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Matthew Eley

Matthew Eley

Matthew Eley

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

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
12.12.2011 Matt Eley
altWith so many ‘responsible drinking’ campaigns and watchdogs, these days you feel you might get wrapped on the knuckles for just writing about hangover cures.
But while the watchdogs live in a world where we all savour the taste of solitary half pint before heading home the rest of us have to face facts.
And the truth is at Christmas hangovers can be an issue for customers and, perhaps to a lesser extent, pubs themselves.
In the line of duty I am lucky enough to be invited to a few events at this time of year and as most of them are from drinks companies of some sort it is frankly rude not to sample their product.
Of course I never get silly but there are times when, with the benefit of hindsight, I would have re-considered that final drink.
But without a time-machine to take me back to the scene of the night before I instead have to deal with the morning after and the following are my favourite hangover cures.
A pint – the classic hair of the dog, but personally I find it very hard to stomach something that has essentially made me feel so bad. It’s like a girl asking to be your friend after dumping you spectacularly the night before
Bloody Mary – it’s a variation on the hair of the dog theme but it feels like you are getting some of your five a day as well.
Champagne – Maybe I am getting older but at a recent lunchtime event I was handed a glass of Taittinger when I felt like all I wanted to do was get back into bed and pretend the world was just an illusion. Five minutes and a few sips later and I felt much more bubbly
Bacon butty – many foodstuffs can do the trick but for me a classic bacon butty dripping in tomato ketchup is just the right balance between meat and wheat.
Running – exercise will feel like the last thing you fancy doing but just as long as you take plenty of water on board first a gentle jog in the fresh can brush the cobwebs away. Don’t overdo it though.
Drugs – of the over the counter variety. Paracetemol has its place and Berocca can work wonders as well.
Tripe Soup – Not a personal choice but one some Mexicans swear by. My guess is that the spices just move the pain in your head to another region
Sleep and peace – of course this is the best cure, but both are such a rare commodity you might as well have a hair of the dog
Now I would never like to appear irresponsible by endorsing over-indulgence.
However the fact is you will find customers in your pub over the next few weeks nursing sore heads. It probably makes sense to have something on offer to help the feel better.
Make mine a glass of champagne!

Matt Eley is the Inapub Editor
Matt Eley
5.12.2011 Matt Eley
altIt’s that time of year when events and parties come thick and fast and a few have already given me plenty to mull over.
Last week I was invited out with Henley pubco Brakspear to check out three of its pubs in London. In all honestly I didn’t know it had any pubs in the capital so even before my first pint of Brakspear Bitter I had learned something.
The three pubs were all very different; a traditional local that had undergone a refurb, a slightly more foodie place around the fringes of the City and a slightyshabby but very cool venue in Shoreditch.
Unless I was with the chief executive Tom Davies I would never have known that the company had anything to do with the latter pub, The Owl & Pussycat. There was virtually no branding, bar some tiny lettering on the pub sign.
So does this not bother the company? After all this a very high turnover pub so surely they want to shout about it?
But essentially the company is happy if the tenants are successful. They also feel that while there is expertise they can add they could never run the pub as say a managed venue because they need the local knowledge of what is happening in an area such as Shoreditch.
It is an example of where the tie deal can work well for both parties. The tenants get hold of a pub they may not otherwise have been able to afford with the support of a company and that company gets tenants who know what they are doing and know the area.
We ate at that pub too and over dinner, and after a few pints and glasses of wine, the conversation turned to the number of beers available in pubs in general.
Now I am generally of the opinion that choice is a good thing. But can too much choice be detrimental to customers and beer sales?
I’m referring to the number of real ales that brewers from across the country produce and overload bars with.
The night before the Brakspear event I had the pleasure of trying the new beers in Nicholson’s festive range – a selection of seven beers that will be available in its pubs for the next couple of months.
Now they all had their positives but five minutes after the event when I was asked which was my favourite I struggled to recall the name of the beers and the brewers.
I accept this might have had something to do with the volume of beer I had sampled but there is also a valid point about confusing the consumer.
Seasonal beers have a place but surely if brewers are producing dozens plus a year with various names and pumpclips they end up cannibalising their own sales and failing to promote their core products.
The stats do not necessarily back me up as last year Nicholson’s saw a three per cent increase in cask sales.
But I just can’t help thinking that while there is a nice novelty factor in having a wide range of seasonal brews it doesn’t do much to keep people coming back to that brewer or even the category.
One of the reasons why lager sells in such great volumes (it makes up about 75 per cent of UK beer sales) is because customers know what they are getting when they see the brand on the bar.
Sometimes less can most definitely be more.

