James Wilmore

The beverage business blog from James Wilmore

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Barley wine... is it fine?

08 Aug 2012 13:43

Barley wine. I have to admit, it's a beer style I'm not that familiar with, despite originating from the ancient Greeks, but yesterday in London I got the chance to sup a sample. It wasn't just any old barley wine though. It was the Campaign for Real Ale's (CAMRA) newly-crowned Champion Beer of Britain 2012.

The brew in question was 'No.9 Barley Wine', from Cumbria-based brewery Coniston. Coming in at an abv of 8.5%, which is actually on the weaker side for this style, a third of a pint was plenty. The judges at the Great British Beer Festival said it was "reminiscent of a fine Cognac". It was certainly full-bodied, but perhaps a bit on the sweet side for me.

It was also CAMRA's Champion Winter Beer of Britain, which perhaps tells its own story.

Who knows, it may spark a resurgence in barley wines? Or, it may not.

But, in this Olympic year, it's fitting that CAMRA has again chosen a non-mainstream English beer style as its champion. Perhaps, it's also a two-fingered salute to the mass-produced brews the organisation rails against.

After all, we here in the UK love an underdog.

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Olympic goodwill spreads, but not for Heineken

30 Jul 2012 17:30

Olympic fever has well and truly arrived here in the UK. Even our normally cynical national newspapers displayed a clean sweep of positive coverage on day one

But one company probably hoping this goodwill extends to the coporate sponsors is Heineken. The Dutch brewer has had a rough ride in the build-up. First it was the target of negative coverage for the price of a pint that Olympic spectators will face at events. 

And more recently, it's come in for stick from Lib Dem MP, Greg Mulholland, for being a "mass produced non-British beer", when beer is the UK's national drink.

The choice of Heineken as the official Olympic beer is "a wholly inappropriate decision based purely on the size of Heineken's cheque book", Mulholland argued in a parliamentary motion tabled earlier this month

Only 13 MPs have bothered to sign the motion. But the point was made and the story was even picked up by US media. The brewer probably wasn't too amused by the reaction on Twitter either. 

Another strand to this story is that Heineken will be serving some good-old British ale at Lord's. It just won't be shouting about the fact. John's Smith's will be displayed as "ale", while Strongow will appear as "cider", at the home of English cricket's bars. 

All other packaged drinks will be dispensed into a generic London 2012 glass, a Heineken spokesperson has told me. 

I, for one, am a bit sad that Britain's wonderful brewers will not be getting a look in at Olympic venues. It seems particularly ironic when the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) is holding its annual beerathon - the Great British Beer Festival - in London during the games. 

I guess that Bath Ales' Gem will taste extra special at home, as I watch the action unfold. 

 

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Selling alcohol is "legitimate", MPs conclude. Phew!

19 Jul 2012 16:11

Drinks producers in the UK won't have had much to cheer in today's MP-led report on alcohol. But they can breathe a sigh of relief in one respect.

Among their conclusions, MPs noted: "The business of supplying alcoholic products is an entirely legitimate business." 

An obvious point. But lest we forget, for a 13-year period last century in the 'Land of the Free', it was anything but a "legitimate business", as this short video neatly reminds us.

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Fake Plastic Bags - a mystery for Coca-Cola

13 Jul 2012 15:45

Why would somebody go to so much trouble to film an elaborate video about Coca-Cola launching branded plastic bags for its flagship drink? 

just-drinks got a worldwide scoop earlier this week, after the video was exposed as a fake. Coca-Cola HQ told us it had no connection to the video and that it had no plans to lauch the branded plastic bags in the shape of its iconic glass bottle.

The unofficial video had already fooled plenty of media outlets, including the Daily Mail, which was forced to take down the story from its website.

Coca-Cola told me it had no knowledge of who made, or posted, the video. 

Bizarre.

So, who could be behind this elaborate hoax? I have two - purely specualtive - theories. One is that Coca-Cola was toying with the idea of launching branded plastic bags and an ad agency that may have pitched for the campaign decided to make the video anyway.

My other theory is that it's the work of a guerilla environmental group. You'll notice in the video, it's mentioned the bags will be bio-degradable. This element was even picked up on by people tweeting about the supposed launch. Perhaps, inspired by the work of The Yes Men, these filmakers are hoping to somehow force Coca-Cola into launching these bio-degradable plastic bags, through consumer demand?

Who knows?

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WSTA's loss is BSDA's gain with Partington appointment

10 Jul 2012 16:05

It's taken a while, six months in fact, but the British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA) has finally found a new boss. And I think the wait will be worth its while. 

Gavin Partington, who began his career as a political broadcast journalist, is a vastly experienced corporate communications bod, who knows how the Westminster machine works, and, equally important, how to present an argument.

Anyone who has heard him on BBC Radio 4's Today programme defend the drinks industry over the threat of minimum pricing on numerous occasions, will know he is not easily flustered - even in the face of a thorny issue ... and John Humphrys.

