Friday, 13 March 2009

Excellent Rant


It appears that Marston's Beer Company's MD Stephen Oliver has got a bit of chilli under his foreskin. It's made him shirty. In the Morning Advertiser, he has a right go at everyone. CAMRA are a lot of "beardy weirdies" - no prize for originality then- and slightly better - a set of "gobby hobbitts". Warming to his theme, we become "sandal-clad, whisker-stroking stormtroopers".

Showing no mercy Ollie also blasts his own licensees who it seems are an ungrateful bunch of bastards, not that he used these exact words. Why? The ingrates seemingly want to be able to sell beers from outside Marston's 5 breweries and their 35 permanent and 53 occasional ales. What a shower of shits! SIBA don't escape either, with a swipe at their not chipping in to pay for Cask Ale Week. He also has a neat little pop at small brewers saying their beers are "eclectic pints brewed in a cupboard with the dubious benefit of progressive beer duty." They are also "oddballs down a country lane" whose beer is served with bits in it.

It seems "normal" people should start to drink Marstons Beer and be grateful for it. Presumably he means if you don't like their beers, you aren't "normal". Now I love a good rant as much as the next man and no doubt Ollie's words will strike a chord with some, but the underlying message seems to be "after all we've done for you, why don't you like our beer you gits?".

Most people reading his outpourings will work that answer out for themselves, though I can see why he's miffed. After all they kindly took over some nice breweries, kept them going and made their ale more widely available. They could have been like Greene King and shut the lot down. It may well be a point. Why then is everyone so bloody unappreciative of their efforts?

There must be more to this than meets the eye. Why is Ollie so rattled?

Read the MA Article here.

15 comments:

The Beer Nut said...

In my (very limited) experience, that's pretty much what English brewers think of CAMRA.

And Mr Oliver or his copy editor seems not to know the difference between "aware" and "wary".

Tandleman said...

BN - Most don't think that and I have met quite a few. They are aware as a fact that CAMRA members drink their beer day in day out. I drink more mainstream beer (OK Lees beer) by far than eclectic mixes. Most CAMRA members are the same and most brewers know that.

Woolpack Dave said...

I think most brewers are just being polite to you Tandleman. Secretly they think the same as Mr Oliver. But they do know CAMRA members drink their beer day in day out and so need to keep quiet.

But then I'm a beardy weirdy gobby hobbit and proud of it. (I love second breakfasts) I rarely wear sandals but have been known to have bouts of whisker stroking. I am one of them oddballs down a country lane brewing eclectic pints although I do try to avoid any bits in the beer I serve.

I suspect, however, all of that aside, Marsdons are looking to close something, perhaps.

Tandleman said...

Dave

"I think most brewers are just being polite to you Tandleman. Secretly they think the same as Mr Oliver. But they do know CAMRA members drink their beer day in day out and so need to keep quiet."

So having agreed that, what would they have against us or do you just think I came up the Clyde on a bike that I am so easily fooled?

Closure. Hmm. Possibly.

Rednev said...

Between the stereotyping and seething anger in that article, there are one or two points that are worth making, but are lost in sheer bile. It is true that there are bearded, sandal-wearing real ale bigots in CAMRA (and also some who aren't in CAMRA), but to suggest they are typical of all CAMRA members is like saying football hooligans are representative of all football supporters.

As for Mr Oliver’s comment about “a name like Knackered Old Cripplecock”, I find I am put off trying beers with stupid names, partly because sexually charged and/or sexist names may well be offensive to the person I am ordering the beer from. In less extreme cases, I might use the brewery’s name. Names like “Top Totty” are there to appeal to laddish elements, and puts real ale in the category of “toys for the boys.” Such names won’t get women trying real ale. I also think his point about SIBA not supporting cask ale week financially is a valid one.

Why is Mr Oliver so angry? Probably because his company isn’t getting the adulation he thinks it deserves. In my opinion, that is because Marston’s flagship ale Pedigree, once a wonderful beer, is usually now no more than acceptable. Whether that is because it is worse than it used to be, or the competition is so much better, I’m not sure. But Mr Oliver is running a capitalist company in a capitalist society; surely he knows the meaning of the word competition, and should get on competing, rather than whingeing at the vicissitudes of this cruel world.

Woolpack Dave said...

What I think they have against us is that we might complain when they try to shut down some brewing capacity. Yes that means I agree the Campain has an effect. Is that effect good? often yes, sometimes no, in my view.

And against the likes of me, the eclectic brewer? Because we are a real threat to their success.

You might guess I don't care if they close one or two breweries, an increase of cupboard breweries will result in collateral damage at the top end.

Curmudgeon said...

