Beer With Big Ideas

Apr 14, 2021

by Connor Murphy

Over recent years, we have received a multitude of offers from supermarkets keen to showcase our beer on their shelves.

Until this point, none of the offers have felt right, either for us to reach our goals, or for growth of the wider industry. Given that the role of supermarkets in gaining access to a wider consumer base is regularly debated here in the UK, we felt there had to be a particularly compelling reason for us to develop our ambition and make our beer available through this route to market, far beyond any potential benefits for our own business.

Recently, an opportunity emerged that we feel has the potential to provide immediate, wide-ranging, and long-term benefits for our industry, facilitating the kind of change that we believe will be vital to the future growth and progression of craft beer.

So, from Monday (April 19th), you will be able to buy our Cloudwater and Friends four-pack from Tesco stores across the country. The pack will cost £10 and features four single-hopped, collaboration IPAs brewed at BrewDog using our house yeast and new recipes provided by us. The pack contains:

  • Embracing Otherness (Cloudwater x Eko Brewery), 6% IPA dry hopped with Simcoe

  • One Way Or Another (Cloudwater x Rock Leopard Brewing), 6% IPA dry hopped with Mosaic

  • Our Love Fills The Air (Cloudwater x Queer Brewing), 6% IPA dry hopped with Citra

  • Free Your Mind (Cloudwater x Good Karma Beer Co), 0.5% alcohol-free IPA dry hopped with Talus

Beer With Big Ideas expresses the goals we share with our collaborators to use the platform of craft beer to promote and deliver needed changes to both the industry and wider society.

In what we believe to be a first for any debut into supermarkets, we will not be taking any profit from the sale of this collaboration four-pack and BrewDog have agreed the same, meaning all of the profits from the pack will go directly to the four collaboration breweries, giving them a significant opportunity to invest in their growth. It’s also exciting that an alcohol-free beer will be included in this pack, as a way of promoting the more mindful approach to drinking that Steve Dass of Good Karma has been promoting for over a decade, and continuing the work we are doing through Cloudwater Soda.

Alongside the collaboration pack, we will also be supplying four brand new Cloudwater beers to Tesco, again brewed at BrewDog using new recipes we’ve developed and our house yeast:

  • Pale Ale, 3.7%, brewed with Citra, Mosaic and Talus hops, priced at £3

  • DDH Pale, 5%, brewed with Citra, Mosaic and Talus hops, priced at £3.50

  • Session IPA, 4.5%, brewed with Mosaic, Citra, Simcoe and Talus hops, priced at £3

  • IPA, 6%, brewed with Mosaic, Citra, Simcoe and Talus hops, priced at £3.50

All of the above beers are being produced exclusively for Tesco, and 100% of what we brew in Manchester will continue to be available only to our direct and trade customers through our usual routes to market. The opportunity to contract out production to a large brewery with the necessary in-house expertise, infrastructure, and existing relationships with supermarkets played an important role in our decision. As a result of this contracting out, we feel that our work here in Manchester will be able to take a sharper focus once again on the kind of innovation, style development and risk-taking that we are well known for, and that helped develop the phenomenal appetite we see for bold, modern craft beer.

To strengthen the focus on our Manchester brewery as a source for innovative, industry-leading beer, and shake us out of what we felt was risking a degree of stagnation, we have also taken the decision to phase out our signature range. This is a decision we will expand upon more in the coming weeks, but it is one we had been building towards regardless of the move into grocery. With this change in emphasis and to ensure the beers we supply into independents are not confused with those on the shelves in Tesco, we released our last batches of signature Pale Ale and DDH Pale to trade on January 29th and IPA on February 19th.

Over the past year, we've attempted to provide customers with a consistent experience through our signature beers, while constantly tweaking and working to improve our recipes and processes, but we feel our best work will come from pushing hard to evolve beers in every style, and freeing up the production space internally to pursue ever bolder experimentation that will help to improve quality across the board. What we have found is that our drinkers appear to agree - in a recent survey we conducted among 2,612 of our webshop customers, only 16.5% are drawn to our signature range when buying beer (compared to 39.5% for recurring, semi-regular brands and 39.1% for new brands and one-offs).

One-off beers continue to drive the highest level of excitement from drinkers, and have seen us over the past 18 months produce the highest rated beers that we’ve ever managed to achieve. In the Untappd top 50 beers in England list, we hold 20 of those positions - 7 of which were from our first 5 years brewing, and the other 13 since January 2020, including the number 1 rated beer, My Continuous Improvement.

We will continue to produce the styles covered by the signature range but we are making something of a return to our roots by focusing more of our efforts on one-offs, giving us the chance to devote greater attention to experimentation and innovation, with the goal of producing the best possible representations of each style. We will, however, develop a number of recurring brands (such as we have with Chubbles, I Have Become The Boat, Crystallography, and MCI) to provide a degree of consistency and continue to deliver on experiences that our customers already know and love.



So why have we decided to make this move now?

We saw an opportunity to genuinely effect positive change and to do something on a bigger scale than ever before, and with wide-reaching benefits far beyond our in-house capabilities alone. Increasingly, our work is centred on how we use the liquid in your glass as a vehicle for social progression, on how we use our privileges in order to make, support, and strengthen movements for change.

