News

Matthew Eley

Matthew Eley

Matthew Eley

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

27.6.2013 Matt Eley
altGoing to an event billed as ‘Let There Be Beer’ is not great for someone who has vowed to give up alcohol for a period of time.

It’s also bordering on the unprofessional not to show your support for the cause so I must confess to having a drop, albeit a two per cent ‘Radler’, which in my father’s eyes at least would never count as a drink.

Anyway, my own drinking habits are by far the least interesting thing about a mega campaign to promote beer as a category. And this is not about preaching its virtues in some craft or niche way to the converted, this is promoting beer to the masses on a national scale.

For a starter, it is being led by all of the big boys. Top brass from AB InBev, Carlsberg, Heineken, Miller Brands and Molson Coors all shared the stage to launch the campaign earlier this weeek.

Getting that lot in a room together, let alone working towards a common aim, is something of a logistical triumph in the first place.

Of course, falling sales of big brands should be helped by this campaign but they have clearly gone to lengths to make this inclusive of the category and not just about getting the country back on mainstream lager.

For while those global brewers took centre stage, the room was also packed with a veritable who’s who of the British beer industry, from regional brewers, to pubcos, to writers and experts.

Phrases such as ‘extremely positive’, ‘much-needed’ and ‘the industry's been crying out for this’ peppered conversations at Brewers Hall.

So what can we expect from the campaign?

For a taster we will get an uplifting and witty advert (I’ve seen it, I laughed a few times) that shows great beer-drinking moments and the unity it can inspire. It will be screened in TV this weekend for the first time.

There is also going to be a load of viral and social media stuff, plus celeb beer lovers chatting to Michael Parkinson to highlight the joys of bar room conversations.

Parky wasn’t at the launch but we did get the equally affable Eamonn Holmes, who looks like he might like a pint, chatting to the brewers about the campaign and their life in beer. To a man, they reminisced about having their first pint with their dads. Molson Coors chief Simon Cox extended the theme and talked about having a pint with his son and how he hoped that tradition would carry on through the generations.

And while the advert and all that was associated with it was positive and impressive, his comment may have been the most telling of the night.

Beer, and specifically beer in pubs, brings people together and plays a vital role in the social fabric of our nation in a way that not many other products can get close to.

It was also interesting that all of the big wigs talked about their first pint. For while off-trade sales are fundamental their businesses, nobody really remembers their first can of beer, do they?

As a publication for pubs we would naturally prefer that this campaign was on-trade focused but that would be wishful thinking. We have to take the positives and back the fact that companies with vast resources are doing something unified and positive that could inspire a few people to go to the pub.

It certainly made me fancy a pint anyway.

Matt Eley is the editor of Inapub. Follow him on Twitter @mattheweley

Matt Eley
19.6.2013 Matt Eley
altThe fact that I am doubting why I ever thought giving up alcohol for a period of time was a good idea probably helps prove my point.

It has been three weeks now and while I am not physically climbing the walls for a drink there have been several occasions when my day could have been improved with a tipple.

Last Friday when I finished work the sun was shining and, as I walked to catch a train, hundreds of people seemed to be mocking me as they chinked their glasses and relaxed after work.

People were spilling out onto the streets and enjoying a drop at the end of the working week.

I phoned my brother to take my mind off it. I could hardly hear a word he was saying because while I was heading home, dry as skunk who hasn’t touched a drop in weeks, he was barely audible over the sound of people enjoying themselves in the background.

Selfish little git.

It was the first time since the start of my self-imposed detox that I really felt like I was missing out - on the chat, the fun and the sensation of unwinding that a few beers on a Friday after work can bring on.

Admittedly when I woke up the next day, or rather was woken repeatedly in the night, by the cries of a newborn baby (followed up by the groans of a miffed three-year-old) I was grateful for not having a hangover.

But then, one or two drinks does not really cause too much grief in that department.

