Matthew Eley

Matthew Eley

Matthew Eley

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

8.8.2012 Matt Eley
altIt might be because I am getting older but I am sure there were a lot more twentysomethings at the Great British Beer Festival yesterday.

In a purely unscientific scan of the hall at Olympia it just seemed that the average age had dropped by about 10 years.

I’m also fairly sure there were a lot more women, and younger women, there than I had seen in previous visits to the biggest beer festival in the country.

This can only be good news for the organiser’s CAMRA, and indeed for the pub trade itself.

Women and younger people are taking more of an interest in beer, flavours, ingredients and what is available in their local area.

And they are drinking real beers too. Not the patronising fizzy ‘it’s a bit like a wine so you girls will like it’ type of brew that have been created in the past to tap into this market.

Condescension is no way to win people over and there is absolutely no reason why women and young adults shouldn’t enjoy what beer has to offer as much as the next, older possibly slightly overweight man.

Huge strides have been made in glassware, pumpclip imagery and the language used to attract rather than intimidate new drinkers to the category.

The stats seem to back it up as well. In one of a number of press releases that CAMRA tends to put out around the festival research revealed that 18 to 24-year-olds are more willing to try real ale.

To put a number on it, in the last four years the percentage of that age group that has tried real ale has gone up 50 per cent from 30 per cent to 46 per cent.

But while half of that group has tried it the numbers of those of that age that go to the pub is on the decline.

Simple answer then – stock more beer, make sure staff can explain its qualities and hey presto you have a whole bunch of customers knocking down your doors.

If only it were that easy.

In other news from the GBBF a barley wine has won the coveted prize of the Champion Beer of Britain. No doubt CAMRA will get a bit of stick for such a strong and specialist brew (it’s an 8.5 per cent winter ale) winning the top prize.

But then if another mild had won they would have got grief for that too.

Sometimes you just can’t win.

But many congratulation to Coniston Brewery and it’s No 9 Barley Wine for impressing the judges.
Matt Eley
30.7.2012 Matt Eley
altI was trying really hard to avoid writing about the Olympics, I really was.

There are already marathons of words out there on this subject, mainly from converts who had been moaning about traffic but who now think Danny Boyle should be knighted.

Well, I don’t want to say I told you so (I do though, otherwise I would have started the sentence differently) but I knew the Olympics would be welcomed when they got here.

This is an event that celebrates unity, effort, courage, strength, passion and skill – so what’s not to like?

It also brings people together in way that arguably only sport and music can and in a way that on looking politicians would struggle to ever emulate.

That’s all lovely, you may say, but what the hell has it got to do with pubs?

Fair point.

For months now smarty pants in the trade such as chief executives, magazine editors, trade leaders etc have been banging on about how this summer is all about the Jubilee, Euros and the Olympics.

Well the first two were OK, but the weather and an average England football team ensured they were not as amazing as one would have hoped.

Publicans also had the benefit of having an idea about how to prepare for those two. Get your offer right and major football tournaments should be like Christmas, and the Royal Wedding in 2011 would have given an indication of how trade could be for a royal extravaganza.

However, preparing for a home Olympics is something not many publicans have a great deal of experience in. That said there must also be some Aussies over here who were in Sydney 12 years ago - and anyone worked in a pub in 1948 I would love to hear from you!

So what can you do to get people to watch the Games in your pub rather than at home?

In the past we have talked about screening events, hosting your own mini Olympics and creating activities around the Games as a way of drumming up custom.

But a couple of days in and I don’t think this is the best way of doing things. Speaking purely from customer’s perspective I know the one thing that is going to make me enjoy my pub experience over the next couple of weeks is if the people in the pub have embraced the Games.

I want banter about the events, I want licensees and customers to be excited about a girl coming second in a 140km cycling event that would be of virtually no interest at any time other than the Olympics.

I want Union Jacks and the volume turned up when we make it to the top of the podium.

It is less about marketing or offers at this time and more about tapping into the Olympic spirit and getting the right vibe.

Crack that and you will have happy customers not only for the next two weeks but for many months to follow.

