So, the enjoyable back and forth became personal. Last Thursday I wrote this post relating to the claims of Arran Brewery Managing Director Gerald Michaluk, where I questioned his claim that Arran Blonde was the ‘best selling craft beer in Scotland’. That followed the aforementioned period of emailing between the two of us, where we eventually agreed to disagree on those claims. Being someone who writes about beer, I thought it was an interesting thing to query – essentially it all boils down to semantics and that oft-used c-word. That was that. Until the start of this week, when this further press release landed in my inbox, and the inboxes of plenty of other beer, drinks industry and business writers. I’m not going to publish any of the emails, as they were private correspondence, but seeing as this was a publicly-issued release – here it is…
Arran’s Claim Challenged
The claim made by the Arran Brewery that Arran Blonde is the best selling bottled craft beer in Scotland has been challenged by a blogger Richard Taylor and the Arran Brewery’s Gerald Michaluk is not taking this lying down.
– You can imagine the sneer curling the lips there, can’t you? ‘an impertinent blogger dares challenge ME?’ (Alan Rickman, as Sherriff of Nottingham style). I am a member of the British Guild of Beer Writers, Gerald. Now now.
Gerald Michaluk writes:
We stand by our claim because of the following three facts:
FACT: 1. AC Nielson research provided the top 10 selling brands of bottled ale in Scotland and listed Arran Blonde as the tenth best selling ale.
– I not only agreed with this fact in my post, I stated how impressive it was that Arran have managed to drive sales over the £500,000 mark for the first time, given their size and location.
FACT 2: Wikipedia defines a Crafty Brewery as “small, independent and traditional, and gives a production size of less than 700,000,000 litres a year and can not be more than 24% owned by another alcoholic beverage company that is not itself a craft brewery.
– Being named in a press release which relies on Wikipedia to back up its position. It doesn’t get any better than that, does it? (Actually it does, later). I don’t know if Gerald is deliberately referring to the ‘Craft v Crafty‘ brewery debate, or if it was just a typo (more of those later, too), but Wikipedia does indeed state those things about a craft brewery – albeit over the course of a few sentences that have been joined together. It also, however, says that these definitions apply to ‘American craft breweries’. Not breweries from the Isle of Arran. Or anywhere else. And this, reader, was my point. You may have noted it from the previous post I wrote, where I explained, at length, the term ‘craft beer’, ‘craft brewer’ etc etc has no simply defined, quantifiable designation in this country. It means nothing.
FACT 3: No other brewery listed above Arran in the top 10 best selling bottled ales in Scotland list meets this criteria.
– The criteria that don’t apply in Scotland, you mean? None of them meet it, not Arran or anyone else. But, for the record (and this could be FACT 4, if you like), the report states quite clearly that they believe Deuchars IPA to be the best-selling craft beer in Scotland. The report that is being used, by Gerald, as evidence to back up that Arran Blonde is. Of course, Deuchars isn’t made in America, and they aren’t a craft brewery by the definition of the Brewers’ Association either. They don’t meet criteria that don’t apply in this country, then. A craft double negative.
Conclusion: Arran Blonde is the best selling craft beer in Scotland.
I am therefore standing by our claim.
– Translation: I like the sound of the term ‘craft beer’, as it implies provenance. So I shall be sticking to it, thank you very much.
Arran Blonde won the title of Europe’s Best All Gain Wheat beer in the World Beer Awards in 2010 and our Dark won the title of the World’s Best Dark Brown Beer in 2012 and is the current reining champion. We make exceptionally good beers with all grain and whole hops with no artificial additives by hand in a traditional craft brewery. Our provenance is sound and claims we make about our beers are true.
– Right, here we diverge a bit. Firstly, I had no idea Arran Blonde was a wheat beer – it lost its title of Europe’s Best All Grain Wheat Beer in 2011 to Primator Weizenbier – but AB contains wheat malt, so I learned something there. Secondly, it’s good to hear that Arran have progressed from using malt extract and stovetop mashing, and have graduated into the ranks of the few British brewers that have bravely decided to go with all grain and those troublesome whole hops. Good to hear indeed. Oh, and that all their claims are true.
