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Hospitality Ulster Annual Awards

On 16/11/15 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

Hospitality Ulster held its annual awards in Belfast this week and I was not only a judge of two of the categories, but very grateful to be asked to attend too. I have long admired the work of Colin Neill and his team, and this year his very able chairman Mark Stewart has been replaced by the equally passionate Olga Walls who spoke about recognising every sector of the industry they now represent, from pubs to bars and from hotels to restaurants. In 2016, Northern Ireland will be celebrating a Year of Food and Drink, and Tourism Northern Ireland has produced a toolkit to help businesses make the most of it through identifying themselves with the campaign and using its logo in their communications. April is the month for brewing and distilling, so we can expect some new and innovative brews!

I was fortunate to sit next to Jonathan Bell MLA, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment, whose responsibilities include tourism. It offered an opportunity to talk about the Northern Ireland licensing laws which are under review (to modernise), and the National Living Wage; how businesses can be helped to cope with it and the importance of our sector to tourism. Business Rates were very much part of that discussion, as was red tape. Since on my other side was Terrance Brannigan, the Chairman of Tourism NI, it was not difficult to make the point! Supporting growth is clearly a priority for the Minister and the health and wealth of the hospitality industry is clearly vital to the NI economy. We also of course talked about beer duty.

It is always good to see the excellence in the winners. The Urban Pub of the Year had a huge entry and Mary’s Bar, Magherafelt in Country Derry put in a great submission demonstrating the importance of training and excellent financial results too. In the City category, again demonstrating good training and good result, the Sunflower in Belfast was a deserving winner. I rated both very highly.

The whole event was held at La Mon Hotel and Country Club which provided great hospitality. Francis Brady, who I subsequently discovered co-owns the hotel, was honoured during the evening before he retires. He could not have made more feel more welcome – insisting on helping me with the luggage and later on arranging for me to have the right cash for my morning in Dublin the following morning. I will always have a very warm feeling about this hotel as a result, which is exactly as it should be of course, with excellence in hospitality.

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


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Freight - a vital part of London’s future

On 10/11/15 by Steve Livens (Policy Manager - Product Assurance & Supply Chain)

The 11th Transport for London Freight forum, held last week in Southwark, presented an ideal opportunity for stakeholders within the freight industries to hear some of the ideas and possible future plans that TfL envisages for freight in London as part of its ongoing task of dragging the city kicking and screaming into a safer, greener and more efficient future.

Something the assembled throng spent considerable time discussing during the forum was the potential policy directions of the two most likely front runners for Mayor, identified by Luke Blair of the London Communications Agency as Conservative and Labour candidates Zac Goldsmith and Sadiq Khan.

Luke told us there was very little to tell apart from the two, with both claiming similar policy goals which seemed to feature strongly, the banning of lorries in London!

As it is early in the campaign, both Luke and Leon Daniels, Head of Surface Transportation at TfL, highlighted that now is the time for the freight industry to engage with policy development in both mayoral camps. This is wise, as it seems clear that, at least in terms of transportation improvements and with London’s rapid commercial and residential expansion, freight requirements remain largely misunderstood.

Freight continues to be one of the most underdeveloped and misunderstood policy areas associated with London’s future growth and development. There is a real need for the freight industry to engage quickly and clearly to highlight just how important the freight infrastructure is to London's future.

BBPA has worked successfully with TfL over the last year to address the broader lack of misunderstanding of freight requirements as TfL has tried to realise the current Mayor’s cycling vision within London.

Such partnership has been both educational for TfL and beneficial for the brewery logistics and delivery industry in securing the safety and efficiency of beer deliveries to London’s pubs. Something that London’s growing numbers of residents and workers are sure to appreciate after a hard day at work or a little peddle-based exercise!

Whoever the new Mayor for London might be, collaboration is the way forward. London’s growth is not hindered by, but is reliant upon a strong, freight infrastructure and the industry itself holds the same core themes of efficiency, environment and safety at its heart.

Steve Livens
Policy Manager - Product Assurance & Supply Chain


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Boxing clever with the Licensed Trade Charity

On 06/11/15 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

An evening with the Licensed Trade Charity is always an evening well spent. I was fortunate enough to be invited to their Charity Boxing Tournament (to watch you will be relieved to hear, rather than participate)! Sponsored by Shepherd Neame, previous events have raised over £55,000 and I am sure this year will be no different. Each course had beer as an ingredient: from Whitstable Bay Blonde Broth to Fine Apple Tart and Brilliant Ale ice cream! We bought raffle tickets, guessed who would win the first six boxing rounds and entered a competition to win all the beer left over from the evening’s drinks reception. It was great fun, but all in a very good cause too.