My abstinence has been further tested by some lovely gifts in the post – new beers, a mini cask, some cider, a new porter/cider combo, ginger beer, some vodka. It’s all looking at me as if to say ‘what’s wrong with you? We’re your friends, come on’.

Thankfully I have also had some splendid soft drinks to try too.

It’s actually been interesting to see what is out there for teetotallers, detoxers and designated drivers. The range of soft drinks, and natural energy drinks (cheers Gusto) on the market has improved so pubs have no real excuse for just offering orange or fizzy drinks via the gun.

There is certainly choice for people who do not want to have an alcoholic drink in pubs. But the choice of having a drink again is something I am very much looking forward too.

Matt Eley is the editor of Inapub. Follow him on Twitter @mattheweley


До сих пор в ушах "Талдомские журавли т.2/7тт Зульфикаров" стоял его смех и смех Тома.

В сумеречном "Наблюдая за англичанами Скрытые правила поведения" болоте зверю снилась кровь.

Хью облизнулся и внимательно посмотрел на дорогу вперед и назад.

Впрочем, когда вы с Алисой "Рваные валенки мадам Помпадур" спорили, меня "ЗП11 Весы" поразило ваше сходство на уровне личности точнее, силы характера, внешность тут ни "Россия. Европейская часть. Атлас автодорог. Подмосковье М 1:425000. 59 регионов европейской части России М 1:850000" при чем.

Еще раньше, таская лед, я заметил там "Снежная Королева" кратер, ведущий к центру горы.

Правда это такая священная штука и я свято охраняю ее.

Matt Eley
13.6.2013 Matt Eley
altI’ve often wondered why there isn’t a campaign for a ban on the advertising of cars at inappropriate times of day.

Surely it can’t be right that a product that you are not legally allowed to be in charge of until you are 17 and can potentially cause serious harm if handled incorrectly, should be advertised when children could be watching TV?

Similarly, cars should not be allowed to sponsor sporting events due to the likelihood of young people being influenced by the advertising and immediately planning a joyriding spree.

Likewise, bookmakers and loan companies should not be allowed to have their names on the shirts of sport stars just in case it leads to someone who is not legally old enough to do either taking out a loan and gambling it all away.

All of the above is of course nonsense.

Car manufacturers would rightly point out that, in the main, accidents are caused by people making bad decisions, not vehicles.

Bookies and the like would also argue that the individual involved has the ultimate responsibility when it comes to gambling.

So why is it that that those sour-faced, fun-haters at Alcohol Concern think that they can make huge demands on the way alcohol is promoted?

I heard so much nonsense coming from that particular health group this week that if I didn’t know better I would assume they were nicely irrigated with horizontal lubricant.

In its new report, titled Stick to the Facts, it calls for a number of Draconian measures on alcohol sponsorship and advertising such as banning ‘lifestyle’ images of drinkers or scenes.

Alcohol Concern doesn’t want people to be shown enjoying alcohol, despite the fact that this is exactly what happens in pubs in every city, town or village in this country every single day of the year.

It also wants a complete ban on alcohol advertising at all ‘sporting, cultural, or musical events’. So that covers pretty much any activity.

Sponsorship deals have been of huge benefit to many sports and events – just look at the popularity of the Heineken backed Champions League. With such great exposure surely kiddy football fans must be turning up to school with huge hangovers the next day, failing to hand in their homework?

Of course they are not. Drinking rates among the young in this country are dropping, as indeed is the overall rate for alcohol consumption – again these are facts that Alcohol Concern conveniently chooses to ignore.

Alcohol Concern seems to be implying that moronic youngsters are being turned on to alcohol by evil blood-sucking drinks companies. It does a huge disservice to both the youth of this county who incorrectly and damagingly continue to be seen as dangerous binge-drinkers and to the responsible drinks-makers who are subject to strict self-regulation.

Meanwhile, over in France drinking rates among the young are on the up, despite a ban alcohol advertising at sporting at cultural events.

Stick to the Facts was an unfortunate title for a report that seems determined to ignore any inconvenient truths.

