Open for PROFORMA pallet orders

Website open for PALLET orders:

  • CASK (BBDs mainly short/past, but I guarantee all beer)
  • KEG (this is where all the best stuff is)
  • BOTTLE (yes, we have some Mills, strictly limited)
  • CAN (sorry, it’s quite thin on the ground)
  • SPIRITS  (👻👻👻👻👻)
  • SODA (square root)

The OLD is important…

Logins/etc are all the same as before, it’s the same website. All open orders have been closed, all stock on them returned to inventory. There are NO RESERVATIONS  – I’m not going to sit on stock for some future time, if you order now you order for delivery by the end of June.

  1. The current order process is:
  2. You order beer on the website
  3. We pick it, checking the stock is correct
  4. The next Monday we issue your VAT invoice
  5. You pay the invoice (proforma!)
  6. We ship the beer by pallet for next-day AM delivery
  7. You check the pallet and report any issues
  8. We issue credit notes if there are any issues (which can be on your account, or we can refund immediately)

There are PALLET CHARGES – £25 for orders under £600 inc-VAT, £15 for orders under £1200 inc-VAT, and no charge for orders larger than £1200. If you place multiple orders I will merge them and set the charge correctly.

All orders must be paid PROFORMA (this means you need to pay for the beer before I ship it… I’m not a big fan of this but I feel it is necessary for the times and for my financial duty to my creditors – breweries waiting for money from me) – I’ll email invoices on Monday and at the same time ask what day you want your pallet delivery (Tue/Wed/Thu any week in June.) Deliveries will be booked for an AM delivery via a lorry with a tail-lift.

Shop-wide pricing is all normal with some products selectively discounted, all usual discounts have been disabled (i.e. Direct Debit Discount). However a SITE-WIDE 4% DISCOUNT has been set up.

Beer will not be delivered to customers with UNPAID INVOICES

Sorry for all the rules. Such are the times… my key aim here is to sell some stock if I can because I want the funds in order to pay the brewers, to bridge the gap from all the customers who haven’t paid their bills. Like many of my customers I am overdue in paying my suppliers, and 100% of funds from sales made (and also from any outstanding bills paid) will be going to the brewers.

All my staff are still on furlough so I’ll be handling any/all enquiries/questions/etc on my own. Whilst I am not expecting a deluge, note responses may not be as quick & clued-up on your situation as usual.

Remember I personally guarantee all stock in all formats regardless of BBD, if you buy something and it turns out to be a bit wonky just let me know and we’ll sort out a credit. Ideally I’ll want evidence of product destruction as then there is a chance of reclaiming the duty via the brewery.

Furlough Diaries

Furlough Diaries: Lauren Hodges

This is the FOURTH  (oh my, this does go on doesn’t it…) “Furlough Diaries” email… if you missed it, last week’s was: Peter, the Jolly Good Beer warehouse manager.

Today started with trying to understand what the government had announced and changed over the weekend… to an end result of: nothing that affects my business really. And I just want to be clear again that right now I see no safe and viable way to resume business for the time-being. Nothing is changing there, and I doubt it is going to change before July. The safety & well-being of my staff and their families comes first – and my judgement is that remaining furloughed with the business mothballed is by far the best option.

Literally as I type this up this has now been released by the government: OUR PLAN TO REBUILD: The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy – so there’s some fun lock-down reading for y’all. Note that it says July 4th is the earliest they’ll consider re-opening the hospitality sector and this will be under stringent “COVID-19 Secure” guidelines (which are not defined yet I think.) So there we go. 

ANYWAY… This week we meet Lauren, who works for me mainly in a credit control role – chasin’ y’all when you’re late paying us… tut tut… Lauren does some other book-keeping work as well and actually used to be a Jolly Good Beer customer when working in Cambridge pubs, one of my first customers in fact.

Enough from me… I will be sending around an email of my own on more business related matters later this week I think. But for now, here’s Lauren:

Hey folx, I’m Lauren and I work for Yvan in many guises but mainly I perform credit control services for Jolly Good Beer. This means the majority of customers may never have spoken to me until the last weeks before lockdown when it all started to go a bit Pete Tong. My job is calling customers who have payment issues and trying to help them out. I also spend a large amount of time each month organising paperwork and sorting out returns & credits  with brewers. All the boring stuff that no one else likes, but I love. 

The Millstone © Nicola K. Reiss

My background is alcohol retail, I have worked in pubs and off licences since I was 18 and a fine life dedicated to booze it has been. I started off in a John Smiths pub in Stamford, Lincs called the Millstone which was (is?) an absolute dive. The customers were rough, the beer was shoddy, we had karaoke twice a week and I was a terrible barmaid. I bloody loved it. I knew that even though I didn’t want to work in dive bar all my life I definitely wanted to part of this atmosphere of camaraderie for as long as I could. That was 20 years ago and I have worked in every type of booze retail going and I’ve learnt a lot along the way; I know my botrytis from my brettanomyces. 

Unfortunately, this all came to an abrupt end 2 years ago when I had 2 heart attacks and was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease. I was heart broken, literally. All I’d ever learnt was, I thought, now useless. As you all know, selling booze is a high volume business and that means lugging vast quantities of the stuff up and down which is no longer possible for me. I was ill, depressed and skint. However, here we meet the hero of the hour, the wonderful Yvan Seth; in need of a credit controller who knew the business and being a friend he sorted me out and offered me a job. It has been a live saver. Thanks buddy.

I was the last to go on furlough but the first to be isolated by doctors. I haven’t left the house for more than 30 mins since March 8th. Thankfully I have a lot of hobbies. I sew, knit, garden, I read Sci-Fi constantly and I am a regular contributor to a radio show.

