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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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Promoting British Beer in Cologne

On 07/10/13 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

I flew to Cologne at the weekend for ANUGA, one of the largest food and drink festivals in Europe. I was there at the invitation of UK Trade & Investment who asked me to attend the launch of the UK Food and Drink International Action Plan with Owen Paterson MP, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs. We have been working with UKTI for some months now to develop a beer action plan as part of their export strategy and at this event they launched a plan to assist up to 200 alcohol producers to export more, with a targeted programme of inward and outward business visits to grow exports internationally.

Upon arrival at Kolnsky, I knew I was in the right place when I saw the Great British Mini, decked out in the Union Jack sitting on the forecourt. Inside was the Secretary of State and his Ministerial party. Not one to hold back when the opportunity arises, I introduced myself and we were whisked to the 28th floor for the launch.

It was an impressive evening. A whole range of British companies and organisations, many of whom had stands at the trade fair, were present. Owen Paterson spoke (in German as well as English). He talked about a food and drink industry worth £9.6 billion to the EU economy and £18 billion in exports. He had recently attended launches in New York, Moscow and Shanghai and was today launching the international action plan. He talked about biscuits, inevitably whisky, but finally beer. Armed with the statistics I had given him earlier, he told the assembled audience that beer exports in 2012 were worth £570 million - I glowed with pride! He stayed all evening, came back and asked me if there was anyone I wished him to meet - there was clear support for us as a category.

Whilst none of our largest members were present, there were a considerable number of micro-breweries who either had stands, or were part of larger buying groups. Bath Ales, Butcombe Brewery, Strathaven Ales, Wharfebank Brewery, Nick Stafford representing both SIBA and Hambleton Ales, Oakham Ales, Ampleforth Abbey (which I always thought was a school, but it also provides a licence for the brewing of a rather interesting dark stout) and Cairngorm brewery who allowed me to try Ginger Rodent, brewed for Danny Alexander MP, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

I talked with Owen Paterson about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP – the ongoing trade deal negotiations between the EU and US) and export barriers with the US. He will shortly be visiting Shepherd Neame to open a water treatment plant, so we will have another opportunity to influence his thinking!

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


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Conservative Party Conference – points of note

On 04/10/13 by Sophie McIntyre

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The first point well worth flagging is, of course, the picture above. The Chairman of the BBPA's North West Executive, Richard Kershaw of Joseph Holt, arranged for the Chancellor, Rt Hon George Osborne MP, to receive the North West Beer Drinker's Champion award at Conference. The above picture shows BBPA Chief Executive, Brigid Simmonds, presenting him with the award and thanking him once again for the much needed cut to beer duty in year's Budget. The Chancellor even raised a rare smile during his conference speech as he mentioned his recent Budget cut in beer duty.

BBPA meetings aside, the Prime Minister delivered his speech to Conservative Party Conference this week. In contrast to his previous conference speech, it was delivered more as a response to the Leader of the opposition’s pre-new labour speech at Brighton, instead of being a defining statement of Government strategy. Cameron did not live up to the impressive memory skills of his contender – he was even stumbling over some of the words on the autocue – but in terms of content, the message was positive but a long way from triumphant.

He suggested that the economy is on the mend but is not yet fully healed and stressed the need for the Tories to remain in power in order to nurse it back to full health. There were no dramatic policy announcements, other than the brief declaration that the party wants to see under 25s ‘earning or learning’ (which has received typically mixed views from the pundits this week). The speech was more of a statement of what the Conservatives have achieved in power and a reassertion of the party’s traditional values. Cameron attacked Ed Miliband for embracing a "damaging, nonsensical, twisted economic policy" and claimed Labour would take Britain back to dark days of 1970s socialism, whilst his Conservatives were the party of the future, the guarantors of a "land of opportunity". The rather lacklustre speech disguised the fact that it had actually been a good conference for the Conservatives. The green shoots of economic recovery seemed to have raised party spirits, the recent Syria fiasco and divisions over the EU were hardly touched upon and even Boris Johnson made light of his leadership ambitions.

