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Evidence-based policy high on the global beer agenda

On 24/10/13 by Andy Tighe (Policy Director)

Would doctors really ever recommend alcohol to patients?

This was one of the many questions considered at the Worldwide Brewing Alliance annual meeting that took place last week in the USA. The question formed part of a major research proposal presented by the NIAAA. The proposal was to undertake a definitive study over a number of years to establish whether there is a causal link between regular moderate alcohol consumption and reduced cardiovascular and metabolic disease.

Brewing trade association and global brewer representatives from across the world met in Philadelphia to discuss this, beer and health more generally, forward engagement with global institutions and the key policy and regulatory issues on the agenda at national level. Examples of proactive industry activity to address current threats in markets such as the USA, New Zealand and Korea were also showcased.

A particularly interesting session focussed on the evidence base for the so called ‘best buys’ (higher taxes, advertising bans and restricted availability) advocated by NGOs and many public health professionals as the most cost effective way to tackle the harmful use of alcohol. These were considered alongside alternative, more targeted interventions aimed specifically at harmful consumption that do not risk disproportionately impacting moderate drinkers. Despite many studies and programmes in relation to both approaches, proper evaluation of the robustness of findings and the effectiveness of particular programmes remains somewhat lacking. Indeed, survey design and conclusions are often flawed in a number of ways. It was agreed that a proposal for an ‘Evidence Summit’ should be worked up.

The need for robust, consistent and authoritative statistics was also highlighted. It was agreed that it was necessary to update the global economic contribution estimates first undertaken three years ago by the WBA – although, of course the international section of the BBPA Statistical Handbook also provides a useful resource for brewing associations across the world.

In all, a fascinating day and a half made even better by the generous and warm hospitality of our hosts the Beer Institute who made sure we had also had time to enjoy some great beer and food pairings in a great city.

Andy Tighe
Policy Director


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Something old, something new, something borrowed, something green

On 23/10/13 by Brian Yorston (Head Brewer at Wadworths)

I enjoyed reading Steve Livens’ recent BBPA blog about Kent green hop brews and it is great that this style of beer is becoming popular. The blog gave the impression that this type of beer stemmed from the smaller brewers who have, by their nature “more room to manoeuvre”. However it may well be of interest to many that the original green hop brew came from a non-hop growing area of England and a brewery which in nautical terms could be classed as “quite a large old barge”!

Trevor Holmes, as head brewer at Wadworth, came up with the idea of a green hop brew when he was walking in a hop yard back in 1992. Since then, Wadworth have produced their Malt and Hops beer each year by gathering the green hops on the day of brewing not from Kent but Worcestershire. Initially the team at Wadworth tried to produce a truly harvest beer by not only using fresh hops but also the new season’s barley. Unfortunately this did not work as the dormant nature of barley, malted too early, gave troublesome brews. So we stuck with the concept of brewing the beer with just the new season’s hops, both dried and fresh.

Since I have been brewing this beer I have kept the recipe exactly the same each year so that the hop character of the beer is unknown until the beer has been tasted. As a result, the beer reflects that seasons hop crop. For instance; the crop of 2009 was incredibly high in resins so the beer produced was very bitter with a slight, retsina like flavour. The kilning process of hop drying is used to preserve the hop for storage but this drives some resins and oils into the air. The green hop beers retain these compounds in the liquid to a much greater extent.

This year’s version was less bitter than normal and more balanced in nature, reflecting the measured alpha acid content of the hops which was rather low. The fact that we brew this beer very early in the hop picking season means that we at Wadworth may have an idea of the character of the early crop of Goldings even before the hop farmer knows, simply by measuring the bitterness of the beer and tasting it!

I believe that green hop brews are the “Beaujolais Nouveau” of the beer world giving an insight to what that year’s hop crop will produce. Since Trevor’s inspiration, over 21 years ago, this beer style has been reproduced all around the world. The green hop beer can only be celebrated once a year and for a finite time. So as a beer style for judging, timing will be an issue.

