This year’s inaugural Beer Day Britain was a successful start to what will be an important feature in the calendar of events that drives people into pubs.
St Valentine’s Day, Mothering Sunday, Father’s Day are all potentially lucrative pull factors for pubs, but what none of those occasions have is the direct connection with Britain’s national drink.
Beer Day Britain 2015 proved that there is incredible passion for beer, a recognition of its importance in our society and a desire to celebrate it.
Magna Carta tie-in
I am the instigator of Beer Day Britain and I chose 15 June because that is also the date the Magna Carta was sealed in 1215. Ale is mentioned in clause 35 of the great charter and my thinking was that if ale was vital enough to be included in one of the most significant legal documents ever issued, then to choose the same date to celebrate Britain’s beer would impress the general public about the importance of our national drink.
It proved to be a good choice because the Daily Star newspaper dedicated its front page to Beer Day Britain and Magna Carta on 15 June. Every time I mention to people that ale was mentioned in Magna Carta the response is always the same — “wow!” Suddenly, if they did not already revere beer, their opinion changes from beer being a commonplace, every day libation, to a drink that is imbued with history, heritage, and a central place in the story of our nation. And what could be a better reason than that to celebrate!
Spreading the word
The major organisations in the beer world including CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale); SIBA (Society of Independent Brewers); BBPA (British Beer & Pub Association); ALMR (Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers); and individuals such as Alison Capper for the British Hop Association; John Humphreys of Shepherd Neame; Paul Hegarty of the All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group; and Sophie de Ronde, brewing technologist at Muntons Malt; gave advice, marshalled volunteers and helped to spread the word.
The There’s a Beer For That (TABFT) campaign team was brilliant and donated significant resources with its social media, digital, and PR agencies working on Beer Day Britain — its PR agency scored the coup of the Daily Star front page, and also arranged 19 radio interviews and one TV interview for me to talk about British beer, pubs and why Britain deserves a national beer day.
I was joined in the interviews by David Cunningham, director of There's A Beer For That, who spoke about its work and the huge contribution beer makes annually to Britain plc in the form of £22bn, and the almost one million jobs it creates.
This media interest confirmed that beer and pubs are a good news story worth telling.
Social media was remarkable in building enthusiasm.
Twitter went bonkers on 15 June because the main event was a ‘national cheers to beer’, starting at 12.15pm (in reference to Magna Carta) and going throughout the day. We trended on Twitter more than once as people joined in and raised a glass. Hook Norton paused operations and along with brewery visitors, everyone assembled outside and joined in.
Brewing director James Clarke said: “Cheers to beer was a fantastic way to celebrate our national drink. The visitors all thought it was a wonderful idea, and we look forward to National Beer Day becoming an annual diary date.”
Several breweries brewed celebratory ales — including Brewster’s with Britannia’s Brew, which contained botanicals to represent the home nations. Countless pubs held special events and offered discounts and giveaways, including Fuller’s, which spread beery love by giving away 4,000 free pints of Oliver’s Island.
Mitchells & Butlers’ Nicholson’s pubs sent push notifications to members of its Hop Circle app and, with the Castle pubs brand, offered drinkers a £1 discount on a pint of beer.
Many brewing companies used social media to enthuse their followers. A special mention goes to Shepherd Neame, which supported Beer Day Britain right from the beginning and executed the most brilliant Twitter campaign in the weeks leading up to it. Each day the brewer tweeted a photograph of a different brewery employee holding a pint of beer and encouraging followers to join the ‘national cheers to beer’.
Then on 15 June, it sent out my favourite image of the day — the entire brewery staff standing under the brewery clock and raising a glass of beer at 12.15pm.
The success of the first Beer Day Britain is something to build on. It proved there is a demand. Fuller’s is committed to it and was glad to play a part in marking Britain’s beer heritage.
Ditto for Shepherd Neame with CEO Jonathan Neame saying: “Beer Day Britain was a rousing start for something that was long overdue — an annual celebration of our national drink. To trend on Twitter in year one is exceptional and coverage elsewhere was a very positive step in putting beer back on the map.”
With the participation of all pubs, breweries, everyone who makes a living from beer, and all beer drinkers we will make Beer Day Britain an annual party no one wants to miss!
Jane Peyton is the instigator of Beer Day Britain, founder of independent enterprise School of Booze, author, beer sommelier and public speaker