My main day to day hobby is knitting. I knit jumpers and tops, but i have been known to bang out some gloves and socks for Xmas presents. Here’s a few bits I finished recently: Ghost Horses Fair Isle Pattern by Boyland Knits, Socktober Sock Master Pattern by Kirsten Kapur. You can find me on Ravelry: Queenblag

I’ve also been doing a bit of embroidery & sewing. I like to make soft furnishings and clothing mainly. I have nothing finished I can show you lot (I doubt you want a keek at my knickers..) but here’s a little embroidery I’m doing for detail on a jacket.I am a regular on 8 out of 10 tracks which is a radio show dedicated to introducing the good people of Cambridge to brand spanking new music and then arguing its merits for entertainment. You can find all our previous shows on Mixcloud, here’s a link to the last show I was on through the power of the internet in March:

If you really want to have look at what I’m reading have a pop on my GoodReads profile:

I give you all my best wishes and remember – you don’t have to diet, you don’t have to be creative, you don’t have to be perfect, your job is to survive. That is enough. Thank you for staying in if you can, you are saving my life.

Furlough Diaries

Furlough Diaries: Peter Webb

This is our third “Furlough Diaries” post… if you missed it, last week’s was: Hannah, the Jolly Good Beer procurement manager.

This week meet Pete, the Jolly Good Beer warehouse manager. Peter is one of my earliest employees, the second in fact – starting in August 2016 as a delivery driver on a contract basis. That as back when we were operating out of a couple of refrigerated shipping containers down in Caxton. It’s always pretty crazy to think back to those times… Peter and the rest of the “warehouse team” are the absolute core of Jolly Good Beer – this business has always been 100% about providing a properly handled direct-delivery service, and we have a team of guys keen to get back on the road once trade becomes possible again.

Personally, I’ve been pottering around a bit over the last week, mostly admin and accounting stuff… and madness like correcting the 10+ errors in my accountant’s furlough pay calculations. Scary to think they got it so wrong and it makes you question their abilities elsewhere too 😐 It might be time for me to interject with my own furlough diary in a week…

Anyway, I shall hand over to Peter now!

Hi, I’m Pete. Warehouse Manager at Jolly Good Beer. This is my first job in the beer industry, joining in August 2016, as a second driver (initially as 2 weeks holiday cover for Lee [JGB’s first employee/driver after Yvan.]). 

Cambridge Beer Festival Crowds

Based in Cambridge but growing up in Northampton, I’ve previously worked in the footwear industry, taking me as far afield as India in a sales role. I also did 20 years as a field service engineer, looking after POS systems all over the UK.

I came to the world of beer through volunteering at Cambridge Beer Festival with my partner Andi back in 2014. I’ve worked on the site team there with Rik & Simon (who you’ll all know). Also the cellar team, taking care of all things cask. I now look after beer selection for both the summer and winter festivals.

Cambridge Beer Festival © Bert Kenward

Andi and I really get a buzz from beer festival volunteering. She now helps run the volunteering effort at Cambridge. We also both offer our services at GBBF and Hereford, as well as York on one occasion. This tends to occupy virtually all of our holidays but the social aspect and camaraderie is addictive. So this is a big miss at the moment.

Andi & GBBF

My Jolly Good Beer duties are quite wide ranging, including checking in all new stock and organising it into the coldstore (aka “beer tetris”). Order processing, picking and scheduling. Vehicle loading and driver allocation. I also try getting out on the road myself as much as possible, as I do enjoy catching up with our customers.

During the lockdown I’ve been furloughed at home. However, Andi is working all hours for the NHS. This involves lots of video conferences and means I need to keep out of her way as much as possible.

To try keeping busy whilst satisfying the volunteering void, I signed up for the GoodSAM app as an NHS volunteer. However, despite logging nearly 200 hours I’ve yet to receive a job through this. Fingers crossed. Also, I’ve been doing shopping runs for my inlaws who are in their 70’s and long term isolating.

Live & Let Live © Keith Edkins 
The Maypole © N Chadwick

Really been missing THE PUB. Notably, “The Live and Let Live” and “The Maypole” in Cambridge. We’ve alleviated this slightly by having a weekly video pub night on Fridays with some beer festival chums and the odd pub quiz. Also worth checking out is CAMRA’s virtual pub portal, Red OnLion

During the lockdown I’ve been furloughed at home. However, Andi is working all hours for the NHS. This involves lots of video conferences and means I need to keep out of her way as much as possible.

As Andi is so busy, I’ve been taking care of all things domestic. Making sure the whole family (incl Parrot and Tortoises) are fed and watered. I’ve done a lot more batch cooking than my regular routine allows and the freezer is now stocked with frozen Bolognese, Chilli, Sausage casserole and Fish pie.

Thinking ahead to restart, I will need to get back into some sort of condition. The only form of exercise that prepares you for moving tonnes of beer on a daily basis, is the act itself. But I am gonna have to “Step away from the Boxsets” and get exercising. 

Keep safe everyone. See y’all on the other side of this.

Furlough Diaries

Furlough Diaries: Hannah Davidson

This is our second “Furlough Diaries” email… if you missed it, last week’s was: Justin, our sales manager.

This week meet Hannah, our procurement manager, I’ll let Hannah introduce herself…

I’m Hannah and I joined JGB in October, shortly after trying all the barleywines at Indy Man (the two things are unrelated). I live up in Manchester out towards the Peak District, meaning I get the glorious combination of great restaurants and city bars, and country pubs with incredible views. 

I work in procurement, which basically means that I chat to breweries about what beers they’re brewing that we would like to buy. I chat to the sales team about any customer needs, beer for any events we have coming up, and generally making sure that we’re getting in a range of great beers in cask, can, keg and bottle for Justin and The Dans to sell to all our lovely customers. Professional beer buying is exactly as fun as it sounds!

Before coming to the procurement side I worked in sales and communications for Marble Beers, and before that for East London Brewing Company, after several years in pub slinging cask ales: The Harp, Covent Garden, and The Old Red Cow, Barbican, with some time at Fuller’s press office in between those. I’ve chatted on panels at beer festivals, poured at a lot of them, and even had a go at brewing once or twice: generally been knocking around beer for a while now!

