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A visit to Hogs Back

On 25/01/17 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

It seems that you need to be called Thompson to to run Hogs Back brewery - there are three of them, all unrelated! Time spent with Rupert Thompson is never wasted with his fluidity of ideas and plans for the future.

Despite freezing fog from the South Coast all the way to Farnham and a hop garden which not surprisingly was showing little growth in January, it was a very worthwhile visit! Rupert has worked at, and owned, several different breweries, some of which are now owned by other members of the BBPA. He also has interest in start-ups, including photovoltaic cells and jet engines for cars. All rather fascinating, even if you are not very scientific! He is also a non-Executive Director of Thatchers and Martin Thatcher sits on his board too. Cider and beer; a modern combination.

Growing your own hops, (Hogs Back sources the majority of its hops from within five miles of the brewery), creates a very obvious interest in localism and provenance. A trainee television crew from Southampton University were there filming and the brewery and its hop garden has featured on Countryfile.

There is a very wide range of beers, some unique for a brewery of their size; I took with me several bottles to enjoy in due course! Hogs Back won the BBPA ‘Grain to Glass’ Award at our Annual Dinner in 2015. They are proud of this and other awards and it was great to see BBPA acknowledged on a pump clip in Farnham.

Rupert is passionate about training, beer and health, and how we ensure that subsidies are properly and fairly used. He is certainly on a mission in a number of areas and has an energy to carry most of them through.

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


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Pub is the Hub in Sussex

On 13/01/17 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

Last April, I attended the launch of the Pub is The Hub scheme with Wealden District Council in East Sussex. John Longden, the Pub is The Hub Chief Executive who has all of our support and indeed admiration, has just sent me an update which I think is worth sharing, not least because it shows the true community spirit of pubs and what can be achieved in partnership at a local level.

Two pubs in Pevensey have set up a book exchange for local residents. The books can be donated, borrowed, or people pick up the same book to read every time they visit the pub: A pub library!

Barclays Bank supports ‘Digital Eagles’ which provides computer sessions for those who want to learn to use one; often the older generation. Again two pubs in Pevensey provide free tea, coffee and cake for those who take a seven week course with Barclays, with an average attendance of twelve. They will soon be joined by more sessions in Herstmonceux.

‘Applause’ is a rural touring theatre, with support from Wealden District Council and Pub is The Hub. They were awarded nearly half a million pounds of funding from the Arts Council. With this funding they will be able to work on a project to bring events to rural pubs across the South East and East of England. So far there has been a very successful performance at a pub in Wadhurst and more are now planned.

‘Man Sheds’ are sheds or outbuildings offered to a charity which can provide space for a workshop. They are used by volunteers to make benches and other things which can be used in the local community. This is as much about bringing people together who are perhaps retired or out of work to give them a focus or somewhere to socialise. Two are planned as part of a pub in 2017.

And finally, there is a school allotment; in 2017 Pub is the Hub will be working with a pub in Herstmonceux to set up an allotment for the local primary school. The school is situated opposite the pub with easy access to the garden area via a pedestrian crossing. This could lead to other ideas – school dinner, competitions etc.

What a wealth of ideas of how communities can work with local pubs! I remember at the launch Wealden Council telling me that the pub is in many areas the last publicly available community building. They are keen to keep their pubs and encourage residents to use them. Pub is the Hub does a wonderful job in helping local authorities to set up these ideas and in helping pubs themselves to diversify, survive and thrive. For more information visit the Pub is the Hub website.

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


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Preparing for the Apprenticeship Levy

On 19/12/16

We are now in the run-up to Christmas and the New Year is fast approaching, bringing with it a number of new opportunities and challenges for the trade. One issue is particularly imminent and comes into force on the 6th April 2017 – the Apprenticeship Levy.

This will form a major part of the BBPA employment conference that is taking place on the 2nd February. The Levy was first announced in the Summer Budget 2015 and follows a Government commitment to introduce a further three million apprenticeships by 2020. Any business with a pay roll of over £3 million will be required to pay. The Levy will be charged at a rate of 0.5% of an employer’s pay roll. Each employer will receive an allowance of £15,000 to offset against their Levy payment, and the Levy will coincide with the introduction of the new Apprenticeship Standards, which will increasingly replace the current Apprenticeship Frameworks.