It must be admitted that there is a tendency amongst some CAMRA members (and others such as Gazza Prescott) to look down their noses at any beer that isn't produced in a cupboard. That is fine if they are happy just to be enthusiasts for obscure, small-batch brews, but if you want real ale to be widely enjoyed by the general drinking population you have to accept most of it will be produced on an industrial scale.

The Woolpack Inns of this world are no threat to Marston's, but the likes of Black Sheep and Copper Dragon may well be. But, as RedNev said, the only way to respond to that is by competing rather than whingeing.

Woolpack Dave said...

Curmudgeon,

"The Woolpack Inns of this world are no threat to Marston's,"

Possibly not individually, but collectively in Cumbria I think we are. I'll get some numbers together soon, just to prove the point. I suspect the total combined output of Cumbrian micro breweries is possibly greater than Black Sheep. The Black Sheep rep last time he was here was positively scathing about Cumbrian micro's - again, scared.

However, your point about the need for bigger breweries being needed to get real ale widely available is true.

Gazza Prescott said...

"It must be admitted that there is a tendency amongst some CAMRA members (and others such as Gazza Prescott) to look down their noses at any beer that isn't produced in a cupboard. That is fine if they are happy just to be enthusiasts for obscure, small-batch brews, but if you want real ale to be widely enjoyed by the general drinking population you have to accept most of it will be produced on an industrial scale"

This was tried and it's failed - the regionals, remember them? Most of them closed because they couldn't sell their bland swill to their ever-decreasing band of regular customers so took the money while they could. Micros, on the other hand, can brew small batches of interesting beers, can respond to market demand, and brew beers which the new breed of cask ale drinker WANTS TO DRINK. Go into a Robbies pub and see the sad gits sipping their bland bitter then, for example, go into the Crown and see drinkers enthusiastically supping all manner of rare/small run beers. The future has come, large brewers are history and the micros are the saviour of cask ale.

Also, I'm honoured to get a name check, thanks for that - didn't know I was so influential!!

Bailey said...

Isn't Roger Protz quite chummy with Marston's? Consulting on their recipes and all sorts? I wonder what he thinks to all this.

Rednev said...

Woolpack Dave: you referred to the 'Campain' ~ were you making a subtle point here?

John Clarke said...

Having come a little late to this discussion, I really do want to take issue with Beer Nut and Dave Bailey.

I, too, have had dealings with local brewers large and small for many years now (rather more than Nut has had, and I think perhaps more than Dave) and I know they don't share Oliver's views. They know that CAMRA is a broad church and while it does indeed contain its fair share of nutters, they also know that most of us are sensible and level headed.

I have had too many clearly felt expressions of thanks and appreciation from a variety of brewers and brewery owners to give the lie to Nut's and Dave's views on this. Or are they saying that most of the UK brewers are hypocrites and liars? Dave is in fact a brewer - what are his views on CAMRA, I wonder? I have just been reading What Ales (the very excellent magazine of West Cumbria CAMRA) - Dave seeemed happy enough to accept a Pub of the Season Award from CAMRA. Hypocrisy - or is he one of the apparently few brewers (if he and Nut are to believed) who hold CAMRA in a reasonable regard?

Paul Garrard said...

Bugger, makes me seem very tame!

How to win friends and influence people?
Don't think that hate and resentment are useful marketing traits.

I'm afraid I too have had discussions with small brewers who hold CAMRA in great contempt - I'm sure that often they are being polite.

Woolpack Dave said...

Rednev, no, I make no subtle point here. The Campaign is what CAMRA does.

John C, It is perhaps difficult for me to respond without making things worse, so perhaps I shouldn't. Of course I'm grateful to CAMRA for POTS and with or without that I would still hold CAMRA in reasonable regard.

CAMRA is a consumer group. Perhaps by nature the industry is going to have a problem with it's Campaign as it will attack the fundamentals of making a living from ale.

Tandleman said...

"Perhaps by nature the industry is going to have a problem with it's Campaign as it will attack the fundamentals of making a living from ale"

Not so sure about that other than as a scapegoat. It is very easy to have a go at beardy weirdies without looking to put your own house in order. Medium sized brewers need to buck up as Gazza says. Tasteless brown liquids and in house guests that are thinly disguised tweaks of the main brews just don't cut it any more. They are in a classic squeeze. Many need to wake up to this. It isn't just variety that people want, but at least now and then, something different, but these brewers are often just too scared to do that.

Shouldn't Marstons have wondered why the beers brewed by foreign brewers at THEIR breweries topped the JDW polls at their beer fests? Because they were interesting and different I'd guess. The lessons are out there, but if they won't be learned...

Nothing at all wrong with good cooking bitter, but for God's sake, do something special with the specials!