Global brewer Molson Coors is putting training at the centre of its plans for growing beer sales in the Scottish on-trade.
And the company’s recently-appointed beer development specialist, Julia Bone, will be integral to the company’s efforts.
Having worked in the drinks and pub industries since 1998, and with Molson Coors since 2009, Julia is no stranger to beer and Scottish pubs.
But she’s currently in the process of becoming one of the country’s top experts as she studies for a beer sommelier qualification with the Institute of Brewing & Distilling (IBD).
It’s an accreditation that will put Julia in a very select group in Scotland (at the time of writing only two other people in Scotland have earned the IBD qualification) as well as complementing her role at Molson Coors, which includes beer training for bar staff as well as hosting beer-related events in pubs and bars for the trade, bloggers and the general public. She has also worked closely with training firm Flow Hospitality to develop two beer-related training modules.
Julia told SLTN it is vital that bar staff are as educated on beer as they are on other kinds of drinks.
“It’s hugely important that staff are well-informed,” she said.
“Most bartenders will wax lyrical on your gins, your rums, your wines.
“Then when it comes to beer it’s ‘I’ve got a lager, an ale, a stout’. It’s very limited.
“If I’m coming in for some drinks with friends or a meal and drinks with my other half, I don’t want to buy something at £4 or £5 a pint to be disappointed by the taste.
“If I can come in and say that I like a relatively high hop content and a mid sweetness level, they should be able to say ‘well I’ve got the perfect drink for you’.”
And she reckons Molson Coors has plenty to offer when it comes to advising trade customers of the best products for their premises.
“Molson Coors has invested a lot of money in market research, category insight, and it’s something we believe is really important,” said Julia. “Not to pigeonhole or put you in a box, but to say ‘your bar is this, these are the brands that are working across the category’.
“We’re not just focusing on Molson Coors products, this is about the category and about developing it and growing it. So we look at what brands are working, what brands are in growth, what styles are in growth, to really add value to their business. To say ‘look, you have X,Y and Z on your bar, these are the categories of beer that are really in growth, let’s swap this out, put this in and really try and develop it’.”
Having the right products in place is more important for the trade than ever, said Julia. And this is just as true for traditional or community pubs as it is for city centre cocktail bars.
“I think it’s even more important for them (pubs) to have the right range, because they’re the places people go most often,” she said.
“If you can get something that’s really tasty you’re going to keep going. Locals are important to all of us.”
The craft beer boom has also brought more options to Scotland’s on-trade, including potential for matching beer with food.
Julia said: “Wine and food matching has been around forever. Beer, with its ingredients and flavour profiles, lends itself well to being able to match up with dishes, so you can have a really satisfying beer and food [match].
“People pay a lot for food and pay a lot for drink, so why not provide something that’s going to complement, contrast or cut through their food?”
She highlighted simple matches such as wheat beers with spicy food, amber ales with creamy or caramel desserts, Pilsner-style lagers with light flavours such as fish or chicken and either fried chicken or blue cheese with IPAs.
And the beer category, and craft beer in particular, has plenty potential for those outlets that embrace it and get their offer right, according to Julia.
“I’m excited about it (craft),” she said.
“I don’t think it’s a fad or a phase. I always use the term ‘craft’ loosely, because it’s just about well-made flavoursome beer.
“I think it’s something that’s here to stay and it’s going to add value to our customers and delight the world’s beer drinkers.”