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GBBF: Where real ale & craft beer meet

Conjure up an image of the Great British Beer Festival in your mind, and it's probably a collection of middle aged men with beards, enjoying a traditional British ale. I used to believe the very same thing, however this year my perception of this mainstay of the beer calendar has been changed. This was not my first time at the festival (having worked at a brewery, I've seen my fair share of London's various beer events), however this was the first time I really noticed the shift in demographic. Don't get me wrong, the staples of the festival were there - Charles Wells, Fuller's and St Austell's to name a few - but there were also a few newer, more outlandish breweries in attendance (here's looking at you Tiny Rebel Brewing Co.). So, what happened when my Latvian colleague and I visited what he aptly called 'the most British place he's ever been'?

1. There was a lot of beer

Which is to be expected - but more than being overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of the stuff, it was the variety that really impressed us. We started off with a sample of Fuller's golden ales (Oliver's Island & Summer Ale) and ended with Tiny Rebel's hoppy, zesty beers (Hadouken & Juicy), with a dash of some perry somewhere in between (it's really quite hard to drink ale consistently). A far cry from the traditional ales at a beer festival, which are still rightly drawing a large crowd (don't get me wrong, t's hard to beat a Tribute or a London Gold), GBBF has recently become a showcase of just how interesting and innovative real ale can be. From experimenting with unusual hop combinations to playing with the ABV/drinkability balance, there was, indeed, a lot of beer to see (and much too much to drink!)

2. Real Ale and Craft Beer are not mutually exclusive

Anyone that I've spoken to about traditional British Ale will be bored by me repeating this again - real ale and craft beer (in my humble opinion) are peas in the same pod. The brewers at GBBF definitely exhibited this even though the big names in craft beer were not present - you should look out for them at festivals such as Craft Beer Rising, or London Craft Beer Festival (coincidentally taking place on the same weekend as GBBF) - by demonstrating their skills as traditional breweries. Their craftsmanship demonstrates clearly that they paved the way for modern (micro)breweries to be as wacky and exploratory as they want.

Not only the quality of the beer demonstrated this link between the traditional & craft breweries - the way in which the breweries were exhibiting was almost the most exciting it has been at GBBF for years! Of course, the Charles Wells/Bombardier bus was front & centre, but it was interesting to see signs that the traditional breweries are taking note of their craftier compatriots. St Austell's brewery were blasting the ABBA with a disco feel, and whilst it was a bit of an odd Scandi-Cornwall hybrid, it did work. However, amongst the collection of refurbished vans and trucks, it was The Rev James' (Brain's brewery's cooler younger brother) photo booth that really stood out.

The fact that they embraced the more craft-dominated world of social media, by creating GIFs which could be posted using a bespoke hashtag, made this stall stand out head and shoulders above the rest of the exhibitors, and showed that there is a credible place for real ale in the world of craft.

3. The GBBF stereotype is oh-so wrong

Groups of young professionals and even a hen do were spotted at the festival this year - and not even as anomalies. I know that I'm being horribly stereotyping expecting to see beards, bumbags and socks with sandals (although there were a few) at a CAMRA event, but this is a view held (very wrongly) by a younger generation. We expect to see our dad and his friends, not Jack the young graduate holding a job in the City, at these events, but this younger crowd is getting increasingly involved with these beer festivals. This, especially seeing groups of 20 to 30-something women wandering around, gave me a real sense of pride - the great British tradition of fantastic beers does not seem to be a dying one. Helped, undoubtedly, by the micro-brewery boom, British brewing is appealing to a more diverse group than ever before. And whilst it might take me some time to persuade my mother that women do indeed drink beer by the pint, I am incredibly proud to see that this seems to be a generational belief, and that young men and women from around the country are embracing the diverse world of Great British Beer. 






#DropOfPride: Bringing Brands to Consumers

As an agency based in the West End (the heartland of creative agencies in London) we thought we’d seen it all! That is until, on the last Friday of June we received a delivery of London Pride and other Wimbledon-themed treats at our front door. The delivery didn’t arrive completely out of the blue (that would’ve been incredible), but a simple Tweet to the London Pride Twitter account using #DropofPride, and a little bit of good fortune saw our beer hamper arrive just in time to combat the Friday blues.

While this form of Random Act of Kindness marketing hasn’t become the norm, it’s starting to appear more and more across the alcohol industry. Hendrick’s Gin have recently started their global ‘Cucumber Courier’ activity – a vintage inspired delivery service to the on trade, ensuring the perfect Hendricks’s serve with cucumber. Not only is the concept inspired, but their means of transport is a definite point of difference for the brand – who else would you expect to be travelling around in a motorbike and sidecar shaped like a cucumber?

With the abundance of food and drink delivery services now – Deliveroo first, and now even UberEats – it’s nice to see that brands can tap into this and make it work to ensure brand engagement or consistency of quality, without it seeming disingenuous.

What better way to end a Friday & celebrate the end of the month?



Courvoisier Pairing Dinner

Cognac & first class food – what could be better?

Last month, we were invited to attend a Courvoisier pairing dinner at Oriole Bar in East London’s Smithfield Market, which was, as you’d expect, incredible.

Oriole has recently been nominated for Best New International Cocktail Bar in the Spirited Awards 2016, as part of the Tales of the Cocktail competition – no mean feat, but completely understandable once we’d tried their rendition of the Courvoisier Classic Champagne Cocktail.

After a brief catch up with our hostess for the evening Rebecca Asseline, Courvoisier’s glamourous Global Ambassador, we were seated in the side function room off the side of the bar, a small area, which lent a very suitable sense of intimacy to the evening. Following a warm welcome from our hostess, we tucked into our Amuse-Bouche, a pain d’épice topped with sweet potato and camembert which matched perfectly with our champagne cocktails.