The boxers all came from the Fitzroy Lodge Amateur Boxing Club (ABC), which is a not-for-profit community club. Part of the club is Carney’s Community; a charity which aims to reduce offending and re-offending, and anti-social behaviour, by engaging a range of young people in positive and constructive activities. It is all of course amateur boxing, but very fast and furious and extremely engaging to watch. Like going to the races, I chose who might win each bout based on whether I liked their names and inevitably lost each one, but that did not spoil my appreciation of how hard they had worked to be so physically fit.

As those of you who attended our Annual Dinner will know, the Licensed Trade charity works to help those who are facing personal or family problems and work or have worked in the trade. This covers both pubs and brewing. They provide a helping hand during tough times and very much deserve all our support. The LTC also runs three schools; one is main-stream in Ascot, but two are for autistic children which are just quite wonderful to visit to see some very special work. One hundred per cent of those who they help go onto further education or find a job. It is very humbling, but so important for the families whose children need this sort of care. I think all in the trade should support the LTC in whatever way we can. They are doing a great job and helping so many.

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


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The Party Conference Season

On 20/10/15 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

In four weeks, I attended four party conferences. Although tiring, the party conference season provides an invaluable opportunity to meet old friends and new, from both industry and Parliament, and this year they offered very interesting political insight.

The Liberal Democrat Party Conference in Bournemouth was significantly smaller than in previous years though still jam-packed with fringe events. With both current and ex-MPs in attendance, the more intimate affair provided a valuable networking opportunity.

The Labour Conference in Brighton had a very different atmosphere to previous years. I was disappointed that there was little mention of additional support for businesses at the events that I attended, however it was clear that the Opposition is still in the process of shaping its political agenda. I had the opportunity to meet a number of MPs who I will follow up with in due course and hopefully we can help shape some of their policies for the future.

The Conservative Conference was inevitably the most useful, not least because MPs and Ministers can follow up your requests with direct action. Despite the intimidating behaviour by some protesters surrounding the conference, the All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group held a very well-attended fringe event. With the national living wage on the horizon, our call to action was for Government to see how they can help us in other ways, particularly with business rates, red tape and of course more help in reducing beer tax. We also promoted the parliamentary Pub Chef Awards at every opportunity and I have arranged follow-up meetings in London as a result.

So finally to Aberdeen and the Scottish National Party conference. The SNP is very keen to support the Scottish economy and therefore business too. They are keen to help community pubs, but there is more work to do, particularly through their study on the pub market which is about to begin. Our film at the reception (which we jointly sponsored with others), promoting the on-trade, was very well received and the party clearly enjoys the growth and diversity of beer produced in Scotland.

I enjoy party conferences because they offer an opportunity to meet and talk informally, but as they are fairly exhausting a few days back in the office to catch up will not go amiss!

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


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Great food calls for great chefs – let’s get our MPs involved

On 19/10/15 by Rebekah Kendrick (Communications & Campaigns Officer)

This weekend, the Sunday Telegraph reported the success of the Great British roast dinner in pubs across the UK. The article recognised that a top-notch Sunday lunch is the ‘nation’s favourite meal’, and noted that now, people are having to book a table at their local days in advance.

The article pays homage to the incredible range of food in pubs today. Recently the British Roast Dinner Week winner was announced and, unsurprisingly, a pub snapped up the award which celebrates the best of British.

Yet, we are facing a skills shortage. ‘Pub chef’ arguably isn’t the most glamourous title and we as an industry need to help change perceptions. After all, there are pubs up and down the country which have Michelin Stars and we have seen some exceptional chefs who have made their mark in a pub compete in the BBC’s Great British Menu, year after year. And it’s not just a man’s world. This year we also saw the fantastic Eve Townson from Thwaite’s pub, the Eagle and Child, compete.

We should celebrate their excellence and show that the role offers challenges, the opportunity for creative freedom and the chance to serve food that customers can truly be excited about. And this is why the BBPA has launched the Pub Chef Awards (supported by the All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group and sponsored by Nestlé Professional) as a way of celebrating Great British pub food and as a passionate cry for young, creative individuals to become part of a thriving and innovative industry.