It is vital, now more than ever, that those required to pay the Levy are certain that they know how best to utilise it. Whilst the Levy is a major new cost for many businesses. the BBPA will look to ensure that our members are fully prepared and can use it as an opportunity to invest in staff, increase productivity, and lead the way in shaping apprenticeship training. The Government will provide a 10% top-up on Levy funds, ensuring that employers receive more than they invest. Businesses not required to pay the Levy can also benefit from the new apprenticeship structure, with the Government willing to invest 90% of training funds for apprentices. This is a real opportunity.

The BBPA has produced a short briefing paper for members which gives a broad overview of the Levy, information on the new Apprenticeship Standards, and apprenticeship advice for businesses who will not be required to pay the Levy. We will also be hosting an event covering apprenticeships, as well as wider employment issues, on the 2nd February in London.

The event is free to members and we would advise booking your place as soon as possible by contacting David Sheen at the BBPA,


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Drinking Guidelines and Low Alcohol Beers

On 02/12/16 by Steve Livens (Policy Manager - Product Assurance & Supply Chain)

The festive season is fast approaching once again and as ever, hard working folks across the land are steeling themselves for celebrations of all shapes and sizes.

Whether food or drink, one of the inevitable consequences of the party season is some form of excess; guidance can be helpful in encouraging sensible drinking but shouldn’t have to be too prescriptive, and can be provided in a balanced and non-judgemental way.

The role of alcohol guidelines in informing consumers has been something of a hot topic this year. The initial launch of the CMO’s low risk drinking guidance in January certainly raised some issues and concerns.

The UK is not the only country to have recently introduced revised, low risk drinking guidance and when the approach used by the UK CMO’s is placed under the microscope, it does lead one to question whether their method was the best one.

From a recent trip I made to Canada to attend a meeting of the Worldwide Brewing Alliance there are clear, positive outcomes that can be achieved through the use of alcohol guidelines. In Canada, guidance has been developed collaboratively with input from medical, public health and alcohol industry stakeholders. It might even be argued that such collaboration is essential to provide credibility and consistency when educating and informing consumers about sensible drinking.

An important aspect of the approaches discussed in Canada was the concept that modifying behaviour does not always mean stopping drinking altogether, unless of course for medical reasons or based on professional advice. Rather, influencing positive behaviour is instead about encouraging consumers to make intelligent and informed decisions about their drinking habits in any given situation. When to drink or not to drink and in providing the tools that allow consumers to moderate their alcohol intake.

Often overlooked in this approach are the opportunities offered by low alcohol beers and the capacity for such drinks to reduce total alcohol consumption on drinking occasions. Encouraging consumers to consider low alcohol options also works well for the beer category as a lower strength option in relation to the wider alcoholic beverage sector. Both the industry and consumers should be confident that as part of moderate drinking messages, producing lower strength beers can only enhance the brewing industry’s reputation for offering high quality and distinctive products and more significantly, choice and diversity to consumers.

Steve Livens
Policy Manager - Product Assurance & Supply Chain


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BBPA Annual Brewery Visit to Titanic Brewery

On 30/11/16 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

Titanic brewery was one of the few BBPA members I had not previously visited, although I meet with Keith Bott in London on a regular basis, not least because of his huge support for the All Party Parliamentary Beer Group, SIBA and BBPA. It was a real pleasure, therefore, that Keith and the Titanic team agreed to host the annual BBPA team outing at the brewery in Stoke-on-Trent.

Titanic sounds as if it should be near the sea and not exactly in the middle of the country, but it’s about as far from the sea as you can be in the British Isles! We learned that the original founder of the brewery looked round at famous names (Royal Doulton, Wedgwood) or characters who came from the local area, and found that most were either existing businesses, or not very relevant, and in the end chose ‘Titanic’ because Edward John Smith, the Captain of the Titanic, came from Stoke! Sounds great, tastes great and has endless possibilities for branding.