Matt Eley is the Inapub Editor. Follow me on Twitter @MatthewEley

Matt Eley
24.7.2012 Matt Eley
altOn this very site just a day ago, my blogging buddy Mark Daniels was bemoaning his luck at forming an allergy to hoppy beers.

So instead of going for the very bitter option, which leaves him with a very bitter feeling, he has instead started sampling fruit ciders.

This allows Mark to continue the joy of drinking a pint; and fortunately, he appears to be quite partial to fruity flavours too.

However, as I discovered last week, there may well be another option for Mark.

There is no doubt that the rise of cider has chipped away at beer sales in recent years. You only have to look at the launch of apple-based drinks by big brewers such as AB InBev and Carlsberg to confirm that.

And the next move to reclaim the drinkers who have left beer for cider would appear to be aping the success of the fruit segment.

The likes of Koppaberg and Rekorderlig have enjoyed huge sales booms in recent years and beer has been one of the main victims.

So brewers have decided to fight back.

The category of fruit beers used to be limited to Fruli or serving a wedge of lime with your Corona or Sol.

At an event organised by Marston’s last week it became apparent that this market is about to expand.

It’s own Wychwood Ginger Beard emerged last year to challenge Crabbie’s and it now has two more variants on the market.

Snake Bite and Forest Fruits were sampled last week against others in the market such as Belhaven Fruit Beer, Lindemans Apple, Stone’s Ginger Joe, Liefmans Fruitesse and Animée Rosé – the beer for women that makes you glad to be a man.

Now, if I’m honest, I didn’t walk away feeling that I was likely to be converted anytime soon and it’s unlikely that these will form part of my five a day.

But then I am probably not the target market.

We hear a lot about ‘Generation Y’ the youngsters who go out more than anyone else, and this lot might be swayed to try a fruity beer.

I also get the impression that this is very much a category in development. So while the products might not be perfect yet it could only be a matter of time before someone cracks the right recipe and we have a drink that does for beer what Magner’s over ice did for cider.

But then that was all about serve, just like that wedge of lime, so, in fact, perhaps the answer is serving a pint over a fruit salad. Healthy and wholesome.

Let me know if it works for you.

Matt Eley is the Inapub editor

Matt Eley
16.7.2012 Matt Eley
altOne of my favourite pub stories recently is the link-up between Signature Brew and Professor Green.

Before they joined up to create the beer The Remedy I didn’t know much about either but naturally assumed their worlds were, well worlds apart.

I also enjoyed seeing the photo of Professor Green in a warm embrace with Keith Bott, chairman of the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) and, more relevantly in this case, head honcho at Titanic Brewery, which produced The Remedy.

On the face of it rap and real ale seem about as likely a duo as David Bowie and Bing Crosby. Surely rappers should be knocking back bottles of Jack Daniel’s while brewers listen to, actually I don’t know what brewers listen to…but I suspect it isn’t Choice FM.

There you have two crude stereotypes in succession and I apologise to any offence caused to either rappers or brewers.

Thinking about this a bit more though I realised that the gap between real ale and rap or rather craft beer and music is not as wide as a brewer’s waistline after all.

The production of both takea craft, creation and care and both are sold as life-enhancing products of enjoyment.

Music stimulates our aural senses and helps relax, excite and move us and beer can do the same for our taste buds. They stimulate different senses but the result is similar.

And this appears to be what Signature Brew is tapping into. The three lads behind the concept come from a music industry and craft beer background. They are combining their talents to create links between craft beer and music.

As well as Professor Green they have also made beers with The Rifles and The Hold Steady’s songster Craig Finn. Beers will be sold at performances, online and at selected pubs that want to get involved.

The more you think about the link between craft beer and this type of music the more sense it makes.

As the Signature Brew team puts it on their own website:

“Like two star crossed lovers exchanging furtive glances in front of a stage, these two have long been destined for a happily ever after. Unfortunately with the current stranglehold by the major lager brands this burgeoning relationship is little more than a sick stained snog in the foul smelling toilets of the Camden Underworld.”