Matt Eley is the editor of Inapub. Follow him on Twitter @mattheweley


Matt Eley
4.6.2013 Matt Eley
altIf you want to give up alcohol for a while I suggest having a baby.

That’s the path I have taken and so far it has proved much more straightforward than I thought.

Well, the not drinking part has, babies need a fair bit of attention it turns out.

Anyway, I didn’t produce my second born to help with some kind of alcohol addiction problem. However I did think his arrival would be a good time to see what life would be like without a drink.

As the editor of a pub trade magazine, alcohol plays a central role in my day to day life and I spend many hours either writing about, discussing or sampling alcohol.

This is of course a wonderful perk and I consider myself very lucky. However, I am keen to find out what life would be like without drink – possibly healthier, probably more dull. For my part I imagine I will possibly be slimmer and most definitely more dull.

It’s not that I have gone off booze or think it is having a negative impact on my life. I just want to go without it for a while to see where I really miss it before welcoming it back with open arms.

So after wetting the baby’s head with a few beers and bottles of champagne I have started what now seems like a ludicrously ambitious (if not career threatening) three month long abstinence. Why three months? Well loads of people do a month these days so it had to be longer to make it more of a challenge but an entire summer without a drink is depressing enough without stretching it to Christmas.

This is day nine and so far it has not been as tough as I imagined.

Being away from work and in the paternity cocoon means that I have not been around alcohol as much as I normally would. Waking up several times a night also means that I don’t miss the feeling of the hangover creeping in as the alcohol creeps out of the system.

Over the last couple of days I have received some beer and alcoholic ginger beer in the post (another glorious work perk) and with the sun shining it seemed a shame to put them to one side. But they will be a treat I can look forward to on the other side of this folly.

Health wise I have to admit to already feeling slightly more alert and sharp, but again this could be due to the excitement of the new arrival coupled with having time at home with the family.

Next week I will be spending less time at home and more in the pub. I can already feel my will power diminishing as I think about settling in a pub garden with wine, beer and cider flowing all around.

Make mine a sparkling water.

Cheers. I think.

Oh and if you are drinking or having a baby, please do both responsibly.

Matt Eley is the Inapub editor. Follow him on Twitter @mattheweley

Matt Eley
17.5.2013 Matt Eley
altI’ve been having some strange thoughts about alcohol lately. I’ve been contemplating giving it up.

Not forever. That would be silly. But not for just a week or a month either, because that isn’t quite long enough for the test I want to take.

It’s not that I don’t like alcohol or that I am on a serious health drive. It isn’t even as if people have been taking me to one side and saying ‘you know what Matt, you might want to watch your intake a little bit, it’s getting a bit embarrassing’.

The actual reason is that I want to miss alcohol and the benefits that it can bring.

I’m bored of reading about the dangers of alcohol and the negative impact it can have on society. Of course it can, if it is misused, but so can cakes and chocolate and cars and fizzy drinks and most other things for that matter.

In all of those instances the problem usually rests with the individual rather that the substance that more often than not gets the blame.

It is rare that we hear, particularly in the wider media, about the societal benefits alcohol can bring. How flat parties can be without corks popping, the awkwardness of a new social situation without a glass of wine or a pint of beer, or your favourite meal without your favourite drink.

I like all of the above and in each instance alcohol plays a positive part. I firmly believe that alcohol can be a life-enhancing substance when used properly. I want to miss it to prove my point – sometimes you have to let the ones you love go and all that.

At an event recently, the kind of occasion when a glass of something goes down a treat, there was a non-drinker at our table. This person had not had a drink for several months and seemed very happy with the decision.

She talked about the benefits of not having hangovers and getting soft drinks bought in return for being the designated driver.

However she admitted to a degree of self-consciousness when it came to dancing and speaking to new people.

Even there you can see how alcohol can help take the edge off and help with relaxation.

Of course for my own part, contemplation is one thing, actually doing it is another.

