Asking for the world

23 July, 2010

Iím all for going the extra mile to get an interesting range of beers, but I think I might have excelled myself this time. And Iím not talking about the brewer whose son goes to Leeds university, and who has sent me three sample bottles via his son.

Thatís perfectly sensible, and Iíd even go so far as to say Iím happy about having an ad hoc ordering and delivery schedule based around his sonís visits home. Of course, if the beers are a success and we move on to pallet quantities to offer the beers via mail order and wholesale, this may not be viable.

Neither am I talking about the loose arrangement we have with the Crown brewery, Sheffield, whose staff deliver to us whenever (a) they come to Leeds and (b) have some beer in bottles. Sometimes the planets align and (c) the bottles have proper printed labels, rather than handwritten cask labels. Again, itís not a perfect arrangement, but it highlights this beer is something subject to the as-and-when nature of the craftsman brewer.

What Iím talking about is the year-long plan that looks likely to come to fruition soon where we have agreed to buy a portion of left≠over bottled beers from the BiŤres Sans FrontiŤres at the Great British Beer Festival.

After a few tentative enquiries following last yearís GBBF, it turned out that there is usually a fair amount left over. I found the right person to ask about purchasing the leftovers, and we agreed to talk the following year. True to his word, he got back in touch recently and asked if I was still interested. Interested? Hell, yes. Itís worth doing it for the collection of US beers alone, but if you throw in a smattering of the best of Scandinavia, Holland and Germany, it becomes a no-brainer.

The only problem is we already stock quite a number of the beers on the BSF bar. I drew up a list and asked if it would be possible not only to have someone sort out the best of the leftovers for us, but also to exclude any beers from the following breweries Ė a list of about 30.

I was fairly sure this is the sort of request that makes a personís head explode, but seemingly not. The nice bar manager is perfectly happy to pick our requirements, shrink wrap them on to a pallet, and have them ready for collection on the Monday after the festival finishes. That, as they say, is a result.

My inner beer geek is cackling wildly at the thought of having some of the worldís best craft beers available to sell at the shop. Itís fair to say that the staff wonít thank me Ė not only will it mean a logistical nightmare dealing with storing and selling them, but they will also be unable to resist buying them. Itís one thing having six hours at the GBBF on Trade Day, but quite another having temptation under their noses. My only worry Ė and this does happen with rarer beers Ė is that the customers wonít get a fair crack at whatever arrives because the staff bag them all.

In terms of convoluted supply lines, and peopleís goodwill, Iím not sure I can think of anything more complex. Whether it actually comes to fruition is another thing. Wish us luck.

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