Monday, 23 February 2009

We Forgot We Were Brewers!

Speaking to Scotland on Sunday, Scottish and Newcastle's boss Jeremy Blood (who has been with them since 1988) said about the takeover by Heineken " S&N had become a deeply unpopular company among mainstream beer drinkers. In a sense Heineken has changed all that. There is some truth to say that British plcs chasing the next six months' results are forced into taking shorter-term decisions. We lost some of our reverence for beer, we cut corners. It (the takeover] has reinvigorated our passion for beer. We used to call them manufacturing sites. Now we call them breweries or cider mills. It's a small change, but it is significant."

Don't worry though, Heineken have sorted it all out already. Interestingly, "premiumisation" is the answer. In other words we are drinking less, so charge more for it. Oh and serve it in smaller measures. Blood also wants to move away from beer being sold like beans in supermarkets by "decommoditising" it over the next ten years. He also thinks lager might be better served in different draught sizes and smaller, more elaborate glasses with a large head, as our tendency to drink pints does not allow for much difference in price between lower and higher end products. It would have been good if he'd mentioned such things as quality, individuality and taste, but I suppose that would be too much to ask.

While it is nice that S&N are thinking like brewers again, it is a pity they didn't think more like brewers when they actually were .


Anonymous said...

God Help Us.
Brew good beer and they will drink.


Zak Avery said...

That's uncanny - last week I filed a column for Off Licence News saying the same sort of thing, wondering why the big brewers don't produce slightly less, better quality beer.

My thought is that it would raise quality and add a genuine premium, whereas of course what will really happen is that the giants will just act like OPEC and control price via supply. But maybe that's what the market needs?

Neville Grundy said...

First we had bankers confessing their mistakes and now brewers; when will it end? More importantly, do any of them actually mean it?

Anonymous said...

Hear, hear, Tandleman

Jeff Rosenmeier said...

Funny you should write about S&N...

The production manager of the soon to close S&N Berkshire Brewery lives in the area and is a customer of mine. They are slowly decommissioning this 1970s build brewery and he offered us a go round to scavenge for stainless and see how it's done at that scale - which we did this morning.

I will some day do a proper story for my forthcoming blog, but there are a couple things that stuck with me after the visit...Tom, if you are listening, thanks for the tour, I'm sorry, but...

What words describe it: Faceless -not even a sign off the A road that would alert you to its existence. Soulless - the brewing is reduced to an exercise in chemical engineering, efficiency and head count reduction. The last thing that really hit home was the machine kicking out slabs of Fosters at a dizzying pace (1000 tins/min). I'm ashamed to admit that so many people in this country drink this stuff.

Anyway, I got loads of good info and everyone there was great to us, might have even found some tanks...hope the pictures of me driving the old school (think 70's nuclear reactor control panel) brewhouse controls turned out. ;-)

Barm said...

If this change of heart were genuine, which I don't believe for a minute, you'd think the eye-opener would have come before now.

Possibly, at the point a couple of years ago when S&N decided to stop brewing cask McEwan's 80/–, one of the last remaining examples of the beers that made the company famous in the first place.

This story becomes even more grotesque: the Athletic Arms in Edinburgh, which had sold more 80/- than any other pub, sourced a replacement 80/– from the local Stewart's microbrewery. S&N turned round and told the pub they couldn't sell it. This decision was only reversed after massive protests from cutomers and the press.

If they have a reinvigorated passion for beer, how about brewing some cask ale? No? Thought not.

Anonymous said...

I think the micro breweries can look forward to some golden years. The big players are watering doen their lagers to 4.0% and calling them premium - hardly a sustainable business plan.

And they are approaching the bloggers, too, one promotional guy has even offered so send review samples of the weaker Stella for me to review here in Norway. If he had bothered to read just a few posts on my blog he would not have bothered!