Russ Taylor: Golden Goose or Cold Turkey?

The boss of XT Brewing is scathing in his condemnation of skewed market forces

The Golden Goose award for Christmas has been awarded to Amazon and Tesco for 2020, following an outstanding year which has also seen them scoffing most of the 2020 economic cake. The wooden spoon goes to the independent, local, personal traders who have been squeezed ever harder, and I’m not sure how many will bother entering next year. 

Lockdowns or restrictions, whatever your opinion on their effectiveness for the health of the nation, have handed a golden opportunity to a few supermarkets and online retailers. Small retailers, restaurants and pubs have been forced to close or placed under a variety of difficult trading restrictions. Costs of operating have increased while revenues dwindled, due to factors such as limited opening hours and restricted customer numbers. Consider also the vast increase in the use of payments by card. Every time you swipe your card for a contactless payment, the shop or pub has to pay a fee to the bank, a nice little 2020 bonus. But if you pay with cash, shops or pubs take 100% of the income.

The last ten years have seen a steady growth in independent breweries and an increased understanding of the value of local provenance. We have enjoyed a “Golden Era” of beer choice, and improving quality of the whole pub experience. Unfortunately the circumstances of this year have reversed that progress. Independent businesses will be struggling or closing, and heaven only knows the long-term effect on that glorious institution that is the British Pub. 

It is even more saddening that during November our pubs will have restrictions on selling takeaway beer – basically, you have to pre-order. Why hand all that trade over to the supermarkets that have already been given so much?

The media do not help either: showing images of people sitting on pavements outside pubs with plastic cups of “takeaway” beer.  Then there is always that classic image of a pint being pulled at GBBF whenever there is an article on drunkenness, or the same old shot of busy pubs in Soho for articles on why we are seeing increased infection rates.

However, any mention of wine and out comes the stock photo of a smiling, sophisticated, well-dressed professional. It is a Sisyphean task to convince the country that beer is their great national institution and should be cherished, especially in times of difficulty.

In Remembrance Month, please do remember: do all you can to support your pubs, local brewery and independent shops in these strange times. Use them or lose them.