Yay! Finally, some good news for the beer industry. The British Beer & Pub Association’s (BBPA) latest Beer Barometer shows UK sales rose by 5.2% in the third quarter of 2013. That’s the most significant quarter-on-quarter increase in a decade.
It’s partly attributed to the fantastic summer we had (how often do you get to say that?) as well as the Chancellor’s Beer Tax cut. For a country with a long and proud brewing history (going back to 2,000 years before the Romans turned up), it’s encouraging news that’s brought a big smile to my face.
Some of this might be attributed to a major promotion funded by the brewing big boys including Carlsberg, Heineken and Molson Coors. ‘Let There Be Beer’ is a large scale marketing campaign aiming to rekindle passion for beer here in the UK. I’ll drink to that!
It’s a three year campaign which launched in the summer. It aims to promote all beer and is not brand-specific. The British Beer and Pub Association has played a major role in bringing the whole thing together and CAMRA is heavily involved too.
The Let There Be Beer website acts as an in-depth resource on everything beer-related. It provides information on matching beer with food, beers of the week and histories of beers. You’ll also find them on Facebook and Twitter. Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch show is being sponsored by the campaign to promote beer as an accompaniment to food. And there’s also an advertising campaign to remind the UK public why it’s great to drink beer.
There’s a general agreement that the campaign is good news. Getting the brewing heavyweights – who are of course competitors – to unite for the benefit of the whole industry is quite an achievement.
Unfortunately some elements of it – notably the advert – have been regarded as an opportunity missed. For starters, the ad only features lager, yet the campaign covers ales, bitters, pilsners and stouts too. And there’s no getting away from the fact that lager does have ‘laddish’ connotations.
Critics point out craft beer and real ales have a far more positive image. They suggest featuring these would promote a broader appreciation of beer. It also say it could help remove the ‘loutish’ image of lager and give it a PR boost.
With its attempts at tongue-in-cheek humour and somewhat cheesy acting, the advert has been criticised for being a rehashed lager ad. It doesn’t have enough impact on the desirability and image of our beer. I believe we should be working hard to preserve our pub culture. Yet there’s just one fleeting shot of a pub in the whole 30 second advert.
So where does all of this leave British beer? It’s understandable there’s some cynicism. The financial backers of the campaign have obvious commercial interests. This campaign promotes all beers and lagers – including the mass-produced stuff destined for the supermarket shelves.
But the fact is most of the British brewing industry is in the hands of foreign-owned conglomerates. They’re the ones with their money in British beer. But when the entire sector is struggling, they have much deeper pockets and resources than the smaller regional and micro-brewers. And on the plus side, campaign guidelines stipulate the brewers cannot name specific brands in the advertising.
Given the negative press the beer industry’s had in the past, thanks to binge drinking and price increases, it’s good to see a campaign highlighting the positives. Whatever the campaign’s limitations, any movement to support to UK beer industry is a move in the right direction.
And as far as that advert’s concerned, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt – for now. Lager is the biggest market in the industry. So it’s understandable why that’s the starting point. Let’s hope over time we see some of the other beers make an appearance. I’ll be watching closely as I sip my pint of Hooky down at my local. Cheers!