A lovely image I’m sure you’ll agree, but you get the gist

In times gone by on the pages of this site and in Inapub magazine I have said words to the effect that ‘real ale isn’t very rock n roll’.

But now I’m struggling to think of anything that could be more closely aligned with the British music scene than craft beer. 

Matt Eley is the editor of Inapub
Matt Eley
9.7.2012 Matt Eley
altCountryfile is not a programme that I regularly watch if I’m honest but yesterday’s episode took an interesting look at the plight of our rural pubs.

Thank goodness God created the iPlayer in that case because you can still watch the show if you follow this link

Landlords, a potential pub co-op and industry leaders told us of the challenges pubs face - supermarkets, tax, changing consumer habits - and we were given a depressing montage of boarded-up boozers in rural settings.

Thankfully the programme wasn’t just looking for problems, but solutions as well.

We saw how, with the help of Pub is the Hub (, The Sycamore Inn in Parwich, Derbyshire, had expanded its services with a village shop. It was working well, but the licensee was putting in 80 hours a week to make it happen.

One member of the co-op that was looking to take-over another struggling village pub suggested that its travails were due to a lack of marketing under the previous regime.

Elsewhere in the show it was stated that pubs need to do so much more than sell drink and food these days.

Now this is where Inapub can help. I know you will probably say ‘well, you would say that wouldn’t you’ but online marketing is essential for pubs looking to grow their customer database.

A survey by Deloitte last week revealed that an increase in ‘going out occasions’ was being driven by 18 to 34-year-olds looking for offers online.

This is where can help. With our website, app, and links with numerous data partners we can get your information about events, drinks, offers etc to thousands of prospective punters.

We can help you build databases and work out the best way of getting in touch with these people – be it text, email, Twitter, Facebook or via a variety of different websites.

Most of this won’t even cost you a penny.

If you are serious about your online solution then give a look or download or iTunes app from the app store – the Android version is on its way.

We are confident that we can really help pubs in this area and be part of the solution to pubs getting more people through their doors.

This is, after all, what everybody in the pub trade wants. And while it is refreshing and important for programmes such as Countryfile to focus on how vital pubs are to their communities let’s hope that in the future they will be able to return to the subject matter and reveal how things have turned around.

Perhaps they might even be able to show a montage of how thriving pubs can help unite and support communities.

Matt Eley is the Inapub editor
Matt Eley
4.7.2012 Matt Eley
altI was reading an interview with the author Martin Amis the other day when he said something along the lines of that ‘now that we are no longer an Empire and Britain is insignificant on the world stage the nation has slumped into a collective drunkenness to console itself’.

That is by no means a direct quote and Amis, naturally, put it far more eloquently than I ever could, but I hope I am getting across the point he was making.

It was an image of the country being like an old drunk at the bar telling stories of how good his life used to be. Only the smart guys in the suits, sipping Budweiser, weren’t paying any much attention, save for the occasional nod.

In my formative years when it came to reading, Amis was always a favourite so his opinions still intrigue me.

But, however vivid the picture he paints, I just can’t agree on this one.

For a starter this nation has never been shy of drinking. Beer goes back so far it has hard to put a precise date on it but monks have been brewing it for the best part of 1,000 years.

Breweries that were born centuries ago are still here today. Yes, they are still making money and beer but volumes are often in decline.

Drinking rates are falling whatever way you look at it, unless that happens to be in the pages of a national press that still seems to be in love with the phrase ‘Binge Britain’.

Yes, admissions to hospital for ‘alcohol related’ incidents are up but a large chunk of this is due to the way figures are now collated. For example, if you cut you thumb whilst doing some DIY and you have happened to have had a beer earlier in the day it will be recorded as an alcohol related incident, when in fact it may have had more to with an inability to hold a saw rather than your drink.

I just do not believe we are a nation of drunks.

What we are, as Amis’s line suggests, is a country that is quick to put itself down or think how much better things used to be.

I’m not saying things have never been so good, but they are not so bad either.

I have been fortunate to have travelled a bit in my time and despite the rain tumbling on Heathrow whenever I return there is nowhere I would rather live. I am sure most people feel the same way, despite their grumbles about tax, the NHS and the weather.

