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Matthew Eley

Matthew Eley

Matthew Eley

Matt Eley is an Inapub contributor. Follow him on Twitter @mattheweley

22.3.2012 Matt Eley
altSo after months of lobbying and campaigning by our trade groups and captains of industry, George Osborne did precisely what everyone secretly knew he was going to do anyway.

In a single sentence he announced that he had no plans to ditch the controversial duty escalator that was introduced by his predecessor Alistair Darling four years ago.

This means alcohol duty will again go up two per cent above inflation – around five per cent – and will result in another 5p being added to a pint, 11p on a bottle of wine and 42p on a bottle of spirits (give or take a penny or two).

And the sad fact of the matter is that really this is actually the best the industry could have hoped for.

For while we would all love to see a pub and alcohol friendly chancellor ditch the escalator and cut tax to give the industry a break, it just isn’t going to happen.

The escalator was a gift for Osborne; a legacy from the Labour government that was brutal with its swingeing tax increases. It isn’t really his policy but he can see no good reason to change it now.

Cutting tax on alcohol – one of the sins - is just never going to happen. Not when stories about increases in liver disease or alcohol related hospital admissions dominate the papers on a daily basis.

And not when a fervent health lobby has the ear of the both the press and the government.

He also isn’t going to be inclined to drop alcohol duty when he glances at the balance sheets of the big brewers, who are the ones who pay the bulk of the tax.

Take Heineken for example. Its most recent results boasted of a 40 per cent increase in profits globally. Yes volumes are down in the UK but they said that earnings before tax still ‘grew strongly’.

It is a similar story at the other big boys. And while profits grow they are doing what they can to offset the duty increase. AB InBev increased its prices by nearly eight per cent and dropped the ABV on some beers below five per cent to save on tax.
Carlsberg and Molson Coors made similar moves around ABVs.

Big breweries tend to have shareholders to answer to and as such they need to show profit growth. While they grow, the Chancellor will not be minded to change the duty regime.

Yes it’s lazy and doesn’t show the full picture of the industry but it is very easy for him to justify.

Of course it works down the line and the pub and man buying a beer end up being the ones who pay for all of this. It’s just the Chancellor may not see the same link we do between duty leading to pub closures.

He just sees big profits from big companies.

So what can the industry do to change this? We can’t just bang on about getting rid of the escalator, however unfair it seems.
The lobbying has to continue to focus on the contribution pubs make to society. The jobs they create and the positive social impact that they have on local communities.

This might help him see the link with local producers more clearly and there could be a possibility of tax restructuring for smaller producers, but an overall cut or removal of the escalator is unlikely at best.