Away from Manchester and returning to the bigger picture - there has been a clear ideological contrast between the parties throughout this year’s conference season. Clegg, Miliband and Cameron all used their key-note conference speeches to set out what they really believe and in doing so firmed up the battle-lines for the 2015 General Election. The Conservative/Labour split on business is perhaps the most important, however. It was Ed Miliband’s announcements to freeze energy prices and to force landowners to sell or develop vacant land that drew all the headlines last week. These pre-New Labour approaches have set the Labour leader far apart from the Prime Minister’s party in terms of ideas pertaining to business. Whilst the Tories continued to put forward their traditional free market values aimed at stoking economic growth, Labour presented a much more interventionist line. We now have work to do to influence Labour’s thinking over the coming months on minimum pricing and advertising in particular.

Sophie McIntyre


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Hopping down in Kent

On 04/10/13 by David Wilson (Director of Public Affairs)

Sitting in the beautiful early Norman church of St Peter and St Paul in the tranquil village of Ospringe, near Faversham, it felt like we were continuing an ancient tradition of the Blessing of the Hops.

In fact the service is a relatively new innovation by Shepherd Neame to mark the end of a successful hop harvest and to acknowledge the critical role hop growing plays in our British Brewing industry. For the first time this year Shepherd Neame had developed a full day of activities and a hop symposium in their impressive Visitor Centre.

For the young vicar at Ospringe, Reverend Tracey Bateson it was a double first. Her first hop blessing service and her first ever time of presiding at Ospringe since taking on this East Kent Parish on leaving the Army. What she lacked in experience Reverend Bateson more than made up for in enthusiasm.

The readings – from the Shepherd Neame triumverate of Jonathan Neame, Tom Falcon and Head Brewer Richard Frost – were carefully chosen. Eric Blair’s (aka George Orwell) letter to his friend Denis Collings documenting his experiences hop picking in Kent in over 80 years ago transported us back to the glory days of manual harvest when East End hop pickers and travellers descended on Kentish hop gardens in their droves living in spartan surroundings whilst they picked the hops.

Martin Farquar Tupper’s poem ‘Hop Picking’ was followed by a beautifully soulful rendition of Autumn Leaves and a joyful ditty Hopping Down In Kent performed by the talented Helen Burnett to the accomplished guitar playing of Jo Caleb.

The beautiful church was lovingly decorated with hops and the hymns and scripture reading were carefully chosen to amplify the theme of our role as custodians of God’s beauty in creation.
The blessing sung by the small band of dedicated choristers included the apt line;..

‘May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you.’
Those wonders were on full display in the neighbouring hop farm which holds the national hop collection –the next stop for 50 or so beer writers, hop growers and brewers as we were given a guided tour by the enthusiastic Dr Peter Darby. What Peter doesn’t know about British hops is not worth knowing. He guided us through the hop garden with informative anecdotes to illustrate the rich history of hop growing and breeding in Britain with a particular focus on the genesis of Goldings and Fuggles hops.

After sampling Kent’s finest Green Hop Beers and a fantastic lunch we got down to the serious business of the afternoon with a powerful lecture from Tony Redsell illustrated by photographs setting out the important role that East Kent has played in our rich hops heritage, ending with a pleas for us all to value it more. Ramsgate Brewery’s Eddie Gadd inspired us with his evocation of a hop harvest and how he as a brewer got so excited about the Green Hop beers that he created a festival fortnight to use the Green Hop beers to drive tourist traffic to East Kent.

Ali Capper from the British Hops Association shared beautiful images of hops and challenged brewers to celebrate British hops more effectively. I was then able to explain how the Let There Be Beer campaign had evolved to celebrate beer and those occasions where only a beer will do. This day of celebrating hops was definitely one of those occasions. Shepherd Neame should be congratulated for putting together an informative and inspirational day, with plans to make it bigger and better next year with the introduction of a Hop Champion Award.

David Wilson
Director of Public Affairs


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Inconsistent enforcement – the Primary Authority solution

On 03/10/13 by Jim Cathcart (Policy Manager - Pub Operations)

Bad enforcement by police, the licensing authority, fire officers and EHOs can be the bane of a pub operator’s life. Whether this is turning up to check paperwork at 9pm on a Saturday night, or over-zealous officers making licensees jump through multiple hoops with no evidence that there is even a problem at the premises, makes an already challenging job that little bit more difficult. However, now there is a solution to problems such as these that is worth considering in order to bring more consistency and fairness to those on the receiving end of such action.