Dave and Keith Bott bought the brewery from administrators, and have won numerous CAMRA national awards and now operate eight pubs, as well as supplying beer to the free-trade. They were pioneers in working with Stephen Gould at Everards on what is called ‘Project William’, a project that saw Titanic partner with Everards to expand their pub estate. It is a great partnership which works for both companies, and Titanic have now entered into a similar arrangement with Marstons on one site.

Andy Slee (recently with Punch) has joined as a non-Executive Director and, like Keith and Dave, also comes from Stoke – he has helped with some national accounts and greater expansion. Whilst bottling is undertaken at Marstons, they fill casks on site and fill to order so that the beer arrives as fresh as possible with a good shelf life. As Keith put it so succinctly, they have an aspirational offer of staying ahead of the competition.

Thank you Keith, Andy and Anneli for a memorable visit and a great outing for us all!

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


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Saving the Night Time Economy

On 21/11/16 by Jack Shepherd (Policy and Information Officer)

It’s 1am on a cold Saturday morning in October and Amsterdam’s Rembrandtplein is alive with the chatter of locals and tourists. Many are heading for two of Amsterdam’s most well-known nightclubs and join the vast entry queues.

All around them, an abundance of pubs, bars, coffee shops, restaurants and lesser music venues flourish. A similar story can be told in Berlin, in Prague and in Paris, where vibrant and diverse Night Time Economies (NTE) thrive.

In the UK, pubs alone contribute over £23 billion to the economy on an annual basis, and create around 900,000 jobs. Whilst cities such as Amsterdam, Berlin and Prague all continue to invest in an increasingly successful, diverse and vibrant night-time offer, we have seen a steady decline of London’s NTE. However, things are starting to change.

Helping the NTE was a key pledge in London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s election campaign, and one that he seems determined to deliver. Indeed, he has now appointed a Night Time Commission, and a London Night Czar. It is certainly a positive step but change will not be easy to achieve and there are some clear issues that must be addressed.

I recently attended an event hosted by renowned licensing lawyers, Poppleston Allen in Covent Garden. It was here that I was introduced to the ‘Manifesto for the Night Time Economy’, written by Philip Kolvin QC of Cornerstone Barristers. The document gives some interesting insights into what a successful NTE in London could look like and it certainly highlights that there is plenty of scope to improve the situation, especially when compared to other cities across Europe. A change in approach is undoubtedly necessary.

Most critical of all, licensing is the primary regulatory tool in the NTE and, rather than working to expand a diverse and vibrant night-time offer, it is not built to recognise the value of the NTE. As a result, the perception of London’s NTE is negative and it is seen as something to be restricted and minimised.

In contrast, planning is the central tool in the day-time economy, working to build a diverse offer. There is no doubt that regulation is imperative, whether this is through licensing, policing or health and safety. It should not, however, incur unsustainable costs on businesses and should recognise good operators whilst assisting in bringing less successful operators up to scratch.

This issue is not irreversible but it will require a major step change in how the NTE is managed. If the shared vision is of a safe and diverse NTE that caters for every sector of the population, emphasis can be placed on growth. Pubs and bars are critical, as they offer a number of diverse services, including live music, entertainment, great food and a safe environment in which to socialise.

Linked to this point is the importance of effective partnership working between all stakeholders. In order to achieve a positive shared vision of the NTE, it is important that all planning and regulatory authorities work together and alongside businesses.

Many businesses in the NTE, and particularly the pub trade, are fully committed to effective partnership frameworks in order to create a safe and vibrant environment. National Pubwatch, Best Bar None and Business Improvement Districts are just three examples. Close partnership working with a shared strategic vision for investment in a diverse and vibrant NTE is crucial to success.

Lastly, perception is key. Cities and their successful nigh-time offers are achievements to be celebrated. The NTE is capable of presenting an attractive offer to everyone. Once a positive shared vision has been decided upon, stakeholders must work to overturn the negative perceptions that are synonymous with London’s NTE. Only then will we be able to match those cities in Europe leading the way to ensure a safe, diverse, vibrant NTE for all.

