Here at the Ennerdale Brewery we are very serious about our beer, in a sort of light-hearted way. We're beer novices who stumbled into the world of cask ale by way of doing an old mate a big favour, then we got left with ..... that's another story.
We're not brewers of long standing, we're just learning how to hold our own in beery discussions, but we are serious about our beer. We have a programme of continuous improvement, which sounds a bit glam but it's all about our trying, every day, in every way, to do what we are doing just that little bit better.
What we are most serious about is our business, because good beer alone is just not enough. We have to be a good business, a cost-effective, efficient, lean business which is consistent and reliable. Those concepts which seemed so dull and irrelevant when we were salaried employees with a safe wage packet are so much more important now that our mortgage depends on them!
So to improve our business we do a lot of finding out about other businesses, and in the course of this I came across a guy called Seth Grodin, a 'thought leader', in other words a man who writes books which state the bleedin' obvious in a way which makes you say "why didn't I think that before?" Seth's latest is called 'Tribes', and it explores the development of groups which share a common interest or passion. Groups like tickers and scoopers, or their less extreme fellows, CAMRA members. And then there is the tribe of landlords, licensees, and pubcos. Can you see the link with the real ale business yet?
The secret of being a good real ale business, it seems to me, is to balance the interests of the two warring tribes who form our customer base. I can produce beers which are 'interesting' and which excite the scoopers - but once they have scooped, they don't want to see it again.
I can produce beer which is 'commercial' and consistent, at a drink all day a.b.v. - but this gets fewer brownie points with the beer heads. In fact we have been condemned by one brewery in Cumbria as being too commercial. In other words, we're paying our way. And one day we might even make a profit.