Well, the seasonal stuff did a fair bit of good for Hardknott. We took some risks, like a Christmas beer, and promotional activity at Booths. They both went quite well, but not without a fair bit of hard work. In particular, Figgy Pudding was a huge risk due to the problems of what to do with anything left over after the event. Clearly Christmas beers, in this post seasonal period of fashionable starvation and dubious detoxification, would not sell afterwards and we would almost certainly be left with unsalable stock. As it happens, demand outstripped supply for bottles and the little bit of keg that is left will go into bottle now for ageing experiments.
Some of us will carry on with our own carefully balanced lifestyles, broadly unchanged by passage of man-made social influence. However, much of the population will have New Year's resolutions and will be desperate to counter the largely self-inflicted gluttony by diet, abstinence and some sort of quack detox scheme. Dryanuary, for me, is one of the most ludicrous ideas ever to have been dreamt up. Really, if you are that worried about your relationship with alcohol perhaps you need to seriously look at your drinking habits.
We are constantly told by the press, and Government, that we eat too much of the wrong stuff, drink too much and fail to take enough exercise. We all have busy lives, me too, and finding time to fit in that visit to the gym, or go for a jog, or whatever, is so damn difficult. For me, the number of times I've left work far later than I should of, got home, and made something quick and easy, and far too damn much like comfort eating. Moreover, if travelling, it's very difficult to eat healthily, tastily and economically. Frankly, a burger meal just seems so much better value than a super food salad.
Considering the above, it isn't surprising that January brings out all the daftness of New Year attempts to make ourselves more healthy. We don't want to let go of the throttle over Christmas, we went to the supermarket, bought all sort of temptations we didn't really need, you can't let them go off. With a fridge still dangerously full, off we go to the supermarket again for New Year's event, because we can, well, it's that time of year, this is what has to be done. So, full of guilt we knuckle down for the January cleansing. It just seems to get dafter every year.
Of course, I support every individual's right to determine how they should live their life. However, I wanted to write this re-buff to Pete Brown's detox defence last year, but never got around to doing it. It's not that I don't get some of the points Pete makes. I just think that there is an alternative view to his points that we should all consider. The problems of pitching-on yeast and keeping a yeast strain going, which is really the way to go if consistent and efficient brewing is to be achieved, a solid production and sale of a base-line is required.
The other big issue for such boom-and-bust business is cash-flow. It is an absolute nightmare. What we would all like in business is solid, dependable and constant cash-flow. Buying in of raw materials, production, delivery and timely payment of invoices. Seasonality mucks this up something terrible. We need to try and find enough cash resources to fund the production of extra in November and December if we are to fully benefit from this peak in trade. On top of the risk of not selling what beer has been made, there is the difficulty and cost of finding that cash.
This wouldn't be so bad if there was any real evidence that longterm detox really worked. OK, well done, you lost a stone in January. But then your metabolism has gone into famine mode. Come the beginning of February the beast is let loose again. OK, so you might ease back into it and still be a little health conscious, but come Easter your body still remembers the famine of January and energy is stored ready for the next famine period.
So yes, if Pete is pissed off with the industry for telling him he's a traitor then I'm just as pissed off with him for being one. We don't need leading beer writers to join in anyway with the neoprohibitionists. Although I would defend the right of Pete to write about what he wants to write about, and indeed there is an argument that it is bringing the issues out into the open, but here is my equal right to rebuff what I see as a silly stance on the subject. But despite my desire to support his right to his own way of dealing with his health, and to write about it if he wants, in reality I do wish he'd just shut up on that particular subject. The problem of course is that Pete is a good person, likeable, writes well and is hugely respected, this is why we are all the more upset by his betrayal.
His somewhat outraged indignation at the complaints by solid pub fans that at Christmas there are too many occasional drinkers, and the pubs are empty afterwards does grate with me. As my fairly meagre living comes from the trade, and seeing all the difficulties of staffing pubs, organising the stocking, the risks of overstocking, or under-stocking, of course we get irritated by the huge fluctuation and massive business risk associated with it.
Over Christmas pubs have to staff-up with temporary staff, many perhaps on what I'm sure Pete would see as an evil zero-hours contract. In January what do they do with all those extra staff, and indeed, perhaps there isn't even work enough for any permanent staff the pub might have.
I like the people who have a problem with the over-full pub at Christmas and the empty pub in January. They are our solid customer base the rest of the year and without them we'd not have a business at all.
There is, however, one thing I do agree with Pete about; the lack of healthy options in pubs. However, having tried it myself, it's actually not anywhere as easy as one might expect. It's all to do with what is expected from a pub. You see, although it would be nice to have healthy options, it turns out people don't generally go to pubs to be healthy. Pubs do what they do because it's actually what works. OK, perhaps a little extra effort in January might not go amiss, but generally, in a pub, when given the healthy choice most people just plump for chips anyway. We like chips, you see.
There is an alternative, called Tryanuary. I like the idea, and it deserves a blog post all of its own, but I'm mentioning it here incase I fail to write that piece.