You can access the full version of the ‘Manifesto for the Night Time Economy’ here.

Jack Shepherd
Policy and Information Officer


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Beer Boom Britain - A Technology Revolution

On 30/09/16

By Martijn van Buuren, of Broad Green Partnerships:

Digital print teamed with customisation has transformed the packaging industry as we know it today. Personalised, direct-to-can digital printing is a revolutionary step in packaging for aluminium cans and arrives at a perfect time for Britain’s booming beer industry.

For small volume brewing from either small or large brewers, in a competitive market, this type of packaging innovation provides huge opportunity and is guaranteed to generate brand excitement and recognition.

Canned beer is back in vogue and with approaching 2000 brewers in the UK alone and nearly 10,000 brands, it is an extremely competitive beer market.

While cans are undeniably becoming extremely popular, there is still a lack of ability to provide small batch brews in cans with the same print quality as mass produced product. This is due to traditional processes and the economic crossover point of the suppliers, with minimum order quantities of around 150,000 cans and long lead times creating a barrier to the fluidity and potential rapid growth of small, independent brewers who need batch sizes of 10,000 to 50,000.

Until now, the only alternative for small batch brewing to be packaged in cans is to utilise indirect label printing at a considerable additional cost to conventional manufactured cans. New digital can printing technology addresses these issues while opening-up a whole new world of opportunity. Digital print technology for beverage can decoration, whether for craft beer or mainstream brands can deliver the variety, flexibility and choice that producers need to succeed. In fact, with limited edition flavourings or one-off special brews increasing in popularity, packaging can help a brand stand-out.

From a cost perspective alone, direct to can digital printing from manufacturers such as Tonejet is roughly 20 times cheaper than label printing for cans.

With the inherent nature of digital print and minimum orders of almost one, brewers are now provided with virtually limitless personalisation opportunities. Not only that, but as the technology is capable of printing several batches a day, product time-to-market is decreased too, enabling brewers to respond quickly to seasonal trends or produce and can key beverage brands for events or social media campaign, opening-up new business opportunities.

True personalised packaging, may be key to unlocking significant investment opportunities, for a variety of business models – be that simply as a financial investor or in setting up individual custom digital can printing operations.

With an increased focus on branding and customer communication, there is a huge opportunity for such canning operations, whether that be for small and contract brewers, larger beverage producers, printer converters or potential investors.

Viva la beer revolution!


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Camden Licensing Policy

On 01/08/16 by Jack Shepherd (Policy and Information Officer)

The Licensing Act 2003 has at its core the principle that local areas – through their local authorities and elected councillors – should have a say on alcohol licensing in their localities. The Localism Act 2011 expanded the remit of local authorities and enshrined in law the move towards a less centralised structure of power in areas other than licensing. There are, of course, many benefits to this. Local councils are able to adapt to local circumstances, innovate to provide services at lower costs and ensure that democracy remains close to the people.

However, with greater power comes greater responsibility. Camden’s consultation on a new Statement of Licensing Policy is concerning as it seemingly goes further than the law and attempts to introduce an initiative beyond the scope of national legislation. The policy in question effectively looks to promote public health as a new licensing condition in addition to the four objectives set out by Government in the Licensing Act 2003. Whilst the new Statement of Licensing Policy objectives closely follow the Home Office Guidance issued under Section 182 of the 2003 Act, almost mirroring them exactly in most instances, there is one seemingly small yet significant addition of three words. The objective in question is as follows:

‘To provide a regulatory framework for alcohol which reflects the needs of local people including their health’.

Camden’s draft Licensing Policy proceeds to build upon on public health considerations a number of times, including setting out some ‘best practice’ related to public health for licensees to consider when completing their operating schedules.