During lockdown I have mostly been… 


I cook a lot, I find it restful and I’ll try my hand at pretty much anything. I have made:

Nettle pasta, wild garlic pesto, cherry blossom jam – I’ve been foraging a lot in the woods near my house, as it’s a nice way to get out for some exercise without pressuring yourself to travel a certain distance but still with a goal in mind. Only pick things you are 100% certain about, and if they’re wild garlic flowers take them home and make gram flour fritters with them sprinkled with sea salt. 

Pig faces – Lechon ulo ng baboy: Filipino marinated & roasted pig’s head. The Decent Company in Abergavenny raise their Old Spot pigs outdoors and the meat that comes from these animals is phenomenal. We’re trying to eat less but better meat, and I work on the principle of nose to tail because I was raised by offal people (and pig face is delicious.) Porchetta di testa – more pig face, but this time fennel & citrus zest sweet cure then rolled into a sausage and cooked sous vide for 10 hours.

Beige – I love baking and beige food, and in times of high anxiety and stress I tend to reset to beige. Pies with glossy golden crusts, maybe with cheesy leek & potato filling or sausage and onion; roast butternut squash mac & cheese; bread, lots of bread; a bizarre celeriac gnocchi & leek bake; Vada Pav; Flapjacks from my grandma’s cookbook. 

I’m sad that Carnivale Brettanomyces is cancelled this year, so I was inspired to make a dinner in the style of Wilde Chutney. Several courses featuring fermented, pickled, and foraged ingredients, purely with what was already in my house, and paired with some of the special beers from our stash. Oud Beersel Green Walnut and babaganoush; Dugges & Hunter and Sons Kii and buffalo milk blue cheese; Kernel Biere de saison Crab Apple and wild garlic blossom fritters. It was a ridiculous Wednesday and it made me so happy to experiment. 


Beer mostly, and lots of tea. Currently in our fridge we have:

Lager – Donzoko Big Foam and Northern Helles were fresh in this week, and some Lost & Grounded Keller Pils. Burnt Mill & Donzoko collab Dark Second is lovely. 

Hackney Brewery – Millions of Peaches. I buy and drink this by the case. 4%, fruity, tart, fresh and summery. It’s frigging lush. 

Schofferhofer – it’s not cool, sexy or craft, but it is refreshing and low ABV.

Kernel Brewery – we ordered a selection of everything on their list a few weeks ago, so our Biere de Saisons stash range is off the charts atm. The Crab Apple is a particular favourite of mine when paired with the wild garlic blossom fritters I mentioned earlier.

Mint Julep – retro minimal effort cocktails should feature on more home drink menus. I never worked as a cocktail bartender, so my skill set is limited. Luckily I have good friends who are cocktail bartenders who Whatsapp guide me through any recipes I want to try.

(All beer was purchased from independent retailers or direct from breweries)

Practical things.

I started gardening when I moved North and got a garden that I could dig up. I found that if I stick to things that require minimal intervention I’m great at growing things, except tomatoes which I obsess over purely so I can make panzanella every day in the summer. 

I weeded the patio, which was a great idea until I realised that to lay it all flat again I would need more sand and a trip to B&Q is not an essential trip at this time. My patio is now basically a giant wobble board so I should maybe incorporate it into my yoga Tree Pose practice.  

I’ve been redecorating my house over the last 3 years: from a yellow and brown textured wallpaper post-apocalyptic pub aesthetic via crack den to a bit less crack den, I’m down to only the box room left to do. From the awful ceiling tiles to the black and dark purple painted anaglypta wallpaper, the boxes I never unpacked and the piles of crap that have been relocated there from literally everywhere else in the house, my goal is that the room can become my office, but I may need to burn it down first. 

As a distraction tactic I have been making little crafts, things like felt flowers for a door wreath because why should we only put up pretty decorations at Christmas, and I’ve been crocheting doughnuts and ice creams from my sister’s toddlers to play with. 

Things I can’t wait to enjoy again.

Fyne Fest and Brett Fest. Definitely my 2 favourite beer events purely for locations and who I get to hang out with there. I’m sad I can’t be in a glen with everyone this summer, but I recently read Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain and that helped my sadness a bit. Brett Fest is with a beautiful bunch of people and we go and drink silly beer and eat amazing food and giggle our way around Amsterdam for 4 days in ubers, boats and (sometimes) bicycles. 

Boardgames at Beatnikz Republic bar. 

Dropping into a pub and seeing loads of people you know and being silly and loud and laughing a lot.

Three Little Words cocktail bar. 

Women’s Institute. I joined the WI last year and I miss our physical meet ups. The last one we could all go to in March we learned a Syrian party dance, I made baklava, and we giggled a lot about general fitness/coordination levels. 

Swimming. I only started going regularly again this year, but since lockdown I have been getting back on my bike instead and going for a little potter. 


The Archers 6 days a week (it’s rationed at the moment) 

Hugging friends. 

Hanging out with my family for Mum’s Sunday breakfast/brunch/lunch/dinner. Just think of a group of tall, loud, laughing people eating a lot near each other and you’re pretty much there.


A pint of immaculate cask beer, possibly with a pickled egg and some crisps.

The train journey from Manchester to Sheffield.

The sound of a pub on a Saturday afternoon. 

Hot pies and cups of tea at the football. 

Working again, because that will mean that the world has righted itself once more. 

I’m off to go start going through the boxroom to see if anything in there brings me joy. See you all soon! 


Furlough Diaries

Furlough Diaries: Justin Rivett

The first Furlough Diary comes from Justin, wrangler of the sales… it’s not particularly key to anything really, and this is perhaps all a bit whimsical on my part as something to fill the space of the weekly emails from back when we were able to sell beer. So take it, or leave it… don’t stress about it… I’m sure many of you have more important things to do with your time. But if you’d like a glimpse into the life of Justin at this time…  without further ado, I shall pass this over to him, and read on…

“Where’s Justin?”