I want to be in a country that has a past, that has a sense of humour, freedom, opportunities for people, and a place to have a beer with friends by a fire or, and this will happen again one day, in a beer garden.

We might not be the world player we once were but we have more good than bad here, and you can see most of it in the pubs and inns of this nation.

Matt Eley is the editor of Inapub
Matt Eley
28.6.2012 Matt Eley
altI probably bang on about how accommodation can be a great revenue stream for pubs a bit too much but I am currently at a hotel that is providing even more evidence in this area.

Last month I stayed at an amazing pub and paid £120 for the privilege. It sounds a lot but due to the incredible service standards, beautifully constructed room, a breakfast fit for a king and a manor of other details it was actually a great deal.

Today I am just about to checkout from a hotel where I paid the same price and feel a little short changed.

It’s not that it’s bad. It isn’t, it is OK. But for £120 I want more than OK.

I don’t want a rubbery fry-up that has been sweating for who knows how long underneath lamps, I don’t want to pay an extra £15 for using WiFi for the day and I don’t want to be greeted by a humourless robot who runs through same checklist word-for-word with me and every other guest that arrives.

I want personality, free WiFi and to leave feeling that my custom is valued and that I will want to check in again.

That is what you get from pubs that do accommodation well. And what they get is your spend on the room, drinks and food and a ringing endorsement to anybody else they know that is heading that way.

Of course it is not practical or possible for every pub to offer letting rooms. Some don’t have the space and for others it just might not be appropriate for the area or the business.

But if you do have rooms or a space that can be converted into rooms it is worth looking into.

Many top operators are using the space they have for rooms and many have told me how after the initial outlay looking after rooms is a relatively low-cost way of bringing in extra revenue.

It creates a new customer base as well, be it staycationers or folk in the area for work.

It is an area we intend to look at more closely on this site and in the pages of Inapub magazine. So if you are a pub that specialises in accommodation we would love to hear from you so we can profile your pub.

Drop us a line at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Time for me to check out...
Matt Eley
6.6.2012 Matt Eley
altAs part of my jubilee weekend celebrations I went away to a wedding in Suffolk and opted to stay in a pub room.

I tend to do this rather than a hotel because the experience is usually much more friendly, the rates can be considerably better value and naturally it is important to support the trade.

However, I was slightly taken aback when I called the pub and discovered that the last room available was going at a rate of £135.

This is fairly high by pub standards but, having typically left booking until the last moment and there being little else in the way of accommodation in the area, my only choice was to take it and worry about the hit on my credit card later.

I didn’t know quite what to expect but I can say that after checking out I wasn’t worried about my money because I felt I had received fantastic value.

The room itself was more of an apartment - a beautifully and tastefully furnished suite, with modern four-poster bed, all the mod cons you need, desiger toiletries and a freestanding bath (to mention just a few features). There had clearly been attention to detail – not scratchy blanket sheets here – and the stay was akin to a five star London hotel, which is obviously considerably pricier than this pub.

Breakfast was also a treat. Staff were friendly, knowledgeable and helpful and the carefully cooked scrambled eggs with salmon and the other half's eggs benedict with the juiciest mushrooms you ever feasted on got the day off to a hangover-curing start.

The visit was a treat and it further convinced me of a belief I have had for a while now – accommodation must be the next important revenue stream for pubs to tackle.

We have had the food revolution and we know how tough the drinks market is but accommodation is still a relatively untapped market for pubs.

Too many pubs have the space available but do not use it. As one award winning freeholder recently said to me ‘you must make every square foot of the building work for you’.

Admittedly, converting rooms is not cheap. But once you have done it the running costs are relatively low. And the beauty of rooms is that not only do you get the rates but also the incremental spend on drink and food.

People staying are generally going to need watering and feeding so, if your offer is right, the chances are they will be putting more money your way, 

Not every pub will be able to charge more than £100 a night. Many will be looking at half this at least, but it all adds up.

This year there will be an influx of tourists to the UK combined with staycationers be looking for bargains. Pubs with rooms should be cashing in.