This move allows us to use the pulling power of our reputation to provide an incredible platform to four businesses owned by underrepresented folks who have not had access to the same opportunities as many others in our industry. The significance of a product that so wholeheartedly champions the Queer community from within taking up a prominent position on supermarket shelves cannot be understated.

And of utmost importance, this is a chance for two Black-owned breweries, as well as an alcohol-free brewery with Indian roots that champions mindfulness, to level up and help lead the industry towards a more diverse and inclusive future.

Without the benefit of the draw from an established brand, it would have been near impossible for these four breweries to attain this platform - they’ll be easily the smallest breweries on the shelves in Tesco - but now they can do so without taking on any of the substantial risks that would have arisen from going on their own, such as upfront investment in equipment or ingredients, and without the pressure of fulfilling strict production targets.

The proceeds they make from these beers will put them in a position where they can start to lay down their own roots, investing in retail premises and brewing facilities. At the same time, we will continue to work with all of them to help them serve the independent beer trade in the fullest way possible too.

Inclusivity has become an increasingly common topic in recent years but we have to be honest with ourselves and say that craft beer has not been proactive enough in engaging with new audiences and sharing its platform with underrepresented communities. The industry has often instead championed breweries who represent a continuation of the status quo, rather than seeking to visibilise breweries owned by people who are underrepresented. As the industry continues to develop awareness of its responsibilities to wider society, we want to take a step back and help breweries owned by minoritised people lead this development from a prominent position.

Working with the four breweries involved in the Beer With Big Ideas pack has been a truly humbling experience. We have already learned so much from them on how we can help to facilitate change within the industry, but we stand to learn a lot more as they continue to grow in stability and strength and, importantly, take up more space.

What has become increasingly clear to us through discussions we’ve had with a number of folks within communities that craft beer hasn’t centred upon in either is that we have to look beyond the people and places we currently sell beer if we are to genuinely expand our reach.

There are a number of reasons, many rooted in long-standing prejudice, that prevent people who do not fit the narrow image of craft beer’s consumer base from feeling comfortable in established beer spaces. Often this can result in a sense of intimidation that prevents new customers from fully engaging with our industry and the vibrant social scene that surrounds it.

This move can help to change that, not only by getting beer into the hands of folks who do not currently visit established beer spaces, but also in allowing them to see themselves in the beer they are buying and to feel inspired by the stories of the people behind these breweries.

Why is contract brewing right for us?

We simply would not have taken this step if it had not also provided the opportunity to facilitate the positive change outlined above. By brewing these beers at BrewDog, we are also in a position where we do not have to divert any of our current production capacity away from the customers we already serve. In fact, it puts us in a stronger position to continue developing world-class beer exclusively for the independent trade, after what has been a very challenging year for the team and the business.

It also means we can focus on creating innovative products for the independent trade. Ultimately, if customers want to get their hands on our most cutting-edge and sought-after releases, beers we’ll continue to brew with new yeasts, hand-selected hops, and our newest practices and processes, they’ll still need to come direct to us or pay a visit to one of our customers in the independent beer trade.

By working with BrewDog, we can increase the accessibility of our beer, making it available to people who do not feel comfortable in established beer spaces, who are unfamiliar with us, or who do not feel they can afford the premium beer we produce on site here in Manchester. Although there will undoubtedly be a degree of crossover in the customer bases, we believe that, through continued work to build new audiences for craft beer, we can help the independent trade to thrive in the long term. Only 12% of our customers say the increased range of craft beer available in supermarkets caused them to spend less with breweries and independent businesses, but a growing number are discovering beer via supermarkets.

We’ve built a solid relationship with BrewDog over the past six years, ever since they went out of their way to champion us in our first year in 2015, and they have made a great many efforts to support and elevate us over that time. Their production team have shown incredible flexibility and drive to get to grips with our approach and the performance of our yeast, while our brewery manager Mark and cellar manager Robyn have spent a significant amount of time in Ellon signing off processes and monitoring beer quality at every stage over the past month.

We know that an announcement like this is likely to spark a number of questions and we hope this blog has covered most of them, but we want to hear your feedback and should you have any thoughts or important questions, please email us on info@cloudwaterbrew.co.

Please note that we have been able to hold confidential conversations with a small number of our longest-standing and largest trade accounts. We have heard any concerns they have raised, and will continue to work as closely as possible with them to take the fullest advantage of the massive increase in visibility we’ll gain through this contract-brewed supermarket listing. We firmly believe that there are abundant opportunities to channel growth through indie retailers and trade draft accounts as we become more widely known outside of the craft beer bubble.

Much love from the Cloudwater team.

Proper DIPA

Our 8th DIPA in our  Proper DIPA series is out this week, called Proper DIPA NZ edition, a perfect example of the beautiful things that happen when modern meets tradition.We've infused Southern Cross and NZ Cascade to accentuate the JW Lees yeast strain.This DIPA excels in both body and hop intensity, delivering a hearty hop medley characterised by quintessential NZ hop aromas of white grape, all culminating in an exceptionally dank finish.Enjoyed in the video by JW Lees brewer Matthew and available in our webshop now. 

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