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I'm a bit of a perfectionist. I like to know as much as possible about whatever I'm doing. So after a while of running the bar and taking a couple of courses to make sure my knowledge was up to scratch, the next thing to do was to find out more about brewing.

I'd already done a tour and cellar course at the Wye Valley Brewery, and found it (this is in no way meant to be a complaint!) very industrialised. When your brewing 80BBL a day consistency is key, something which other brew-blogs have mentioned. Indeed, the White Shield Brewery is only a 5BBL plant, but mixes 4 brews in a 20BBL FV to aid consistency.

The other obvious brewery to have a look at was the Breconshire Brewery just down the road from us. I went down and asked if I could spend a day watching a brew, from start to finish. Although this request got me some funny looks, it was arranged, even including a night on the brewer's couch, which was greatly appreciated at the end of the day. We arranged to do this every 4-6 weeks, and each time got a little more technical and I got a little more involved.

I'm still learning. Right now I'm learning how much of a pain having a listed building in the Brecon Beacon's National Park is. I just want to put a roof on the outhouse which used to store the bins, until I moved them to make way for the brewery. The amount of forms, plus architect's time, is really starting to make me consider renting one of those industrial warehouses on the outskirts of town, but I really, really wanted to have the brewery on the site of the pub.

A piece was recently written in the Publican about craft beer pubs, how there was a gap in the market for pubs selling weird and wonderful beers from around the world. Now I know my customers well - it's why the line up on the bar changes so frequently. At the moment we've got Amstel, Peroni and Hoegaarden on draft, alongside Carlsberg. Peroni has been on for a while, and we still get people surprised to see it on draft. Hoegaarden is the same, and whilst they may not be craft beers, they are certainly a step ahead of the usual suspects found on tap. We've found that they sold very well compared to other, more common, brands we used to sell. I wrote a comment on the Publican stating this - that Peroni and Hoegaarden had certainly added value to the bar.

I didn't expect to get a beer-snob's comment thrown my way for it:

michael-j said...
comments on The Publican's site are often amusing, like the way that someone can read that article (and the comment above them about cooking lagers) and then write with no irony about the success of replacing Grolsch with Peroni in their pub... (source here)

Don't get me wrong, I've heard of James Clay. I've spoken to them, and found they don't deliver to my area. But the amount of pubs I walk in and see Carling/Grolsch or Carlsberg/Export or Fosters/K1664 suggests to me that a pub selling Peroni on draft is a bit more specialised than most. The idea behind the comment was to suggest that pubs didn't have to rip out all their pumps and install 16 beers brewed in various sheds across Europe to take advantage of the 'craft beer' scene - that well known brands that aren't readily available still fit into this category.

Clearly Peroni on draft is too common for michael-j to class as a craft beer. But for those that don't have a clue what all these different beers are, it's a start. As Cooking Lager pointed out (see link above) it's all very well having all these beers on offer, but if the staff aren't knowledgeable enough to guide you to a drink you'll like, you'll loose some of your customers. If the guy running the bar doesn't have enough knowledge about the beers, your really onto a looser.

So whilst there is a niche market for craft beer pubs, there's also a middle ground available for the taking too. Brands on draught that aren't so obscure to scare your customers (and potentially staff), coupled with a few unusual bottles (currently Anchor Steam Beer, Brooklyn Lager and Erdinger Weissbier) can see the bar develop. And maybe in a couple of years we'll have a range of obscure draft beers on offer. But we would have developed that offer, and taken the customers with us.

As long as that's all right with the beer snobs...