Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Dorothy Goodbody

Alcohol Concern should lie down in
a dark room and keep taking the Pils

The key question of the day is : Is Alcohol Concern stark, raving bonkers? The organisation reported the Wye Valley Brewery in Herefordshire to the Portman Group on the grounds that labels and pumpclips for Dorothy Goodbody's Wholesome Stout were "sexually explicit". It always helps in life to have a good sense of humour but the killjoys at Alcohol Concern couldn't raise a smile. This is the same group of nutters who last year recommended that parents who give alcohol to their children in their privacy of their homes should be reported to the police. Bring on the police state.
I am against sexism in all its manifestations and would oppose using sex to promote and sell alcohol. But Dorothy Goodbody is a joke. She is a cartoon character, the type of curvy blonde that American airmen should to paint on their planes in World War Two. She is the mythical daughter of the equally mythical former head brewer at Wye Valley whose brewing recipes she found in a drawer. The beers that carry her name have won many awards, including a recent one for packaging! Yet the killjoys at AC, who would like alcohol to be so severely taxed that only the super-rich could afford it, can't see the humour behind the label.

The Portman Group, the brewing industry watchdog that oversees promotions for alcohol, had to convene an independent panel to consider the complaint. What a waste of time and money.

Brewers have enough problems to face -- a media onslaught against "24-hour drinking" and massive increases in the costs of barley and hops -- without the added nonsense of fatuous complaints from Alcohol Concern.

The organisation is a charity. Who on earth funds these freaks?

Monday, 25 February 2008

SIBA

Craft brewers say the pub is the
best way to tackle binge drinking

The Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) says the best way to tackle the problem of binge drinking is to encourage young people to drink in the controlled environment of the pub. SIBA chairman Peter Amor told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme today (25 February) that his members concentrate on cask beer and that can only be consumed on pub premises.
SIBA has called up the images of Hogarth's celebrated 18th century drawings of Gin Alley and Beer Lane to stress the healthy aspects of beer drinking compared to cheap spirits. Evidence shows that many young people who engage in binge drinking often consume cheap supermarket vodka before going out to continue drinking.
Peter Amor -- who founded the Wye Valley Brewery and runs the Barrels pub in Hereford -- stressed in the interview that pub drinking is quite different to consuming alcohol in the streets bought from corner shops or supermarkets. In pubs, young people will mix with older and more experienced drinkers who consume moderate amounts of alcohol. Publicans also have a duty to maintain their pubs in a legal manner and cannot allow drunken behaviour for fear of losing their licences.
The SIBA campaign comes at a time when both sections of the media, politicians and doctors are whipping up a campaign to increase the duty on alcohol in this year's Budget and to curtail what is called "24-hour drinking". Even the lofty British Medical Association last week called for both higher duty rates and a review of 24-hour drinking. The Independent on Sunday newspaper (24 February) said 24-hour pub licensing had proved to be a failure even though there is no such thing. The new licensing laws, introduced in 2006, allows pub owners to vary their hours within a 24-hour cycle but must register them with the licensing authorities. Scarcely any pubs in the country are open for 24 hours: it is mainly hotels and supermarkets that serve alcohol round the clock.
SIBA is to be congratulated for putting its collective head above the parapet and challenging the bandwagon that would penalise the overwhelming majority of sensible drinkers as a result of the behaviour of a tiny minority.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Craft brewers' boom

Craft brewers' boom
meets media silence

Britain's craft brewers, represented by SIBA, the Society of Independent Brewers, has announced an average 10.7% increase in retail sales for each member in the past year. This stunning success story -- at a time when giant global brewers are reporting a sharp downturn in sales in Britain -- has been met by a resounding silence by the media.
Sales of SIBA members amount to £320 million a year -- and that means a sizeable contribution to the government in terms of tax and duty. This remarkable boom in sales should make media headlines but the report has been met by a total news blackout.
Michael Hardman, SIBA's press officer, says: "This is a great British success story -- but nobody wants to know." The reason is not hard to understand: the media is obsessed with "24-hour" drinking" and "binge drinking" and doesn't want to write about a good beer story. As Hardman adds, "If you substituted 'beer' in the report with the word 'wine', the media would be falling over themselves to write glowing stories."
There is another positive side to the report. As SIBA's chief executive, Julian Grocock, says in his introduction, the success of his members is due to increasing concern by consumers about the quality of the food and drink they buy. They are concerned by localism and provenance -- they want to know that the beers they drink are made close to them and use natural ingredients grown in Britain. They are increasingly turning away from mass-marketed global brands that use inferior malts and hops.
Again, this is a positive message the media should be reporting. But even such intelligent outlets as the BBC's Radio 4 Today programme and the Guardian newspaper still prefer to endlessly talk about 24-hour drinking when no such thing exists.
Fortunately, even with no support from the press and broadcasting, craft brewers are bucking the trend, reporting booming sales, and proving that in the end quality and taste will win through.