Star Pubs & Bars licensee defends SIBA Beerflex scheme

By James Beeson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Backlash: pub licensee and SIBA defend the Beerflex scheme
Backlash: pub licensee and SIBA defend the Beerflex scheme
Elaine Hamer, licensee of the Plough in Lancashire, described the Society of Independent Brewers’ (SIBA) beer distribution scheme as a “godsend”.

Speaking to The Morning Advertiser​, Hamer said she was “disappointed” by the words of Manchester brewery founder Steve Dunkley, stating that his criticism​ did not match up to the reality of being a Star Pubs & Bars pub on the Beerflex Scheme.

“I have run a Star pub for over two years and the Beerflex scheme has been a godsend,” she said. “Before the scheme we struggled to sell cask ale, because our customers wanted local ale.

“For 20 years the previous tenant tried several casks including Caledonian, Theakston and others – to no avail. We tried time and again with various casks as I have a passion for real ale – my family are also involved in the brewing process at Thwaites Brewery. Unfortunately far more went down the drain than was actually sold.”

“Then by chance, the rep from Moorhouse's – a local brewery – came by and tried to get an order, but with great sadness I had to turn him away. We are, after all, a tied house."

'An oasis of local beers'

Hamer, whose pub is located in Great Harwood, continued: “Fast forward a few months and, with the help of my wonderful business development manager, we are on the Beerflex scheme and Cask Marque-accredited, selling Moorhouse's along with other local beers. The choice available to us is now an oasis of local beers in what was once a desert.”

Beerflex is a direct distribution system that SIBA has negotiated with pub companies to allow smaller breweries a route to market. SIBA currently buys more than 3,500 draught and bottled beers from around 600 participating brewers and sells them on to 17 national pub companies, who then offer these beers to their venues.

Hamer’s comments are in stark contrast to those of Dunkley, who criticised this scheme for failing to negotiate a fair price for brewers selling their beer into pub companies, and suggested that the costs of joining SIBA were disproportionate to the benefits of membership.

“I honestly can’t see how this is not a £300 box-ticking exercise, and it’s not surprising that SIBA members aren’t happy, with some using wholesalers more than delivering direct through this scheme,” he said.

'Viable access to market'

SIBA has also defended the scheme, with chief executive Mike Benner describing it as “a creative approach to building viable access to market.”

“SIBA’s Beerflex is a practical means of creating a route to market for many brewers that they would not otherwise have,” he said.

“Ideally, we would all prefer a market that is totally free, but that is not the reality. SIBA’s Beerflex has a number of pub company customers and we promote flexible and ethical pricing to help ensure a sustainable supply chain.

“We do not set the prices for Beerflex; we facilitate access by informing our members what is on offer from pub operator customers, and members must then decide if they wish to supply. This has worked successfully for hundreds of breweries and helped bring local beer to thousands of tied pubs.”

Related topics: Beer, Star Pubs & Bars

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