Matt Eley is Inapub's editor.
Matt Eley
15.3.2012 Matt Eley
altThere is little doubt that the pub story of the week has involved The Hobbit in Southampton.
In a ludicrous lawsuit the Hollywood executives behind the film franchise are applying pressure to get the pub to change its name.
You see it isn’t ‘official’ in their eyes and, for a reason that isn’t entirely clear to me, an old pub selling Gandolf cocktails and the like could be damaging to them. Or it could be making money that the film company wants for itself.
No matter that the original Lord of the Rings trilogy was one of the most profitable movie franchises in the history of cinema. The final instalment ‘The Return of the King’ returned $1bn from an investment of $111m.
As most people in this country know pubs are not really in a position to make that kind of profit at the moment.
The Hobbit film is guaranteed to make millions so it seems a little churlish to have a pop at a pub that has been trading with that name before the film came anywhere near the silver screen.
It is a British pub that celebrates an incredible feat of British writing that has become part of our popular culture. Collectively as an industry we need to let the Hollywood big wigs know what we think of their bullying.
Stephen Fry, star of the film and the man most Britons would like to have a pint with, seems to think so. He backed the pub on Twitter and helped create a huge fuss around The Hobbit’s plight.
Sir Ian McKellen, Gandalf himself and part time pub landlord, has echoed Stephen Fry’s sentiments and criticised the ‘unnecessary pettiness’ of the lawyers taking action.
Such heavyweight support has done the pub no harm. Already 41,000 people (and that number will be out of date by the time you read this) have shown support on Facebook. It is also gaining serious momentum on Twitter and in the national media.
It appears Hollywood has got a fight on its hands and all pub fans should do their bit to support this pub.
For more information and to join the campaign visit http://www.facebook.com/#!/SaveTheHobbitSouthampton
Matt Eley
23.2.2012 Matt Eley
altIf you were a hop, what kind of hop would you be?
That probably sounds like a ridiculous question but it was one a bunch of hacks and other guests were asked to consider at an event the other night.
Actually that isn’t entirely true. We were in fact asked to rub different types of hop from around the world, give them a good sniff and think of three adjectives to describe them. We were then asked to name the celebrity that the hop reminded us of.
My list included Moira Stuart, Jamie Oliver, Alan Titchmarsh and Katie Price. I have never got close enough to have a sniff of any of these people but the aromas of ‘earthy, honey, bacon and dirty’ that I picked up, for some reason bought them to mind. I’ll let you work out which smell went with which celeb.
Reading this you may well ask ‘are you sure it was just hops you were sniffing?’ Well, yes, I am because this was all part of an event by Midlands brewer Marston’s to promote its new range of ‘Single Hop’ beers.
Each month it will release a virtually identical four per cent beer with one key change, the beers will feature a different, sole hop every time.
Varieties from countries such as New Zealand, Poland, England and the Czech Republic will all feature.
It’s a neat idea and one that shows the subtleties of brewing our national drink. It should get people talking about beer, the ingredients, the craft and the process that goes into bringing a pint to the bar.
For me though the key has to be the communication of the message to pub customers. Technical terms or phrases that are popular in breweries do not always translate well in the pub.
‘Hoppy’ and ‘malty’ mean next to nothing to most customers and are not really going to encourage many people to buy more beer.
Plus, our little hop rubbing session highlighted the huge array of aromas that different hops give off, so the word 'hoppy' can actually serve to confuse. Adjectives chucked about in the room included ‘passionfruit, grapefruit, dusty and mouldy’. Now the latter two might not sell beer but the first would give a clear indication of the notes customers could expect to find in their pints.
It helps break down barriers of entry to beer as a category, gets people talking about it and potentially buying more.
Now, to answer my original question, I would like to think of myself as the American citra, but if you want to know why you’ll have to have a sniff!
Matt Eley is the editor of Inapub
Matt Eley
15.2.2012 Matt Eley
altI popped into my local pub at about 8.30pm on Saturday and was slightly put out to see a bunch of kids running around.
And by this I don’t mean teenagers or those just about qualified to drink. I mean actual children aged about eight or nine and not really my ideal drinking companions on a Saturday night.
I actually like children, I have one of my own before anyone starts saying ‘yeah but you don’t know what it’s like to have kids and not be able to go out’.
Actually I do, and admittedly it is quite rare for the wife and I to venture out together these days. So yes I do take my little lad to the pub, but strictly at certain times of day, preferably somewhere that has a garden and absolutely somewhere that welcomes families.
But when it comes to 7pm, or 8pm at a push, I don’t really want to be in a pub with children. I get that at home and for me the pub on a Saturday night remains a place for adult company.
I enjoy robust and colourful conversation and frankly I don’t think that is necessarily the best environment for children. It certainly isn’t an environment that I want to be in when the little one is finally asleep.
This is of course very different to the culture on the continent where families are often out together until very late at night. Kids are up until all hours and the experience of eating and drinking out can be a shared family occasion.
I just can’t really see this happening in the UK. The climate and culture not conducive for starters.
And, like it or loathe it, as Northern Europeans, we simply enjoy drink in a different way to our Mediterranean cousins.
This is not something that should be frowned up, after all tourists come from the world over to sample our pub culture and we should be careful not to water down the experience.
But when children reach a certain age I think we should do more to encourage them to go to the pub with parents and also sample alcohol at home – this is something we can borrow from the French.
This way the pub and alcohol are not so mysterious when they are finally let off the leash as young adults. For me that is a far more likely cure to ‘binge-drinking’ than the scare tactics that are currently employed and often have a reverse effect.
So I guess what I am basically saying, in a very roundabout way, is that the pub is an important part of our children’s education. Just keep them out of my way on a Saturday night.

