In a world where beer is no longer simple and the place to enjoy one varies just as widely, acclaimed brewer Neal Cameron has penned some tough love for pubs on how to keep the business of beer flowing.
Beer is arguably the most complex food any of us will ever consume. Even the simplest of beers have hundreds of delicate flavour compounds and textures that stimulate our many senses; and that’s even before the alcohol adds its magic.
As a society, we are developing a passion for complex foods. Our wine sommeliers seek out and store interesting wines and wax lyrical on dedicated menus; we train our baristas and roast our own organic fair trade-beans onsite and nod knowingly at ever more complex iterations of the humble cup of coffee. And our chefs are now elevated to rock star status as home cooks toy with deconstruction and molecular creations.
The beer world has also reacted to this sensory boom with over 500 breweries registered in Australia alone and thousands more around the world. Publicans are paying high prices for kegs and cases of beer and charging customers serious sums for what was once a humble schooner.
The upshot is that the game has changed. Beer customers want variety and they want it constantly. They’re paying a lot for their beer and don’t want or deserve to deal with dirty glasses, infected lines, off-flavours and staff that don’t know their IPAs from their lagers. They don’t want two breweries choosing 95 per cent of what beer they can buy, and they certainly don’t want to be drinking sub-standard beer due to poor storage, poor stock rotation and poor purchasing choices – particularly from brewers whose desire to own and run a brewery far exceeds their ability to do so.
For the majority of breweries that create wonderful, aromatic and complex beers on very expensive bits of equipment, do they not also deserve their love and passion to be enjoyed by the customer at its very best?
And yet so often, in many pubs, beer is an afterthought. A routine purchase decision made on economics or from a limited portfolio, served with little understanding that $7+ for a schooner is a lot of money, especially when repeated a few times during the evening.
The only way that full value can be derived from retail beer is through knowledge and education. Both for those doing the retailing and those being retailed to. Some of the best beer venues in the country are deeply aware of this need – training and accrediting their staff and managers about beer and reaping the benefits.
In this 10-part series, we are going to look at the knowledge and skills required to elevate your beer offerings to a level that will delight your customers. How to choose, store and serve beer, how to recognise problems and solve them and most importantly what you and your staff need to know to guide customers through the wonderful world of beer served at its very best.
Neal Cameron is director of the Institute of Beer (IOB), brewing director for Beer Farm, and one of country’s most experienced brewers.
The Institute of Beer is the exclusive licensee of the globally renowned Cicerone training in Australia, and a venture formed by Cameron, former Woolworths national liquor purchasing & marketing director Ian Kingham, and brewery aficionado Dave Phillips.