2020 has proved to be an eventful and difficult year to say the least (carefully avoiding the much overused ‘U’ word).
I’d like to say 2021 will be better, but probably not for six months at least as we continue to grapple with the effects of Covid lockdowns, plus the effects of Brexit on beer exports and possibly on imports of raw materials, beyond just malt and hops, used in the brewing process.
As bottles, cans, bag-in-box and mini-casks have been catapulted to the fore, we have seen many brewers shift their focus from pub sales to direct sales to customers. We can expect small pack in all its various forms to continue to be a large part of brewery turnover for the foreseeable future.
However, this change to small pack has not always gone smoothly. As volumes in small pack have increased, so have a whole rake of quality issues which, whilst always there, have recently become more prevalent. With direct sales to the public, there’s no hiding the fact any issues with the beer quality (including physical problems such as broken bottles, dented cans or leaking bags-in-box) come straight back to the brewery gate. As we will keep saying: Brewers, it’s your name on the package and there’s no way to pass the blame to anyone else when you send it out.
This means the quality of small pack beers has never been more important than it is now, and you want to continue to keep those repeat orders flowing in! Whilst we have always looked at the brewing process as a whole, and will continue to do so, we have until now largely been concerned with draught formats as this has traditionally represented the bulk of the brewery output. However, this is increasingly no longer the case, with some breweries currently being wholly led by direct sales and others reducing their emphasis on cask and keg.
As the industry changes, Brewing Services Ltd will change too, hence why we are now adapting the Brewing & QA consultancy to include more small pack products, working with you to ensure that the quality of what is being sent out is as good as it possibly can be.
From the start of the new year, we are going to be looking far more stringently at the quality of beer in bottle, can or other forms of small pack, looking at quality parameters such as carbonation, microbiological, colloidal and flavour stability, and looking critically at product shelf-life. As brewers, we must no longer simply assume that putting 12 months is acceptable because it’s expected when there is plenty of evidence to suggest the true-shelf of most small pack beers is far less than this.
We will discuss with you the sampling regime we should adopt, based on the product and packaging types and volume split in production terms. We will include products which are packaged in-house as well as those which are contract packaged – it is in the interests of the whole industry that quality is high and that issues are identified and ironed out.