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Matthew Eley

Matthew Eley

Matthew Eley

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

3.10.2012 Matt Eley
altIt was national Talk Like a Pirate Day recently, but I didn’t see many people going ‘arrrr’ as I carried out my daily business.

I’m not entirely sure of the point of that one or many of the other special days, weeks and months that dominate our calendars but get it right and it can be worthwhile.

Take Movember for example. You can guarantee that next month thousands of people will be growing unfashionable facial hair all in the name of charity. It’s funny and has a point to it which has encouraged people to get involved. Plus most men secretly want to know what they would have looked like had they been around in the 1970s.

Meanwhile smokers are being encouraged to quit their habit this month as part of the first ever Stoptober. If that can be more successful at getting people to quit than Non Smoking Day remains to be seen.

The difficulty with smokers is that while many would like to quit, as a group they tend not to like being told what to do.

Which brings me to two events that are taking place this week that have particular relevance to the pub trade: Cask Ale Week and the inaugural British Roast Dinner Week.

They are separately organised but both should have great resonance with the trade, after all a pint and a roast are a pretty decent match in my opinion.

The hard part with these events is making them interesting enough for pubs to engage and for the pubs in turn to get the interest of their customers.

Obviously cask is important to many pubs, as the perfectly timed Cask Report that reveals volumes are on the up, indicates. But how does a week such as this make a difference to a trade in which pubs are either focused on cask all year round or do not see the benefit of it to their businesses at all?

Perhaps it is with the latter pubs that the engagement work really needs to be happening. Pubs that specialise in cask probably don’t need a week to celebrate it as they do it all year round and, in many cases, have their own weeks and weekends in the form of festivals.

The trick is educating the pubs that as yet have not seen the value in cask. So how is this achieved? Brewers have to be out there in force, offering tips, free samples and incentives for pubs to stock cask for the first time and to see the value it brings.

British Roast Dinner Week has started by encouraging people to go for a roast on days when it might not be at the forefront of their minds, basically not just on Sundays. This is ambitious because it takes more than a week to change eating habits that are deep-rooted.

But it is a start and the organisers at Unilever’s Knorr Gravy brand are pleased with the number of entries they have had in their first search for the nation’s best roast dinner. If my mum doesn’t win I’m betting it will be a pub.

It is an event that should gain momentum over the years, and who knows maybe the organisers between the roast and cask events can work together to raise the profile of both going forward.

Meanwhile, I’m going to do my supportive bit by ensuring I enjoy both weeks as much as I can.

Matt Eley is the editor of Inapub. Follow him on Twitter @mattheweley
Matt Eley
19.9.2012 Matt Eley
altThe minimum price debate has reared its head again and it looks like the government wants to complicate matters.

Usually when the words ‘minimum ‘ and ‘price’ get mentioned in quick succession those in the ‘against’ camp start talking about legal issues, Europe and how it could never be implemented.

Now that the government has said that it is going to introduce a minimum price for a unit of alcohol those noises have been slightly muffled. However, a government report on the matter this week has raised new concerns by suggesting a minimum price could be linked to inflation.

This has given the naysayers more ammo to shoot down a proposal that they were always against. You see many people just do not want government meddling in pricing at all.

But generally that group does not include licensees, who are, in the main, supportive of such as measure. This was backed up by a survey of members of the BII recently, in which 77 per cent said they want a minimum price. Of those, the majority want a minimum level of 50p.

Personally I have always been of the view that a minimum price would at least close the gap between the crazy cheap deals in the supermarkets and the prices pubs have to sell their products at.

I am also a great believer in price not being the most important issue for pubs but when money is tight there are plenty of people who will opt for a slab of beer and their flat screen TVs rather than a couple of rounds at their local.

A minimum price of 40p – the likely government starting point - would not affect prices at many if any pubs in the country. It means you would be restricted to selling pints for a minimum of about £1, and it has been a long time since I got any change from a single coin when buying a beer.

Therefore a minimum price potentially has the unintended consequence of doing a good PR job for the pub trade, by showing how responsibly alcohol is retailed compared to the off-trade.

And perhaps if the industry could show collective, constructive support for a government measure designed to improve public health it might just help the debate on issues that have a more direct impact on the tills, such as alcohol duty.

Matt Eley is the editor of Inapub. Follow him on Twiitter @mattheweley
Matt Eley
16.8.2012 Matt Eley
altSo the general consensus is that the Olympics were a rip-roaring, joyous success and celebration of a nation that realised why it has the word ‘Great’ in its name.

The absence of politicians and the Premiership from our screens, newspapers and radios was hugely welcomed as the general population spent two weeks in splendid positive and proud form and kept a lid on the moaning cynics.

For pubs, reports of how the Olympic spirit translated into sales is still being worked out but the early signs are positive.

Certainly if you were near a venue you were laughing and if you managed to ensure the spirit in your pub was aglow like the Olympic flame then you also had a decent chance.

Surveys by trade group the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers indicated trade slumped fairly dramatically in the first week of the Games with people leaving London and staying at home. But like Mo Farah digging in on that final lap things turned out to be a lot better in week two.

Trade was up at 60 per cent of pubs and bars, according to a survey of members representing more than 1,000 venues.

Not a bad return at all for a sport that is not traditionally one that packs out pubs.

But this was a unique event, an opportunity that will never present itself in this country again. So those entrepreneurs that made the most of it will be patting themselves on the back, while others will have to look at what is coming up in the future.

One thing that is coming up and is itself a unique opportunity is the Paralympics.

I can almost hear the ‘hurumph’ from cynics as I write those very words. How could a minority sport event such as this be good for the trade?

Well, consider it an extension of the Olympics and a further, arguably greater, celebration of British (and international) triumph over adversity.

Consider too that 2.5m tickets have already been sold, which indicates that interest in this event is high.

Around 26m people tuned in to watch the party of oddness that was the closing ceremony. They simply didn’t want the party to end, though they may have reflected on that position when George Michael started his second number.

The appetite for celebrating Britishness and being proud of our nation prevails and the Paralympics is the last real opportunity this year to get the Union Jack bunting out and encourage people to have that party of your pub.

Maybe you were cynical before the Olympics themselves, it would be a shame to miss the boat twice.

Matt Eley is the Inapub editor. Follow him at @mattheweley

Matt Eley
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 www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/search?q=countryfile

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 (www.pubisthehub.org.uk), 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 www.inapub.co.uk 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 www.inapub.co.uk 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