We then moved on to a history of the cognac making process, and the rich history of the Courvoisier cognac house and its intrinsic links to the Parisian Golden Age and even as the cognac served at the opening of the Eiffel Tower – truly making it the Toast of Paris! We paired our starter of Courvoisier cured Salmon Tartare with asparagus vichyssoise, poached quail egg and salmon roe, with a snifter of Courvoisier VS. 

Our mains (the Beef Rossini with Duck foie gras was too good to photograph before we tucked in) and the Sole Veronique were great accompaniments to the VSOP, showing that a good cognac can really be a part of every stage of a meal.

The piece de résistance however, was the poached pear and Roquefort crème brulée, alongside the Courvoisier XO. A true showcase of the great skills of the chef at Oriole, and the versatility of the cognac.

The guests in the room were left satisfied – not only from a great meal and tasting of the Courvoisier range – but also with the in depth knowledge of Rebecca. Conversation flowed, not only from those more acquainted with the world of cognacs and Courvoisier, but also those who did not have a knowledge of the brand before this evening.

Once again, thanks must be given to the team at Oriole for putting on such a great event, and providing a great meal and cocktails (the Head Chef, Gustavo, received a much-deserved round of applause upon entering the room), and to Rebecca for being a great hostess to this unique event.

Events like this are not few and far between here in London, and we would heartily recommend for you to visit any tutored tastings or pairing dinners you may find – they always shine a new light on a brand you may think you know well!



#TBT: Imbibe Live

A few weeks ago, we ventured out to Olympia in West London to visit Imbibe Live. Branded as an ‘innovative and interactive annual exhibition’, Imbibe hosts the best in class of the trade, including the mainstays of the industry alongside newer brands who are just starting on their journey.

The show acts as a great stage for brands of all sizes to show off their products, innovation and for agencies like us to take note of the upcoming trends in the drinks industry. As we wandered around the hall, there were a few key activities that we picked up on:


We all love a stereotypical English country garden – and it seems that brands have picked up on this. With the unforeseen growth of botanical gins over the last few years (gin sales were expected to top £1bn for the first time in the UK in 2015*) it makes sense that brands would hop on to this quintessentially British theme. There was an abundance of garden styled bars and flavoured drinks, with Fentiman’s leading the charge with their beautifully set-up bar.

This leads us brilliantly on to…


None of us were expecting a presence of the soft drink category on this scale. It would seem that the mixers are making a stand:  they are more than just an addition to a good gin, they MAKE the perfect cocktail. This mindset was highlighted by the relatively unknown brand ‘Merchant’s Heart’ a new range of drinks by LR Suntory, who brand themselves as ‘spirit enhancers’ rather than a mixer. Stands from Britvic, Schweppes, Fentiman’s & Fever Tree represented the big players in the mixers world – each of them representing their brand in a different, yet impactful way. The newcomers to the category included Thomas Henry (a German brand), Franklin & Sons LTD, and Bottle Green (who, yes, have been around for a while, however this is the first time we’ve seen them positioned as a mixer, rather than a standalone drink).

The main take out from the mass-representation of mixers at what has over the last few years primarily been an alcohol trade show, is that the trend for flavour and origin matter across all aspects of the serve, rather than just the alcohol itself.

Speaking of flavour…


From our sensorial work with Teisseire and The Glenlivet, we know that flavour is more than just taste, but for the sake of simplicity let’s just keep this as flavour for now (read our case studies for more information on those two projects if you’re intrigued…).

In addition to the botanical and mixer trends above, it seems that all brands are focusing on flavour. None more so than Stoli vodka, whose exhibition stand massively impressed us. With Brand Ambassadors dressed in lab coats and a set up like a mad scientist’s laboratory, the area drew a large crowd, inviting guests to create their own spin on the Moscow Mule.

This stand exemplifies the new trend for customer engagement through experiences. By letting the customers mix with ingredients they’ve never seen before, or use bar tools they have never used, including a very intriguing smoke machine.

The set up and creativity behind this stall really raised the bar (mind the pun) for all trade show stalls and customer experiential work at the same time.

Overall, Imbibe delivered once again – however this time with a little more variation and range than seen before!





A Cultural Evening in London

London is known the world around for its amazing theatre and arts – and being based in the city’s West End we’re constantly reminded of the great spectacles that are on offer. As Londoners, however, we also know how expensive it would be to try and see everything you’d want to.

So when I was told about the Hammersmith Summer Festival’s free showing of the Royal Opera House’s ‘Il Trovatore’ I jumped at the chance to go. To be completely honest, I had no knowledge of what the opera was about, and opera would not be my go-to subject on Mastermind, but I’ve seen some live shows at the iconic Covent Garden venue a couple of times, and the experience is something to behold!

The set up in Hammersmith’s Lyric Square was simple – some (branded) deck chairs for the early arrivers, and a nice patch of astroturf for those who dropped in late (thankfully we brought a blanket.) With the big screen set up front & centre, and the bars, and restaurants surrounding the venue allowing guests to take their refreshments out with them, the scene was set for a fantastic evening. Also, by some small British miracle, the sky was blue and the sun shone throughout.

It’s no surprise that the opera was incredible – from stage design to the singers – and obviously a great tragedy took place, but even that couldn’t dampen the mood in Hammersmith and the various other live screenings happening across the country.

Long live the London art pop up, allowing us to enjoy lovely British summer evenings and the great arts and theatre the capital has to offer!