Hello, I’m Justin and I am the Sales Manager at Jolly Good Beer.

My Job is basically to make sure that the entire sales function works smoothly, from contributing to purchasing decisions to make sure that we have the products you guys want to see on our lists are there, through to solving problems when they happen, and giving support and guidance to ‘The DAN Entities’ who you speak to on the day to day.

A lot of my time is spent looking at spreadsheets and data, and making Yvan’s life harder by making him change things and give me more resources to make us able to do more, but hopefully he also benefits from not having to do all of this all on his own. I was lucky enough to be the first ‘non Warehouse’ employee here.

I am based in Bristol, and have previously worked for Ales By Mail and Moor Beer Co in the same position, I have more than ten years of experience in solely selling British produced Craft Beer, having started my own business in Wholesale all that time ago before giving up and going to work for Moor. In those early days there weren’t many brewers, and even fewer customers out there buying this kind of beer, so I’ve seen a lot of changes in the Industry as we’ve gone on.

During my tenure at Moor Beer I was heavily involved in the move from Somerset to Bristol, the setting up of the Tap Room, and in the decision to move from the late slightly lamented 660ml ‘Bombers’ into 330ml Cans, riding the first wave of UK canned craft beer.

A Bunch of Fives -what I’ve been doing in the Lockdown.

5 things I’ve done –

1) I love Bicycles, so I have been rebuilding a classic British road bike made by local company ‘Argos’. Built by hand from Reynolds 531 steel its very different to the modern idea of a racing bicycle, but I love it. I’ve also been stripping down a Mountain Bike I bought in California around 20 years ago as I’ve never really got on with its full suspension frame, so will be using the parts on another hand built steel frame.

2) Gardening, I hate gardening with a passion, so I thought I was clever when I chose a house with no real ‘garden’ but a bunch of planters on a paved patio. Little did I know that weeds LOVE paving slabs, and old barrels fall apart, so I spent some much needed time pulling weeds and replanting our herbs in smaller and less falling apart pots. Because I hate gardening I also don’t have all the tools, so the digging out of planters had to be done with a coal shovel. Not fun… next job is taking a sledge hammer to the nasty concrete raised beds.

3) I bought an X-Box One. I’ve had an old 360 for ages, and have been meaning upgrade, seemed the perfect opportunity. Game recommendations welcome on Twitter @bigdogdrinks!! 

4) 8 years ago I rode a Yamaha FS1E 50cc moped from John’OGroats to Lands End for a small Cancer charity along with about 50 other lunatics and our support convoy…This week I’ve dragged it out the back of the Garage and am finally going to sell it because I’ve not done a single thing with it since it came back from Cornwall. The Missus is going to be delighted its finally gone. 

5) I’m gonna get some Certificates! For ten years I’ve meant to do some formal exams on the things I’ve learned about beer over time, so now I’m on lockdown there is no longer any excuse not to start the Cicerone and BJCP exams. You’ll soon know if I’m as clever as I claim, or just a massive bluffer!

5 Things I haven’t done (but probably should…) –

The Kids

1) Washed the car, poor thing is filthy.

2) Started the diet – still a big fat bastard.

3) Decorating – Two Bulldogs have an effect on your decor, but I haven’t been able to face it yet.

4) Bought anything stupid on Ebay, but I keep looking at hoooge 70’s Cadillacs and there is time yet…

5) Actually ridden the Bicycles I spend so much time and money on…er, I have no real excuse, I just like ‘having’ them.

5 Albums I’ve been listening to –

1) The Wedding Present – Seamonsters: Steve Albini produced noise. Hated it on release as it wasn’t another ‘George Best’ but love it now.

2) GZA – Liquid Swords: All of the Kung-Fu movie samples and sparse oriental beats of The Wu-Tang Clan, but more so. Best of the solo projects for me. 

3) Muddy Waters – Vintage Delta Blues: Purest of the pure Blues. Everything else in rock and roll comes from here.

4) Public Enemy – It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back: Chuck D and Public Enemy at their foot stomping loudmouthed best running on anger and the Shocklee Brothers full on aural attack.

5) The Cramps – Off the Bone: Dirty Punkabilly surf guitar driven copybook Garage Punk. trading hard on sub ‘Carry On’ Innuendo and B-movie sci-fi and Horror influences.

(I’ve combined these into a Spotify playlist for your listening pleasure… -Yvan.)

5 things I’ve read or watched –

1) The Tiger King – What the hell did I just watch? Just like everyone else I was briefly obsessed with Joe Exotic and his hatred for that bitch Carole Baskin.

2) LA Originals – rooted in Chicano culture, this is the story of Mr Cartoon and Estevan Oriol as they created many of the visual elements of West Coast hip Hop.

3) Re-read ‘Neuromancer’ and ‘Burning Chrome’ by William Gibson. The origins of the ‘Cyber-Punk’ movement and a new birth of Sci-Fi writing, these books not only talk about a dark and dystopian future, many suggest they actually directed some of the tech developments we have today. Hugely influential and still very relevant.

4) Comedians in cars getting Coffee – Jerry Sinfeld. Speaks to my two obsessions of old cars and coffee, whilst listening to some funny people telling good stories, aural wallpaper at times, but riveting viewing at others. A million series on Netflix.

5) Pellicle and Good Beer Hunting and The Gulp (@shinybiscuit) lots of great food and drink writing out there, as well as the JGB ‘foodie’ page on our Slack, why be in this game if you don’t love booze, the creation of booze, and things that go with booze?

5 things I drank –

1) Elephant in the room – the best thing I’ve drunk recently wasn’t Beer. I love Sherry, so the bottle of Tio Pepe dos Palmas was sensational blended from 2 casks of 8 year old Fino with a significant Flor.

