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24th October 2017

Guild seminar spotlights ‘vibrant’ off trade market

The Guild of Beer Writers shone a light on the vibrant off trade beer market when it hosted its first seminar on the subject, in partnership with Drinks Retailing News.

The seminar, held at the Bottle Shop in Bermondsey, brought together speakers from across the beer retailing sector to share insights, including: Sarah Hammond, beer buyer at Waitrose; Jules Gray, owner of the award-winning Hop Hideout in Sheffield; Zeph King of Real Ale, who buy beers for M&S; Pete Brissenden of the Bottle Shop and Neil Gannon of There’s A Beer for That.

Editor of Drinks Retailing News, Martin Green, introduced the event with a market overview, reminding the audience that sales in the off trade now outstrip the on trade, and grew by 2.8% in the last quarter. Multiple grocers are giving ever more space to interesting beers, and independent bottle shops – many of them with an on-trade element – are opening at a rate of three or four a month.

Although each speaker presented a different perspective on beer retailing, they shared an optimism about the ongoing good health of the sector. Themes included the need to help customers navigate beer aisles and to give them information about beer: its ingredients, particularly hop varieties, and its food-matching potential.

Guild of Beer Writers director Paul Hegarty said, “It was wonderful to hear how beer in the off trade is undergoing such a renaissance. A decade ago the focus was too often solely on price. Now staff knowledge, beer quality, range and consumer information are increasingly the priority.  The off trade presents a great opportunity for Guild Members to find a new audience of beer aficionados.  We’re grateful to Drinks Retailing News, to all our speakers, and to There’s A Beer For That, who supported the event.”

The seminar was part of the Guild’s ongoing training and development programme, as it encourages members to continually expand and update their knowledge about beer and pubs. Other events this year have included a seminar on brewing ingredients, a workshop on cooking/matching food with beer and a ‘Meet the Editors’ evening.

Membership of the Guild of Beer Writers is open to all who write or communicate about beer and pubs, as journalists, writers, bloggers, broadcasters, marketeers or PRs. For more information, visit

Caption: l-r Pete Brissenden, Bottle Shop; Zeph King, Real Ale; Martin Green, Drinks Retailing News; Neil Gannon, There’s A Beer For That; Sarah Hammond, Waitrose and Jules Gray, Hop Hideout