Windsor and Eton Brewery – Supply Chain Insight (and brilliant beer)

Purely, you understand, in the interests of supply chain and blogging research, and at great personal sacrifice, I signed up for a trip recently to a Brewery. I know, it’s a tough job but someone has to do it....

So on a typical English summer evening (torrential rain and moderately chilly) around 20 of us, all ex-Mars Group employees, gathered in a Windsor back-street under the shadow of the Castle to meet three ex-Mars managers and a fourth colleague who have realised the dream of many executives of a certain age by starting their own brewery. Two of them I know from my days at Mars Confectionery, although I hadn’t seen either for many years until recently. Will Calvert was a brewer with Courage before he joined Mars; while Jim Morrison, the process engineer of the team, started at Mars the same day as me as a graduate trainee.

They founded the Windsor and Eton Brewery (WEB) in 2010, 79 years after the closure of Windsor’s last brewery, and they are brewing some truly excellent beers in the royal town.  We will get onto some interesting procurement and supply chain points that emerged from the evening, but let me say a bit about the business and the beers first. You can jump a few paragraphs if you don’t like beer...

The brewery has been very successful, with revenues approaching the £1 million mark this year.  The founders aren’t trying to be the next Scottish and Newcastle; but neither are they playing at this as a hobby. Apart from anything, just spending a couple of hours on the premises illustrates what a tough job it is as a micro-brewer!

Most importantly perhaps, the product is excellent. We won’t go through the whole range of beers but their most widely sold draught bitters are Guardsman, Windsor Knot and the golden ale Knight of the Garter. They’re all very good indeed and thoroughly recommended if you’re lucky enough to live near a pub serving them (there’s a list here on their website)

And special mentions for Conqueror, an unusual and delicious Black IPA. It looks and pours like a Guinness type stout, but has a flavour that is closer to a bitter IPA than the sweetness of a stout. But my personal favourite from the tasting was the Kohinoor, named after the diamond in the Queen’s crown, and the second new brew they’ve introduced in this jubilee year. Not surprisingly they’re playing on the royal links with Windsor, so they’ve brewed a Treetops with African flavours, and now the Kohinoor with an Indian theme.

It is what we now think of as a US style IPA – which is really the original UK IPA style. (Beers like Greene King IPA are a very different style). The WEB house-style is "clean and hoppy” and this fits the bill – but with just the faintest touch of exotica on the palate from the very subtle addition of cardamom and jasmine to the brew. It’s a stunning beer.  OK, so let’s stop drooling and look at some business and supply chain issues.

What has been the main driver behind the incredible growth in small breweries in the UK? (We now have over 800, more than pretty much anywhere else in the world).  And what do you think the most critical element or component of the supply chain is for a small “craft brewer” – and increasingly for the big boys as well?

We’ll have the answer tomorrow.

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Voices (2)

  1. Final Furlong:

    “….with just the faintest touch of exotica on the palate from the very subtle addition of cardamom and jasmine to the brew…”
    Come on Peter. Let me summarise: you went to a local brewery and, along with 20 other guys, simply got completely pissed.

    1. Dan:

      I knew it was a good idea to go into procurement!

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