It also helps that he's an affable and approachable chap. 

But, he'll need all these qualities in his role as the BSDA's director general. One issue that will regularly crop up in Partington's inbox will, of course, be the soft drinks industry's role in tackling obesity. Sorting out the "problems" around alcohol is still a big focus for the UK government, but obesity is almost of equal importance.  

After four years at the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA), it's a shame Partington never made it to the top job. Perhaps he tired of fighting the good fight over minimum pricing, as the political argument has all but been lost.

Meanwhile, the WSTA's new boss, Miles Beale, a newcomer to the drinks industry, will have to cope without the hand-holding of Partington.

To me, it appears that the WSTA's loss is the BSDA's gain.

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VIDEO: It's the Carlos show...

29 Jun 2012 11:32

"For Mexico, this is extraordinary news" - Carlos Fernandez, Grupo Modelo CEO 

To show how much they love each other now, A-B InBev's CEO Carlos Brito and Modelo's CEO Carlos Fernandez have recorded a video explaining their thoughts in the wake of today's deal

They're not in the same room, but there's plenty of warm words. You can watch it by clicking here

 


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Miller Time! If your name is Miller...

29 Jun 2012 10:05

 

The marketing folk at MillerCoors have dreamt up a remarkably simple promotion. 

If your first, middle, or last name is Miller (and you're of legal drinking age), and you live in the US, you can pick up a US$25 gift card, equivalent to the cost of a case of Miller Lite, at one of the company's "It's Miller Time On Us" events, being held in nine locations across the country this summer. 

Apparently, Miller is the sixth most common surname in the US, so it could be popular. 

Could any other beer brands follow suit?

We've been scratching at heads here at just-drinks towers. We've come up with Guinness, Foster('s) and Tennent('s) as brands who could manage it, at a stretch... 

 

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London Mayor offers sanctuary to New Yorkers wanting to avoid soft drinks ban

12 Jun 2012 17:41

You can usually rely on London Mayor Boris Johnson for a chuckle. And he's been at it again. 

BoJo, as he's affectionately known by some in England, has told New Yorkers they can move to London if they want to avoid the proposed ban on large soft drinks. 

In an appearance on satirical news programme The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Johnson said "refugees from the soda tyranny in New York will have sanctuary in London". 

He added: "I don't want to sound jingoistic, but if you do wish to come and drink soda from a 16oz pot, come to London. Bring your huddled masses yearning to break free."

However, BoJo admitted that obesity was a problem in both cities.  "The reality is we are all getting fatter. It is a problem in a city like London and it is a problem in New York.

"If you can stop kids getting fatter by restricting the size of the Coke they drink then why not?"

You can view the video below. The clip is 50 seconds in...

 

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Euro-themed tax campaign video launched

11 Jun 2012 11:02

Pubs here in England are set for bumper sales this evening, with the national team kicking-off their campaign in the European Football Championships.  

But it's not all cheer for brewers and publicans. The issue of beer tax continues to loom large -  duty has risen 40% since 2008.  So, in a clever bit of campaigning a coalition of industry bodies have put together a video highlighting the UK's stinging rate of beer tax. It points out that UK punters pay 13 times more beer tax than the Germans, 12 times more than Spanish and nine times more than the French. Sacrebleu!

It's all part of a campaign to persuade the government to abandon the duty escalator system, which will see taxes go up 2% above inflation automatically each year until 2014. 

You can see the video below...

 

However, in some ways they can count themselves lucky. In Brazil, the federal governemnt has just hiked beer tax by 27% - in a single year

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Why has Guinness gone nuts?

01 Jun 2012 16:01

Ever wondered what a Guinness-flavoured cashew nut would taste like?

No, me neither. But, if you have, your slathering wait is nearly over. From June 10, UK supermarket chain, Sainsbury’s, will be selling new Guinness Gourmet Peanuts & Cashews. 

A “hearty”  90g grab bag will be on sale for GBP1.49. 

But why? The PR bunf explains the product has been developed to “support consumer demands for innovative flavours and experiences within premium snacking products - a category which continues to thrive and drive market growth”. 

In other words, Diageo wants a slice of the snack pie.

And fair enough, after all, according to figures from Mintel the category grew 6% last year to GBP3.18bn. 

But personally, it feels like a slight devaluing of a great brand. Or as someone commented on Twitter (Diageo’s favourite social media outlet...possibly) - Is this an example of a brand being stretched too far?”

I’m a big fan of the drink, in its original form, not the Extra Cold. But as an occasional drinker of the "Black Stuff", I’d never imagine a situation where I’d fancy a Guinness-flavoured nut. Although, I have enjoyed the odd steak and Guinness pie. 

Anyway, perhaps the odd packet might end up on ebay like Guinness Marmite

 

 

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