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Video Blog: The SIBA Conference

SIBA is the Society of Independent Brewers, kind of the equivalent to the Brewers’ Association in the US, and it’s doing a grand job of fuelling the growth of great quality beer from small producers in the UK.  It is a beer trade body, and as such it has its political struggles, battles with other bodies, internal strife and all the rest of the issues that plague every trade body in beer.  But SIBA events are fun.  And the people who organise and run them are decent, talented people who you enjoy having a pint with.  I wrote here about the time I had at the conference last year, so it was a pleasure to go back with the film crew this year.

So what happens in this episode? It’s twelve minutes long, so let me guide you through it.

First, Peter Amor talks to SIBA head Julian Grocock about the society, what its stands for and what it does to help promote beer.  SIBA organises a year-long brewing competition, where beers judged at regional heats go through to a national final, with the winners announced at the conference.  I then sneak into the bar while the conference is going on in the next room, and help myself to a sneak preview and tasting of all the category winners (or rather, all bar one in the final edit – not everyone likes the fact that SIBA judged a national keg beer competition this year).  This gets interspersed with interviews with some of the young, new cask ale brewers who were at the conference this year, where we seek to uncover the motivations behind a new generation entering the brewing industry.  This concludes with an interview with the brewer who created this year’s grand champion.  Which of the beers was it?  Well, if you’re eagle-eyed during the tasting segment, you’ll spot it well before I did…

These video blogs now have their own home on the web too.  Go to http://www.britishbeervideoblog.blogspot.com/ if you want to see them all together, and there’ll also be the odd extra bonus clip knocking around there too.  You can also find the embed code there now that allows you to feature them on your own site of you wish.

Finally, can I ask for some feedback?  This year of video blogs represents a significant financial investment, which aims to help spread beer appreciation beyond the usual community of beer aficionados and hopes to reach a wider audience.  If you’ve been following them for the last six months you’ll see that we’ve tried different formats and ideas, and also that we’re steadily learning our craft as presenters (the filmmakers already knew what they were doing).  We want to make them as good as we can. Any constructive comments would be very gratefully received!



J Mark Dodds

Interesting Pete and the video part of your blog is very good. Well put together and informative. It's great to see and hear beer people and their views directly without the filter of text in between them and the reader/viewer.

Womething significant that almost never gets touched on in discussions about beer and pubs is the beer tie and where pubcos fit into the overall picture of the 'pub being in trouble' as Julian Grocock put it in your vlog. Pubs are closing everywhere just as good ale is becoming ever more popular with new audiences – which ought to be fuelling a renaissance in pubs rather than hemmoraging closure rates. THOUSANDS of pubs are in a terrible state of repair, lacking upkeep maintenane or any substantial investment whatsoever. Why is this? Do publicans WANT to make their pubs grim, dingy and uninviting to customers or is it because they simply cannot afford to invest in their businesses because they have no money to spend?

Pubco pubs are kept out of the market for new high quality beers because of the tie. Craft brewers cannot get their beer into pubs because of the tie. Duncan Sambrook has experience of this… I have a guest ale provision in my tied lease and when I began selling his beer we had a chat about the fact that my pub is the only one in south east London who is able to stock his beer.

I wonder whether these matters come up in your conversations with brewers and publicans – the tie is killing pubs and remains the elephant in the room because the discussion does not break out into the mainstream through important, essential, objective outlets such as errrr – you! Do you talk to brewers about the tie? Does it ever come up in conversataion? Do you know what they think about the tie and what is really happening in the pub industry. Have you had that conversation with Julian Grocock?


Still looks a touch nervous and wooden at times, particularly Peter Amor, but the interviews seemed much more relaxed and natural so maybe you should do more of those.


I agree, the interviews are the best part, but I also enjoy the "live tastings" where you describe what you're tasting on the spot Pete, this ensures that we get your first opinions, rather than something you've sat down and spent ages coming up with jazzy synonyms for.

The "woodeness" I think makes it more personal, though I don't think its necessary to present directly to camera the whole time. The more of these that get done, the more confident you both will be; so keep them going!

I passed my copy of three sheets to the wind onto someone yesterday and they said they knew of you through the vlog you did of NWAF and that's how I found this site too. I think this medium is a great way to reach out to younger drinkers who may not realise the excellent range of craft beers that are made in this country. I think that other methods will have to be used to reach out to the craft-beer ignorant middle-aged types though

Jeff Rosenmeier

J Mark,

Totally agree with you that the Tie is the biggest issue holding back growth for craft brewers in the UK.

SIBA leadership supports the tie and defended it to the very important Business and Enterprise review of PubCos last year, without debate from its membership. This is one of a handful of reasons that we (Lovibonds) no longer belong to SIBA.

This issue does need more airplay, but like most things, everyone has an agenda…

…man that must have been one kick ass Mild to be Champion beer of Britain…


I've enjoyed all of the vlogs, and was mightily impressed when filming for one of them – the professionalism and enthusiasm was amazing, as was the shear amount of hard work that goes into every vlog – keep at it!
Subject matter is always going to be contentious, but hopefully the information about and enjoyment of beer will out…


Actually, watching this again Pete, I got the distinct impression as I did the first time, that you didn't really like the champion beers a right lot.

