Train staff to improve craft beer sales, urges Fourpure head brewer

By James Beeson

- Last updated on GMT

Outspoken: John Driebergen said pubs need to do more to educate their staff about craft beer
Outspoken: John Driebergen said pubs need to do more to educate their staff about craft beer
Pubs and bars should invest in training their staff and improve hygiene standards in order to boost sales of craft beer, according to the head brewer of one of London’s biggest craft breweries. 

In an interview with The Morning Advertiser​, John Driebergen, head brewer at Fourpure, said that pubs would lose custom unless they spend more time educating their staff about what makes craft beer different.

“I’ve been really impressed by the degree to which really good craft beer has become more widely available, but it is important that bars and pubs focus on training their staff,” he said.

“Often pubs have people who are employed on a short-term basis. They need to make sure they are continually training their staff on what makes craft beer different, why that difference matters, and the importance of things like stock rotation, hygiene and keeping beer lines clean.

“Ultimately, if the customer has a bad experience drinking a beer, most of the time the problem won’t be the beer, it will be the hygiene of the pub, but the drinker will blame the brewery, and that will affect that pubs greater sale of craft beer and they will lose customers.”

Repeat sales 

Driebergen added it was in the interests of pubs to “present beer in the best possible way to their customers by looking after it”.

“With the craft stuff, you really have to make sure you are paying attention to hygiene if you want to get repeat sales and attract the types of customers who want to drink craft beer,” he continued.

“These people are younger, they have more disposable income and are more interested in spending money in bars and restaurants but if you want to keep those customers, you have to have an interesting range, you have to train your staff, you have to rotate your stock, order from a good distributor and you have to look after the hygiene.

“If you do that then you’re going to keep customers. If you think ordering the beer is enough then it’s not necessarily going to work out for you,” he warned.

Poor cellar care

Driebergen also suggested that poor cellar care and hygiene was part of the reason Fourpure decided not to produce cask beer and focus on keg and cans instead.

“As a brewer, the reason I like keg beer is that you can brew and mature the beer and package it up and its exactly the state I want the customer to drink it,” he said.

“The problem with cask is that you are outsourcing a third of the process, the conditioning and cellaring, to a third party who may or may not know what they are doing. As a brewer that has no appeal to me. Additionally, the beer styles we are producing are less suited to cask anyway.”

Lager growth

Around a third of Fourpure’s production is craft lager and Driebergen believes that interest in the style will continue to grow in the future.

“Lager will continue to grow for sure,” he said. “There are a lot of people who drink lager and who are now discovering craft beer and realising that provenance does matter, and quality does matter and that locally produced fresh beer does taste better.

“If they like lager then they will have a better experience drinking a lager from a local brewer than from a big industrial brewery. So yes, I think craft lager will grow but I don’t think it will necessarily set the world alight in the way New England IPAs have done in the past year or so.”

“I think it's important for breweries not to focus on what may or may not be trendy but focus on innovation in your own way. We like to focus on quality and experiment in all sorts of ways, and as long as breweries stay true to that we will eventually stumble across the next trend in an accidental sense anyway.”

Fourpure Brewery is currently in the middle of a large-scale expansion that will see its capacity increase by 300%. 

Driebergen said that the investment would take the brewery “to the next level” by giving his brewing team “far greater control over every brewing parameter”.

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