Speaking at the launch of Matthew Clark’s new Boutique Beers range for 2018, Wylde said that there was too much “assumed knowledge” by those who work in craft beer, and greater awareness and education was needed to change the perception of beer within the on-trade.
“There's work to be done in terms of how beer is presented in outlets, and in terms of bar staff engaging with the category,” he said. “A lot of the on-trade seems to think that customers know more about craft beer than they actually do.
“The understanding of variances in style and the nuances of beer production is still pretty low. Those that work in the industry are sometimes a bit blinkered and there is a lot of assumed knowledge about what is craft and who is independent etc.
“The general public in the pub are still very much be guided by the brands they recognise, and without education in those outlets we won't continue to grow the category."
Try before you buy
On the specifics of what the on-trade needed to be doing to increase public interest in beer, Wylde added: “We need to be offering try-before-you-buy and having tasting notes on menus.
“Wine and gin are doing a great job of taste profiles and descriptions for customers, but with beer sometimes you are just getting a list of the brands and not necessarily the level of detail that is needed.”
Matthew Clark now offers beer and cider from more than 80 producers across its craft/speciality range, including new additions from the likes of Siren Craft Brew, Thornbridge and Stone.
Despite craft still only making up around 6% to 7% of the overall beer market in the UK, Wylde insists the distributor is not overstocked with craft brands.
“We list close to 8,000 lines across our business so actually the 300 odd we have here is still quite small in comparison,” he said. “We've probably got about 15 breweries out of thousands from the US, and about 10 from the UK, so actually as a percentage of the category we have available it is still quite small in comparison.
“The category has grown and so has our range to reflect the interest from our customers. The range we have now and the beers that are here today just demonstrates the real growth in craft.”
Lager, pale and IPA driving growth
On the subject of which styles were proving most popular among Matthew Clark customers, and how pubs should curate their range, Wylde said: “We are seeing little flurries of interest in sour beers, and the haze craze continues to prove popular, but I don't know how much of that will translate into substantial volume.
“There will always be these points of interest, but from a volume point of view it is still going to be lager, pale ale and IPA driving the category. They are the styles that people know and recognise, and people that are on that early journey will continue to look to those styles as a gateway beer into craft.”
“Outlets need to have a good spread so as to not put off people who are new to it, but still have a point of interest for those people who are further along their journey. You've got to have a lager and an IPA or pale ale, but then you can have something a bit different, be that a fruit pale ale or a wheat beer.
“It's about finding a balance between accessibility and intrigue and interest.”