A Clearer Roadmap
Like many things, I have had many plans for this blog over the years with all the best intentions in mind, but to put it simply other things had to be prioritised. This is one of the many reasons why I have stepped backed from blogging, pretty much since 2015.
Although I have always been working in the background chipping away at these plans, with the hope of helping the local beer scene in Northern Ireland. Finally, I was able to check one of these off last week; a visualisation of Northern Ireland Breweries currently in operation. Over the years I have collected as much publicly available information as possible and collated them into a one stop repository here.
Version 1 is now live, it has received some pretty good feedback so far, although I think it is important to be clear about the project and why it has been created.
What is it?
It is simply a database of public information used to help bridge the gap between the producer and consumer.
It is aimed at making it easier to connect consumers and producers together, with the hope of changing consumer behaviour with regards to what they drink, how they see these products vs more widely available brands, and give a clearer insight into the marketplace.
The current marketplace is flooded with big beer brands such as Guinness, Harp, Coors, Tennents, etc. and it is hard enough for local producers to find routes to market already. This is somewhat due to the ridiculous licencing legislation here in Northern Ireland, lines tied to the big breweries and lack of understanding around these smaller independent producers – for more on this check out ‘Tilt and Pour an open discussion’ yes, written in 2018, but still very relevant today.
How does knowing this information help?
Whilst working in the sector, I was fortunate enough to have knowledge of who sold what and who to call for insight into specific beers and so on. Not everyone knows or wants to know that, but it’s about having the resource of information available if needed.
This information allows more channels of the chain to disrupt the macro hold on Northern Ireland by providing the knowledge and allowing them to ask questions and provide answers to the key decision makers – hopefully to the benefit of our local producers.
For clarity, I use the example of asking your local pub do they stock ‘Brewery A?’ and then finding out they have no information or knowledge of them. By utilising this information, we can help advise and point them in the direction of finding out more for themselves. Hopefully this could lead to a new point of sale for the brewery, but at least it doesn’t close the door straight away - it’s about trying to even out the playing field.
Version 2 is pretty far on as well, I just need to get more information confirmed before the release.
What about contract brands?
They were omitted initially as I hadn’t any confirmation of who brewed their beer with/for them. I just want to state why this is important, simply transparency. Big beer uses ‘craft brands’, their buying power to buy into/out breweries as routes to market and ties up taps and shelf space with the likes of ‘Cute Hoor’, ‘Lagunitas’, ‘Beavertown’ (Heineken), ‘Five Lamps’ (C&C), ‘Franciscan Well’ (Coors) and so on.
Contract brewing is a perfectly viable option for many businesses as it reduces cost of entry into the market, scalability, reduced overheads and limited risk. What isn’t great or fair is when brands are marketed as ‘brewed in Ireland’ or imply that they are brewed at a specific location, when in fact they are brewed at a corporation or another location nowhere near where the branding suggests.
It is important as well for us to know where the beer is made, if a beer has an issue from a consumer and business owner point of view, you would want to know is it only a specific batch or location specific, to try and reduce the loss across the board.
Lastly about contract brands, I always feel like they don’t see the opportunity to help build the business alongside the brewery they are brewing at. If we are in this together why not try and help each other?
How do I get involved?
Breweries - simply email me at Belfasbeerblog@gmail.com and I will send a form over to complete and help fill the blanks.
Also, distributors feel free to contact and let us know who you stock as well.
Everyone else, share & use the information, start talking to your local off licence, bar or restaurant and ask do you stock any of these beers?
Let’s work on changing the conversation together!