Pete Brown


Interesting observation.

The fruit beer wasn't my cuppa tea, but I admired it's quality. The mild and the best bitter both confused me a bit – rhey were good beers, but with one there was a real disconnect between aroma and taste, and the other – the grand champion – was atypical for it's style.

But I think the main thing you're picking up there is that I was genuinely tasting them cold – I had mo idea what they were until I removed the drip mats covering the pump clips, and although the video has been edited, I did them all in one full sweep. It was an interesting challenge, having to cone up with live, spontaneous tasting notes. But the truth is I really enjoyed it – it was invigorating. And there were one or two I thought were outstanding.

Pete Brown

Whoa, steady on Mark! No one tells me what to write or not write about – especially on my blog.

I think your first post arguing against the tie is clear, well put, thought-provoking and very persuasive.

There are a few reasons I haven't written much about the tie (though I have touched on it here and there).

Firstly, I'm on the fence about it. I don't like it in its current form and agree that it's damaging to many pubs, and deeply frustrating to any who want to stock a wider range of more interesting craft beers. And whatever the justification for it, if there's a situation where a publican is forced to pay more for, say, a bottle of vodka wholesale from the PubCo than they could buy it as a consumer in the supermarket, that's barmy by anyone's standards.


I don't support the complete abolition of the tie. I believe it would ultimately reduce consumer choice rather than increase it – and this is (primarily at least) a consumer blog. Regional and family brewers depend upon the tie for survival.

So I'm in favour of a reform of the tie rather than its abolition.

I'm an independent commentator on this, not a campaigner. And those are my views.

One big reason I haven't expressed them more fully is, I'm sorry to say, the attitude of the Fair Pint campaign.

No one's denying you have a point, and the passion clearly comes form the fact that you're fighting for members' livelihoods. But Fair Pint comes across as extraordinarily belligerent and aggressive – not just to PubCos, but to anyone who doesn't share and champion Fair Pint's views.

I know trade journalists who have written about the issue in the same, even-handed tone I've used above, only to receive incredible amounts of personal abuse, even threats, from Fair Pint campaigners.

On trade press forums, Fair Pint campaigners seem to hate every industry body. Every single issue or argument is brought back around to the tie. Any positive news is dismissed as worthless in the face of the tie. Any body not completely in line with Fair PInt is dismissed as being in bed with the PubCos.

This all creates an atmosphere where people like myself just want to steer well clear of the issue. It doesn't win Fair Pint any friends at all, and does little to sway people who are undecided.

If Fair PInt focuses more on persuading people – as you do in your excellent first comment here – and less on haranguing people – as you do in your second – you'll find much broader support.

J Mark Dodds

Thanks Pete and your point about your blog taken.

I wasn't haranguing – at least it wasn't supposed to be a harangue (does that work? Harangue?) – I just said 'what about the tie Pete' it was off my 'phone.

Take your point about the Fair Pint stance also – but, seriously, I'm surprised that anyone, particularly any beer writer, has been been given abuse by any of the Fair Pint people – we try to be balanced and constructive. We've come a long way through government on this and it's all been a lot of hard work, research and personal slog spread out among a few people representing a lot of lessees who are, in all seriousness and without exaggeration, totally screwed financially by the strictures of what was sold to them as a benign or even supportive partnership where they would pay more for their beer, and a lot less for their rent than if they were free of tie, in return for the security of having a big friend who knows the industry, and the business of pubs, really well working alongside them.

As an aside I'd like to know who slung the abuse and toward whom so we can prevent it happening again. I hope it wasn't me over Roger Protz, he's written some fairly inflammatory, completely misinformed stuff about the tie not being a problem which, as an influential writer will be taken as gospel proof by government ministers and Select Committee members if they get to read it.

The huge problem with the pub industry and the tie as opposed to the beer industry and the tie, is that the whole has been perverted by the big pubcos and basically most of the family brewers with pub estates went and copied the big boys because they would have been mad not to, as far as financial performance goes, at least in the short term. The resulting mess is that almost no one other than real life tied publicans who've had it done to them right royally up the jacksie, over a barrel so to speak, knows what the tie actually does on the ground – and they are the people who do not have a voice because they are always all hands on deck fighting fires keeping their businesses afloat.

Best wishes Pete. I like your style.


Mark, though I don't know much about the Fair Pint campaign and I'm sure you've done a lot of work to alerting the government to the large number of problems with the system but its disingenuous to suggest that "a few people representing a lot of lessees" is the only way politicians get to hear of it. It was referred to the OFT by CAMRA and the all party beer group have also done a lot to get the message across to politicians that something needs to be done, resulting in Vince Cable on 20th July saying
“They (the pubcos) are on probation at the moment and the commitment is to give them until June 2011 and if they haven’t delivered a more satisfactory arrangement by then, there will have to be legislative action.”

It seems fairly likely that legislation will be forthcoming as there has been no sign of major changes within pubcos thus far.

Pete, I'm intrigued which beers you found outstanding, I guess you're trying to be objective and don't want to show favouritism!


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