I applaud the Kent brewers for their initiative in raising the profile of the beer and hops grown in their county but ultimately green hop beers are a celebration of new seasons hop’s wherever they are grown.

Brian Yorston
Head Brewer at Wadworths


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Localism rising

On 22/10/13 by Daisy Blench (Policy Manager - Responsibility)

‘Localism’ has been a Government buzzword since the last election, with the principle enshrined in law through the Localism Act 2011. However, it has arguably only been in the last year or so that local authorities have got up to speed and have begun to embrace the range of powers at their disposal.

The recent increase in local ‘voluntary’ higher strength alcohol bans and some local minimum pricing schemes is a clear sign of the change in focus since local authorities took on greater responsibility for tackling local problems, particularly in relation to licensing and issues related to alcohol misuse.

On higher-strength, Ipswich Council and the police have been leading the charge as they have worked with local retailers in an attempt to tackle problems with anti-social behaviour and street drinking in the town. ‘Reducing the Strength’, Ipswich’s flagship scheme, asks off-licences in the town to commit not to stock a number of specific ‘beers, lagers and ciders with an ABV of 6.5 per cent which are sold particularly cheaply’.

Although the scheme in Ipswich has been hailed a success one year on from the launch, due to reductions in street drinking and anti-social behaviour, it should to be seen as part of a much wider strategy, including measures on rehabilitation, rehousing street drinkers and investment in better support services, as well as enforcing the existing law. Questions also remain over of the legality of such local ‘voluntary’ initiatives which seek to restrict the sale of certain products. The OFT has already urged caution to councils looking to go down this route.

The scheme has, however, caught the imagination and the number of other authorities pursuing similar initiatives is growing. Hastings Borough Council will be asking off-licences to stop selling ‘beer, cider or lager with an alcohol by volume of over 6.5 per cent’ and applications for new off-licences will be challenged to have this as a condition on their licence. The London Borough of Newham has been granting new licences with a condition in place not to stock beers and ciders over 5.5 per cent abv.

Northampton police has also been calling for the introduction of a voluntary higher strength ban based on the Ipswich model. The Northamptonshire Chief Constable Adrian Lee is also head of alcohol and licensing for the Association of Chief Police Officers, and has called for similar schemes to be rolled out across the country.

Questions remain over the effectiveness of such restrictions when drinkers may simply shift to other products or continue to purchase from retailers who do not participate. Enforcement of existing legislation and investment in support services for dependent drinkers are likely to be more effective solutions (as seen in Ipswich). However, in the new arena of localised policy making, the question for the industry is how we adapt our messages and communicate our concerns effectively at a local level.

Partnership working is to be welcomed and the industry has been supportive of genuine partnership working in the form of schemes such as Pubwatch, Best Bar None and Community Alcohol Partnerships which have had a real impact in tackling problems in local areas.

We therefore need to continue to support these existing examples of good practice and ensure that other initiatives being pursued do not place unfair restrictions on business and actually have a real impact on the problems they are seeking to tackle.

Daisy Blench
Policy Manager - Responsibility


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Employing ex-Service Personnel

On 22/10/13 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

Over 20,000 Servicemen and women leave our armed services each year. This is partly because of wastage and a natural end to a short service career, but in recent years the re-structuring of our Armed Forces has led to many being made redundant.

These ex-Service Personnel may be engineers, technicians, trainers, administrators, managers or chefs. They will all have a certain tenacity and with the right support could certainly be an asset in brewing or in pubs. There are a number of ways you can promote employment opportunities in your company to service personnel.

Veterans Interview Programmes: These aim to guarantee an interview for a service veteran who applied for a job. It is not in any way a guarantee of a job, but offers them a chance to improve interview techniques and their transition. RightJob is a free of charge, online system for advertising jobs. Employment Fairs, Industry Awareness Days and Company Presentations offer employers an opportunity to meet ex-service personnel. There are regional events in one of ten centres and you can find out where they are by looking at The Career Transition Partnership (CTP) also offer trial attachments for Service Personnel, so you can have them work for you at no cost and see if their skill set suits you.