Matt Eley is the editor of Inapub. Follow him on Twitter @mattheweley
Matt Eley
7.2.2012 Matt Eley
altThere has been a huge amount of fuss in the world of football recently due to the delaying of the court case involving ex-skipper John Terry.
Players, managers, fans and administrators have all had a go at the decision to fix his trial date for allegedly racially abusing Anton Ferdinand to after the European Championships in July.
It may seem like a long time for a case to get to court, after all the alleged offence (which Terry denies) was back in October. However, anyone with any experience of the British judicial system will tell you that this is not out of the ordinary.
In a previous life I used to be a crime reporter and following the passage of a case from the point of charge to the actual trial could often take between nine months and a year, sometimes more.
And there is another football matter being dealt with in the courts that has taken far longer to develop significantly.
Directly after my crime reporting days (and not because of the boredom of waiting for cases to come to fruition) I was lucky enough to join a highly regarded pub trade title. This was towards the tail end of 2007.
On the very first occasion that I met my new colleagues, appropriately enough in a pub for a Christmas party, the magazine’s chief news hound said he was unable to stay out that night due to having to cover an important court case the next day.
I admired his dedication (and quietly frowned upon his reluctance to work with a hangover) and vowed to find out more about the case, after all it was surely significant.
He explained it involved a licensee from a Portsmouth pub who was contesting a conviction for screening foreign satellite football. Her name was Karen Murphy and more than four years after I heard her name for the first time that case is still to be resolved.
The issue took another twist this week when the Premier League announced it would recommence prosecuting pubs that screen football using a European feed. This followed a High Court ruling in a case involving suppliers of foreign satellite equipment. Of course the Premier League hadn’t previously bothered to tell pubs they were not prosecuting such cases but that’s by the by…
A definitive ruling on the Murphy case, following direction from Europe last year, should be made later this month. But don’t be surprised if it is adjourned for one reason or another and continues to drag.
The problem with all of these delays is the incredible confusion it has created for licensees. Can you screen foreign satellite football? What if the card was purchased outside of the EC? Is it illegal? Will I get fined?
There has been a real lack of clarity on any of the above in the last few years so hopefully we are reaching the point of a clear and final ruling.

Matt Eley is the Inapub Editor. Follow him at www.twitter.com/mattheweley
Matt Eley
30.1.2012 Matt Eley
altAn event that primarily consists of sampling different champagnes while experts talk about what you are drinking is not the worst gig going.
And that was what came my way on Friday afternoon when I went to The Champagne Assembly, organised by Perrier-Jouet and GH Mumm.
Champagne is a drink I like but one I know very little about. The sound of a cork popping is one of my favourite noises and a flute in hand usually signals good times but beyond that my knowledge is limited to say the least.
So I went to the event with the aim of learning more but more importantly – and this is the tough bit in these austere times – trying to find ways that pubs could improve their offer and drive more champagne sales. I know, the things I do…
I arrived in time for the ‘Gastronomy Workshop’, which I took to being a champagne and food matching session. I wasn’t quite right as this was a workshop headed by a physicist in a rather fetching penguin-print waistcoat; not what I was expecting at this decadent event.
Anyway, Professor Peter Barham informed us how the same foods can taste very differently when served at alternative temperatures. In doing this he encouraged people in the room to consider how they might match champagnes with dishes.
I confess to being a little cynical about this kind of thing but the fact is the tastes of the foods were clearly affected by the temperature they were served at. The biggest surprise was a prawn jelly with sweet corn and pine nut, served at eight degrees and again at 60 degrees.
If you ate this blindfolded I would suspect you may not know you were eating the same dish such was the depth of flavour in the warmer version when compared to its cooler sibling. It also matched better with the GH Mumm Cordon Rouge.
‘That’s lovely Matt’, you may say ‘But prawn jelly is not exactly the dish of the day at our pub and champagne sales are hardly sparkling’.
Well, fictional, cliche-prone, landlord that I just created in my head, you make a fair point.
However, the workshop did at least show that it can be worthwhile experimenting with temperatures of food (and drink and we had various champagnes at different temps too) to tantalise you customers.
I do accept that this is unlikely to be the idea that moves your business into another stratosphere.
So what else did I learn? That apart from an apparent blip in the mid-1980s champagne sales tend to drop when the economy is suffering; that sales of champagne are still expected to grow in the UK over the next five years. Oh and that the key emerging markets include China and Nigeria.
Again I suspect that this of limited interest let alone use to your business.
But finally at the end of the day I was given the insight I was after, the tip that could change the way champagne is served in pubs forever.
Ladies and gentlemen, you heard it here first, possibly: the next big thing is champagne over ice!
It worked wonders for cider so you never know….

