Planning a St George's Day even bigger and better than before? Robyn Lewis looks at ways to use English brands and traditions to make it an event to remember.
Last year more Bombardier ale was sold in the week of St George's Day than ever before, which goes to show that the English are just as keen to celebrate their saint's day as their more ebullient Irish cousins when given the chance — and give them the chance we should.
St George's Day, 23 April, represents a great opportunity not only to drive new and old customers through the door, but is also a chance to highlight to the world at large all that's great about the Great British Pub — so it's time to get planning.
"We celebrate the saints of Ireland, Scotland and Wales — Patrick, Andrew and David — but now is the time that we celebrate St George," agrees Hook Norton managing director James Clarke.
"Following on, as it does, from Cask Ale Week this year, St George's Day offers licensees an opportunity to represent real ale positively to a new audience as well as to established drinkers."
For anyone who agrees with Clarke, there's a lot of support out there to help run a related event. Hook Norton will be concentrating on its seasonal offer for April, 303AD, named after the year of St George's death, says Clarke. "Our beers are quintessential English ales with a modern twist. So 303AD is an ideal beer to stock for anyone wanting to celebrate the diversity and richness of British culture."
Wells & Young's, meanwhile, is keen to continue its successful tie-up between the event and its Bombardier brand and is planning its biggest advertising campaign around the two to date.
"Bombardier has owned St George's Day for the past 15 years and there is no doubt in consumers' minds that it is 'the drink of England'," says marketing director Chris Lewis.
"We have the great problem of every year making St George's Day bigger than the previous year. Beginning our advertising campaign earlier this year means that Bombardier will be front of mind for consumers when the day arrives."
The brewer will also be handing out thousands of kits to licensees containing bunt-ing, pump-clip wobblers, balloons, tent cards and competitions to win VIP trips to the Great British Beer Festival, to help events go with a bang.
Of course, Wells & Young's isn't the only brewer to want to capitalise on St George. Greene King is running a tankard promotion for its Abbot Ale, whereby drinkers can claim a limited-edition stainless-steel tankard if they buy six pints or more.
"Abbot Ale is the finest example of English cask ale and is the beer with which to toast England's national day," explains brand manager Richard Archer. "The tankard promotion will help licensees drive sales and encourage pub-goers to enjoy Abbot Ale in truly traditional English style."
Others are still at the planning stage with Marston's and Fuller's among those promising some exciting activity around the event, along with a plethora of smaller brewers. Outside the cask-ale market, the English Wine Producers marketing body will be using St George's Day to promote awareness of the variety and high quality of English wines with a tasting at Chelsea Football Club on the day itself. Don't forget English whisky from England's first whisky distillery in a century either, the aptly named St George's Distillery. If we're talking English spirits then what about potato vodka from the Chase Distillery (the new venture from William Chase, the man behind Tyrrells crisps), which also does an apple vodka? And don't forget perhaps the most quintessentially English spirit of them all, gin.
English pub menu classics and beyond
The way to an Englishman's heart is through his stomach…
"Life's a pudding full of plums," declared Englishman Sir William Gilbert more than 100 years ago so why not take him at his word and specialise in proper English puddings this St George's Day? Sticky toffee, spotted dick and bread & butter are all firm favourites, or you could be more adventurous and revive such forgotten treats as St Leonard's custard pudding (similar to a lemon meringue), brown Betty pudding (apples, raisins and breadcrumbs) or prune snowball (essentially rice pudding with prunes).
For those wanting a savoury course as well, any menu offering roast beef and all the trimmings, pies or fish & chips isn't going to go far wrong, but what about a menu highlighting truly British foods — those that have attained PGI status (Protected Geographical Indication) and can therefore only be produced in designated areas?
A full list can be found on the DEFRA website (www.defra.gov.uk ), but examples include Cornish clotted cream, Whitstable oysters, Welsh lamb, and, perhaps most famously, Melton Mowbray pork pies, as well as around 15 cheeses.
Failing all that, don't forget curry was voted Britain's favourite dish just three years ago.