Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Short Date Beer

Mudgie has published a link to a highly dubious account of so called goings on at CAMRA in Cornwall. Like most of these rants, it is full of drivel about what the writer hears and assumes and various other things like that, not what he knows, can verify, or can quote.   In a response, RedNev has demolished him in a few sentences.  Of course it is highly entertaining - even I find it so - to read about these CAMRA branches that are run as secret societies, where everything is done behind the scenes, in (formerly smoke filled) rooms, with nods and winks.  Everyone with half an ounce of brains knows this is simply not so.

Anyway, I digress.  What I did note within the fairy tale, was that hoary old fable about JD Wetherspoon only buying short date beer.  This has so much credence among the gullible, that when interviewed by Roger Protz , Chairman Tim Martin felt obliged to deny it without Roger even asking. He pointed out that they make a lot less on each cask sold, but simply sell a lot more casks. Pile it high and sell it cheap still works. 

Going back to short dated beer, I wonder about this. Now of course, like milk in a supermarket, some is likely to be nearer its sell by date than others, but unlike milk, it isn't so likely to go off. To me, buying beer that is short dated would be tricky.  How would one set about such a task. Ring up a brewer and say "Keep me some beer back that you can't sell and I'll buy it at a discount." Would that work if you have 800 or so high turnover pubs?  I kind of doubt it.  Would it work if you had one pub?  I kind of doubt it too.  In fact, clearly if you think about it, the idea you could run a business like that is plain bonkers.

I've looked after thousands of casks of beer in my time and yes, I have had the odd short dated cask and the odd one that has clearly had the label removed or changed.  What I do and no doubt most, if not all cellarmen do, is keep a very careful eye on it and if it turns out remotely dodgy, it goes back for a refund.

CAMRA and JDW. Fellow travellers in the sleight of hand? Hardly.

Incidentally Tim Martin also says about minimum pricing: “It’s not tackling the problem. Supermarkets would continue to undermine beer in pubs. There’s not a snowball’s chance of minimum pricing benefiting pub customers."  Too true Timbo.


Bailey said...

Interesting. We've heard this rumour before (from a brewer, but secondhand) but didn't realise it was widespread. Would want a bit more evidence before repeating it ourselves or giving it any credit, though. Rumours is rumours.

Tandleman said...

So would he be a seller and referring to JDW?

Bailey said...

Not sure. Either that or perhaps sour grapes because they *weren't* buying his (mediocre) beer.

Alan said...

Is there ever a benefit? We have dark ale here in Ontario, sort of a 5% mild generally, that when left too long gets a really pleasant tang that I am sure many would label as "off".

Also, there is the pleasant moment when one sees a beer over 8% placed on discount for the best before date being in the past. Usually bottled, admitted, but rare old casks or kegs can benefit from neglect.

Cooking Lager said...

For company of Spoons size there would have to be a lot of short date beer about.

More logical is dodgy brewers supplying short date beer to what they may see as "mug" punters or less experienced purchasers. Like volunteer run beer festivals. Any experience of that?

Curmudgeon said...

It is perhaps more credible in the context of some struggling free houses ringing up brewers to ask if they have anything they're prepared to sell at a discount. I've certainly had beer that tasted "short-dated" ;-)

I did point out on the thread in question that the story about JDW selling short-dated beer doesn't really stand up - and, of course, most of their draught beer sales are lager, where it is irrelevant.

Zak Avery said...

Speaking to a mid-sized medal winning Yorkshire brewer (from a mid-sized medal winning Yorkshire brewery) recently, he observed that while he had never sold short-dated beer to Spoons, it had taken so long to work its way through the distribution chain that it was almost certainly short-dated by the time it reached the pumps.

I've made absolutely no effort to verify this, mind, but as ever, the story is rarely as simple as it first seems.

Barm said...

I have had the tale denied by a brewer who does sell to Spoons. It's nonsense.

Paul, Outstanding said...

We have sold to JDW in the past. In our experience the rumour is nonsense. Wouldn't have thought brewers or JDW would want to damage their reputations by selling risky beer.

Birkonian said...

I know one pub that takes a lot of short dated beer on the cheap and I also know of short dated beer being hawked around pubs for cash.

Tandleman said...

Birko: Ah. But you live on Merseyside! Seriously. Who is doing the hawking though?

Stono said...

look I dont want to attempt to wrap one rumour around with another half remembered rumour as then were back firmly in Kernow territory :)

but when JDW started selling GK IPA for 99p a pint, which GK werent terribly impressed with IIRC, wasnt the assumption alot of people made that to sell it at that price as it still included a chunk of tax, it had to be short dated beer and was thus sold cheaply to shift it quickly enough before it went off.

though its easy to challenge that because I mean where do you find such vast quantities of something like GK IPA short dated, to sell nationwide like that for several weeks at a time, it must be from the secret brewery that the secret Camra groups meet at for the secret GBG meetings :)

but its been that kind of assumption building around JDW, ie landlords or pub chains looking at JDW thinking we cant sell beer at their price so they must be doing something that were not etc etc, which has sort of kept fuelling those short dated beer rumours around JDW.

I certainly dont believe JDW buy short dated beer to sell,though I might well believe distribution sometimes can introduce a delay.

Maxwell Power said...

I was in a student house where we set a chiller up with a keg system and bought short dated kegs of Kronenbourg. Please don't judge us, we were young. It suited our requirements at the time.

Surely the amount of beer JDW goes through nowadays, does it matter if it's short dated?

Is the beer bought centrally or do local managers have a say in purchasing?

Anonymous said...

JDW have strict rules about the minimum days a beer can have left on it before they accept delivery, can't remember what it is off the top of my head but trust me you wont be getting out of date beer.

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