2) Brick West Coast IPA – Gorgeous West Coast IPA brewed properly to style, and crisp, bitter and full of C-hop flavours ranging from Grapefruit through tropical to resinous, A lot of new ‘West Coast’ IPA’s aren’t, so tasting this beautiful rendition took me straight back to the Day when IBU’s ruled the waves.

3) Boon vs Mikeller Ould Geuze – a refugee from my beer fridge, I’ve had this one in stock a while, and as I’ve run out of Cantillon it was next on the list. I love Lambics and this didn’t disappoint. Tart, effervescent and fruity, its slightly blue cheese and lots of stone fruit.

4) The Kernel – Biere de Saison: Nelson Sauvin. My favourite beer of 2019, just in front of Pressure Drop ‘Saratoga Springs’. Very few new sour beers meet with my approval, too many have massive issues that are masked with too much Lactic but this is great. The Nelson Sauvin is the best but all the hop varietals are good.

5) Salt Beer Factory samples. – I like Col Stronge a lot, and like his brewing a lot as well, so these cans picked up on a brewery visit a couple of months ago didn’t last long at all. Boom! 

5 Places I miss most…

1) E Pellici – Cafe on Bethnal Green Road: More performance art than Restaurant, I love going here for a fry up as it reminds me of the old cafes that proliferated in the East End when I was a kid, and I got taken for a treat after swimming lessons with my Dad. The food is good, but its the original 30s interior, the staff and the other customers I keep going back for.

2) Lost and Grounded taproom – Bristol: My ‘local’ about a mile and a half from my house, we take the Bulldogs on a Friday night to catch up with local gossip, have a Keller Pils or two, and eventually most of the Beer world drifts through.


3) Box-E – Cargo Bristol: A restaurant in a shipping container that has some of the best food around cooked by Elliot Lidstone and FoH by his Wife Tess, these guys not only run one of the best Restaurants in a City that isn’t short of them, but they are stalwarts of the local community as well, whilst on shutdown Elliott is producing food for the vulnerable with a local food charity. Love being here, especially the Chefs Table.

4) Pinkman’s Bakery – Park Street Bristol: Sourdoughnuts… I need say more?

5) Pizzarova – Cargo Bristol: The sun is coming so Claire and I will be back to getting one of these superb sourdough pizzas on the harbourside, grab a can of something good from Beer Necessities a couple of containers down, and then get some food for the weekend from Meatbox and Bristol Cheesemonger (run by Rosie, the partner of Moor lead brewer Tom Scrancher) Cargo is brilliant, lots of great independent small businesses run from shipping containers on the side of the floating harbour outside M-Shed museum. I love Bristol in the Sun. 

But really the thing that I am missing most is hectic madness of the weekly sales cycles at Jolly Good Beer, speaking to you lot and to the Dan’s, waiting for Yvan to get the beer lists out, and watching Twitter as those beers arrive with you and get posted up and people get excited…10 years in it doesn’t get any less exciting to be involved in this game.

Look forward to catching up when this is all over, and of course, stay well and be safe.

Hopefully I can get another member of the team to volunteer some thoughts in a week for the next edition of the Furlough Diaries.

All the best, please be safe and sensible.


Furlough Diaries

JGB SitRep

This here is my customer status update email content from 2020-04-17… I figured rather than just the static COVID-19 message I’d temporarilly replace the site with a blog-like series of updates, and here thus is the first post.

Hello everyone,

FarmCat COVID-19 Antics
FarmCat holds fort for COVID-19

I thought I’d send around a status update from mothballed JGB HQ… now we’re settling into this new lock-down life.

First of all – I hope you’re all coping well in the circumstances. Whatever it is you’re up to I hope it goes well for you. I hope you’re safe and well, as is the greeting of the present times… and the same for your family and friends. If you’re working then I hope it’s sensible and safe. And if you’re furloughed then I hope you’re able to relax and enjoy the bit of decent weather we’ve had without being hassled by the police for taking the wrong sort of walk in the wrong sort of place. I’m lucky to live on an edge of a countryside village, the outdoors is nearby and empty… and the warehouse is on a farm. I’ve not been outside of a mile radius from home since March 26th.

I myself am not furloughed as Jolly Good Beer is operated by me as a Sole Trader so I don’t get that option, and the cover for sole traders/freelancers doesn’t help much as my income over the last three filed tax years comes to a grand total of £45.41 per week… I’d be better off on statutory sick pay! So now it is just me and FarmCat at JGB HQ…

Anyway, there are still things to be done despite the shut-down status. I’m busy keeping brewers informed, stock-taking, and planning ahead. As luck(?) would have it my partner, Kat, started working for Jolly Good Beer in December and thus qualifies for the furlough cover which will at least keep a roof over her and my head for the time-being. That went in hand with moving to the same village as the warehouse, so now we live only 200 metres from the warehouse and it’s easy for me to be here without excessive travel, or any travel costs. Small mercies, hey?

I made the decision that full shut-down was the correct option for Jolly Good Beer when the government shut down retail on the 23rd of March. Despite the omnishambles that is our government then reversing this for off-license activities on the evening of the 24th a quick poll of customers indicated there was no way we could viably maintain service. Not without simply bleeding money on overheads and also not being able to provide staff with meaningful hours of employment. We don’t have things like supermarket supply contracts to keep things ticking over, our market is almost entirely smaller indies and mainly on-trade. So, economically, the best option was to shut down – to use the furlough pay cover to achieve continuity of employment, and to pause and wait it out. We do have a bit of an issue regarding stockholding and it’s place in the scheme of our cashflow… and it is a problem I am working on, with the first port of call being discussion with brewers. My over-arching approach to this at the moment is “DON’T PANIC“… there is time to pause and work things out properly.

But this isn’t just an economic problem. I have at least three staff who’re immunocompromised for various reasons, including key in-the-field staff who we couldn’t operate meaningfully without. These folks are higher risk, we also have several staff above 50… there is absolutely no justifiable reason for me to put my people in harm’s way purely for the sake of my small business. That would be selfish beyond words. Not to mention that by operating we’d be increasing daily interactions between people over a wide geographic distribution. So the correct decision for the well-being of my staff and for the greater social good is abundantly clear – hiatus.