This should be of great concern. There is no reference to public health as a licensing objective in the national guidance to the Licensing Act as it explicitly states that ‘there are no other statutory licensing objectives, so that the promotion of the four objectives is a paramount consideration at all times’. Indeed, public health can only be considered when relating to a specific premises and in detriment to one of the licensing objectives. Importantly Government has rejected public health as a licensing objective, in relation to cumulative impact, in a previous consultation and going forward there is no indication of an intention from Government to include public health as a licensing objective in the main Act. This decision is predicated on some key limitations and drawbacks. Public health data is not collected in a form that allows a causal link between public health concerns and individual premises, and is therefore unlikely to be considered relevant . Further concerns relate to the inaccuracy of statistics on alcohol as the primary cause of harm and the harm that is caused through alcohol consumption before entering the responsible environment of a premises.

Critically then, Camden’s draft Licensing Policy is effectively looking to introduce an initiative on public health in contradiction with national policy and subsequent consultations that have been closely scrutinised and consulted upon before being defined in law. We must therefore consider the democratic process. Yes, there are many important benefits to localism - but where do we draw the line?

If we are to discuss localism and public health, we should perhaps acknowledge the significant contribution made by many licensed premises to the responsible, safe and vibrant local economies through a number of partnership schemes and responsibility initiatives such as PubWatch, Best Bar None and Challenge 21/25. Further, we should reflect upon the significant benefits to health and wellbeing that are provided by pubs through an environment that encourages positive social interaction and the opportunity to build and maintain friendships. These contributions may be difficult to quantify at times but are, nonetheless, invaluable. If we are to consider localism and public health, I know which initiatives I’m backing.

Jack Shepherd
Policy and Information Officer


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Despite new pub codes, self-regulation still plays a key role

On 22/07/16 by Jim Cathcart (Policy Manager - Pub Operations)

After many years of select committee inquiries, reports, super-complaints, consultation and extensive parliamentary debate, we now have a statutory code of practice and independent adjudicator overseeing the tied pub sector.

Those companies covered by the statutory code are committed to implementing it in the best way possible and working with the Pubs Code Adjudicator to ensure that the new code functions fairly for both companies and their tenants and lessees. As with any piece of legislation, and perhaps even more so as this regulates the commercial elements of a complex industry, we will have to wait and see how this affects the British pub sector and for all involved it will be a learning process.

At the same time, the implementation this week of three evolved codes of practice clearly shows that self-regulation is in fact stronger than ever.

Thirty-three companies in England and Wales (operating over 4,000 tied pubs) are signed up to the system, with a further six companies covering the majority of tied pubs in Scotland also on board. These include not just members of the British Beer & Pub Association and the Independent Family Brewers of Britain – who have been involved in the self-regulatory system for many years – but other operators who have now firmly endorsed the idea of robust codes backed by independent, low-cost dispute resolutions for rent issues and other matters.

There is no other business sector that operates such a system, with the codes covering every element of the relationship between the landlord company and their tenant. This includes obligations for both parties before an agreement is signed, pre-entry training to explain how the business model works and what the tenant can expect at the final interview for the pub – before moving on to key points in the ‘life’ of the agreement such as rent reviews, insurance, machines and general interaction with the pub company or brewery.

The codes are designed to be as clear and straightforward as possible, with a separate code for tenancies and another for leases, further highlighting that these are practical and workable documents that have been developed over many years of experience and designed specifically for the tied pub sector. For the first time, Scotland has its own code which takes into account legal differences in property law in Scotland and makes it clear that tied tenants have access to PIRRS (rent disputes) and PICA-Service (other disputes) through those with specific Scottish expertise.

The new codes are an evolution of the Industry Framework Code and replace the myriad individual company codes with one set of definitive codes. Lessees and tenants will continue to have access to low cost arbitration of rent and other disputes, through PIRRS and PICA-Service, which have operated successfully and are flexible enough to adapt to a sector where there is constant change. The codes are overseen by the Pub Governing Body which includes both company and tenant representatives and has an independent chair in the form of ex-BIS Select Committee chairman Sir Peter Luff who oversaw a number of Parliamentary hearings involving the tied pub sector.

Self-regulation in the pub sector works – as evidenced not just by the latest developments in the system but also by the fact that the dispute resolution procedures have been used in practice to solve and give redress to tenants, as part of a tailored and low-cost service of benefit to the thousands of pub operators across England, Wales and Scotland which will continue into the future.

Jim Cathcart
Policy Manager - Pub Operations


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