The beverage business blog from James Wilmore
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Barry's day as Irish Distillers bids goodbye to main man
06 Sep 2013 11:49
Barry Crockett is calling time on his 47-year Irish whiskey career
Emotions were running high at Irish Distillers earlier this week as the Pernod Ricard-owned company said an official farewell to its master distiller, Barry Crockett.
Barry, who has been with the Jameson producer in its various forms for an amazing 47 years, was the local star of the show at an event to showcase a EUR100m upgrade to the unit's Midleton Distillery in County Cork. Tastings, local food and live music were laid on for around 900 guests as part of the 'housewarming' festival. Journalists were also given a chance to nose around the site's new Garden Stillhouse and a new Irish whiskey academy and archive.
But it was Barry's day really.
At the end of the festivities, a selected crowd was asked to come and see the main man speak and accept a gift. Bizarrely, the gathered throng were treated to the sight of a huge, gaudy, gold-framed portrait of the departing distiller and his successor, Brian Nation. A speech from Barry offered a mark of the man, as he spent little time talking about himself, instead regaling the crowd with anecdotes he'd discovered in the company's archives.
The portrait turned out to be a red herring, as behind it was a sign marking the fact that the company's old stillhouse has been renamed the ‘Barry Crockett Stillhouse’.
Irish Distillers CEO, Anna Malmhake, explained to me later the thinking behind the joke. Affectionately, she described Barry as “the perfect gentleman”, adding with a smile: “Having a big picture of himself is the worst thing he could imagine”.
The man himself was also treated to a standing ovation at a dinner held in one of the company's warehouses, rounded off with a live set by The Chieftains.
Cheers Barry, enjoy your retirement.
No chance of weather raining on Monster's parade
09 Aug 2013 16:18
Good to hear that not all companies blame the weather when they're having a rough time.
"We don't have weather in our vocabulary," said straight-talking Monster CEO Rodney Sacks yesterday (9 August), when being questioned by analysts following its disappointing first-half results yesterday (8 August).
"I think that weather does play a part in every beverage," he added. "But we really don't know what effect it has. We don't measure it... we generally tend to try and manage the business outside of the weather issues."
Certainly a refreshing response considering all the whingeing over weather we've been hearing recently from drinks firms.
Still, with the threat of regulation and legal action still hanging over the energy drinks group, no wonder Sacks is unconcerned about the odd spot of rain.
Writing (not) on the wall for SABMiller's Australian friends
17 Jul 2013 17:43
Gentle, self-deprecation isn't normally associated with company bigwigs. So, it was a refreshing change when SABMiller's Asia-Pacific MD Ari Mervis had analysts and hacks chuckling to themselves after a humourous aside at the group's regional presentation in London today.
A video was shown to illustrate the integration of Carlton & United Breweries' into SABMiller, following 2011's takeover. Unsurprisingly, it featured a line-up of brewers and sales folk waxing lyrical about their new(ish) corporate paymasters.
Sensing the slight cheesiness of the content, Mervis turned to the room following the video's conclusion and said: "The most impressive thing about that video is the fact the guys could read my handwriting, after I'd given them the answers."
Light relief is always welcome at these kinds of things, cheers Ari.
What does one call English wine!?
10 Jul 2013 13:18
The wife of the UK's heir to the throne has weighed in on the discourse around English wine.
No, the Duchess of Cornwall has not given us her opinion on whether the stuff's any good or not, but a critique of the term "English sparkling wine". During the opening of a new GBP2.5m (US$3.7m) winery at Hambledon Vineyard, in Hampshire yesterday (9 July) Camilla reportedly said: "I think everyone ought to put their heads together and find a new English name for sparkling wine."
She added: "I don't think 'sparkling' sounds good enough. It ought to have something with more depth. That's my good plan to find a new word for it, if anyone's got any ideas I'd be thrilled."
Suggestions are welcome, on a postcard, to: Clarence House, London.
Constellation's Sands looks to the stars
05 Jun 2013 10:29
This is all from the fall-out of Anheuser-Busch InBev's US$20.1bn acquisition of Modelo, which completed yesterday.
A very relaxed Rob Sands, Constellation's CEO, gave an interview to CNBC shortly after the news broke yesterday. He confirmed that his company will effectively double in size as a result of the transactions and promised there will be "no job cuts" or "streamlining".
Expect corks to be popping left, right and centre at Constellation towers on Friday.
To view the Sands interview, click here
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Sweden says Iron Maiden's Trooper is super after all
29 May 2013 18:02
It was hardly a matter of life and death, but Iron Maiden have broken through the final frontier. Yes, Trooper ale has been allowed to land in Sweden.
