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Local authority higher-strength schemes

On 11/11/14 by Jeremy Beadles (Chair, Future Beer Group)

As Chairman of the Future Beer Group, I was delighted to be asked to write a guest blog for the BBPA, especially at a time when there is such positive news for our category: two historic cuts to beer duty, consecutive quarters of beer sales growth, and rising consumer interest in beer – there is much to be optimistic about.

However, one area that is already a concern for many, and should be a concern for all, is the rapid spread of local authority restrictions on higher-strength beers and ciders. Local authority higher-strength schemes represent a serious threat, not just because they seek to restrict our market access, but because they risk fundamentally undermining the reputation of the beer and cider categories as a whole.

Many of the challenges we face as brewers, whether it is taxation or advertising and promotional restrictions, apply equally to other alcohol categories. But the move by almost 100 local authorities to restrict the sale of higher-strength beer and cider unfairly targets and stigmatises our category and risks undermining our reputation as beer producers. Furthermore, higher–strength refers to beer and cider with an ABV of 5.5% and above – which inadvertently targets some of our great historic, local and imported beers. What’s Theakston’s Old Peculier ever done to deserve that?

Whilst it is right that we focus on challenging the individual schemes, and the questionable evidence upon which they are established, it is also more important than ever to continue to promote the positives of our category. That is why the ‘There’s a Beer For That’ campaign is such a crucial piece of work – reminding consumers of the passion that we have for beer in Britain and breaking down some of the old-fashioned perceptions of beer.

The action taken by some local authorities to remove beers and ciders with an ABV of 5.5% and above also fails to recognise the work that is being done, often hand in hand with Government, to tackle irresponsible consumption. It is worth noting that, where these schemes have seen most success, it has not been through arbitrarily de-listing products but by taking a sensible approach to partnership working. That is why we need to remain on the front foot and must be prepared to demonstrate to local authorities that there are range of evidence-based and effective solutions available to them to help them tackle alcohol related crime and anti-social behaviour; such as Best Bar None, Community Alcohol Partnerships, Pub Watch and Purple Flag.

We also need to continue to remind people about the downward trends in alcohol consumption in the UK. The vast majority of adults enjoy alcohol responsibly, with overall alcohol consumption dropping by 18% since 2004. Government figures show that alcohol-related crime and drinking amongst young people is also in decline. This does not mean that we should be complacent, but it does mean that we are in strong position to encourage Government, at a national and local level, to pursue targeted and evidence-based solutions.

With the May 2015 General Election firmly on the horizon, we need to remain alert to the challenges that a new parliament, with a potentially different political mix, may bring. There seems to be a consensus across the political parties about the need to devolve more political control to local authorities, and to the devolved assemblies and parliaments. This means that, what at first appeared to be quite a unique challenge with local authority restrictions on higher-strength, could become more commonplace in future. Our response must be to continue to promote beer through campaigns such as There’s a Beer For That, delivering the highest standards of social responsibility, whilst engaging nationally and locally with support for evidence based and targeted action that can make a real difference. With breweries and pubs across the UK, we are well equipped to engage at a local and national level, demonstrating how effective we can all be as local partners.

Jeremy Beadles
Chair, Future Beer Group


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Worldwide Brewing Alliance – working together on global challenges

On 07/11/14 by Andy Tighe (Policy Director)

Representatives of brewers and brewing trade associations from across the world met in Amsterdam on the 14th and 15th of October for the annual meeting of the Worldwide Brewing Alliance (WBA) and Global Brewers Initiative.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the many common issues faced by the brewing industry worldwide, share best practice, and strengthen collaboration in addressing these issues. The WBA also engages directly with global institutions such as the World Health Organisation on strategies to address the harmful use of alcohol as well as other bodies who can impact on the commercial freedoms of brewers.

The first session focused on work promoting beer as part of a healthy lifestyle and diet, and feedback from successful arms-length events held in Brussels in September and in Copenhagen earlier in the year. Over 600 people are also expected to attend a beer and health seminar in Lagos in November.

