flavoured beers and fuller flavoured lower ABV beers, producing a wide range of flavours and styles which makes more a much more interesting session in the pub.

don't get me wrong a lot of my favourite beers at "session" beers and i too hope they stick around but it would be nice to have the range of great real/craft ales that other countries have.

StringersBeer said...

Mr BeerReviews: I didn't identify my source - cos I wasn't intending to single you out! We've all had a wave of tiredness sweep over us when we've seen the line-up of almost identical session beers staring at us on the bar. I should think.

There are lots of great beers made at all kinds of strengths by some great british brewers - I agree that it's a shame we don't often see some of them. Brewers will make what they can sell and you can't blame them for that. Landlords will buy what they can sell, many people will only drink the kind of thing they're used to.

No one ought to be blamed for the way things are - things change slowly, but if that means we end up with the beer-educated drinking lovely bottles at home, the mass market drinking "lout" at home and the pubs shutting - then we'll have to blame someone. Maybe we should blame people like me - for not being brave enough.

BeerReviewsAndy said...

feel free to single me out any time you want, Dave usually does ;op

it's all part of the fun and learning experience..

by the way do you fancy filling in our meet the brewer questionnaire?