Matt Eley is the Inapub editor. Follow him on Twitter @mattheweley
Matt Eley
23.1.2012 Matt Eley
altA tap for a Czech lager and a traditional British cider could be located within a few feet on a bar but a couple of trips last week highlighted just how far apart these two drinks are in traditions and heritage.
First up I was lucky enough to be taken to Prague by Miller Brands, who own both the Pilsner Urquell and Kozel breweries (if the second hasn’t made an impact on you yet, watch this space).
Pilsner Urquell, like its old rival Budvar, has history, tradition, flavour and a loyal following.
The town it was born in, Pilsen, has been brewing for 1,000 years. In fact the water in the area was so dirty that the folk had to drink beer as a safe alternative. Then about 170 years ago the city council ordered a load of casks to be dumped because the quality wasn’t deemed good enough to consume.
Thankfully this led to the emergence of the Pilsner Urquell brewery. With it came a new style of beer (Pilsner Urquell means the original pilsner) which they must have drunk so much of they forgot to register the style, hence why there are so many other pilsner type drinks out there.
Ever since, Pilsner Urquell has continued to be produced in growing volumes but to the same strict standards of quality, even when under invasion in the Second World War, throughout the communist rule and during the revolution.
It is a beer steeped in history and one that has now been welcomed across the globe.
Czechs are clearly proud of the beer and indeed the others that hail from their homeland. Go into a Czech bar and you will normally see just one beer – no exports – and very little else in the way of wine and spirits. It is no wonder they remain the biggest beer drinkers in the world.
Now contrast this with cider and the UK. Over here cider fights it out for attention with the likes of world beers, traditional ales, bottles, RTDs, wines, spirits etc. Each with their own attractions and stories.
My second trip of the week took me west to Somerset, were cidermakers Thatchers had invited me to their wassail.
To be honest I didn’t really know what this was, bar being some kind of ceremony to encourage a good crop of apples.
I had a far better idea later on in the evening after witnessing a bizarrely painted green man leading a troupe of Morris Men in a ceremony that involved singing, dancing and pouring cider on trees. There was also a large bonfire and a few shotguns fired for good measure.
Nobody was sacrificed but it was still a fairly odd ritual and I was left scratching my head as to how it would help Thatchers' cause.
Of course it was all rather tongue in cheek and a good excuse to get a load of people together for a party and a glass or two of cider.
It again shows the history and quirky traditions behind a style of drink that could just be glanced over by a newcomer to a bar.
The challenge for companies and indeed pubs is trying to get across some of the stories, flavours, and history to customers in that tiny window at the bar when they are deciding what to have.

Matt Eley is the Inapub editor. Follow  him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/mattheweley

Matt Eley
17.1.2012 Matt Eley
altA rather dodgy brown envelope arrived in the post for me the other day, the sort you hope to find before your wife does.
When I opened it up I was surprised to see the slightly battered packaging contained a publication full of men in various states of undress.
‘Strange’ I thought, ‘ I don’t recall ordering any soft pornography of this nature.
Closer inspection, not that close, revealed that this was in fact a gift sent to me by, of all pubs, The Cock Inn in Peatling Magna, Leicestershire. The hardy fools at the pub, staff and customers, had got together to create a calendar to raise money for Cancer Research.
Now I appreciate they are not the first to do this. In fact the film Calendar Girls has inspired dozens of similar products, but it does show the lengths (actually it is all very tastefully done) people will go to in the name of a good cause.
Actually not just people, but pubs specifically. For while there are undoubtedly other businesses or groups that get together to raise money for good causes, very few do it with the same sense of fun or indeed modesty as a pub.
It is rare for pubs to shout from the rooftops about the money they raise for charity, even though in recent years there has been more of an industry wide effort to highlight this point. alt
Unfortunately the millions pubs raise every year is not really the kind of story that the national media want to get their teeth into. Why would you when you can write about binge drinking and why pubs are so bad for your health.
Never mind that The Cock Inn has already raised more than £7,000 through sales of its calendar and a charity auction.
Thousands more pubs up and down the country are doing the same every week and I think we should all take our hats off to them. I mean, after the amount the boys at the Cock Inn have taken off, it really is the least we can do.

• While we are on the subject of fundraising it would be quite inappropriate for me not to abuse my position as editor of this fine publication without trying to scrape together a few quid myself. I’m running in the Brighton Half Marathon in a few weeks’ time for WaterAid – they provide water and clean sanitation to people without access across the world. Before you ask I will not be doing this in a state of undress but if you are feeling generous please sponsor me at http://tinyurl.com/7uvlqt4

