Happy New Year and thank you for your ideas on the Orbit Brewing strapline. Many were funny, some cringe-worthy and none of you should give up your day jobs. Ever. Two efforts from my friend Scott are worthy of mention though. First, the Carry On (Dodgy Pun) prize is awarded to ‘Orbit of Alright’. Sid James would have approved. Scott also suggested ‘Orbit – Get out of it’. Now, if I were running a coffee shop in Amsterdam, this may well have been a praiseworthy effort. I would, though, prefer to turn this around to ‘Orbit – Get into it’! This, for me, carries a more positive ‘enjoy’ message, rather than Scott’s ‘trousered and beyond’ implication, and is not inconsistent with the title of this series of blogs. My own best, but still poor, effort was ‘Unfiltered, Unfined, Unforgettable’ – very 1970s and sounds more like an advert for Gitanes than beer. I already gave up my day job though.
The festive season has done nothing to accelerate progress on the brewery front, but neither are we stagnating. At present I have a designer, the choice of two accountants, a whiff of a bank account, a draft lease and the promise of help from a local consultant (Stuart from Twickenham Fine Ales). I am determined to sign that lease this month, as soon as I have confirmation that the electricity comes in three-phase format and no other obvious barriers to brewing exist. Locating sub-terranean plans has proven impossible, so fingers crossed that we can locate the drainage pipes without chopping through electric cables. I’ve also asked for a post box to be welded to the gate, but as the post office don’t seem to even recognise the address, that may prove unnecessary.
My research today has been on the relative benefits of one-way disposable kegs versus the traditional metal variety – hours of fun. The latter sort require significant capital outlay, expensive equipment for washing, and the logistic hell of repatriation from the pub that had them. Not to mention the possibility of some light-fingered Londoners nicking them for scrap value. But, they do make long-term financial sense and they do look like proper, professional beer dispensation devices. Heavy metal rules!
The disposable (recyclable) variety are the new kegs on the block. No capital outlay, no washing and no need to fetch them back. They’re also lighter and more efficient, with less of the beer being wasted. There’s also no need for bars to pile up empties in the back yard. A small amount of specialist equipment is needed, but maybe the main objection is that they just don’t look as kosher as the traditional kegs – more like a large stationery item. My thinking? I reckon we keg off with these and make a longer-term decision down the road apiece.
Every year since we met, the aforementioned Scott has published his top ten albums and distributed these among grateful buddies. This practice has evolved into a niche art form, with categories such as ‘best song on an okay album’, ‘best re-release’ and ‘best song in 6/8 time by an all-girl band’. (I made that last one up.) He creates three CDs each year – albums, singles and covers. I am but a pottering amateur by comparison, but do love the process of deciding on the top discs of the year. My picks currently include Tricky, Austra, Fossil Collective, Annie Hardy, Torres and, of course, King Khan and the Shrines. What would be your top three of 2014, readers?
The Tea Leaf Paradox had its best month yet for sales, shifting about 120 Kindle downloads and over 30 hard copies in December. (Despite this Christmas ‘rush’, I still have only 12 reviews on the UK Amazon site – c’mon peeps!) This unprecedented buying frenzy preceded the article published last month in Camping & Caravanning magazine about Brian, our trips with him and the creation of the book. I’m hoping that may bring about a post-Christmas boost in sales, but a new marketing plan will be needed if TLP is not to sink without trace. Brian is warming modestly to his newfound fame though.
Enough of music and literature: back to beer. I’m a bit of a veteran and something of an expert when it comes to fighting one’s way to the bar and getting served promptly. A combination of cunning, competitive spirit and bodily osmosis does the trick. The whole queuing and shoving thing does seem rather archaic and unwieldy though. Where the punter requires the creation of a cocktail or a shot of something exotic, there is really no choice but to seek the expertise of the barkeep. However, if you just want a beer – bottle or draught – it seems positively Dickensian to still have to adopt rugby tactics on the way in and a balancing act on the way out, so as not to spill a drop.
We can easily serve ourselves coffee, tea, soft drinks and even petrol without any trouble at all, and pay on dispense. Why not have the same with beer? Enter coins or credit, select your bottle or fill your glass. This simple idea delivers happier punters, shorter queues and allows bar staff to focus on the fancy stuff. The bottles may need to be plastic and the dispense mechanism would have to be gentle, but I can’t see many flaws. Minimum age controls, regular re-filling and state of the art anti-tamper mechanisms would all be needed, but you’d serve more beer and save on bar staff! Check this for some innovative automation inspiration: http://www.buzzfeed.com/arielknutson/vending-machines-you-wont-believe-exist
We finish this first blog of 2014 with news that Yoga Rebels (my partner Jo’s cleverly named business) have won the Yeo Valley British Business of the month award. We spent much of December chasing behind Muddy Matches (a dating agency for muddy (country) people, no less), but gained enough momentum to catch and significantly surpass our farmer-baiting foe. The reward for this achievement is a month of being featured on the YV website. Woo hoo! A postscript to this success came when I noticed that London-based Crate Brewery had been nominated for January. This seemed like a stunning coincidence until I remembered that I had actually nominated them a few months ago. I really do need to have less time on my hands (and be careful what I wish for).