Even prize-winning craft cidermakers like Rose Grant can find themselves struggling to persuade local pubs to sell their wares. The main issue seems to be the perennial problem of tied houses, with landlords often unable to sell anything except the factory cider dictated by the brewery (or management further up the pub chain). In one instance Rose convinced a publican to pursue the matter with the brewery, only to be told that the brewery itself was governed by its contract with the main cider supplier. Since this brewery owns 500 pubs, this is obviously not good news for the small producer. The pub’s numerous guest beers, incidentally, were all made by companies owned by the uber-brewery.
But it’s not all bad news. On another occasion Rose entered into an email discussion with the landlord of a free house she hoped to supply.
“Initially he took the attitude of, why should he buy my cider when the Stowford Press on his bar came in considerably cheaper. My reply was that success is not just about the perceived profit from one cider versus another, rather it is more to do with the number of customers attracted to the pub. I suggested that if he were to put on a craft cider, 'word would get round' and the level of business would increase. After a few days he decided to buy a box and give it a try. I'm glad to say that my words came true. The pub did really well with its craft cider all through the summer and now regularly has a selection of five or more West Country craft ciders available.”
While pubs everywhere are struggling to compete with cheap supermarket booze, some new developments can work to the craft cidermaker’s advantage. CAMRA is actively promoting its vision of Real Cider and Perry to pubs across the country, and producers can now ensure against punters buying a bad pint by using Bag-in-Box packaging. Most importantly, both landlords and pub-goers love a party – summer cider festivals are good business. Here are a couple of tips:
Check out your local CAMRA – enter competitions, ask about festivals, get to know the movers and shakers, ask for advice on pricing, etc.
Find Free Houses in your area. Offer landlords samples of your cider. Ask their opinion. Make friends with them. Suggest a cider festival or themed event and offer to help.
Look out for pubs in your area that specialise in cider – Bristol has several and others are springing up around the country. Visit. Say hello.
This is an extract from The Naked Guide to Cider. Thanks, Rose