And so we remain mothballed. There is only me (and FarmCat) “active” in any way, and I’m busy working on a full stock-take and asset audit, and trying to sort a lot of loose end. Thus I don’t have the time to support ad-hoc collections or pallets, nor do I want to. My interactions with both lorry drivers and couriers in the last fortnight have shown that too many exhibit  laissez faire attitudes towards suitable distancing and hygine standards for the current situation.

Stock-Taking and returning beer to brewers

My focus now is on “cleaning up” – and preparing for the day the on-trade reopens in a meaningful way. On-trade venues were over 70% of Jolly Good Beer business and are key to us being able to operate effectively again. This could be weeks or months away, the future is entirely uncertain for now. However my intention is very much to begin operating again when the time is right… I’ve got the situation sorted with enough brewers to have confidence we can weather this, and I’ve got finances in place to cover our reduced overheads for several months. My key aim is to be able to come out the other side of this with the ability to continue employment for my 11 payroll staff, and 2 contractors – and to continue our service in support of both brewers and retailers, continuing to provide the best quality of supply chain for the craft beer market.

Things will undoubtedly change… but hopefully for the better. (A rare moment of optimism from me?)

It’s quite weird to be in this current holding-pattern… at the start of April Jolly Good Beer reached six years of age. And we had our main annual meeting in early March. It’s surreal to think back to that time only a bit over a month ago. I came close to calling it off due to COVID-19, and we had one member of staff stay away due to the concerns. We were washing hands, not sharing glassware, and had a good night out in the Stoneworks bar in Peterborough. In hindsight it was a bit reckless, but the reality hadn’t set in and the dangerously incompetent powers-that-be were downplaying the danger.

Off the back of that meeting I’d normally be writing a big post about our progress and plans. We did well in the financial year to April 2020… well, “well” in terms of growth. With revenues reaching 55% growth on the 18/19 financial year even with March tapering off then being cut short due to COVID-19.  It has been a big year, with several new staff and the total JGB team growing to 14 with near-plans to bump that to 16 by the summer. And them SLAM… the whole world hits this coronavirus brick wall. Growth is all very well… but of course Profit is key, and as a sole trader what profit the business can make is technically my income. (As if it really works like that when your finances exist in a virtual space between the cashflow dynamics of payables and receivables.)

The issue is there’s very little ‘P’ in distro – well, it seems hard to realise it in my universe anyway. JGB finances track fluctuating either side of 0% ‘P’… it’s a very thin line, with a yearly profit margin being in the region of +/- about a week’s trading volume – circa 2%. And what we lost very quickly in March was a week’s trading whilst not significantly pausing purchasing. We were tracking through to April 2020 with it looking like we’d finish the year on a comfortably positive ‘P’… but the circumstances quickly dropped us from an expected 1%-2% range ‘P’ to negative 0.1%… hey, on the plus side I won’t have a tax bill this year (again, lol). If JGB does continue after this… which is very much the current plan, things need to be different. Still not taking home a wage for myself after 6 years of hard work is… ludicrous, and at times deeply depressing. It’s an issue entirely on my plate to solve, and I’m spending plenty of time thinking about this in the present semi-hiatus.

Blossom on the farm at JGB HQ

In the meantime prepare for “The Furlough Diaries” – with your first diarist on Monday being our “head of sales” Justin Rivett. I’ll be asking the team to volunteer their words/thoughts over the coming weeks to say a little about themselves, what they do, what they’re up to now, and what they’re looking forward to when this is all over… meet the team, per se. We’re still here… just hibernating. (With a beer and a BBQ in some cases…)

In case you missed it, here’s a link to my last email regarding ullage procedures for stock you have on site. Do not destroy anything yet. I am currently just collecting data. As issues go this is one that can wait out the lock-down period and be sorted at the other end.

If you have any queries simply drop me an email.

All the best, please be safe and sensible.

Beer Events

Loka Polly “Augment Range” Launch via Jolly Good Beer

LAUNCH DATE: Friday 8th March everywhere except Saturday 9th March for Kill The Cat in London.


So… a few weeks ago our Welsh juice-bomb brewer friends Loka Polly got in touch to ask if we could help them get their Augment Range launch around to some awesome bars in our patch of the UK. What else were we going to say but “hell yeah!”  And the timing worked well to start talking about full coldchain in connection with this launch. We were on the cusp of getting our refrigerated Iveco on the road – after 9 months of planning. This being the first step on our road to full coldchain.

The Augment Range beers are a perfect example of the type of beer most in need of a developing UK coldchain distribution standard – massively dry hopped and dependent on punchy hop volatiles. These hop aromas and flavours are unstable and degrade rapidly in ambient conditions – and beer oxidative changes dull all those juicy notes. Time and heat are the enemies of beer – as beer quality god Charlie Bamforth is well known for sciencing like a boss: “any beer will change and deteriorate with time. There are a number of big enemies, but the major ones are oxygen and heat”. (Get his book “Freshness” if you are interested in beer quality, and this podcast interview with Bamforth is always worth a listen – “one of the most significant things that that anybody can do to maximise the shelf-life of their product is to store it cold” @ 15:50.)


Here’s a brief background of Augment in Loka Polly’s own words:


“Last year whilst working with some of our brewing heroes, we had a spark of inspiration. What if we amplified our beers; bringing the hop bills up to the max; drawing direct inspiration from those same brewing heroes?

We’ve been working meticulously behind the scenes since then and are now proud to add the Augment range to our brewing portfolio. Introducing Rosa, Spur, and Patternist – the first of this new permanent range.”