There is a political angle to this which is cross-party. Jim Murphy MP, until recently Shadow Defence Secretary, has been a leading advocate of these initiatives and the CTP itself falls under the Department for Work and Pensions, with whom the BBPA has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to promote work experience through our pubs.

It is worth noting, finally, that Pub Aid research has suggested that £106m was raised in pubs for charitable purposes in 2012. If you look at the causes most donated to; military charities are right at the top of the list. The new Chief of the Defence Staff described the military this week as “one of our nation’s unique selling points” (I might add just like pubs!). There is no doubt that we owe them a debt of gratitude for their service across the world, but it is a two way street so to speak, as the skills of ex service personnel could be invaluable to the pub trade.

As an aside for interest I have now also been sent information about a new service offered by ex service personnel, many of whom have been wounded or injured. Capstar Chauffeurs, as its name suggests is based in Syon Park in West London. Some of their drivers have had life changing injuries, but all have extensive military experience and now hold Transport for London operating licences and chauffeur training courses. They can be contacted through +44 (0) 208 568 7902 or

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


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No lies, damned lies, just a load of statistics on beer and pubs

On 18/10/13

The BBPA is proud of its numbers! We have a long history of building a credible evidence base in the arguments we make. We work with a wealth of statistics in our day-to-day operations, so it makes sense for us to pull these together in one place for others to use, and help them understand the industry we support. The result is our Statistical Handbook (available for purchase here), a compendium of facts and figures, of which I am currently the editor. It's a lot of work, and is a real team effort, but hopefully readers/users find it worthwhile.

The Handbook is a longstanding institution in the world of beer and pubs. It has been produced since 1973 and brings together a vast array of data on the industry in which we operate, and the wider world. I believe it is truly informative and authoritative about the market.We've issued some of the media friendly stats to the outside world in our news release but there is a wealth of additional information contained inside, for the beer geek, the industry analyst, policymakers and the general onlooker.

The Handbook is also designed to be impartial - it presents the statistics as they are. And this, hopefully, gives it credibility. It is frequently quoted by supporters and critics of the industry alike, so this suggests the balance is about right.

This year's book has seen a number of changes. For the first time the 'book' will be available electronically. The tables in the Handbook itself will be available on a data stick, enabling users to more easily analyse and interrogate the data. The electronic version will also include additional tables that are not in the Handbook. These tend to be more 'specialist' tables for industry users. An example is the weather - the data stick includes hours of sunshine, temperature and levels of rainfall for those that want to study and predict the impact of the weather on beer sales. This is further enhanced by more detailed information on the location of breweries, a diary of significant events and data on beer's raw materials.

We strongly believe in evidence-based decisions, and hope this 'bible' helps add to the debate about a complicated but brilliant industry, one that is so important to people's lives.

And we're always keen to improve so if you have any comments, queries, additions, criticisms or whatever else please get in touch - and we'll see what we can do to help.

Cheers, and happy reading!


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Kent Green Hop Beer

On 17/10/13 by Steve Livens (Policy Manager - Product Assurance & Supply Chain)

The brewing industry is built on innovation. Refrigeration, measurement of temperatures and specific gravity, development of pale malt, not to mention the knowledge of microbiology that keeps our beer fresh and has enabled control of the fermentation process itself. These innovations are on the one hand individual landmark scientific events and on the other are inextricably linked to the history and development of today's multinational brewers.

Today, the wheels of innovation continue to turn, although the term is perhaps a little less about cutting edge science and more typically applied to the development of new beers, styles or categories, brewers utilising new or novel ingredients and the ways in which these are used. In this case the smaller brewers may be seen as the incubators for such radical behaviour...smaller ships need a little less room to manoeuvre!