The pub industry knows that, although it is still performing well in the dining-out market, it still needs to keep ahead of the game by maintaining high standards and remaining competitive with its food offering. To do that, pubs need to offer quality training – something BBPA member Robinson’s has embraced with its ‘Professional Chefs’ apprenticeship. BBPA has also supported Pub Chef Passion, which aims to break the misconception that you have to work in a top restaurant to excel as a chef. We jointly created a film, which can be watched here.

So, what can you do to get involved? We have created a guide on our website which shows you how you can help get your local nominated for a pub chef award by your local MP. But most importantly, you can head down to your local, food-led pub and enjoy a meal in what is most definitely the best place to enjoy a Sunday roast.

Rebekah Kendrick
Communications & Campaigns Officer


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BBPA exhibits British beer at the World Expo

On 19/10/15

A selection of the finest British beers made the trip to Milan at the end of September to be showcased at the British Beer Festival in the UK pavilion at the World Expo. The World Expo is a six-month exhibition where over 140 countries and corporations showcase the best they have to offer to the World. This year’s Expo focused on food and how to feed the world and expects to see over 20 million visitors.

The British Beer Festival consisted of two elements - a sampling session for the thousands of visitors to the UK stand, and tutored tastings by beer sommelier Steve Livens for a selection of beer buyers and publicans. Brewers Charles Wells and Meantime also attended the event to talk to buyers and consumers about their beers which were on show.

The consumer sampling attracted a wide range of visitors, from the estimated 20,000 visitors to the UK presence that day. The audience was predominantly Italian but also included a broad range of other nationalities keen to try British beers. There seemed to be a strong preference from the natives for stronger, darker beers, as well as the IPAs and bitters that were also on show. In total around 20 beers from six breweries were handed out (see below for the full list). I am pleased to report that there was no indication of immoderate consumption.

Steve Livens then held the first of two formal tastings on the day. The first being a 90-minute tutored tasting for 15 buyers invited by UKTI. These were predominantly Italian, and many already had a strong knowledge of British beer. However the 10-beer sampling ensured that a diverse range of styles and flavours were incorporated and everyone went away having learnt more about British beer. Links were developed that will hopefully see more British beer exported to Italy and beyond.

Not content with educating potential buyers the BBPA’s beer sommelier then entertained twenty international bloggers who were being escorted around the Expo and treated to the very best food events on offer. Not surprisingly, the quality and diversity of the British beers on offer in the UK pavilion was not to be missed. This gave added attention to the showcase on various digital platforms, and may well have added to the surge in visitors received at around 6pm. UKTI summarised this on Storify and a keen blogger posted a virtual tour on Twitter.

After an epic stint helping to run the British beer bar, purely in the name of research the BBPA team visited a number of other national pavilions to inspect their beer offering. Pilsner Urquell had a strong representation on the Czech stand, with the Belgians having a permanent beer festival as the showpiece of their pavilion. The U.S. was reliant on a domestic brand as its only draught product though there was an imported gluten-free bottled beer available.

Overall it was a successful event with great enthusiasm for British beer from consumers and retailers alike.


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Nick Clegg’s comments on the EU at the Liberal Democrat Party Conference

On 30/09/15 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

Visiting party conferences is important for establishing relationships with our political parties and encouraging their support for the British brewing and pub industry. First up this year were the Liberal Democrats in Bournemouth; a much smaller affair than in previous years, but an opportunity to catch up with old friends and make a few more!

I felt privileged to go the Demos fringe and hear former Lib Dem Leader and Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, take part in a fascinating interview with Phil Collins (not of course the lead singer for Genesis, but the political journalist who writes for the Times!). They began with a discussion of what happened at the General Election, with Nick Clegg talking about the historical differences between parties (‘a bit more market or a bit more state’) and how the electorate now considers identity to be a more important factor when determining how they will vote at the ballot box.

The panel went on to discuss the EU. The Liberal Democrats are very keen to support remaining in the EU, but believe that the vote is entirely unpredictable, recognising that it could be a re-run of the Scottish Referendum where Scottish nationalism lost out in the end to a stronger economic argument. There is a need, said Nick Clegg, for the 'poetic case' which stirs the blood.

He talked about Franco-German reconciliation as the modern answer to globalisation, but how the historic purpose of the EU, with the end of the Cold War, has been lost. When he worked in Brussels it took 15 years to achieve a directive on chocolate, but free trade with no tariffs means that everyone can export chocolate without any cost. The economics work both ways for the UK; it is not only about goods, services and people coming into the UK, it is about our ability to work and export throughout Europe. He gave the example of Norway, which pays three quarters of the contribution per head of other EU members, but has absolutely no say in how EU Directives are set and simply have to implement them in national law.

