Beer Blog

Deja vu, or just a new enemy?

Marston’s featured heavily in the daily news round from Morning Advertiser today. The strap line on Nicholas Robinson’s, 01-11-16, article reads;

Marston’s will flex the full potential of its five breweries by partnering with international and UK beer brands and snapping up other beer companies, if they fit with the brewer and pub group’s proposition.

You can read the full version at the Morning Advertiser.

Essentially, the interview with Richard Westwood, Marstons managing director, suggests Marston’s are poised to ‘snap up’ appropriate brands as and when the opportunity arises. Granted he does say that Marston’s want to concentrate on their core brands; Pedigree, Hobgoblin and Wainwright, as well as brewing Shipyard under license, but all these are brands that Wolverhampton and Dudley have taken over themselves. There is an interesting bit about collaborations with other brands and an allusion to negotiations but nothing concrete.

It’s quite clear from the well written article that Marston’s are both financially motivated and have an ethos of taking no prisoners. Personally I find that a bit frightening! Now, I was only a nipper when CAMRA was formed, living in a tied public house owned by one of the so called ‘big six breweries’ and I had no concept of what they were doing. Looking back, in hindsight, I think I’m getting a bit of deja vu? Know what I mean?

There’s another Morning Advertiser article today, also by Nicholas Robinson, regarding the launch of Marston’s £1m rebranding exercise which targets new younger drinkers. Even Pedigree gets the makeover with a trendy rehash of what is a well regarded and established product. Burton Pale ale gets renamed Saddle Tank and Oyster stout becomes Pearl Jet. Effectively, all they’ve done is make their premier products resemble ‘craft beer’ brands. Mmmmm, interesting. Will it work? I’m non too sure myself. Pedigree will still be Pedigree and EPA will still be EPA, etc. etc. and nothing like what the label promises. A bit like the Crafty Dan thing that Thwaites (Marston’s) did. I don’t know if you’ve tried Thirteen Guns? I have and you’d think that with thirteen of them firing at once, at least one would be on target. I can taste a strange aniseed flavour in my mouth now and I’ve only tried it once, or twice. The same sort of taste that reading Mr Westwood’s thoughts about ‘banging out barrels of liquid’ onto the market and the consumers demand for ‘interesting liquids’? Oh, Mr Ratner! And I thought they were meant to be brewers? I don’t think that myself though, I’ve known what they were for a long time.

I note inter alia a few points from this: Marstons are wholly financially motivated; they may have been a little naive in talking to a trade journal in terms of the words they use to describe their products; the traditional real ale drinker is a very small part of their market and doesn’t appear on their radar; the quality craft beer drinker is not recognised beyond a ‘trend’ in drinking; there was no mention of the Q word anywhere in either article

I don’t see any differences now between Marston’s and the ‘big six’ of the late sixties and early seventies. It wouldn’t surprise me if they rename Pedigree or even drop it altogether sometime in the future? The nearest Marston’s outlet to me has already dropped one hand pump and is now selling much more Shipyard. I don’t mind Shipyard, once you get beyond the initial stannic smack, but I only drink it because the real ale is not what it should be.

I think it’s time that CAMRA and other interested parties need to realise that there is such a thing as bad real ale, and bad breweries and bad pubcos with poor pubs, who don’t espouse any sort of real ale, or good beer, or tradition and quality, and see punters purely as numbers with cash in their pockets that needs transferring into the breweries coffers by any means possible, so long as it fits with their proposition. I just hope that what they propose fits in with my outlook on what beer and pubs should be like, somehow, I don’t think they will?

You know what, I think there are other similar breweries out there who would love to tighten their stranglehold on the mass market and turn it into a monopoly. You have been warned, so watch out.


2 replies »

  1. Hadn’t heard about this at all, but I was bemoaning to a friend just last week that bottled pedigree didn’t seem to taste like the beer I remembered, seemed rather bland in the way that cans of boddingtons now does. Maybe just my imagination but it did seem a bit pathetic.


  2. Yes, “Marstons are wholly financially motivated” but so is just about any business intent on surviving. Don’t look after your shareholders and you’re finished.
    You “don’t see any differences now between Marston’s and the ‘big six’ of the late sixties and early seventies” but to me, who started using pubs in 1971, the difference is that Marston’s is committed to cask beer, and is the world’s largest brewer of it, but the ‘big six’ of the late sixties and early seventies were determined to replace cask with keg.
    I don’t believe that Banks’s and Marstons beers have deteriorated from when I first started drinking them regularly over forty years ago, or that they are “bad real ale”, but recognise that they don’t have the strength or hop rating of many newer beers.


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