Tag Archives: Doom Bar

The 40pc leap in capacity at the Doom Bar brewery and the 2014/5 Cask Report

One of the items of news that may have shot by you recently is that Molson Coors is pumping enough money into the Cornish economy to boost capacity at Sharp’s brewery to a potential 350,000 barrels a year of Doom Bar ale, a 40% expansion. There is no guarantee it will be able to shift that amount of what is already the UK’s biggest-selling cask ale, of course. But if it did, that would mean Doom Bar had become a brand one tenth the size of Carling lager. That might not sound much, but blimey, there’s not been a cask ale brand with that kind of clout in the market for decades.

It would be fascinating to know what all those drinkers of more than a million pints of Doom Bar a week  think the beer actually is: do they believe they are drinking “craft beer”? Do they know it actually comes from one of the biggest brewers in the country?

It’s also an interesting question as to whether any other cask ale brand, even with the weight of Molson Coors behind it, could ever have contemplated looking at potential sales that recall the heyday of Draught Bass, even in an era when cask ale drinkers may be entitled to feel more optimistic than they have been able to be for almost two decades. Has Doom Bar’s popularity any connection with it coming from the village of Rock, described by the Daily Telegraph as “the Kensington of Cornwall”, populated during the summer by affluent teenagers staying at their friends’ multi-million-pound holiday homes, and surrounded by expensive Michelin-starred restaurants owned by big-name chefs? Plenty of Rock’s affluent young visitors will be drinking in the Mariners, the pub owned jointly by Sharp’s and the celebrity chef Nathan Outlaw, and Doom Bar is likely to be the tipple for many. Does that at all put a halo on the beer that helps it rise to sales levels effectively unheard of for a single cask beer brand?

Cruikshank's draymen
Draymen, by George Cruikshank. Note the chequers on the doorpost, an indicator of a public house.

Well, probably not, but it is certainly the case that you are indeed much more likely to find the young and affluent drinkers who flock to Rock to meet mates (and mate) drinking cask ale than you would have even ten years ago. As the latest Cask Report revealed, a third of all 18-34 year-olds have tried cask. And it’s not that they have tried it and walked away back to Carling or Peroni vowing “never again” – of all those who have ever tried real ale, 86% still drink it to some extent. Nor is it just young men trying out real ale. A third of all female alcohol drinkers have tried cask – and, again, 75% of women who have tried cask still drink it.

Continue reading The 40pc leap in capacity at the Doom Bar brewery and the 2014/5 Cask Report

Gambling on finding good beer in Macau

Macau, today, is dedicated to the excellent pursuit of separating idiots from their money. This little peninsula on the west side of the Pearl River Delta, not even three miles long, and the two islands to its south that make up the Macau Special Administrative Region, both part and not-part of the Peoples’ Republic of China, now pull in annual gambling revenues of US$38 billion: bigger than the whole United States gambling industry and four times the turnover of Las Vegas and Atlantic City combined.

Idiots speeding across the Pearl River Delta to throw tbheir money away in Macau
Idiots speeding across the Pearl River Delta to throw their money away in Macau

But if hundreds of thousands – many from across the border in China “proper”, where organised gambling is illegal – now come to Macau to throw away their cash, does anyone ever go there for the beer? Well, I did – but then, I’m a different sort of idiot.

Actually, Macau is worth visiting for its own sake, not just if you’ve got too much money and can’t think how to get rid of it quickly. Its history – the Portuguese persuaded the Chinese to let them establish a permanent settlement there in 1557, and never gave the place back until 1999 – means that you can find old Chinese temples, pastel-coloured Roman Catholic churches and monuments to sheer over-the-top worship of money all within one 10-minute taxi ride. The food, as you would expect, is a cross between Cantonese/Chinese and Portuguese-colonial, which means Hainan chicken AND chicken piri-piri. Every Macan bakery supplies the lovely Portuguese egg custard tarts, of which I am very fond, hot and nommy. And the wildly bonkers casino architecture is entertaining in itself, even if you don’t put a single pataca in a slot-machine (not that you can: Macau’s own currency isn’t accepted in the casinos, only Hong Kong dollars). A replica of St Mark’s Square, Venice, with canals and gondolas? An 856-feet-tall tower modelled after a lotus flower? A 140-foot-tall fake volcano that “erupts” every evening? Come to Macau.

It’s one of the puzzles of Macau: do the people who visit it to gamble not look around and realise that the spectacular buildings, the rampant showing-off that, for example, filled in the sea between the islands of Coloane and Taipa to make the 250-acre Cotai Strip to provide land to build more casinos (and hotels to provide places for the gamblers in the casinos to sleep when they’re not gambling), the hotels and casinos themselves, each complex costing a couple of billion dollars or so, is all paid for out of their pockets? That however much they dream of winning, the number one rule in gambling is: “In the long run, you’ll never beat the house”, and that everything they see around them is a monument, literally, to that rule?

Macau Beer today
Macau Beer today

Still, there are other ways of gambling. A man called Mark Myrick gambled in 1996 on opening Macau’s first ever brewery, the Macau Brewing Company, in its entire 440-year history as a place of European settlement. It produced three different beers in bottles and kegs from an industrial building about halfway between the ferry terminal and the border with China proper, but was sold to local investors in 1999. They in turn sold the brewery, and all its kit to Kirin, the Japanese brewer, in 2002. The brewery equipment stayed where it was until 2011, when it was removed, but most, if not all, of what Kirin marketed as “Macau Beer” (with a picture of Macau’s most famous landmark, the ruined façade of St Paul’s Cathedral, on the label) was brewed at Kirin’s brewery in Zhuhai, across the border. Certainly today the “Macau Beer” you can buy in Macau – when you can find it – is almost definitely from Zhuhai.

When you CAN find it, it’s a pleasant enough mid-gold beer at the malty end of the rainbow, refreshing cold on a day when the temperature is in the 30s centigrade and you’ve been slogging the streets of Macau trying to discover a bar that offers more than the unholy quartet of Carlsberg, Heineken, Tsingtao and San Miguel. I don’t know why I thought the drinking places in Macau’s casino complexes might offer gamblers wanting a respite from throwing their capital away across the green baize something decent to drink, but clearly gamblers don’t care about what it is they wash away the sorrows of losing with. Hey, Steve Wynn, your Wynn Macau resort may be spectacular (the “Tree of Prosperity”, which rises periodically from the floor in one of the lobbies, is a full 15-minute light-and-sound show), but for a former drinks importer, the beer selection in your casino’s bars is rubbish. Continue reading Gambling on finding good beer in Macau