Monday, 12 September 2011
A Visit to Sharp's
Last week I was lucky enough to be asked to join a media trip to Sharp's Brewery in North Cornwall, the home of Doom Bar, to see the progress and ambitions since the company was taken over by Molson Coors for c£20m some seven months ago.
Here are some of the things I discovered :
Pasties taste best in Cornwall - especially after a seven hour journey.
The takeover of Sharp's by Molson Coors (MC) is a "marriage of two businesses with similar values".
Beer volumes are growing. Projected production in the coming year is > 120,000 barrels - of which only 3,000 is in bottle. More than 90% of this is Doom Bar.
Only 18% of regular cask ale drinkers drink solely cask ale.
MC are investing £5.7 million in Sharp's over the next 2.5 years.
Most of this investment is in Rock, Cornwall
Rock, Cornwall is in the back of beyond, on the north Cornwall coast, across the bay from Padstow and a half hour taxi ride from Bodmin station.
There is no suggestion in even the longer 10 year business plans that brewing will move away from Rock.
Sharp's use more whole hops than any other UK brewery.
Doom Bar is the third best selling cask ale in London, the top in the south West and fifth nationwide : after GK IPA, London Pride, Deuchars IPA and GK Abbot.
The investment over the next two years will support growth of Doom Bar outside its heartlands of London and the South West.
MC are supporting the brewer, Stuart Howe's passion for niche beers and will be launching a Connoisseurs Range in the near future
52 % of cask ale drinkers drink wine as preference at home.
Doom bar is sold in 3,200 pubs.
Cask ale drinkers are the most promiscuous.
Doom Bar is "gloriously mainstream"
55% of people cannot detect lightstruck flavours that will often come from beer in clear bottles, 35% actually prefer the light struck flavours. (See also Shepherd Neame, Badger and the iconic Newcastle Brown).
The clear bottle is modern and contemporary and supports the brand image.
Lager drinkers prefer clear bottles. (See also Corona and Sol).
Brewers prefer beer in brown bottles.
People mature to cask ale at an average age of 45 but usually convert from other beers and have come to the beer category at 18-24 remaining loyal. There are now a huge number of 18-24s who are missing the beer category completely due to the growth in cider and spirits. They are much harder to get back.
The beer category includes Carling, MC's major UK brand. The implication being that MC are massive supporters of "beer".
Stuart Howe's trial brew plant is 60 litres NOT 60 barrels as his tongue slipped(and probably wished for).
The takeover has meant that he is now head brewer in a brewery investing for future growth rather than a brewery being fattened up for sale.
Sharp's are now the sole user of the Morrell's Brewery (Oxford) yeast strain
Part of Doom Bar's success is the fact that it is easy for licensees to condition. The beer has a low yeast concentration, 4m cells per mil in conditioning tank, 1m cells per mil in cask. This means most of the conditioning is done in the brewery and the beer drops bright, ready for the customer, within 12 hours of reaching the pub.
No maize, rice or sugar is used in the brewing process.
That was the more formal stuff. We were then treated to a swift brewery tour after which the beers started to be poured. This is where it all started to get a bit messy.