Wednesday, 14 December 2011

I Can See the Future

Can people really learn from their mistakes?

Back in the eighties and nineties there was the trendy wine bar phenomenon which saw a lot of old banks and pubs closed down and refurbed into aforementioned Trendy Wine Bars.

Tap East Craft Beer bar and Brewery
Now in the early part of this century, we have had an explosion of craft beer bars all over the UK, including the two I currently oversee.

A lot of those wine bars are now closed or became part of chains run by big drinks companies.

Are we in danger of becoming the next fad for the newly rich? After all craft beers, some of which are quite strong do tend to be sold at a premium because of the Govt's ridiculous duty rates on beers over 7.5% abv. Let's not forget all the tax we have to pay getting the beer into the country and the VAT rises that we're currently seeing.

I'd like to think that we can learn from our mistakes and that the current trend for Craft Beer isn't just a fad but who knows? Will people become bored with craft beer? Will it, in the words of Tap East brewer, Eddie Baines, become as 'passe as a three cornered hat?'

Will the Geek inherit the Earth?

Discuss.....

8 comments:

Ian Garrett said...

this is something I've been saying for a while. It appears to be the only growth sector in beer retail, small as yet but with promise of further growth. There are, of course, some hybrids like the Euston, Sheffield and York Taps which still rely heavily on the Real Ale sector but concentrate on the younger Brewery sector alongside the extensive bottle and keg range.
And yes, a lot of it is to do with the younger end of the customer base with disposable income. Even I have to take a deep breath before parting with £5.00 for a half pint.

HackneyHaz said...

I think there's a tipping point, as there is with anything, plus, there is danger in focussing on the younger/fashionable end of the market.

From a personal point of view, the pub simply being branded as "craft" wouldn't make me go there more than once: the beers available (& how they are kept), service, atmosphere etc would.

I'm not sure some of those things matter so much for people that are going to the same pubs because they are trendy. Apart from anything else, they don't necessarily care about what they are drinking, so if bars selling Bulgarian spirits become the "next big thing" they would happily toddle off to them. That is a generalisation of course, not all of the younger crowd are so fickle, but you will get my meaning if you've seen some of the clientele I am thinking of.

The other thing that is key for me is when the big change start rebranding as a "craft beer" chain just as they have done with other brands in the past (the O'Neill's etc). Once that happens it is a full-on trend and will have a limited lifespan in their pubs at least. And you know that it will be "craft" for the lowest common denominator market...

Having said that, the good pubs will survive and continue as long as they do the important stuff well - trends aside, there will remain a market for good beer.

Ed said...

I thought the Rake was expensive before high strength beer duty!

Sid Boggle said...

No, Yes, No, No... erm, wait, should that be Yes, No, No... Oh bugger...

They're all pubs, just not 'traditional' pubs. Brewdog apart, they all sell cask, the difference to me is that they don't ghettoise keg and they sell significant ranges of imported and domestic bottled beers. They also don't alienate punters because they don't fit a demographic. The best of these 'craft beer bars' welcome all their customers.

Hazel's point about large chains re-branding is an interesting one. Greene King bought Capital Pub Co, and I imagine there's pubco marketing departments working on this. Perhaps in the longer term the problem will be a taint associated with the word 'craft'. Seen Stella's Xmas packs? 'Originally crafted for Christmas'? They weren't 'crafting' it before...

Interesting...

dredpenguin said...

Interesting Glyn...I'm optimistic that the craft beer bars sector is here to stay.

The thing that brings people back is the product. Nothing specific but I know when I head to the Rake, the Tap etc I will find good cask beer, IPAs, stouts, interesting European beers, London beers even lagers.

As long as breweries are still making good and interesting beer then there will be a need for bars to showcase these beers.

Anyway Winebars still exist don't they? They may not have the explosion of growth they had a few years ago but many are still there. There is also geeky wine bars, think Gordon's Wine bar between Embankment and Charring Cross.

Rabidbarfly said...

Firstly - thanks for the comments! Now I'm awake again - some responses...
Ian - £5.00 for half a pint on a regular basis is coming, especially is successive govt's don't stop adding tax's onto beer! Time to start homebrewing methinks.
Hazel - You hit the nail on the head.
Ed - no it wasn't it was value for moneh.
Sid - Stella isn't craft?
Gregg - I didn't say wine bars don't exist anymore, I just implied they were shit holes ;)

RGrumpy said...

After reading this I discover 2 disturbing tremors in the force. First the worst pub in the galaxy (Boadicea at Charing Cross) has remodelled itself and offers 50 different bottles of craft/trendy beers. Next the Northbrook in Lee Green, formerly a chav sh!thole has been refurbished into a gastro-beer palace with such delights as Meantime and Anchor replacing the f*sters and cat urine, err carling. Are the pubcos already raping the tap room concept for fun and profit???

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