So, what of beer styles? The prestigious World Beer Cup 2014 style guide recognises 94 different styles and sub styles and however you pitch it that's a lot of different ways to make beer! Nevertheless, this hasn't stopped the brewers of Kent from making a stand for the 95th style...Kent Green Hop Beer. Inspired by Eddie Gadd of The Ramsgate Brewery, who gave an impassioned presentation at the recent hop blessing held at The Shepherd Neame Brewery. For those of you who haven't experienced this unique event, it’s a little like a private harvest festival for hops!

Eddie has drawn a distinct set of criteria for the definition of Kent green hop beer. For one, the hops must be added within 12 hours of picking, straight from the bine and without drying. This is to protect the precious oils that give the beers their particular character. Only green hops from Kent will count and beers must be produced within the county boundary to hold the name.

The initial launch at the Canterbury Food and Drink Festival in 2012 was greeted with enthusiasm. For 2013 the brewers of Kent came out in force, with twenty three of the counties brewers large and small producing more than thirty versions of the beer. An effort resulting in Green Hop Beer fortnight, a two week event across September and October, which kicked off at the 2013 Canterbury Food and Drink Festival and was followed by a programme of 'open days' hosted by individual green hop beer brewers throughout Kent.

From small hop flowers do large hop bines grow...well something like that anyway! Whether or not Kent Green Hop Beer ever becomes an established and internationally recognised new beer style only time will tell. However, the creation of this 95th style is proof that innovation in the brewing industry is alive and kicking. Best of all it's open to everyone, whether large or small, old or new.

For more news about the beers and for upcoming events visit or follow on twitter @KentGreenHop

Steve Livens
Policy Manager - Product Assurance & Supply Chain


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Inspirational women of the year

On 16/10/13 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

I was hugely honoured to be invited to the Barclays' Women of the Year lunch on Monday. As many of you will know, I am neither a big fan of all female events (which is just as well since most of the members of the BBPA are male!), nor am I particularly fond of lunch! I did, however, feel attracted to this event, chaired by Baroness Helena Kennedy QC and whose Financial Director is Diane Coyne from Brewers’ Hall.

It really was a hugely enjoyable and inspiring lunch: some 300 women attended from all walks of life. My table host was Sue MacGregor of Women’s Hour and for many years the voice to wake up to on ‘Today’ on Radio 4. I sat next to the CEO of AXA travel and a television producer who was the first women producer of BBC1. If that was not enough we had two musicians, one of whom taught music in Soweto and now has seven students at the Royal College of Music and Joanne Harris the author of ‘Chocolat’ - an eclectic and inspiring mix!

Our host, Sandra Toksvig, was very entertaining and ensured that the event led humourously up to the award ceremony. Dame Shirley Williams presented the award to the 187 Dagenham Ladies who in 1968 went on strike because as women who fitted the interiors in cars they were paid half of the sum paid to their male counterparts. As Dame Shirley said these women helped the make the shift from women working for pin money to women needing to work and choosing to work in the same way as men. Their fight led to equal pay legislation.
Marilyn Baldwin the inspiration behind ‘Think Jessica’, which warns older people and their families about scams, received the Inspiration of the Year Award from the television programme Lorraine. The Campaign of the Year Award went to Waris Dirie, a Somalia supermodel who campaigns against female genital mutilation. Finally, the overall Woman of the Year Award went to Andrea Coleman – a very unlikely looking biker who played truant from school and then went on to set up Riders for Health which provides and services bikes and cars to allow health works across Africa to reach communities more quickly without having to rely on public buses or walking.

It really was a privilege to be at such a fantastic event and, in case you were wondering what work I might have done… I spoke to Dame Tessa Jowell MP and Margaret Hodge MP, Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, - who I updated on duty fraud. I also met Luciana Berger MP, the new Shadow Minister for Public Health who I hope I can now arrange to meet up with in a more formal capacity.

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


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De mystifying local regulation…

On 11/10/13 by Richard Matthews (Midlands Secretary)

In an earlier blog I spoke about how industry engagement in initiatives to ease the burden of red tape and regulation was starting to have an impact on the legislative and compliance environment. Now it seems that local authorities – certainly in many parts of the Midlands – are taking up the challenge by helping industry access their services much more quickly and efficiently.