Important learning from these events, and future events elsewhere, is the need to ensure that academics and scientists themselves are delivering the key messages from their research and not the industry itself. Also, and perhaps unsurprisingly, securing positive media coverage means that “new” research is most appealing to journalists attending. Access to, and coordination and translation of, the latest research is vital as is securing funding through bodies such as ERAB the European Foundation for Alcohol Research.

On the flip side to the positive research on beer and wellbeing, the so called “best buys” (increasing taxation, advertising bans, and restricting availability) continue to be strongly pushed at a global, regional and national level as THE most effective way to tackle the harmful use of alcohol.

Of course, such population-based approaches can disproportionately affect responsible drinkers as well as drive informal and illicit markets. A whole session in Amsterdam was focused on “evidence-based engagement” to better understand how associations and companies across the world currently engage in this area, what the current evidence-base tells us, where are the gaps, and more needs to be done to strengthen our engagement.

Again coordination became a key theme. This work will continue with a further workshop in Geneva in February. For example, concern is such that the Brewers of Japan have now retained two scientists to review studies in this area and publish these reviews in Japanese and English on their website. In Finland, which already has a very restrictive alcohol policy, proposals have been put forward to further restrict marketing/advertising in print and social media, to no longer allow beer up to 4.7% abv to be sold outside of State monopoly outlets and also to further cut back trading hours.

Other national and regional challenges were presented and debated, with new labelling requirements being a common theme as well as national campaigns seeking to improve the reputation of the beer category in the eyes of policy makers, influencers and consumers.

The WBA provides a unique and valuable platform for the brewing industry, and after two very enjoyable years, I was sad to hand over the Chairmanship in Amsterdam although BBPA will continue to play an active role going forwards. The challenges we face remain as strong as ever and working together and learning from other markets will be key to protecting the freedom to produce and sell the best drink in the world!

Andy Tighe
Policy Director


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Timothy Taylor brewery tour

On 04/11/14 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

Every year, the BBPA team visits one of our members so we all gain a greater understanding of their history, heritage and challenges. In my time, we have been to Brewers of Europe, Marston’s, Hall & Woodhouse, Adnams and, this year, Timothy Taylor. With Charles Dent moving to be Chairman at the end of the year and 'Boltmaker' awarded Champion Beer by CAMRA, it seemed a great idea for us all to board a train to the West Riding of Yorkshire last week, on one of the hottest Hallowe'ens for decades - it was even warm in Yorkshire!

Timothy Taylor started brewing in Keighley in 1858. It is still a family-owned company but, like many, has external non-executive directors, including Mike Bramley and Tim Clarke who have all played their part in the BBPA in past years.

Timothy Taylor uses Golden Promise barley in all their beers and whole hops. They take pride in their yeast evolved over 1,700 yeast generations and water from the Knowle Spring. Fermentation takes a minimum of seven days with a further week in a holding tank before beer is put into casks.

Beyond the brewery, Timothy Taylor's were one of a number of companies to take advantage of the 'Grand Depart' of the Tour de France this year. Peter Eells, their head brewer, created 'Le Champion', a 4.5% abv French style blonde beer, and students from Leeds City College produced striking yellow bikes to decorate the company’s pubs. The Woolly Sheep won the award for best pub in the 'Welcome to Yorkshire' Pub of the Year competition and supplies of Le Champion were even delivered by bicycle!

After a 'tour de force' history lesson, complete with photographic evidence from Charles Dent and a tour of the brewery, the team headed for lunch at the Lord Rodney with a melt in the mouth cottage pie, with Landlord, Boltmaker and Golden Best to complement. We then walked to the 'Boltmaker' pub, hardly larger than a small front room, but clearly a favourite 'wet-led' pub for a last pint before heading back by train.

We would all at the BBPA like to thank Charles, Peter, Andrew and the whole team for a great visit. The Timothy Taylor purpose is to thrive as a family-owned business by brewing nationally renowned, award-winning beers; owning pubs which support the value of the company; generating an attractive and sustainable return for shareholders whilst being fair and honest to their customers, employees and suppliers. This encapsulates the heritage and Britishness of beer and pubs which we are all so keen to support and promote.