But the timing for this could not be better. My wife is due to give birth to our second child soon. Very soon.

After raising a glass to the new arrival I can think of no better time to have a break from alcohol for so many reasons not least because children are no respecters of hangovers.

I know it won’t be easy. Hell, I write about and visit pubs for a living!  This could potentially be career suicide but it might just help me prove a point.

So if you see me in a pub in the next few months (I'm thinking three, possibly six, probably two) mine’s a lime and soda please (at least until I discover my new favourite soft drink… or give up on this folly altogether).

Matt Eley is the editor of Inapub, follow him on Twitter @mattheweley


Matt Eley
7.5.2013 Matt Eley
altA good steak is a great pub meal but one that I personally tend to view as a bit of a treat and to be enjoyed occasionally.

This is in part due to price and also because of a vague feeling that too much red meat can’t be that great for someone who spends half of their life in pubs.

As I view it as something special it is always nice when a bit of theatre accompanies the meal.

The Gaucho chain of restaurants has nailed this over the last few years. The cow print furniture coupled with (I suspect) primarily Argentinean staff bringing pre-cooked steaks to your table for you to feast your eyes on before you satisfy your appetites helps to create a great experience.

This, alongside great food, allows them to get away with charging extra for side dishes and a silly price for a ‘portion’ of one scallop that has been cut down using the Goodfellas garlic and razor blade technique (sorry, personal gripe).

Anyway, the point is I have associated theatre and good service with the chain and assumed that other steak houses offering similar ideas had borrowed them from Gaucho.

So it was a little embarrassing when I visited the recently refurbished Charles Wells pub the Fox & Hounds just outside of Bedford.

The have a great steak offer which I assumed had been implemented at the same time as the refurb.

‘So this is all a bit Gaucho inspired is it?,’ I ventured.

‘Not exactly, they’ve been doing it for 20 years’, I was told.

‘It,’ refers to customers who order a steak being led to the meat counter. Here they get to choose from rump, sirloin, fillet or ribeye.

They can then choose how much they want and watch the ‘butcher’ cut it to measure.

The action carries on with the steaks being cooked – to your preference of course – on a grill in the pub.

This creates a great visual and aromatic sense of theatre and increases the likelihood of more steaks being sold.

The pub is so big that not everyone can see the cooking ‘live’. However, a live feed from a camera over the grill is played on TV’s around the pub. It’s a quirky touch, which I am told the kids especially love.

It is also probably more entertaining than say Stoke v Sunderland.

Overall it creates a great impression before the food arrives. That the food was fantastic too was of course vitally important.

I left satisfied with just a rough idea as to how much the steaks were, but knowing that the experience was cracking value.

Matt Eley so the editor of Inapub. Follow him on Twitter @mattheweley.

Matt Eley
18.4.2013 Matt Eley
altTwo beer launches caught my eye this week, and that I am told is the part of our bodies we start drinking with.

McEwan’s is getting a new lease of life with a brand new product launch – McEwan’s Red – a smooth flow beer that is designed to get the younger folk in Scotland and beyond into beer, or specifically that beer.

At the briefing we heard a lot about consumer research, advertising campaigns and how the beer was a little different. We were told all about the design and target demographics, but not that much about one seemingly important element.

‘Is he ever going to mention the beer?’ another attendee asked as we took down some more notes on marketing.

Eventually the beer arrived and we got to try and place the product with the pitch.

And it was OK. A sessionable beer that slipped down well enough without having a real wow factor, but to be fair that’s not easy to achieve at 3.6 per cent ABV.

But then, I am also not really the target demographic. Yes, I fall into the 30 to 50 year old age bracket (comfortably, I hasten to add),I am a man, but I already drink ale whereas this is more likely to appeal to those who drink lager and might make a cross category move.

What was clear was that huge amounts of time and money have been spent on the marketing and the visual clues, which appeared to be at least, if not more important, than the liquid itself.

The second launch, incidentally on the same day, was JW Lees MPA (Manchester Pale Ale) – billed as a refreshing alternative.

