Friday, 6 August 2010

Contract Brewing, Good or Bad?

So you brew a beer, you sell it to people and they say 'hey man that's great beer!' and you sell more and more to them. The demand gets to be so much that you have to 'contract out' the brew so that you can keep selling it or have to go out of business.
But who's brewing your beer? what do you think of it? If it's not right but you're getting the cash, do you say anything?
People who used to enjoy the beer stop buying it and you get a bad reputation, and yet you/they still put it out there.
Why would you do something like that? is it just the money? surely your reputation is what makes you the money in the first place.
I've spoken to one 'producer' and one brewer on this subject, Graeme Mitchell of Mitchell Krause has his beer contracted out to Hepworths and he says that when he went to the bank to develop the brewery they turned him down on the grounds that he wasn't selling to any customers yet. He was at the point where he was wanting to get going so rather than stall on the brewery and not make the beers he contracted it out to Hepworth and got a portfolio of beers going, so when he does go back to the bank he can produce this portfolio and his list of customers. For the record I like his beers they're clean, easy to drink and a very good example of contract brewing done right!
I spoke briefly to brewer Kelly Ryan of Thornbridge on the subject and he told me that Thornbridge get asked to contract brew beer on an almost weekly basis but they refuse every time. The reason being why should they make someone elses beer better? If you as a brewer can't make beer why should they for you? There's also another aspect for breweries that are asked to brew under contract too, it might keep their fermenters full and their business ticking over but you have to wonder about the quality of the beer they are producing for themselves and for the contractor, epsecially if they're not used to brewing that amount of beer.
I understand the business point of view that you need to make every penny count but the other side to that rather sharp double edged sword is that your business and my business are intertwined, your business will affect my business adversely if you send me rubbish beer and I can't have that, not again!
If you can't make a beer that is saleable then don't make it, in the end you'll do more damage than harm to an industry which has enough bad press to deal with.
I'm sure this is a loaded subject and I have for legal reasons(i.e. I can't afford a lawyer)not named breweries that I know are contracting shit beer but I would implore them to stop before it ruins reputations.


Peter O'Connor said...

It's true, sadly I think it is a general statement of most of the "Big" commercial brewers that they have to brew so much under contract. You can have all the brewing science in the world, but is it really the same? I feel somewhat cheated drinking something that sells itself as being truly Belgian, if it comes from Wales.
Still, your right, contract brewing doesn't have to be bad. It's just a shame that a lot is!

Rabidbarfly said...

thanks for stopping by, was beginning to think that it wasn't such a loaded subject after all!

Anonymous said...

mitchell krause should clearly state the beers are being brewed at Hepworth.I have heard that camra BEER magazine is going to do an article about these false breweries hopefully in the next issue.If bars dont stock them we wont be drinking them. cheers