Thursday, 24 November 2011

Family Brewers to Keep Tie

The Government ended uncertainty about the future of the tie as it pertains to the vertically integrated family brewers - that is - those family owned breweries such as Adnams, Robinsons, Bateman's Lees etc. that both  brew, and own pubs which are tied to their beer.

In a response to the House of Commons Business, Innovation and Skills Committee’s tenth report of session 2010-2012 into pub companies, the Consumer Minister Edward Davey recognised the importance of the tie to the longevity of breweries and success of tenant licensees. It is instructive to my mind at least, that "During this long enquiry, successive Select Committees received no complaints about brewery tenancies." This contrasts somewhat vividly with the complaints received about Pub Companies. Paul Wells speaking for the Independent Family Brewers of Britain (IFBB) was pleased saying (among other things) "In my view, many family brewers will now increase investment into their pubs because of the support the Government has announced for the traditional brewery tenancy agreement and the beer tie."

All well and good - and I welcome the decision - but maybe now that this uncertainty has been removed, IFBB members who have not woken up to the beer revolution around them, in addition to tarting up their pubs, can turn their attention to more vibrant brewing in this new stable environment.   It will be a hollow victory indeed if they have stability for their tenants and future business, only to see it diminished by moribund beer ranges, dull brewing and a "we know best" attitude. As the Government and commercial logic forces PubCos to concede more choice for their lessees and micros offer more and more beery options, IFBB members cannot allow themselves to fall (further) behind the curve.

The beer market is at its most volatile for years.  Innovation and experiment is all around. Beer drinkers are more and more discerning and demanding. This provides opportunity, but it also provides pitfalls. Let's see IFBB members rise to the challenge of the times.

A lot of my drinking is done in IFBB pubs, so I declare an interest. And I care about them.


Curmudgeon said...

None of the IFBB members have more than 1% of the total pubs in the country, and surely the very fact that they continue to exist, brew on their own account and sell their beers in their own pubs increases choice and diversity in the overall beer market.

Sam Smiths - who aren't even IFBB members - commit all the sins you relate, yet offer some of the most characterful, congenial, thriving, good-value pubs around. It might be a bad thing if there were 3,000 Sam's pubs, but the 300-odd that exist enhance the pub market.

And I have recently written about how Robinson's entirely laudable brewing ambitions run the risk of outstripping what their pub estate can deliver.

Tandleman said...

Not suggesting they forget their knitting but diversify a bit. Say, like Adnams. Staying still isn't an opinion IMO.

Neville Grundy said...

May I use this post, with acknowledgements, in Ale & Hearty?

Sid Boggle said...

I'd be with Tandy on this one. Fullers put a pale hoppy beer in their range. It surely won't be beyond the wit of IFBB members who dont, to see the possibilities of diversification. If they think that this decision is license for business as usual, they might as well sell up and get out of brewing.

Tyson said...

Sam Smiths are a bit of a complicated case. A lot of their pubs are cask free thereby, it could be argued, removing their USP and rendering them undistinguishable from other pubcos.

Curmudgeon said...

Is cask beer the only USP that a pub can put on the bar?

Sid Boggle said...

Sam Smiths: No. I like their Pure Brewed Lager, and their keg stout isn't bad if you want a Guinness alternative.

I'd have said that the fact they're Sam Smiths' pubs IS a USP. It's confusing for casual drinkers and tourists, but to me, you take them as you find them.

Of course, this makes me look like a hypocrite... ;-)

Tyson said...


Basically, if you're a brewer cum pubco, then yes. According to the Cask Report, anyway.

My point is merely that I don't consider Sam Smiths a special case in terms of the points TM was making. Some of their pubs are shabby and underperfomring, for example, just as other pubs are.

However, their cask offering isn't to be found in the likes of Wetherspoons or Enterprise pubs, and so does represent a USP for their pubs.


See above. Perhaps it once was, but simply being a Sam Smiths pub isn't now in itself a USP. How could it be? They don't conform to a template like, say, a Brunning & Price pub and their bottled beers are readily available elsewhere.

So I struggle to see their fundamentral difference. Unless you class being owned by two eccentric, litigious, brothers as a USP. In which case, I would be forcved to agree:)

Curmudgeon said...

I'm not saying that Sam Smith's have a magic formula, but some of their pubs at least are conspicuously successful without following any of Tandleman's prescriptions.

Likewise, we recently had a presentation from Robinson's about all the exciting things they're planning to do with their beer range, but I'd guess that in half of their pubs "brewing innovation" would make no difference to their fortunes. Indeed, the single biggest thing a lot of them could probably do to boost trade would be to put on John Smith's Extra Smooth ;-)

It's an interesting question whether being a tied to a particular brewer is a significant USP for a pub now in the way for some brewers it undoubtedly was thirty years ago. It probably is for a Sam's pub in London because it offers something distinctively different from the general run of pubs.

Tandleman said...

Mudgie - in the case of Sam Smith's they do offer some brewing innovation. Pure Brewed Lager. It is certainly a reasonable attraction for some. Keg stout for others. But on the whole, they are a special case as Tyson says.

While it is true that offering cask triple IPAs are unlikely to be the way forward for family brewers, they could do a lot more. Robbies would be well advised the chuck that bloody yeast of theirs out for a start. Far from boasting about it, it is far to dominant. There - brewing innovation. Just like that.

I am talking about modernising ranges, reacting to what's going around, while still keeping to core beers in core pubs. Both Robbie and Lees have pubs in affluent areas. While you won't change the Gungesmearer's Arms in Grimley, there is scope for adopting a less than "one size" fits all policy.

If it would make a difference in half of the pubs, there's success for you.

Anonymous said...

its not the beers they produce its the price they charge the tenanted pubs that is the problem.just like the pub co,s Fullers charge tenants a lot more for the beer than they charge the managed pubs.if you saw the figures you would realise the regionals are just like the pub co,s. the beer tie is bad in every respect. cheers john