Some bloggers are paid by large brewers and I would not be surprised if there was a connection to them and to others claiming “our beer are expensive” being made recently as we move into the keg market and challenge some household names.
– I’m not sure about you, but I consider this to be defamatory and potentially libellous. If you are implying, or directly accusing me, Mr Michaluk, of being paid by a large brewery for this, then you are utterly out of order. This accusation was not levelled in any of the emails we exchanged, as a question, so why print it in a press release sent to the national media, eh? If you think I’m a shill for Heineken, to right grievous wrongs on behalf of Deuchars IPA, then you obviously haven’t read this post (title: The trouble with Deuchars), or this one (title: Scotland’s most over-rated beers).
Well our beers as are not cheap and cheap people don’t buy them, that much is true.
Our ales are considered by Wetherspoons to be Super Premium and they are, but most importantly they offergreat value for money when you consider the ingredients,( All gain, whole hops, Arran water, no artificial ingredients), and the care, pride and skill our brewers display. They have provenance.
– I hate to be a killjoy, but the rest of this rambling release goes on about things that I didn’t even mention – namely, the cost of Arran’s beers. It was mentioned on two of the comments on my original blog post, from drinkers who had both seen Arran’s products in pubs (one keg, one cask in ‘Spoons), and decided that for them, they were too expensive. I don’t often see Arran beers on cask in Edinburgh, and on the occasions I do I haven’t really been looking out for the price. I will do from now on, however – you can be sure of that. Publicans, let me know your thoughts. In the meantime, if Gerald wishes to claim that Arran Blonde is the best-selling Super Premium beer in Scotland, he has my blessing.
The Arran Brewery has no control over the prices publicans charge for our beers, but they have to make a profit to stay in business and if the price they charge does not represent good value for money then consumers will walk to another establishment, so they are not over charging by enlarge. There is a good correlation between what you pay and the quality of the beer you get. The competition is too fierce for it to be otherwise.
Writers like Tony Naylor writing in this months Restaurant magazine are complaining about the price of Craft Beer in general and goes as far as to state “….if people start savouring two five pound pints on a Saturdaynight as opposed to necking four at £3.00, how will pubs make any money?”
– If someone savours their drinking experience, they are more likely to return? Just a thought.
Craft beer customers, in my view, are not people who want to “neck down beer” at any price. They do want to enjoy their pint and are prepared to pay a premium for quality. They are quite capable of determining whether a beer represents value for money be it at £2.00 or £10.00 a pint. While the bars that are doing well nowadays are quite capable of making a profit on premium ales, it is no longer a volume game it’s a quality one and the big boys are going to have to realise that stack it high and sell it cheap and to hell with the consequences is no longer the game.”
– I mean, we’re clearly onto a far different issue here from the one raised by ‘a blogger Richard Taylor’. If other brewers are undercutting the market by pricing their casks at an unsustainable level, then that’s none of my doing? I note the other month a once-famous brewer and pub chain in Liverpool, that had allegedly been doing just that, went under. Maybe it isn’t sustainable in the long run? I do agree with his point that value varies depending on the drinker. It will be different for every person – unlike definitions, that can be applied rigidly to everything. Oh, right.
Arran Beers are available from as little as £2.50 a pint around city centres and where a premium is charged it will be for safe, convivial atmosphere that makes enjoying your pint one of life’s few remaining legal pleasures.
– Ladies and gentleman, I give you this. When you’re out on Friday night, enjoying a pint of Arran beer on cask, just make sure it’s over £2.50, or your life may be in mortal danger from your fellow pub-goers. It seems – and this is something I never appreciated – the higher the price of your beer, the safer you will be whilst drinking it. Is this, finally, a definition of ‘craft beer’ we can all agree on?