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


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There's a Beer For That

On 03/11/14 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

Last year, five major brewers (AB Inbev, Carlsberg, Heineken, Molson Coors and Miller Brands) united to fund and launch a campaign to grow the British beer category and remind those who might have moved away from beer, or never tried it, of the vast array of tastes, flavours and styles of our national drink.

Last week, ‘Let There Be Beer’ evolved into ‘There’s a Beer for That’ with the launch of a major new advertising campaign, website and social media programme and I was fortunate enough to be at the launch.

Most of you will have met David Cunningham, the Program Director of the campaign, who is based in our offices, along with Louise Doherty, Social and Digital Manager. At the launch David explained that this is a £10 million investment for 2014 and 2015. Motivating and easy to understand, the campaign looks at quality, diversity and versatility, recognising that whoever you are, whatever the occasion, there’s a beer for you. What food are you eating? There’s a perfect beer to match this too.

The advertisement has been directed by the internationally renowned film director Michael Winterbottom who chose this to be the first advertisement he would film. The Director is best known for his work on Twelve Years a Slave and the opening ceremony for London 2012. A stellar team who have produced a magnificent advertisement, there were 250 in the cast of which 43 were principles. If you have not seen the advertisement – the link can be found here.

Launching in November will be #BeerMatch, a twitter service which will allow instant advice on beer and food matching to anyone tweeting a dish to @BeerForThat The recommendation for a beer pairing is being provided by some of the UK's most respected beer writers and sommeliers, including the BBPA's Steve Livens, who matched the beer and food at the launch event. Later in November will see the launch of Beer Club, which is rather like a book club for beer where anyone can join in on a guided online discussion about popular beer styles, every Wednesday evening at 7pm.

When you see the advertisement, you will note that it ends with the announcement that the campaign is backed by 'Britain's Beer Alliance', which is something for us all to support. There is no cost, but we want as many brewers and pub companies as we can to support and add their logo to the campaign. So do join in - make contact with David Cunningham or Louise Doherty and be part of this national celebration of Great British beer.

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


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LVS Oxford; the new school for the Licensed Trade Charity

On 30/10/14 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

I was fortunate enough to visit the new Licensed Trade Charity school this week in the company of James Clarke, Chief Executive of Hook Norton, and a former Chairman of the BBPA Midlands region. The Hook Norton brewery is about 20 miles from the new school.

The Licensed Trade Charity helps people in need in our industry. In 2013, the charity spent more than £1.2 million on support and care services. This includes bursaries for children at the non-selective school they operate for 900 students at Ascot.

In 2009, the LTC opened a school for those on the autism spectrum in Hassocks. One in ten children in the UK suffers from autism. While not all need to attend a special school, Hassocks, and now Oxford, cater for those who do need special care. Many are funded by local authorities through a ‘statement’ as they have a legal requirement to provide for their educational needs. Just 15 per cent of young people with autism achieve full-time jobs. The LVS schools make beating these odds a top priority, and every effort is made to meet the special requirements of each child.

LVS Oxford is a former priory. Although it only opened in September, the school already has 16 day pupils and in the New Year there will be week-day boarding too. It was half term when we were there, but this allowed us to admire the beautiful building and refurbishment. The dining room is the former chapel for the nuns. The stained glass windows have been retained and protected, but as everywhere else, the impression if one of light and space. There are extensive grounds and plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities.

The Licensed Trade Charity clearly has expertise in education, but this is not just a philanthropic venture. The income from their schools goes to fund their helpline, website and the lifeline for those working in our industry who need help. Under the stewardship of James Brewster, their CEO, they have recognised that simple fundraising is just not possible in the current climate. Of course they appreciate the support of BBPA members and we raised over £3,000 at our annual dinner, but there are other ways of showing support. You can raise awareness of their services to your licensees; both active and retired, whether they worked in a brewery or a pub. Think whether you could offer work experience or an apprenticeship within your workplace for some of their alumni from Hassocks and now Oxford.

I ended my visit with a trip to the local pub. In this case; the Royal Sun at Begbroke where we had an excellent lunch. It had of course to be owned by a BBPA member; in this case Punch Taverns, and I was delighted to see a BBPA Challenge 21 poster just as we went through the door!