We are planning on closely covering how pubs make the most of their letting space so if you have stories to tell please get in touch with me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Right, I’d better go and deal with that credit card statement…
Matt Eley
23.5.2012 Matt Eley
altI was reminded the other day that it in July it will be five years since the smoking ban came into force in England.

For something that was such a major change for the industry it is an anniversary that for me could have gone by unnoticed.

I am a former and occasional smoker who has absolutely no problem going outside for a cigarette. In fact, it seems almost unbelievable to me that we were ever allowed to smoke inside pubs in the first place.

After a meal I used to always be one of the first to spark up and utter the words ‘ah, always the best one of the day’.

But the notion of smoking in front of other diners now seems entirely selfish. Even when I’m abroad in countries where you can smoke indoors I tend to find myself by the front door in true English fashion.

And, apart from a few grumblers who find it hard to accept the world has changed, I think most people agree that smoke free pubs are a more sociable and friendly environment for both workers and the majority of customers.

I know it has hurt trade and I know it was the straw that broke the camel’s back for many pubs. Wet-led, land-locked boozers found it particularly hard and for them the new breed of customer never really transpired.

Smokers stayed at home feeling betrayed and many never returned.

But, for the greater good, I can’t help thinking that the smoking ban was the right thing to do.

When I was growing up I found it inconceivable that you used to be able to smoke on planes, buses and in cinemas. I suppose the next generation will think the same of pubs and restaurants and look at grainy old photos (probably on Facebook) of smoke-filled bars with wonder at how that was ever allowed to happen.

I just hope that this is where it stops and we do not follow a trend for banning smoking in open air spaces, such as pub gardens. For while smoking is still legal in this country, it is wrong to treat smokers as second class citizens who are only allowed to indulge in their habit at home.

The balance at the moment seems right and fair and I hope any future reviews of the ban reach the same conclusion.

Matt Eley is the Inapub editor
Matt Eley
10.5.2012 Matt Eley
altI have always had mixed feelings about the value of awards, mainly because I have never won any myself.

Yes, there is a lot to be said for recognising talent, hard work, innovation and all of those other many factors that go into making something a success.

If done properly awards can be a great asset to a deserving pub or individual that has been handed such an accolade. They can then use it to their advantage to gain column inches and in turn more trade.

A case in point is Mahdis Neghabian of the Camden Eye in North London. The 31-year-old was named BII Licensee of the Year on Tuesday and widely praised for turning a pub around so that it is now making 20 per cent extra year on year.

A great success story, and a well deserved winner. Hats off, thumbs up and a big well done all round.

However, the same can not be said of another BII Award that was handed out, or rather not handed out on Sunday.

In a shocking example of a corporate power trip, sponsors Diageo refused to give the Scotland BII Award for Bar Operator of the Year to winners BrewDog. This is despite the fact that an independent panel of judges had picked them and the trophy had been engraved with their name on it.

Instead they tried to hand it to another pub team, which, in what must have been a very embarrassing situation all round, refused as it was clear they were not the first choice.

For whatever reason Diageo didn’t want BrewDog, a company that is never shy of an opinion on the big boys of the drinks world, to win the award.

Unsurprisingly, it has backfired dramatically.

Judges whispered to BrewDog that they were the winners, the bullied and embarrassed BII apologised, and Diageo had to admit that it had made an almighty balls up, though the words they used were more along the lines of ‘we made an error of judgment’.

Too bloody right they did.

But the apology is all too late. The damage was done by the individuals who made that call at the awards. BrewDog have made sure everyone knows what happened, and can you blame them?

The problem is not just that Diageo wanted to pick its winner but that the entire thing can devalue awards to the point that people will wonder if they mean anything at all.

Corporate sponsorship and advertising is much needed by groups such as the BII and indeed by media companies such as ourselves. But if the lines become blurred integrity is lost and everything you strive to achieve becomes meaningless.

It’s a very sad day when the best in the business are deemed unworthy winners of an award because the sponsors have a problem with them.

Matt Eley is the editor of Inapub
Matt Eley