Winter has arrived and with it has come changes in food, fashion and fuel bills, but does the colder climate impact on the beer market?
The brewers behind a range of Scottish beers seem to think so, and they reckon there’s a range of products that will prove popular with punters over the festive season.
Douglas Rose of Tinpot Brewery in Bridge of Allan said that the cold and damp nature of the Scottish winter will lead some customers towards “darker, sweeter brews, and obviously those with a festive swing” – but it won’t be festive beers for all.
“There will always be people that prefer light, hoppy, or kegged beers no matter what time of year, but the general trend is that darker and thicker beers tend to be drunk more during the colder, darker nights,” said Rose.
Toby Knowles of Harviestoun agreed that this Christmas should see a mix of seasonal and craft products proving popular.
“Dark styles are popular as are the more complex IPA-type beers but craft lager continues its year-round appeal,” he said.
Annika Meiklejohn of Tempest Brewing Co in the Borders said she doesn’t expect to see a “one or the other” approach between styles of beer from customers this Christmas, but instead said beer drinkers will be drawn to “comfort more than anything else”.
“If you think about the warmer, richer foods that are popular around this time of year, choice in beers follow suit,” said Meiklejohn.
“Our team tends to be drawn to something a bit fuller bodied with lots of warm, malty notes like a rich porter, or with a good alcohol warmth and chewier, sweeter notes like a Scotch ale.”
With more variety on offer than ever, Meiklejohn suggested that quality has become a big concern for publicans and customers.
“In an industry where new breweries are opening seemingly every week, the big draw for operators starts to become about something very important to us: quality,” she said.
Ken Duncan, head brewer at Inveralmond Brewery, also argued that quality will be crucial to a beer’s popularity this Christmas, and highlighted provenance as a key indicator for customers.
“The origins [of a beer] are important during the festive season and all year round,” said Duncan.
“The origins are an effective way to draw customers in and build a story around a beer.”
Getting the beer range right will be key for outlets this Christmas, Duncan suggested, as the increase in footfall will also bring some beer novices back into the trade whom publicans should be careful not to alienate.
“Christmas offers an opportunity for establishments to catch customers that don’t visit or choose a beer very often, so it’s important that there are entry level beers that have a universal appeal and suit lots of palates,” he said.
Gerald Michaluk of Arran Brewery agreed that operators should consider their range carefully during the festive season, and highlighted some key factors when it comes to stocking seasonal beers.
“The seasonals have to feature on the bar and the operator has to ensure they are shifted as out of season stock will need discounted to move after the season,” said Michaluk.
“So stocking quantity and sales need to be just right to get maximum profit from seasonal ales.”
Getting the range right is part of maximising profit, but promoting the beer range will also be key to enticing customers.
Gordon Muir, brand manager for Belhaven, highlighted the importance of both quality product and quality marketing, adding that this is a key consideration for the brewer.
“Publicans buy what they think will sell so good beer, good design and marketing support are key to encouraging operator interest in a brewer’s range,” said Muir.
“We will be providing publicans with promotion and POS kits around Hogmanay and plan to take the festivities through to Burns Night with a POS kit, which will contain fancy dress items, giveaways and information about Burns Night to give publicans everything they need to run a fun, informal evening.”