Friday, 13 March 2009

Matching ties

It’s often argued that the existence of the beer tie is a major factor holding back small brewers. However, if you listen to licensees it doesn’t appear that micro-brewers’ products would be top of their list. When asked in a survey what beer they would most want to stock if they had a free choice, the winner was…


In fact all the Top 10 were the predictable mass-market kegs.

This gives a clear picture of what life would be like if the tie were completely removed. It might open up more opportunities for the very smallest brewers, but it would lead to a situation where the vast majority of bars were dominated by the same row of national and international keg brands, and the middle ground of brewers would largely disappear. Provided it does not lead to market dominance in specific areas, the brewery tie enhances competition rather than diminishing it.

The pub company tie is a different matter, but the existence of brewers like Thwaites and Robinson’s with substantial tied estates is a major bulwark of choice and diversity in the beer market. Genuine choice results not only from the total number of products available but also the degree to which the market is concentrated. Is there more real choice for the consumer in a market with 100 products, but where two account for 95% of sales, or in one with 20 products, but where 10 account for 95%?

And it should not be forgotten that, without the tie, cask beer would have virtually disappeared in Britain in the 60s and 70s.


  1. I've never drunk Carling - is it that terrible ? I agree with your defence of the tie. Come to London (actually-don't bother) where you can visit hundreds of decent looking pubs, all selling mediocre GK IPA, Adnams and Landlord. Fullers (and Youngs) are good, but London CAMRA would dearly love to have the local beers you enjoy.

  2. I agree with this. The main post I mean. The tie can and does provide competition. Look at the PubCo tie if you want to see how bad it can get and it'd be worse than that. A rush for big brands and cheapness.

  3. I have mixed feelings about the tie. I think on balance I'm in favour of them but it would be nice if they were 'encouraged' to stock one true guest ale. Although in similar vein if I went into Tesco and thet had Asda shite on their shelves I'd be none best pleased.

  4. the brewery tie enhances competition rather than diminishing it.

    I don't think this is correct.When we are talking about cask ales, I believe the brewery tie hinders. I would love to see 1 regional guest for every two of the regional brewer at similar price.


  5. I don't get this argument that independent brewers' tied pubs should be allowed to sell a guest beer. Should Audi dealerships be allowed to sell BMWs, or McDonalds be allowed to sell BK Whoppers?

    Competition exists between outlets, it does not need to exist within individual outlets. Of course, some independent brewers allow other brewers' guest beers as they think this will build trade in their pubs, but that is their decision.

  6. A point well made - the CAMRA complaint about brewery-owned pubs not stocking competitors' beers is illogical. When I go to a Thwaites or Hydes pub I want their (local) beer, not some other independent beer (often dragged half-way across the country). Specialist beer pubs like the Crown and the New Oxford have their role, but they'll only ever be a certain market for them.


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