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The first in a series of musings from Castle Rockians, penned by our very own MD Colin Wilde.

Mine is the first in a series of musings from Castle Rockians, with more to come (penned by various authors) in 2019.

As you read on, keep in mind that we not only invite feedback and comment, but we actively encourage it. Here you’ll find a condensed version of my musings, with the full version to follow soon.

Without further ado…I’ll muse away…

We’ve often discussed here that the experience we have, coupled with a strong youth policy and a balanced view of life, makes for a good business foundation. Knowledge, pragmatism and vibrancy have come together to create an ideas factory, and it’s this that helps us take forward the best things about tradition with confidence. It also means we can be open minded, curious and excited by the prospect of trying new things that might just work.

Twenty-four years ago, when I joined Castle Rock and the industry, it was the time of monopolistic brewers restricting choice and holding the local monopolies on pub numbers. When pubs closed, it was all about consolidation. They were replaced with much bigger sites,
backed with heavy investment and often focusing on a theme like the “Irish pub”.

The disrupters for them were businesses like us. We genuinely wanted to, in the words of our founder, ‘run
friendly, welcoming pubs which serve high quality beer’. It was niche to focus on real ale and provide choice in
homely surroundings. That was the revolution, and we didn’t even realise.

The market favoured the continual swinging away from our core principles. More and more pubs had their hearts and souls ripped out of them, often becoming barn-like anodyne drinking halls. Many removed cask ales, thinking that the people wanted smooth flow Nitro keg ales.

It was a difficult concept for us to stomach, but it helped us build our own reputation; one of respecting and celebrating the integrity of cask ales, and for creating an authentic, humble pub experience. It was the line in the sand, from which we strode forward to build a successful and continually growing business.

In the present day — and after lots of campaigning from both the Society of Independent Brewers and the Campaign for Real Ale, as well as the work put in by us and our peers — we have something quite spectacular.

Customer demand is focussed on great beer – across the country, across the media, across genders and across generations. Not nitro smooths, not crappy yellow fizz and not alcopops!

Yet, the country remains over-pubbed, people are drinking less than previous generations, and people are using pubs in very different ways if at all. Careers wrap around a 24/7 working week and technology has disrupted social communication. We no longer need to meet up to keep in touch, and that doesn’t help pubs, nor the mental health and well-being of our species.

This, combined with successive governments treating the industry as a cash cow, means costs have significantly risen but composite revenues have not. We’re still seeing pubs across the country closing.

So, who are the disrupters today? It’s no longer us, so where and how has the ground shifted yet again? And
what are the rest of us doing about it?

More of Colin’s musings are coming soon…


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