“Jobs, jobs, jobs” seemed to be his mantra for staying in the EU. It was then interesting that, in questions, a woman probably in her early 30s said that, for her generation, they do not remember the Cold War, they can hardly remember the breakup of Yugoslavia and have really only known peace. The whole reason for establishing the EU is slightly lost on them, but on the other hand they all know the freedom to travel and work across the EU and are not keen to lose that right.

A very interesting debate which will probably dominate politics until the referendum. There is no role for the BBPA to comment on whether our members do or do not want to stay in the EU, but it is certainly interesting to listen to the arguments. I look forward to hearing the debate at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton next week!

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


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Removing barriers to Trade in the USA

On 22/09/15 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

BBPA has for some time been engaged with Government on the negotiations known as TTIP (The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), which is in essence an attempt by both the US and European Governments to break down trade barriers.

Given the UK’s emphasis on exports as a way to achieve economic growth, there is considerable pressure from David Cameron and others in the Cabinet to make progress.

Many of the issues under discussion are behavioural (for example on animal welfare and issues around genetically modified food), but for beer the issue is purely one of tariffs.

This is why I was delighted that last week, Richard Fuller acted as host for a US congressional visit to Fuller’s that we at the BBPA helped to arrange, and he and I explained to the delegation what we are looking for.

British beer exports are third on the list of food and drink exports from the UK and are worth some £630 million per annum. Exports outside the EU have increased by some 24% since 2008.

The problem is this; small brewers in the USA benefit from Small Brewer Relief in the UK – so if you produce less than 60,000 hl and import into the UK you can benefit, under the progressive Beer Duty regime.

This does not work, however, in reverse. A small brewer in the US is defined as producing less than 2 million US barrels. If a brewer meets the criteria, it receives a discount on federal tax for the first 60,000 US barrels, from $18 to $7 dollars a barrel.

This discount is not available to UK or European brewers trying to import into the US. There are other barriers too – UK importers face a three-tier distribution system which imposes additional costs; domestic brewers only require two.

The TTIP issue for brewers was highlighted by the CBI in its report last summer. As a result, the BBPA was approached by the British Embassy in Washington which was arranging a delegation to the UK to come and understand a little more. This included a Congressman, Representative Don Beyer from Virginia’s 8th Congressional District, and a range of policy advisors and other Congressional professionals.

It was a real opportunity for us to explain that what we were looking for and to give support for a Bill which has been put forward in the US Congress, which would give more help to small domestic brewers, but would also cover imported beer.

As you can imagine, it was a lively discussion and ended up with considerable interest in the range of Fuller’s beers and of course the importance of British ‘draft’ beer to overseas markets. Time will tell whether TTIP makes progress, or whether in the meantime Congress will vote to offer help to overseas brewers in the interests of broadening their own market!


Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


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Who will win Britain’s best roast crown?

On 13/08/15 by William Murray Communications

There’s nothing quite like a roast dinner – in fact it’s Britain’s favourite pub meal 1.

To celebrate the nation’s most popular pub grub, British Roast Dinner Week will be held from 28 September to 4 October 2015. It includes a fiercely-fought competition to find the ‘Best British Roast Dinner’. But the deadline is fast approaching.

To be in with a chance of winning the title, you need to submit your entry at the British Roast Dinner Week website by 16 August 2015. Entering is easy – there’s just four simple questions to answer and fabulous prizes up for grabs, including £10k worth of PR and a day with a pub food consultant. The business case is pretty persuasive too. Last year’s winner, The Truscott Arms in Paddington, London, saw its food revenues soar by a staggering 50%.

Hundreds of pubs across Britain have already entered, so why not join them? After all, what better way to get your pub’s name linked with the nation’s favourite pub meal?

Sponsored by KNORR® Gravy and supported by COLMAN’S® mustard, British Roast Dinner Week encourages pubs to put a roast dinner on their menu every day. Because that’s exactly what 40% of customers2 would like to see. And being known for great roasts brings in the bookings.

1 YouGov, survey commissioned by BBC Good Food, September 2014, n=10,000
2 OnePoll survey, August 2014, commissioned by Unilever Food Solutions, n=2000 consumers who eat roast dinners

William Murray Communications


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