For more information about the work of the LTC; please visit

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


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A change of heart

On 23/10/14 by Emma Sweet (Marketing Manager at Brakspear)

The BBPA asked me to submit a blog on behalf of Brakspear, about why we decided to enter the Heart at the Community Award this year. Well there’s a couple of simple reasons really, which I’ll happily talk you through now, but I wanted to begin by saying, we’ll definitely be entering one of the three awards next year, with a stronger determination to win!

Don’t get me wrong, we were delighted and amazed to be highly commended for our submission. The competition was stiff, and us entering this kind of award two years ago was unthinkable. Brakspear has been through a bit of a tough time with Henley over the last 14 years since the brewery was closed and sold, and production moving to Marston’s Wychwood Brewery. Many Henley residents still talk about this today, and not in a positive way either.

The company has completely changed in this time too, with new owners in the shape of the Davies family taking over, and having to deal with the hangover of a previous regime that hasn’t always been very popular, shall we say. So from 2007 until 2013, Brakspear pretty much kept themselves to themselves, quietly running pubs, and not really getting too involved with anything beyond that.

This changed towards the end of 2013. I arrived on the scene in July 2012, and was keen to change how Brakspear was perceived within the town. I knew we were a great company, and wanted everyone else to know too. Slowly I started gently introducing Brakspear to people. The sponsorship of a new local news website the Henley Herald, opens doors to meet the Mayor of Henley and various town councillors. And then the rest is history as they say, and more details about what we’ve been up to are on our submission.

We had a lot more confidence about ourselves, and what we were doing in Henley, uniting the pubs and the community for the greater good. However, we were still thrilled to be short-listed and to be highly commended certainly took us by surprise.

We know the good work the BBPA does, and we hold Brigid and the team in high regard for all that they do for the industry. We’re not a company that likes to boast about what we’re up to, but on this occasion we felt we should stand up and be proud, especially via an organisation that we have respect for too.

The final reason is that there’s still a lot of work to be done to quieten our cynics. This is why we’ll be entering next year, as we believe we deserve to win. The only way people will change their mind about us is if we keep shouting about the good work we’re doing, so watch this space...!

Brakspear Winners

Emma Sweet
Marketing Manager at Brakspear


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Institute of Licensing summit

On 21/10/14 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

The Institute of Licensing held a very useful and timely Super Strength summit in Birmingham last week to discuss the number of local authorities which are following the example of Ipswich and pursuing voluntary schemes restricting retailers from selling higher-strength beers and ciders, which they claim are primarily bought by street drinkers.

Speakers included representatives from Ipswich, Portsmouth and Public Health England, as well as the Local Government Association in the morning; the trade associations (including me) in the afternoon. The day ended with a barrister who specialises in competition law and the Competition and Market’s Authority (CMA), followed by a panel session.

What has been clear from the start is that the Ipswich model was about policies to help 70 to 75 individuals and developing a clear understanding of the issues affecting them . Many street drinkers have a complex range of issues as well as alcohol addiction, which may include drug dependency and mental health issues.

In Ipswich, the strategy was about helping dependant drinkers into treatment alongside tackling crime and disorder, with reducing the supply of higher-strength beers and ciders only one part of the initiative.

Although the restriction of particular products has received the most focus, the scheme was extremely comprehensive and also included a strong element of enforcement of existing powers, including dispersal of those causing trouble as well as rehabilitation and treatment, and helping drinkers to change their lifestyles.

Many other local authorities have followed the Ipswich model. Much of the publicity has been about restrictions on the sale of certain products. However, some have only replicated this part of the project and not the rehabilitation and other measures, which appear to have been most effective in helping those who are some of the most vulnerable in our society.

So, in some areas we have seen restrictions on the sale of any beer above 5.5 per cent, 6.5 per cent or 7.5 per cent abv, which, as I pointed out, could include a wide range of products many of which may come from local, small or family-owned breweries. As a result, there are concerns that some national retailers may not differentiate between what can be sold in one store, as opposed to another, and so may de-list the product.

Such schemes also risk demonising beer, which is relatively low strength, at 4.2 per cent abv, on average.

