Speaking to The Morning Advertiser, Purity Brewing co-founder Paul Halsey said that the fall in the value of the pound had increased raw ingredients costs, and accused the Government of not providing “enough clear messages” about what would happen when Britain leaves the EU.
“We use a lot of American and Slovenian hops and, obviously, Brexit has impacted on the exchange rate; it has just bombed,” he said. “All our malt is English and a lot of our bittering hops are local to Worcestershire and Herefordshire but a lot our aroma hops are coming from north-west America or from Eastern Europe, and Brexit has caused some issues for us there.
“What’s the next effect? There is a lot of uncertainty – people do not know what is happening. There are not enough clear messages from The Government and I don't think there is a lot of consumer confidence at the moment.”
Cask price should be based on quality
When asked whether or not this would result on a higher price for consumers at the bar, Halsey admitted to being concerned, but argued that the price of cask beer was too cheap at present.
“Cask beer needs to look at where it is positioning itself on the bar,” he said. “It has been too cheap for too long for the quality you get, and that is not viable. We run a bar and restaurants, and costs are going up so we have to increase prices all the time. That's a fact of life.
“Cask beer should be priced based on the quality – over the years it has been driven down on price, and if you look at craft keg versus cask there is a massive disparity,” he continued. "The quality of ingredients in a lot of good-quality cask beer is no different to what is craft keg, and I know the consumer will pay for a really good-quality cask beer.”
“We are really positive about the future but there is no doubt it is challenging."
Dealing direct with customers
Purity Brewing has recently been awarded the title of brewery of the year by The Good Pub Guide. Halsey stated his belief that that one of the major factors behind the award was down to its insistence on working directly with pubs rather than through distributors.
“We've built an invaluable reputation up over the years of great consistency and great quality, and great tasting beers,” he said. “That is because we put quality at the top of our agenda in everything we do from the brewing process through the whole chain to the dispense. We don't use wholesalers; we deal direct with all our customers so we know nearly every customer we have and can work with them on quality and if there are issues we can react.
“Most brewers brew really good beer, the problem is at the point of dispense where it can go wrong,” he continued. “It is absolutely at the top of our agenda to get quality right at the point of dispense, whether that is correct cooling equipment or training in-house or visiting the pubs direct.
“It's all about the relationship. We are in a hospitality industry; that's what we do, so the relationship is critical to the success of your brand.”
Halsey also stressed that championing the “completely unique” experience of cask beer and focusing on “great service, great beer and great food” would help pubs survive challenging on trade conditions in the coming months.