Everyone loves to bag a cheap beer don’t they, or at least a decent beer that doesn’t break the bank, a BOGOF, three for a fiver or a cheeky little discount here and there. But how far can it go?
How often do we hear about the demise of the British high street, it’s all over the news, in the papers and on many a documentary.
It’s all too clear when you walk into town too, well it is around these parts at least. Even in Hanley which is known as the “shopping centre” of the Potteries, the place that is credited to have sucked the life out of all the other local towns, walk a few hundred yards from the “Intu” centre and there are more boarded up shop fronts than those open for business.
This is why headlines like this worry me a little:
It’s not that I’m against supermarkets stocking decent beer as such, I’ve been moaning about the piss-poor selection in most for years. In fact even now I still always take a look down the beer aisle just to see if anything decent is in, often wearily trudging away, shaking my head at the assumed lack of thought that has gone into the stock choice.
Going back eighteen months or so, we had the “faux-craft” knee jerk reaction, as some of the big retailers realised how much money was at stake if only they could convince their existing bulk suppliers to rebrand or create something “crafty” at production line prices. Personally speaking I think only M&S managed to pull this of with any success, by selling existing products like Oakham Citra under their own banner whereas others like Tesco for example, chose to go the other way with the “Marstons Revisionist” range, which absolutely sucked among many more.
More recently of course, things have started to look better, with Waitrose, M&S, and even Tesco and Morrisons trying a little harder, with a small range of decent UK and International breweries finally getting shelf space, the two premium retailers taking the lead. Not forgetting Sainsbury’s of course who made strides with “the great British beer hunt”, but still seemed to favour current supermarket brands when choosing winners.
Looking at the picture which came from the Lidl headline though, my eyes were immediately drawn to the “Boulevard Tank 7, Single Wide IPA” and “La Chouffe” bottles. I’ve always been a fan of Chouffe beers especially (Houblon) and although only trying it recently for the first time, Tank 7 was absolutely lovely, Single Wide IPA too.
Maybe those beers had just been casually “prominently placed” in the shot, yes, it could be that…
It is worth noting that (unless I’m very much mistaken) all these brands are owned by Duvel Moortgat, having being acquired at various stages over the last 10-15 years. Amongst others not shown, including Bernard, De Koninck, Maredsous and Ommegang of whom I also think they held a founding stake.
Is that itself a good thing? I still like most of the brands listed above, but it’s not rocket science to see that a deal has clearly been struck here between multi-national beer giant and huge discounter, to supply to a bargain hungry beer guzzling public. But then who is next to be swallowed up, the “small micros” also mentioned, or even bigger “cult beer” fish?
Then of course there are the independent specialist beer retailers. Shops, micro-pubs and bars. Those places that folk either really want nearby on their high street, or has, and perhaps complains that they do, but can only rarely visit because the prices are just too high and so are “forced” into supermarket purchases. What of those, how long before the huge purchasing power of the shopping giants starts to close those one by one because they simply can’t compete on price?
Déjà vu, or pessimistic scaremongering?
It is fair to say that I have completed no real in-depth research to back any of this up and as such it is pretty much only my own thoughts/concerns. It is also worth pointing out that I’m not knocking any of the few breweries lucky/successful enough to secure a supermarket deal either. As an argument for, you could say for example, deals like this make good beer accessible to everyone and in doing so, gets more people interested in trying something new. Maybe the only way this ever expanding growth in beer can continue is that some do fall by the wayside, or the reverse, are bought out and go mainstream replacing existing big brands. Although, I definitely hope that this isn’t the future.
Personally speaking I’ve just taken a decision to try really hard to support local high street traders where possible, not just in beer purchases, but for as much as I possibly can on everything. Which speaking from the town officially listed as having the most empty shops in the UK this year isn’t easy, but seems the only way to encourage positive change or face the consequences..
What are your thoughts, is the discount store the way to go, your only route, or a potential disaster in the making?