Removing products affect all consumers. The BBPA has always maintained that removing certain categories or brands is an unhelpful precedent and the focus should be on the drinker and not the drink.

I was very clear that the BBPA supported partnership working. I promoted Pubwatch, Best Bar None, Business Improvement Districts and Drinkaware, as well as the use of existing legal powers for police and local authorities under the Licensing Act. These include alcohol control zones, laws against serving drunks and dispersal orders as well as the new legislation on below-cost selling and anti-fraud measures, which will help local authorities deal with retailers who sell alcohol very cheaply.

Perhaps the most interesting session was with the barrister specialising in Competition Law and the role of the Competition& Markets Authority (CMA). The CMA is clear that retailers are likely to be at risk of breaching competition law if they ‘enter into agreements and/or concerted practices and/or share information about their future commercial policies or intentions’.

Local authorities and police were warned that there were a number of risks in encouraging retailers into so-called voluntary agreements which could be anti-competitive and that any such initiatives cannot be a collective agreement. Retailers have to be very careful that they are not seen to share information with other retailers about their future commercial intentions, and local authorities must not encourage retailers to do this.

So, telling one retailer that they must sign up because another down the road has done so, could well be in breach of competition law. In addition it was emphasised that conditions on a licence must be proportionate and individual to a particular problem.

For local authorities thinking of introducing such a scheme, I think many will have left knowing that they must tread carefully. I also hope that all will understand the benefits of targeted, effective and sustainable partnerships with the industry.

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


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The death of the high street? I think not!

On 13/10/14 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

"High Street gloom as Britain shuts up shop" claims The Times, but nothing could be further from the truth in the three entries I have judged for the Great British High Streets competition.

I was invited to join the Government's Future High Streets Forum last year and a number of Task and Finish groups continue to look at various topics which will help sustain the high street.

This year the main focus has been to build on the work of the Portas' Pilots and invite entries for the Great British High Streets Competition. Some 135 entries under seven categories were received, which were whittled down to a shortlist of 21, or three finalists in each of seven categories. The categories include cities, coastal, local, market town, village, town centre and London.

I have visited three different entries in three different categories. I have been to Brighton (London Road), Colwyn Bay in Wales and Bishops Waltham in Hampshire. I have no idea who will win, (the judges will be meeting shortly to moderate our views), but I would like to share some thoughts on the enthusiasm, partnership working, learnings for the night-time economy, innovation and the subsequent regeneration of the high street; if you take the right approach.

London Road is an often forgotten area of Brighton. There is clearly social deprivation and without doubt there were too many struggling retail outlets and no-go areas with social issues and crime. When I visited in the early afternoon, it was buzzing. The appointment of a town centre manager has been key in all three submissions. Someone to work with individual retailers, someone to coordinate; act as a focus for the partnership; acknowledge when the area has too much retail and needs some converted to residential. A former Co-operative store is now being converted to student accommodation. A nearby covered market has been revitalised, re-discovered and sells produce at one level and has small craft shops and outlets above. Parks used by drug dealers and street drinkers have been re-developed. Local graffiti artists have been invited to decorate buildings and earn so much respect that they are not defaced.

Colwyn Bay was totally different. It has suffered a decline in the number of tourists, but now the the town is fighting back. There are 27 listed buildings in Colwyn Bay, many of them designed by Sidney Colwyn Foulkes in the 1920s. A new beach, as part of coastal defences, is attracting the tourists once more, but the town centre is attracting visitors too. There are new social enterprises and a shop which offers space for three or four local crafts to sell their wares, good occupancy and cooperation with all retailers.

The role of the night-time economy is crucial to any successful town centre; good pubs, restaurants, good management; the use of tools from Business Improvement Districts, to Purple Flag, Best Bar None or Pubwatch. In Brighton care has been taken to encourage the right type of nightlife. An Enterprise Inns pub, large enough for events, is a showcase for draught ale and a range of different offers. Brakspear is refurbishing a pub restaurant nearby. In Colwyn Bay they are keen to attract more operators to prolong the day for visitors. They need more pubs and restaurants to encourage spend in the evening.

