The Tring brewery recently added their data to the Lautering network. Time to ask Ben Marston some quesitons.
Nick: You have started in 1992. How many people are now involved in the company?
Ben: It's a relatively small setup (30bb plant), led by two directors, Andrew Jackson and Richard Shardlow. Overseeing office duties is Lynne and out in the brewhouse we have Barry. Terry our main driver is joined by whomever is on rotation as second driver. I head up all marketing communications activity (I was also second brewer on our old site). We then have a host of other folks that handle duties such as managing the shop, handling bright beer orders, cask washing, racking beer...all the things that happen in a brewery. It's fair to say that most people here get involved in a number of duties and they are all excellent at what they do.
Nick: Sounds great, like your beer names. What was the original idea and who does the artwork?
Ben: Almost all the beer names are linked to local legends, myths, historical events, literature, places and people of note. Exceptions to this are of course Blonde and Death or Glory. We now run an annual "name the beer" competition encouraging people to submit name suggestions for our monthly specials in return for beer related prizes. As you can imagine it is very popular. As far as the pump clips go these are produced by the wife of one of our directors. Expect to see some pretty big changes during 2012.
Nick: Can't wait to see them. I have to get the public brewery tour. How many people can participate during a tour, what does it cost per person and what do I get?
Ben: The tours have been a massive success since we moved to our new site and we now run two different formats. Wednesday/Thursday night tours are designed for single groups of between 15 - 50 people. We put beers on our pumps all night, provide a fish and chip supper and of course take them on a tour of the brewery. It's a very laid back event which people seem to enjoy. No suits or scientists!! On two Saturdays of every month we run a shorter tour for individuals or smaller groups who can come together to attend the tour. Again there is beer available. We have now taken Wednesday/Thursday night tour bookings for over half of 2012...they continue to be very popular.
Nick: Wow, over half of 2012. That's exelent. And you can sell all your beers in your brewer shops. I suppose I can buy all the beers you brew in your shop...
Ben: When we moved to the new site in July 2010 it was not only our brew capacity that increased. We also took the decision to up retail space. It was always our intention to better serve our "walk in" customers through better availability of product, a nice environment and increased product choice. Typically we will have between 8-10 draught beers available to take away fresh from the cask, in a variety of different sized containers, from a 1 litre bottle to a 72 pint firkin. We also have 4 of our beers bottled though this might increase.
Nick: There is bright and rough beer? What's the difference and what's the idea behind the two types?
Ben: Beer decanted directly from the
fermenter into casks or conditioning tanks still contains amongst other things live yeast and sugars, both fermentable and un-fermentable. When in these vessels, secondary fermentation occurs resulting in additional CO2 or "condition", hence the term cask conditioned ales. If the beer is then drawn from the cask and contains yeast sediment it is referred to as rough. If the beer has settled in a vessel and is decanted off without sediment it is referred to as Bright. Rough has a longer shelf life unopened but needs to settle after transportation. Once opened shelf life of both is similar.
Nick: I see. It's an opportunity for your customers. Great idea! We have to get back to the Death and Glory which you bottle by special appointment to the Queens Royal Lancers. Congratulations!
Ben: Thanks. It was something that was
started by one of the founders of the brewery many years ago. The beer itself is a 7.2% smooth drinking barley wine that is picking up a lot of fans. We have recently shipped a large batch over to Canada and it's going down well. The beer was traditionally only brewed once a year but demand has now seen it become a permanent addition to our range, both in bottle and cask versions. Depending on demand, some of the cask versions can end up having over 8 months maturation before they are drunk. It really gets better with age.
Nick: Sounds like a good barley wine. I have to taste it for Lautering.net. By the way, you have added your brewery to the Lautering brewery directory. From where did you hear about Lautering, what is your experience?
Ben: I came across the Lautering directory on one of those rare days where I get to spend some time online reading, researching and often getting distracted about what other people are doing. So far my experience of the site has been very positive (is there sales commission if I post even more nice comments about it)?
Nick: (laughing) Not yet. Nothing to pay nothing to be paid by our users. At the moment we are free like Twitter, which you are using too. Are you using it on a regular basis?
Ben: Twitter is great...at the moment. By the limits of what you can say, it focuses the mind on whether a) you should be saying anything at all and b) have you been as concise as possible. The fact that content is less influenced by other sources means a more focused delivery of your message as opposed to say on Facebook. We (I) try to put something out every couple of days but if there is nothing to say, I won't.
Nick: Agree. It's a strong marketing tool for breweries. It could be very viral. I suggest it for new breweries. What's your tip for new starting breweries?
Ben: Brew the best beer you possibly can. Don't take short cuts on quality. If you don't have a great product then it's hard to market it with any integrity and that will ultimately impact on the sales and the longevity of the brewery. I would also question following what might be fashionable, at least don't let fashion influence all your beers. Don't go into producing over hopped US style IPA's if your passion is for producing outstanding dark belgium style beers. Establish a strong brand identity that is true to the core values of the brewery and indeed the values of key. Build a reputation, build relationships and build a brewery shop!
Nick: What are your plans for the future?
Ben: Right now I am planning on how to get through the Christmas rush. It's always frantic here at the brewery during the festive season. Looking forward we will continue to look at ways in which we can improve the quality of the product. One significant change in the last few months was an on site malt mill. Next year we will look at other areas of the process to see if refinements can be made.
Nick: Thank you very much and good luck!
Next Interview is with StStefanus.