Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Welsh drinks producers come together

19/08/2013

Welsh drinks producers came together recently to launch an organisation aimed at promoting all Welsh drinks.

I obviously know a thing or two about names as they liked my name so much they used it too, also calling the organisation Drinks Wales!

The aim is to create an ‘umbrella identity’ for all Welsh drinks producers overcoming what is a problem with the Welsh drinks industry, the relatively small scale of many producers very much in line with what I said here last year.

They are starting with a website and logo and have formed a board chaired by Brecon Brewing’s Buster Grant. Buster has been an erstwhile promoter of Welsh beer and I have no doubt will do a great job for Welsh drinks in general, especially with the help of a board made up of some key players from the different drink sectors.

drinks wales

Their mission statement is worth quoting in full as I’m sure it is one that all those who are passionate about Welsh drinks would subscribe to:

‘Drinks Wales aims to promote the manufacture, appreciation and consumption of Welsh-made alcoholic drinks products throughout the UK and beyond, and to provide a point of contact for those who wish to learn more about this.’

The main challenge Buster sees for the organisation is getting competitor companies to co-operate for the greater good. They currently have 35 companies signed up and that’s a good start.

The organisation is producer led and will provide a directory of producers and outlets, be involved in PR activity, work on drinks tourism, represent the industry at trade shows and much more. We can also expect to see some significant activity around St David’s Day next year.

The new organisation was launched by Alun Davies AM Minister for Natural Resources and Food at the Royal Welsh Show and he has been a strong supporter of the Welsh drinks industry since becoming a government minister.

This development is definitely a strong step in the right direction by the industry and I really hope that as many drinks producers as possible in Wales sign up and become members of the organisation. Joining together in this way unleashes the potential of the Welsh drinks industry and it is hoped opens the door to a bright future.

As Buster Grant said at the launch ‘the future promises to be an exciting place. It is time to add to Welsh Drinks to the pantheon of Welsh achievements, to gather in the recognition and respect so overdue, to gain acknowledgement of achievements and awards; a far greater strike rate per company in each sector than in any other part of the UK. Let’s raise a glass… to Drinks Wales’

Well this Drinks Wales couldn’t agree more and I’ll certainly raise a glass to that – iechyd da!

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STATE OF THE INDUSTRY I – Beer

07/02/2013

Beer is without doubt the strongest drinks category in Wales. At the last count there were around 50 breweries in Wales, the largest number for quite some time. At one time there were plenty of local brewers but the chapel revival and large brewers from across the border buying, and in many cases closing, Welsh breweries led to a steep decline.

Happily, as the figures show, this trend is in reverse and beer is without doubt Wales’ national drink.

Brains is the biggest brewer and indeed the biggest drinks producer in Wales by some distance, own a number of pubs and produce a wide range of beers. They produce some of the classic ales of Wales such as Brains Dark and SA Brain. Not content to sit on their laurels they have recently produced a craft series of innovative brews. Fantastic, shows innovation is alive and well even at Wales’ biggest brewer.

Although Brains is the biggest it isn’t the oldest and a link with the old brewing tradition in Wales can be found out west in Llanelli at Felinfoel Brewery which dates back to the 1830s.

Apart from Brains, the other producers are quite a bit smaller but some are keen to spread their beers far and wide whilst others are happy to retain a local focus.

A quick round up of the most notable names illustrates how well spread brewing is around Wales. Starting in the south there’s Rhymney Brewery, Celt Experience and Otley. Apart from Felinfoel the west boasts Tomos Watkin in Swansea, Evan Evans in Llandeilo run by Simon Buckley a 7th generation brewer – remember Crown Buckley? Also in the west is Coles Family Brewery in Carmarthenshire.

Mid Wales has Monty’s Brewery in Montgomeryshire and Breconshire Brewery and Brecon Brewing in south Powys to name but a few. Four of the bigger North Wales brewers – Bragdy Nant, Conwy Brewery, Great Orme Brewery and Purple Moose have come together to open the Albion Ale House in Conwy, a unique venture and a pub that deserves the many accolades it is getting.

Apologies to all the other great breweries not on the whistle-stop tour above, if you would like to be featured on the blog, do get in touch.

Throughout Wales there are great pubs in which to enjoy this great brewing renaissance so, when it comes to beer, no matter where you are in Wales, you won’t be that far from a brewery or a chance to sample its beers!

 

True Taste for Welsh Drinks?

08/11/2012

A change from my planned look at the state of each category in the Welsh drinks industry as last week was the awards ceremony for Wales The True Taste.

Gold and Silver in the Beer, Cider and Perry (under 10% abv) category went to Hurns Brewing of Swansea, better known maybe as Tomos Watkin for their Blodwens Beer and Premier Ale respectively. Bronze went to Coles Family Brewery for their Carmarthen Gold.

In the Wine, Spirits and other alcohol (over 10% abv) Condessa Liqueurs of Anglesey took gold and bronze with their Sloe Gin and Praline Welsh Cream Liqueur. Silver went to Penderyn Distillery for their Penderyn Single Malt Welsh Whisky.

Also worthy of note are Celt Experience for their silver in the export category.

Hearty congratulations to all!

The True Taste has certainly done wonders for the profile and quality of Welsh food, but is True Taste the best stage for Welsh drinks?

Hmm, I’m not sure.

I remain to be convinced that it is the best vehicle to promote Welsh drinks as True Taste is too associated with food. Proof of this is the fact that only two categories cover the whole of the drinks industry and they are dwarfed by those for every category imaginable of food.

If further illustration was needed that the awards do not adequately promote the Welsh drinks industry, witness the fact that not one cider, perry or wine gained any kind of award this year. That’s a big part of the industry without any recognition.

This stems from the rather strange an indeed eccentric nature of the drinks categories, delimited as they are by alcoholic content – almost the equivalent of categorising food by calorific content, which is naturally absurd. The fact that it is possible to brew a beer of over 10% and make a wine below 10% shows the questionableness of this method of categorisation.

I suspect that most people, if asked, would distinguish drinks based on their type – beer, cider, wine, spirits, liqueurs etc.

To give drinks their rightful place in the awards would require many more categories making the awards more unwieldy than they already are.

Two options I think. Simplify the awards so that each category has an overall champion or better ‘category ambassador’. That would mean one for drinks, one for dairy, one for meat etc. and then have smaller category ceremonies that lead up to the big night.

The other option would be to separate drinks out from True Taste to have their own dedicated awards and branding. This would both build and enable a distinct Welsh drinks identity, brandmark, and promotion based on the brand values suggested in my previous blog entry.

Although the first option has its attractions, I think I would favour the latter as it would give Welsh drinks equal footing with food, not playing second fiddle as they currently do. It would help create a strong identity for the drinks sector in Wales and could also help companies with their route to market as having its own awards makes other things possible like awards for best shops, pubs etc. that are best at promoting Welsh drinks. This would encourage others to follow and Welsh drinks companies would be the beneficiaries.

The time has come for the Welsh Government to bring Welsh drinks out of the supporting cast and into the limelight in its own right. We have great products, but, as I’ve said before, the size of most companies means a little help is needed for the industry to realise its true potential and further raise the image of Wales as the home of excellent food and drink of the highest quality. I don’t think being a bit part of an award and brand dominated by food will achieve this.