As part of our behind the scenes features, I caught up with Will ( our MD) and Chris ( Commercial Manager) today to find out a bit more about how we choose our beers.
We need to get 10 -12 new beers in most months to deliver something new to our monthly club customers. They’ll never get the same beer twice.
Luckily, there are a huge number of independent breweries in the UK. It’s doubled in the last 10 years so whilst it’s a competitive market it is great for the beer drinker.
- How do you come across new breweries?
Most get in touch with us, but we often get customer recommendations or we spot them on social media. Recommendations are the best as we know it’s already something our customers like. We love events such as Craft Beer Rising to meet lots of new brewers and there’s nothing like sampling them and chatting to the people who make it; so we’re looking forward to those returning.
- Do you sample the beers before listing?
This is essential- we wouldn’t list a beer without trying it. We receive 2-3 boxes per week. In the last few days we’ve seen beer from Cumbria, the South West and Midlands, which is great as we like to have a good geographical split. We like sharing the samples with a select group of customers too, so get in touch if you'd like to be on the panel.
- Do you have a particular type of beer you prefer?
Chris, who still hasn’t met a beer style he doesn’t like is ‘still figuring this out if I’m honest……’
Will likes pale, hoppy and not too strong but it’s not about what we like. We have a great tasting panel between our staff and regular customers.
There is a wide range of beer and cider tastes in the company so there is always someone willing to offer an opinion.
- What do you look for a brewery to demonstrate before you buy from them?
Chris: Honestly, open to chat about prices and products, understand that if we get it right it could be the start of a very fruitful relationship. We also need to know they'll fit into some of our best selling cases. Our customers trust us to hand pick and curate cases, It's a lot of responsibility to make sure they're really pleased with the beers we choose so new breweries need to fit into those styles.
Will: Apart from quality and taste? good back story, decent labels, heritage and history for established brewers and quality and consistency from start ups
- What would put you off immediately?
Chris: When they send you one price list, then when you say no thanks they hit you with another that’s much cheaper, either send your best prices the first time or have a conversation with us about what we both need to make it work. We always check out independent reviews on rating websites as well to see what the beer drinkers think of the quality.
We often get asked how much we’ll pay and we don’t feel comfortable with this as everyone has different costs and pricing models. We don’t want to tell anyone their business. It’s best just to consider that we’ll buy in pallets so don’t give us a price that you would give someone that you need to deliver a couple of cases to each week.
Will: The label- anything in bad taste or sexist. It is surprising that we still see this sometimes and it wouldn't matter how good the beer is inside. We wouldn't get past the design.
- Which breweries do you think fit our customer profile perfectly?
Our customers like quite traditional, bottle or can conditioned and award winners all from small/independent breweries run by lovely people, so I’ll go with…
Weal (about as small as you can get, local to us, bottle conditioned, very award winning)
Stonehouse…. beers great, relationship is great!
Windsor & Eton - they represent a lot of what we stand for
Scottish – There is a lot of good stuff coming from up north at the moment and we’re loving Loch Lomond, Cold Town and Redcastle
- Do you have a particular beer you reach for?
Chris: If in a pub/bottle shop and they had any Tiny Rebel I’d go for that.
If here… too many to choose from but if forced to name something and we had any in I’d go for a Salopian Black label, specifically Dewdrops.
Will: I like variety but sessionable and pale are essential for me. Love a really juicy IPA
- Without naming names, can you give me an example of someone really getting it right
Chris: In terms of working with a really good example recently, Lenton Lane, really keen to work with us and wanted to offer a deal that could work for us both…. Which it has and their beers are great.
In terms of beers, we’ve mentioned them before but Loch Lomond brewery- beautifully designed cans, good range of beers and all incredibly good consistent quality.
Will: I like working with Jem from Cheddar- consistent, quick turnaround on delivery ,bottle conditioned, award winning and lovely people.
Mobberley are producing some great beers at the moment. I love their Nothing Stops DDH IPA
- Do you have a brewery you’re looking forward to visit now we’re able to get back out again?
Will: We have really missed getting out and about this year, so we’ve got a road trip round our favourite Scottish breweries planned for June with a stop at the Lakes on the way up. Our daughter loves a brewery trip, especially when they have a dog!
Chris: Any and all really, but Cheddar, Glamorgan, Backyard and lots of Manchester such as Cloudwater and Track
- Favourite beer or brewery back story
Will: There are so many as most breweries have a back story and we’re always interested in how small businesses are born.
The Tynt Meadow story is pretty special and we love the fact it’s the only British Trappist beer. The monks aspire to produce work that is ‘creative, joyful and of the highest quality’ Those are values we hold dearly ourselves.
Chris: I admire Weal ales, both made redundant, like beer but never brewed it, put all the payout into setting up a brewery and quickly managed to brew multiple award winning beers having never done it before, then gone onto open their own pub.
Also the tale in regards to Jemima’s Pitchfork is lovely.