Of course, there are really good examples out there of local authorities and enforcement agencies seeing their role as helping legitimate businesses prosper by treating them fairly, and targeting inspections on those who are deliberately flouting the law and putting customers and the public at risk. The challenge has always been the inconsistency in approach between these areas of the country, and areas where officers have an ‘us and them’ attitude towards the trade. In the last couple of years a solution has presented itself in the form of Primary Authority relationships – spearheaded by the Better Regulation Delivery Office (BRDO), part of the Government’s business department.

Primary Authority itself is a simple policy – in essence a business (for example, a managed pub operator with a range of sites across the country) chooses a local authority where it has a good relationship with regulators, say Borsetshire Council. This company has had a problem at some of its sites with over-zealous enforcement of health and safety, so it signs a Primary Authority agreement with Borsetshire and agrees standard risk assessments and inspection plans for its estate. Once this is in place, the next time a local authority anywhere in the country insists one of the company’s pubs must go above and beyond what is reasonably set out in its operating practices, the Primary Authority relationship kicks in and the company does not have to comply with these requirements as it has a pre-agreed system in place with Borsetshire that supersedes the local officials. This company is in effect guaranteed consistent enforcement and inspection practice relating to health and safety across its entire estate, regardless of where the individual pubs are located.

Primary Authority does not apply to all areas of law at present - such as licensing - and there is a cost attached. However, it is constantly developing as trade associations and franchises (which include tenanted pubs) are now in scope. BBPA is working with BRDO to explore the expansion of the scheme.

Primary Authority offers businesses a way to ensure consistent and fair enforcement across the country, and will hopefully develop further. For more information on Primary Authority agreements, which a number of BBPA members have taken forward, visit the BRDO website here.

Jim Cathcart
Policy Manager - Pub Operations


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From Glasgow to Brighton and a few places in between!

On 01/10/13 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

The Liberal Democrats chose to hold their conference in Glasgow this year at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference centre along the river Clyde. If you have not been to Glasgow for a while, it has been transformed, particularly around the river bank and as they prepare to host the Commonwealth Games next year, there is considerable investment in infrastructure. It was, however, a rather a complicated space for the Lib Dems and my abiding memory will be walking miles!

We had some good fringe meetings. Jeremy Browne MP, the Home Office Minister, was pragmatic in his approach to crime and disorder. He talked about the need to ensure Lib Dems did not penalise moderate drinkers and the role of personal responsibility. With Hanover I attended the Lib Dem dinner and had the opportunity to thank Danny Alexander MP, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, for our Budget cut, and urge him for another next year, as well as putting in a bid for the extension of the small business rate relief.

From Glasgow I jetted off to to Dubrovnik in Croatia for the Brewers of Europe meeting. They have just launched a major report on the support for beer in the on-trade throughout Europe. All Secretaries General reported on what was happening in our own particular country. The UK was certainly more positive than many others. Lithuania has a competition commission investigation into a voluntary agreement that they would not brew beers greater than 9.2% abv. Portugal has lost 10 litres per capita since the recession. Italy is looking to increase excise duty and in Spain they are increasing the drinking age from 16 to 18. One can almost work out the economic status of the various countries from their reports! There were many more positive discussions to accompany this, but the narrative was clear.

Next onto Brighton where the Labour Party held it’s conference in sunshine and warmth (weather wise!). Diane Abbott MP (Shadow Minister for Health) was very vocal on minimum pricing. She seems to think that the reason consumption has come down is because there are people in cities who do not drink at all. She claimed that alcohol costs less per unit than Coke in some shops in Hackney. Her views, however, do not seem to be shared by other shadow ministers or to be Labour Party policy. Elaine Hindal the CEO of Drinkaware did very well to handle some hostile questions from the delegates and health professionals present. I had some very good encounters and meetings as did David Wilson and other members of my team.

Finally (for this week at least), I spoke at the Key Issues Forum organised by our Regional Secretary Richard Matthews in the Midlands. It was very well attended, with about 50 members present, and we heard some excellent presentations including Visit Peak District who are very keen to engage with pubs and help with marketing. Arnold Fewell, whose father was company secretary at Truman’s brewery, could not have been more helpful in spelling out how pubs need to adapt to help those with disabilities. He is a contact well worth making. Poppleston Allen spoke on legislation; Suzy Jackson on the Perceptions Group and Cofely GCF-Suez who are environmental consultants completed the line-up.

So this week it is Manchester and two evenings with the Conservatives. BBPA will be publishing our report on the impact of the Budget cut and hopefully will have an opportunity to say “Cheers, George”!

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


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