Matt Eley is the Inapub Editor
Matt Eley
25.11.2011 Matt Eley
altIt’s about 7pm on a midweek night and I am enjoying a weird, wonderful and warming punch served to me by none other than Ebenezer Scrooge himself.
The Dickensian legend is helped in this task by a chirpy and enthusiastic Bob Cratchit who just moments ago awoke Mr S from a deep slumber.
No, I haven’t been supping too much brandy, but rather I am on a Dickensian tour of London oragnsied by Courvoisier.
It is certainly a different way of getting your product noticed. And it works too.
The leading cognac brand is running a series of Dickensian London tours that are amusingly interrupted by the ‘A Christmas Carol’ characters who proceed to take over the show from a perplexed tour guide.
It culminates with the mixing and consumption of a Smoking Bishop – a punch featuring Courvoisier (naturally) plus some port, wine, cinnamon, orange etc. It’s a blinding alternative to mulled wine and, certainly when drunk in The Old Curiosity Shop with Scrooge, rather festive to boot.
Turns out that Dickens, as well as visiting virtually every pub in the country, was also a bit of a Courvoisier fan, so the link is not a random one at all.
It’s a cute connection and is part of the brand’s drive to get pubs and punters thinking about cognac and punch as an offering.
These days brands are so plentiful that the war for space on bars and in fridges is getting tougher and tougher. It means that they have to get more creative to get the attention of both business owners and customers themselves.
It can also be a bit of a headache for pubs when weighing up what to stock of course. alt
Brands getting creative and playing on history is a popular way of driving sales. It also serves as a useful reminder that the pleasure of drinking alcohol is part of our heritage and indeed something that has been enjoyed by some of the great minds in British culture.
It makes a pleasant change from hearing stories about the ‘modern phenomenon’ of binge-drinking anyway.
And you never know, as well as encouraging sales of Courvoisier it might actually inspire a few people to pick up a book as well.
Now where did I leave that battered old copy of Great Expectations….

Matt Eley is the Inapub editor.
Matt Eley
17.11.2011 Matt Eley
altI was visiting a new venue the other day and I couldn’t quite decide how to categorise it.
It was very modern, there was low-lighting and more space for dining than drinking, funky pictures adorned the walls, it had a wide selection of wine and a lot of beer taps too.
To be fair it had most bases covered and would definitely appeal to a broad congregation. But it wasn’t quite what I would call a pub. I would go for bar or, a term that is becoming more prevalent, ‘the chameleon venue’.
I first came across this phrase with the emergence of the Grand Union chain in London. They somehow manage to feel pubby in the day and clubby at night. They also do cracking burgers and pizzas so cater for the foodies too.
The arrival of such venues blurs the lines even further between what is a pub, what is a bar and what is a restaurant; it turns out you can probably be all three.
Different people in the trade have different ways of judging whether a venue is a pub or not.
Some look at the wet/dry split and would argue that if around 70% or more of your sales come from food you can’t really call yourself a pub. But does that really hold water when so many places are putting food at the heart of their business while retaining the feel of a traditional boozer.
Some judge it on the amount of chrome on display - too much and you are most definitely a bar. Others look at the beer range – no real ale mean you can’t be a pub. It’s a fair argument from a traditional point of view and cask remains a key part of pub culture, but it doesn’t work in every venue.
Another view, and one that I am inclined to agree with, is that ‘it is a pub if you still feel comfortable sitting down with a drink and not ordering food’.
For me, whether a pub is a pub has more to do with the feel and atmosphere of a place, rather than the sales split or the type of food or the mix of drinks.
But does this definition truly matter? For me it does in the sense that pubs are part of our heritage and culture and should remain so.
The emergence of chameleon venues though highlights how demanding the consumer is these days and again re-iterates the need for pubs to adapt and move with the times, while holding onto those traditional values.  
Just don’t go mad on the chrome.
Matt Eley