Finally, and again very different but equally successful, is the regeneration of the market town of Bishops Waltham near Southampton. Spurred on by the threat of a major edge-of-town supermarket, the local authorities, [1] societies, traders and Chamber of Commerce have come together to protect their local shops including a butcher, baker, greengrocer and restaurants. Here they use IT, with an electronic newsletter, QR codes around the town which give the history of this medieval settlement, local maps and leaflets, reasonably priced parking (the first hour is free) and events which encourage local schools to bring their parents into town. Every shop had an advertisement for a Halloween competition - children have to find their own particular poster and bring parents to see (and inevitably spend too). There is training for shopkeepers - how to encourage customers to spend money by attractive displays and 'hot spots'.

Partnership is the buzz word everywhere. This is not only between public and private sectors, but also between local authorities realising that they simply do not have the funding to work alone and must share resources with others. Innovation, understanding your customer, sense of community, leadership, empowerment of small traders and ensuring the mix on offer is right; all of these will help regenerate high streets.

There is certainly more to come in terms of what more we can do with technology, but I have been so impressed by the dedication and enthusiasm of all I have met while judging this competition and I suspect that all my fellow judges will feel the same. I urge you to watch the DCLG website for examples of good practice to share once the competition is over. But for everyone who writes about the death of the high street, can I encourage you to visit any one of the three places I went to and then spread the word to others.

The high street can and will survive. You only need the right people and the right policies to help it succeed.

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


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When being responsible is win-win

On 10/10/14 by Daisy Blench (Policy Manager - Responsibility)

Acting responsibly is good for business - this was a theme that came through strongly at Heineken's 'Brewing a Better Future' conference last month where the company brought together a range of stakeholders and partners covering the work they do on sustainability, alcohol responsibility and community engagement resulting in some excellent discussions and ideas.

Goldman Sachs produced a report in 2007 which suggested that not only did companies who took CSR seriously do better on the stock market overall but they also performed better against their peers who were less invested in corporate responsibility.

There had been much coverage in the media and elsewhere about companies seeking to portray themselves as responsible being accused of 'greenwash' on environmental issues and often similar negative comments with regard to action on responsible retailing of alcohol or other CSR issues.

However, as well as something being good for business, it still may also be the case that the company and the people within it have a strong commitment to acting responsibly in their community and the wider world. No-one watching the short film of the 'Act for Addaction' campaign, which has raised a huge amount for the charity, could doubt that the team and staff at Heineken UK care a great deal about the cause they are supporting and the importance of recognising the harm that alcohol can do, alongside the pleasure and enjoyment it brings to the majority.

It is of course fair for companies to expect to be challenged and scrutinised on their credentials and most wouldn't expect anything less. In the same way that shareholders will hold them to account on financial performance, risk management and brand reputation, partners who they work with should rightly push to ensure that initiatives and actions are robust and worthwhile.

The FTSE4Good Index Series is intended to measure the performance of companies demonstrating strong environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices and provide robust criterion for investors and a recognised benchmark for other stakeholders wanting to assess a company’s commitment to CSR. Heineken, Marston’s, Enterprise Inns and SAB Miller are amongst the companies in our industry that are part of FTSE4Good.

Some would argue that legislation is the only way to ensure that standards are raised across the board in certain areas and that when companies focus on CSR for business reasons; they are doing so to obtain competitive advantage. However, although companies of course will want to be the first to introduce new, efficient technology, such as Heineken’s SmartDispense, or roll out new cutting edge campaigns on alcohol awareness these actions by their very nature raise the bar for everyone else and encourage others to do more.

Trade associations like the BBPA have a key role to play in profiling the work that our members do in this area and showcasing the best practice that exists all over the industry, whether in sustainability, alcohol awareness or community and charitable activity. Brewing Green, which we have published since 2010 to report on industry progress on environmental commitments, is a good example of highlighting those BBPA members leading the way on environmental sustainability and thereby encouraging others to follow suit. As I've mentioned it, we are publishing this year’s Brewing Green shortly so please send through any case studies you wish to highlight - the template is available here!

Let's celebrate companies doing the right thing and accept that responsibility and commercial success can go hand in hand.

Daisy Blench
Policy Manager - Responsibility


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