Matt Eley is the Inapub editor.
Matt Eley
6.1.2012 Matt Eley
altBefore Christmas I watched a Beatles tribute act dressed in full suits, Cuban heels and mop top regalia.
I had several Christmas dinners, enjoyed a couple of steak nights, played some poker, played some darts, lost to my brother at pool, took part in a quiz, watched some football and sampled some new beer and cider.
I also caught up with a load of friends and family and talked rubbish for hours on end.
And what do all of these things have in common? They all took part in the pub of course
The range of entertainment available at the pub never ceases to amaze me. On top of my, admittedly fairly standard list, you can get up to all sorts (steady) in pubs these days as people continue to diversify their offer.
It could be table football, bar billiards, virtual golf, a reading club, spiritual night, comedy, hypnosis, food and drink matching. You name it and the chances are there is a pub somewhere right now planning, staging or clearing up from any type of event you care to think of.
In fact in Inapub magazine we have already covered the world gravy wrestling championships, the paper, rock scissors finale and the world’s biggest liar competition.
This just highlights the creativity, humour and frankly brilliant people, at work in the pub industry.
We want to highlight and showcase all of the weird and wonderful things that are going on in pubs.
For our money it makes for a pleasant change from all of the doom and gloom surrounding the economy – not that we are downplaying the seriousness of the situation but we just like to smile about things where possible as well as looking at ways of fighting back.
So we want to hear from you about the events you run in your pub and we will publish the best ones online and in our magazine. There might even be some prizes for unique events.
We are now starting to look ahead to February and Valentine’s Day. What is in store on that one? Speed dating, singles nights, a ban on romance? Whatever it is please let us know so we can spread the word.
Events, just like new menus and drinks, can also be added to your pub profile at www.inapub.co.uk which ensures you are hitting thousands of potential customers online via our website, app and data partners to name just a few routes.
Whatever you are doing and however you choose to promote it, good luck from us!

Matt Eley is the Inapub editor.
Matt Eley
19.12.2011 Matt Eley
altAs 2011 draws to a close it is natural to reflect on the 12 months that have gone before and events that have helped shape the year.
Often gongs get handed out at this time of the year to recognise the achievements of those who have made a significant contribution to the year gone by.
Well at Inapub we like to try and do things a little differently so here is our inaugural Inapub Alternatives, where we shine a light on those who would be unlikely to pick up awards anywhere else.

Newcomer of the Year – This award could go to a number of great launches. Elbow Beer raised the profile of Robinsons brewery and helped create a ‘cool cask’ image, meanwhile Stella Cidre surprised many by actually alttasting pretty good and bringing something new to the cider category (mainly lager drinkers). There are many others that could be considered as well but bearing in mind that this award is decided by a non-independent jury of one the award goes to…..Inapub magazine…..(well who else was going to give us an award this year?).

The Brit Award – This goes to someone who has done his bit for the nation and made us proud to feel British. In Inapub issue one Nick Hewer was asked what the Brits could learn from French hospitality. He replied: “French bars by and large could learn a lot from British pubs such as the ambience and the atmosphere. It’s more a case of what they can learn from us.” Take that Sarkozy!

Licensee of the Year - As always a very hard fought contest but this year the prize goes to Anthony Youel of the Monkey Pub in Barnsley. He went on a £1,200 round trip to visit Barnsley, Australia to celebrate his 50th birthday but he spent just three hours there so he could catch a flight back to ensure he didn’t miss the pub’s quiz. That ladies and gentlemen is dedication to the cause. Or plain madness. You decide. 

altPub innovation and design – We were going to give this to the creators of the ‘pee-controlled video games’ but then we discovered this was actually genuine. Plus we didn’t want to shake their hands. Instead it goes to the customers at The Potters Arms pub in Chorley who surprised the licensees when they returned from holiday by having painted the pub purple with pink spots. The facelift even raised cash for a local hospice.

altQuote of the Year – Harry Enfield was the figurehead of a group of campaigners trying to stop M&B turning The Engineer in Primrose Hill back into a managed house. He tickled us with his take on the situation:
“I don’t know how it works but they’ve probably got a number-cruncher who has looked at The Engineer’s books and thought “they’re making a bit of money, we could probably make a bit more and then I will get a bonus”.
So he’ll get a bonus and we won’t have a good pub anymore. Maybe it will be brilliant but…it’s a bummer isn’t it? I must sell my shares in M&B really…”

Pointless Politics – Each year the government seems to interfere in the industry by creating pointless legislation on one hand while pick-pocketing pubs in the form of extra duty with the other. This year they win an award for ‘banning below cost sales in supermarkets’. They have banned the sale of alcohol below the cost of VAT plus duty, which ensure that the number of irresponsible promotions that will cease stands at around roughly zero.

No sh@t Sherlock - Awarded for pointless research. Man oh man were there some contenders for this one but after much deliberation and the hiring of a team of researchers, a YouGov poll and lots of experiments with beer in test tubes we have ruled that the winner is Cambridge University who revealed in a study that binge-drinking may have occurred prior to the Daily Mail picking up on it and that people have enjoyed drinking to get a bit boisterous as far back as the 1630s. You don’t say.

Congratulations to all award winners, in your own way you have made a significant contribution to the industry. Here’s to another great year in 2012!

Matt Eley is the Inapub Editor
Matt Eley