Talk to Reg developed by the Better Business for All (BBfA) initiative, provides an online resource for all businesses to get expert advice on meeting legislation, providing a single point of contact for regulatory guidance. The portal features contact details and useful information for organisations responsible for food safety, health and safety, environmental protection, licensing, trading standards and fire safety. Simply punch in your postcode and contacts for the appropriate departments flash up.

It is part of a new approach that is being led by the Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) and the Better Regulation Delivery Office (BRDO), which focuses on effective regulation being a catalyst for business growth. It answers the long-held criticism from businesses and licensees in particular who say they can waste valuable man hours trying to track down the right contact in the right department

In another initiative in the same LEP area Cannock Chase District Council (with Birmingham City council set to take it up) has led the way with its Environmental Health Business Support team offering free support to businesses to help in simplifying compliance with regulations and improving areas such as hygiene and health and safety standards. Instead of inspections, its environmental health team is offering free advice visits, regular updates on new legislation and regular telephone support from a dedicated Business Support Officer.

Initiatives such as these can only help the relationship between the regulators and businesses and the BBfA scheme, currently being trailed with the GBSLEP and the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership before being rolled out to other LEPs, can take much of the credit for providing the umbrella for this to be achieved.

Richard Matthews
Midlands Secretary


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Cask Ale Week round-up: how beer is championing the British pub industry

On 08/10/13

As Cask Ale Week 2013 draws to a close, commentator for Admiral Taverns Laura Moulden, discusses the significance of the event’s ‘Introduce a Friend’ theme for the British pub industry…

Cask Ale Week comes to a close for another year, with an estimated 2,800 pubs calling last orders on a host of events dedicated to the cause. This year’s ‘introduce a friend’ theme has been inspiring brewers and pubs alike to open their doors for beer festivals, tasting sessions, competitions, quizzes and free samples in an attempt to get more people on the beery bandwagon.

Whilst there has been a substantial increase in the amount of interest in cask, people are going to the pub much less than they used to. Around 25 per cent of pub goers report that they go to the pub much less than they have in the past.

But with ale aficionados CAMRA estimating that just one extra pint per regular beer drinker every month would be enough to push the beer industry back into growth, just what can publicans do to roll up their sleeves and help turn the tide?

Educate and inspire new drinkers
People are undoubtedly both drinking and going out less. But what’s becoming increasingly apparent is that when they do go out, they’re more discerning about taste. According to Phil Brown, author of the annual Cask Report, 63 per cent of licensees believe cask is attracting younger customers into their pub, with similar numbers saying that women are also drinking it.

But the beverage’s vast array of flavours can leave novices reluctant to try something that they potentially won’t like. Pubs that operate a ‘try before you buy’ policy or tasting notes can actively encourage new patrons to become acquainted with the national beverage, and the good news is that last year, around 10,000 (33 per cent) cask ale pubs hosted their own beer festivals.

Support for independent brewers
Cask ale’s resurgence can in part be attributed to the keen trend for craft beer that’s currently sweeping the industry. Spearheaded by independent breweries like BrewDog and TinyRebel, the renaissance period of craft brewing in the States seems to be rapidly reaching our shores. There are now 1,147 breweries in the UK – more than at any time since the 1930s and 57 per cent of pubs now serve cask on bar – an increase of 4 per cent in the last four years.

Pubs should ensure they serve an array of interesting brews – whilst not neglecting to offer a good selection of lager brands – to ride the wave and give punters something to head to the pub for.

If you’re still thinking of matted beards and socks with sandals, think again. Recently, more and more bars have taken on the hop by adding beer-based cocktails to their menus.

This adventurous new way of sampling brews has prompted the Good Food Guide to label them the drink of 2013. So get down the pub and order yourself a Black Velvet; your national beverage needs you.


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