By tapping into Manchester’s musical heritage and by positioning itself as a ‘cool’ product it appealed to me instantly. I’m not from Manchester but there have been literally hundreds of nights out that have involved myself and a bunch of friends murdering some Stone Roses or Oasis tunes.

A beer designed to go with that? – launched by Bez no less – yeah, I’m aving that.

I like it already, but I haven’t even tasted a drop. Would I feel the same after a pint? The association might make me slightly more forgiving if it was an average beer, but if it turned out to be not for my palate I would soon move on.

It does help highlight the vital role of marketing and why so much emphasis is put on it by drinks producers of all types.

Matt Eley is the editor of Inapub. Follow him on Twitter @mattheweley


Matt Eley
12.4.2013 Matt Eley
alt‘How I am supposed to tell the difference between horse and beef?’

It wasn’t an unreasonable question. The food on the plates at The Thatchers Arms looked very similar.

Ten of the burgers going out were horse (sent from Brazil because ironically landlord Mitch Adams couldn’t source any closer to home) and three were the more traditional beef variety (or so we were told).

‘Because I will tell you’, deadpanned the chef.

It was the first interaction we had but in that short, sharp sentence, I immediately knew who the king was in this part of the pub.

I had been pulling a few pints in the bar as part of my attempt to get know the pub business better from the other side of things, when Mitch decided to take me into the kitchen.

It felt like a different world. The easy-going camaraderie in the main bar where golfers back from a pub society day swapped hard-luck stories over beers was left behind the minute the door swung shut. In a few steps I was transported into an environment higher in tension and lower in laughs.

The team had been working hard on creating some delightful dishes and my job was simply to trot through and deliver the food without falling over any hurdles.

Sounds easy enough and with two plates at a time I was fairly confident. But I wasn’t about to get let off that lightly again.

‘You are not leaving this kitchen without three plates in your hand,’ demanded Mitch on my return.

‘I can’t do it,’ I whined like a three-year-old.

‘Yes, you can,’ added Mitch, like a patient parent.
 
And he duly demonstrated how I needed to position my fingers and thumbs to pull off the technique which bar staff across the country make look so simple. I wonder if when they are walking to deliver the food their thought process runs along the lines of ‘don’t drop anything, dog don’t come anywhere near me, people with pints in hand watch out, yes there’s the table, nearly there, I can do this, done! Get in.’

I managed to deliver the food without a major disaster, primarily due to the fear of having to tell the chef that I had ruined his work.alt

Up until going to The Thatchers – a freehouse in Mount Bures on the Suffolk and Essex border – I had mainly focused on drinks service during my shifts. Food really does complicate things.

Mitch gave me a tour of the pub, explaining the table layout. It made sense but with three dining areas and two exits from the kitchen I pictured potential chaos.

Next he took me to the specials board, where I looked at the meals on offer for a good couple of minutes before realising nothing was really registering.

On to taking an order. This could be done either at the bar or at the table. Choosing the right moment was problematic in itself because you don’t want to bombard people the moment they come in and make them feel like they have to eat, but neither do you want to leave them waiting too long either.

When the order is taken, one slip of paper gets stuck on the rack in the bar. The other goes to the kitchen. Pieces of paper had various rips in them, indicating if tables had cutlery or if check backs had been completed.

The processes are really well organised and probably simple enough to follow after a shift or two but there is a lot of information for a newcomer to take in, which highlights just how important training is for the team.

With my head in a spin, one of my colleagues for the night, Milly, suggested it might be an idea if I studied the menu before I got to work.

‘Great idea,’ I thought. ‘I’ll have the horse burger’. Which I duly did, and sat down on the side of the bar where I am far more comfortable.

And the burger? It was succulent, tender and, well, tasted a bit like beef.

Matt Eley is the editor of Inapub. Follow him on Twitter @mattheweley

Matt Eley
4.4.2013 Matt Eley
altWhen the Chancellor revealed he was ditching the beer duty escalator and cutting duty by a penny it was naturally seen as a cause for celebration.