Hops! Hops! Hops! MORE HOPS! 🙂


Here’s a map of all the awesome venues we’re supplying Augment Range beers to – these beers were collected with our refrigerated Iveco on Friday and shipped direct to our coldstore. (The yellow pins are Loka Polly in Wales and Jolly Good Beer in East Anglia. Note that Loka Polly are also supplying venues in their area and north direct.) Note that the Kill the Cat event in London is SATURDAY 9th March.

We’re guaranteeing coldchain to the coldchain-ready blue snowflakes – Hopmaster General, Rushden; Kilder Bar, Birmingham; The Stoneworks, Peterborough – these venues have the sort of 4°C direct-draw coldstorage installs that Jolly Good Beer promotes as the best sort of beer storage and dispense at retail (the Hopmaster General and KIlder Bar are actually Jolly Good Beer installs).


Brewery @ 4°C
⇒ Transport @ 4°C
⇒ Warehouse @ 4°C
⇒ Transport @ 4°C
⇒ Bar @ 4°C
⇒ Consumer (intah mah mouth!!)


And we’re another mile down the road to full coldchain… in 2019 the plan is to move all our vehicles to refrigeration and be ready to connect up all venues for coldchain delivery and connect up as many breweries as possible for coldchain collection – and grow the number of breweries and retailers we can offer full coldchain quality to!

Beer Industry Craft Beer Jolly Good Beer

On The Road To Coldchain


In my 2018 wrap-up “State of the Jolly Good Nation” post I briefly touched upon the subject of coldchain and stated “I hope that 2019 sees us setting up our first 100% coldchain connections for UK beer.”


Well, here we are on the 1st of March 2019 and I’m sat in the passenger seat of our 7 tonne refrigerated Iveco with Rik driving us from Cambridgeshire (home) to Loka Polly brewery in North Wales. We will be collecting about two tonnes of their newly launching “Augment” range in keg and can to take from their own coldstorage to our coldstorage … 4°C all the way! We will then ensure selected venues (those with 4°C coldstorage) we will be covered by refrigerated vehicle deliveries too. Folks participating in the Augment launch at this quality level are: The Stoneworks, Peterborough – Hopmaster General, Rushden – Kilder Bar, Birmingham (plus many other great bars who will be getting this beer super fresh and chilled for most of its short lifespan until the 8th!)


Brewery @ 4°C
Transport @ 4°C
Warehouse @ 4°C
Transport @ 4°C
Bar @ 4°C
Consumer (intah mah mouth!!)


And that is coldchain. If you remove one of those “4°C” links and replace it with ambient you no longer have a chain. This is why us at Jolly Good Beer rarely use the phrase “coldchain” because it feels dishonest to be using it without some FULL coldchain implemented from brewer to consumer.


With the distinct exception of some higher standards for established cask ale distribution, most wholesaler distributed UK beer moves around the UK as follows… and I gratuitously throw in the word “craft” now mainly to draw a distinction between traditional pubs and the new wave of beer retail…


Brewery @ 4°C (some!)
Transport @ ambient
Warehouse @ ambient
Transport @ ambient
“Craft” Retailer @ ambient (10°C if lucky)
Consumer (nah, I’ll pass)


In 2014 I started Jolly Good Beer and we did this:


Brewery @ 4°C (some!)
Transport @ ambient
Warehouse @ 4°C
Transport @ ambient
Craft” Retailer @ ambient (10°C if lucky)
Consumer (umm…? Yeh, OK, go on then)


I’m not sure if we were the first to be fully coldstored or not (for all beer not just cask!) – but we were possibly the first to go to 4C and first to really start thinking about real coldchain distro. From this base we’re building up a set of customers who fix the problem at the retail end too, giving us this:


Brewery @ 4°C (some!)
Transport @ ambient
⇒ Warehouse @ 4°C
Transport @ ambient
Craft Retailer @ 4°C (wot cares)
Consumer (yeh, this is good)


Direct Draw install in Kilder Bar coldroom

Amongst Jolly Good Beer customers these 4°C beer heroes are: The Stoneworks, Hopmaster General, Kilder Bar, The Rusty Bucket, Double Barreled Brewery Tap – and we have more in the works as new bar and bar improvement projects line up for 2019.


It’s worth noting that good traditional pubs have reliable ~10°C chilled cellars and this is also pretty great for beer on the assumption that sensible pubs are buying for at most the next fortnight of supply and not keeping stock stashed at 10°C for weeks on end. (Flash coolers and long draw are another problem entirely.) It’s really only with the advent of “craft beer” that this weird low quality make-do standard of kegs sat in ambient spaces and flash cooled for dispense started to become a thing regularly seen. Meanwhile the standard for off-trade is nearly entirely warm beer on warm shelves… albeit slowly the “store cold” message is spreading and at least some shops are deploying refrigeration for stock of the more sensitive beers… but very few are like Hereford Beer House who keep all their stock and back-stock refrigerated. Bear that in mind: you see stock in fridges, hurrah, but how is the “back room” stock being kept?


But the take-home (beer) here is: coldstorage at retail (both off- and on-trade) is slowly becoming “a thing” and we must celebrate these folk working to make beer better, not merely running with the grim “it’ll do” status quo. And Jolly Good Beer wants to create the supply chain to match. (Literal quote, I was once told: “But nobody else is doing this, I don’t see any point in bothering” – from a person who doesn’t really like beer at all but thought the “craft beer” sector was the cash-cow they wanted to yoke.)


In recent years we have seen some improvements in the import side of the industry – in our case notably for Amundsen, Stillwwater, and Against the Grain the good people at Cask International set up the supply chain to our warehouse at 4°C. Hurrah! And the same for our direct import shipment from Firestone Walker. It seems a bit mad we’re getting foreign beer delivered to warehouse at higher standards than UK breweries use! So for selected imports and selected bars in 2018 we got to:


Brewery @ 4°C (some!)
Transport @ 4°C
Warehouse @ 4°C
Transport @ ambient
Retailer @ 4°C
Consumer (yeh, this is good)


But this is a tiny fraction of what we do – why doesn’t the UK beer get the frigid love?