After (probably) tense negotiations, and a few quick clicks of the zoom button, officials at Sweden's state-run liquor store monopoly, Systembolaget, have embraced their inner metaller by giving the go-ahead. Bottles of the 4.7% beer will be available in Sweden from the end of June.
Apparently, due to Swedish laws, drink labels in the Scandinavian country are banned from featuring "elements of war, weapons or aggression". So, instead, Trooper's label just features a close-up of the band's mascot Eddie, aka Eddie the Head.
Still quite an aggressive looking chap, if you ask me, but there you go.
just-drinks on the BBC over Britvic
23 May 2013 17:05
Britvic's plans to close three of its UK sites has caused a bit of stir, not least in the county I was raised, Essex.
The company's Chelmsford factory is due to close as the firm presses ahead with a cost-cutting new strategy. With reports of around 230 job losses in Essex, where the company was founded, local BBC media in the area were keen to get to the bottom of the story.
After an early morning coffee today (23 May) and a clearing of the throat, I spoke to BBC Essex about the company's plans and the wider soft drinks sector.
You can hear the interview here at around 1hour 5mins in.
Tax issue is no small beer for US brewers
17 May 2013 16:41
The gloves are off in Washington DC as the big (and the not so big) brewers tussle with small brewers over tax.
In the red corner, are the likes of Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors, who are backing the 'Brewers Excise and Economic Relief Act of 2013', otherwise known as the BEER Act.
Under the Act, introduced in the House of Representatives last week, the federal excise tax on beer for all brewers and beer importers would be cut.
This is the proposal:
· Small brewers would pay no federal excise tax on the first 15,000 barrels; US$3.50 on 15,001 to 60,000 barrels and $9 per barrel for every barrel over 60,000 and up to 2m barrels
· Brewers producing more than 2m barrels annually, and for all beer importers regardless of size, the federal excise tax rate would be $9 per barrel for every barrel
The Beer Institute, the US trade body which represents the big brewers, claims this a "fair, equitable tax policy".
However, in the blue corner representing smaller, craft brewers, the Brewers Association (BA) is not impressed. An alternative act, the Small BREW Act, which reached the Senate last week, seeks cuts only for smaller scale producers.
But it is a tangled web, as Jason Notte explains, writing on The Street website. For one, Brooklyn Brewery is among those supporting the BEER Act. Meanwhile, he suggests that the levels proposed in the Act would imply that Boston Beer Company is not a craft brewer, which is part of the reason the BA changed its defintion two years ago.
Meanwhile, Deschutes Brewery founder Gary Fish also found himself caught between the two.
Who'll be left standing?
Iron Maiden rocked by Sweden's alcohol rules
14 May 2013 13:34
When you're one of the most successful heavy metal bands in history, with nearly 9m Facebook fans, you can probably cope with the odd setback.
Last week, Iron Maiden launched their own ale - Trooper - brewed by Cheshire-based family brewer Robinsons. According to beer writer Marverine Cole, the brewery has secured pre-orders from a whopping 184 countries, while Robinsons has been forced to move to a six-day week to meet demand.
But, the brew (4.8% abv in cask, 4.7% in bottled format) has hit a stumbling block in Sweden. The country's state-run liquor store monopoly, Systembolaget, has aborted the launch of Trooper in its outlets over fears the skull and crossbones on the label does not adhere to the country's alcohol laws, it has been reported.
Will the private-jet travelling hellraisers be forced to change the label? Or, will they abandon selling the beer in Sweden?
Strangely, I don't remember this kind of kerfuffle when indie epic-balladeers Elbow launched their beer, Build a Rocket Boys, with Robinsons in 2011.
Craft distillers of the world unite...
16 Apr 2013 16:57
Craft distillers are getting evermore serious and getting together.
Trade groups exclusively representing craft producers' interests exist both sides of the Atlantic, with a new body having just popped up.
The American Craft Distillers Association has been formed this month to "promote and protect craft distilling in the United States", Modern Distillery Age reported in its latest issue. This is in addition to the American Distilling Institute, which has already existed for ten years, and claims to be the voice of "artisan distilling".
Meanwhile, in the UK, the Craft Distillers' Alliance has just appointed a chairman - Stephen Davies, MD of Welsh whisky distillery Penderyn. The group was set-up last year by whisk(e)y writer Dominic Roskrow and already numbers around 30 members.
We'll just have to see if any finger-pointing crops up over what constitutes a "craft" product, as is the case in the brewing world right now.
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