But while pints were being raised and glasses clinked across the country, there were also those who questioned what difference this could actually make.

It’s only a penny after all. Is this merely a token gesture by a government trying desperately to connect with the man in the pub?

And by ditching the ‘beer duty escalator’ rather than the ‘alcohol duty escalator’ he ensured that not everyone connected with pubs, notably wine, spirit and cider producers, would toast the Budget with the same gusto as the nation’s brewers.

However, as the Chancellor told Inapub this week, the cutting of beer duty is just the first step.

I was among a handful of hacks in attendance when George Osborne visited Marston’s brewery in the industry’s Burton heartland today.

After the customary tour and photo op with a beer he spoke publicly to journalists and privately to chief executives and industry leaders about his reason for cutting duty and what he hopes to see next.

Issues such as encouraging youth employment and cutting red tape around apprenticeships and in town halls were all discussed.

The Chancellor was in listening mode and this is hugely significant because nobody in the room could ever remember the last time any Chancellor sat down for this kind of discussion with leaders from the sector. It is hoped this will not be a one-off chat.

He said he was persuaded to cut duty by a campaign that focused on the economic impact of the escalator. It was a positive campaign that highlighted how pubs and beer contribute to society in terms of employment, finance and community.

The campaign’s success came from its unity. Major brands, trade bodies, beer lovers, trade press and scores of MPs were all able to demonstrate why the beer duty escalator was bad news for pubs and bad news for the wider economy.

It got the Chancellor’s attention and now the industry has his ear like never before.

It is a unique opportunity in time for everyone in the sector – whether they run pubs or frequent them or produce drinks with apples, grapes or grain – to show the positive contribution pubs make to society and the economy.

The government has said it wants to support the sector so now is the time to show them exactly what we can do with the right kind of help.

Matt Eley is the editor of Inapub. Follow him on Twitter @mattheweley


Matt Eley
27.3.2013 Matt Eley
altThere was a time when brewers made beer, cider makers stuck mainly to apples and distillers focused on spirits.

Occasionally they may have strayed into different fields but these days it seems everyone wants to have a go in a category they are not renowned for.

AB InBev was not the first brewer to make a cider, but they did it on a huge scale and the likes of Carlsberg and Molson Coors have followed suit.

Heineken of course already own Strongbow and Bulmers so we are not likely to see Heineken Cider (or a variant on the usual spelling, anytime soon).

And it isn’t stopping there. Cider makers are understood to be looking to get in on the beer market and craft producers usually known for cask are looking at other styles such as lager and other kegged beers.

Brewers are even making spirits with Adnams celebrating two years since it started production at its distillery.

And there are partnerships too, with the likes of Hi-Spirits teaming up with Kissingate Brewery to make a Bourbon flavoured IPA.

It is well documented that beer volumes, and indeed most alcohol categories, are tumbling, so it should come as no great surprise that those who traditionally produce beer are looking to other markets to encourage growth.

This expansion also means the big boys, the likes of Carlsberg and Molson Coors, can offer a wider portfolio of products to pubs and bigger pubcos, making their offer more complete. It also gives them even greater scope to dominate bars.

This diversification is not dissimilar to what has happened in the pub world in recent years.

In days of yore you could make a living selling a couple of beers paired with a food offer that comprised bags of peanuts hanging off a pin-up.

Things have certainly changed.

The most successful operators these days trade throughout the day providing numerous attractions to different demographics.

Those that do specialise, such as the craft beer pubs, succeed because their standards are so high and because they can offer a vast range of interesting products. They are certainly not limited by the specialism.

And while we have lost many good pubs, we are now reaching the point where the consumer has actually never had it better in terms of the quality and range of pubs available.

With producers also following the same pattern we are actually seeing the rebirth of the pub industry and not the death that had been forecast.

Matt Eley is the Inapub editor. Follow him on Twitter @mattheweley

Matt Eley