Visit the Student Brewer site

This was a piece I wrote a while back for BEER - the CAMRA magazine. Each edition has a little debate at the back of it. I like a challenge, so I wrote a piece suggesting that JDW are not the biggest supporter of real ale. Enjoy

I'm not going to lie - it's a tough side to argue. I'm sure the range and price of ales will be the forefront of the opposition's piece, so I'll start there. With regards to the range of beers, more times than not I've been presented with plenty of pumps, the majority with clips on facing the customer, yet only two or three beers actually available. Not the end of the world, I'll grant you, but frustrating. What I truly have a problem with is their 'beer festival' - 'The Biggest Real Ale & Cider Festival'. A quick google search for their 'festival' brings this up: To celebrate Spring in style, our April 2011 beer festival features 50 British & International ales and 10 ciders in all our pubs.

Now to anyone who has read What's Brewing letter's pages shortly after a large CAMRA festival will know some people are always disappointed to turn up on the last day of the festival and not have every single ale available to them. Yet nobody appears to have a problem with JDW twice a year putting on a 'beer festival' where maybe 10 ales are available at most. I don't honestly know how they get away with it twice a year. Why is this bad for real ale? Real ale and pubs are intricately linked, and practices such as these show neither ale nor pubs in the best light to new potential ale drinkers.

JDW buy beer from breweries at massively reduced rates, and obviously only from breweries large enough to meet their supply requirements. This means smaller breweries can't get on the bar, restricting choice for customers to those larger breweries. As well as this, the reduced prices JDW pay, and charge customers, is devaluing real ale and taking money out of the sector. It takes skill and knowledge to consistently brew good beer, and the reward to the brewer should be reasonable.

But more importantly, customers will start to think of real ale as worth only £2 a pint. In the same way some members of a club think their membership entitles them to cheaper drinks than others such as regulars who support the pub all year round. Pubs without the buying power of JDW, independents for example, may see the scales of profit and loss tip the wrong way with a nearby JDW present, in much the same way a nearby supermarket can do for butchers and bakers, sucking money out the local economy at the same time. Real ale needs small independent pubs to survive and thrive.