Anyway – come end of 2018 in our small Jolly Good Beer world to bars “doing it right” we had just these pesky vehicle links to deal with. Not so much a problem in mid-winter, but realistically that’s maybe 2 months of not-so-much-of-a-problem and almost no weeks at all where temperatures actually drop to an average of 4°C or below. And this week we had “record” February warmth… not feeling so chilled now, eh? The worst vehicle link is that one to us from the brewery – where if you’re lucky a PM pallet arrives AM the next day within about 18 hours. But often it arrives more like 24 hours later in the arvo. And in the worst cases something goes wrong (one in ten sorta thing) and it doesn’t arrive until the next day and the pallet has been who-knows-where in transit for 48 hours and arrives warm to the touch. Even in the ideal case of a 12 hour next-day I’ve measured beer shipped from brewery coldstore arriving in smallpack (the most sensitive format) at around 20C in summer.


So the next goal of Jolly Good Beer was to fix that transport link and about 9 months ago I applied for my Operators License so I could acquire my first HGV. This week after a complicated 9 month gestation I have given birth to a coldchain by way of our refrigerated 7 tonne Iveco van. We’ve done two outgoing runs with this van – thus solving the least-damage “last mile” problem of the coldchain, but until we have beer arriving chilled we don’t have a chain! Thus today Rik and I find ourselves enroute to North Wales and Loka Polly and our first full coldchain product going to consumers via excellent retailers. It’s just a small start… and a special case of a product/range launch… but over the next few weeks we will be sorting out regular coldchain backhaul routes to key breweries who run by our own coldstorage standards internally and brew the most sensitive beers. Over the course of 2019 we’ll be phasing out all ambient vehicles and moving everything to refrigerated. (Finance offers invited, lol.) We’re connecting the dots – where the dots are our coldstorage and existing brewery and bar coldstorage, and the lines are refrigerated vehicles.




Brewery @ 4°C
Transport @ 4°C
Warehouse @ 4°C
Transport @ 4°C
Bar @ 4°C
Consumer (intah mah mouth!!)


It can be the difference between merely “good” beer and outstanding beer — between the “good enough” status quo and being top-of-the game. Especially when it comes to modern hop-forward beer styles.


So – see y’all at Stoneworks on the 8th (my nearest Coldchain-Ready bar) – or in spirit at one of the other awesome Loka Polly Augment Range launch venues.


Posted from the passenger seat of our refrigerated Iveco on the way to Wales!

Jobs Jolly Good Beer

Driver(s) Required

Role: Delivery Driver (+ some possible warehouse time) 
Qualifications: Clean License – C1 + current HGV CPC is an advantage
Pay: Starting from £10 p/h – dependent on experience / qualifications
Hours: From 3 days to full-time,  8am starts – routes up to 10 hours (including stops & breaks)
Location: Warehouse is at PE14 9AL – near Wisbech (map link)

Jolly Good Beer is a wholesale distributor of beer and associated products. We are expanding our vehicle fleet and delivery routes in Spring 2019 and have a need for one or two more delivery drivers. Ideally we would like at least one of these to be familiar with operating HGVs and have their driver’s CPC and tachocard. We are operating one van-format Iveco HGV and hope to add a second one this year. Forklift cert is also favourable. But for the right candidate training will be provided.

Mostly the job involves driving and delivering beer to pubs, bars, and off-licenses. We operate a full “dray” service with beer delivered to cellar – so some familiarity with cellars is also an advantage. Vans are equipped with cellar ropes and crash pads. Some heavy lifting is an unavoidable aspect of the job.

This is a normally employed role with all standard employment benefits. You’ll have agreed minimum working hours in the week (probably at least 30). Paid annual leave will be allocated on the basis of 25 days (in addition to bank holidays) pro-rata to hours worked. Some weekend work may be required on a roster for HGV route connections, this may also involve overnight stays (accommodation and meals covered).

If you’re interested and there’s more you want to know drop us a line via email to:


Beer Industry Jolly Good Beer

State of the Jolly Good Nation – 2019

Well, we’ve called time on the “festive season”, kicked out the stragglers, locked the door and breathed a sigh of relief. Yeah, I’m not really into it. Can you tell?

It is the time of year for reflection and resolutions, so I’ll go with the flow on that…

It has been a big year, a hard year but one of significant achievements – as I come to list some of them now I’m not sure how we managed it all! This is thus a rather large post… grab a beer, grab a seat…


The “TL;DR

Growth in 2018

  • 5 weekly routes ⟶ 8
  • 7 delivery zones⟶ 11
  • 12,000 mile2 coverage ⟶ 20,000
  • 5 staff ⟶ 10
  • 2 vehicles ⟶ 3
  • ~25% revenue growth

Achievements & highlights in 2018

  • Built a mobile coldstore direct-draw system in May
    • Dubbed the “Esky Bar” or #GFEB (affectionately known as Pablo)
    • Allowing us to support top-of-game exemplar dispense at over 10 beer events in 2018
    • Highlight: supporting Cloudwater at IndyManBeerCon plus 4th year supporting NZ Beer at LIBF
    • Achievement: bringing top-spec keg dispense to 4 CAMRA beer festivals
  • Installed over 100 lines of dispense – about 75% of it direct-draw, or near enough to
  • Gained HGV operators license
    • … leading to now securing our first chilled HGV
  • Had gas pressure article published by Brewers Journal – we are now “published” 😉
  • Sold beers from some of the UK’s finest breweries – of course! Obvious, but deserves inclusion.
  • Navigated our first direct no-middle-man coldchain imports (Firestone Walker)
  • Still here, alive and kickin’

And we end 2018 in a state of pleased & cautiously optimistic angst… It’s been a good year for achievements, but frankly I’m glad to have 2018 behind us, it often felt like a maelstrom inexorably drawing me in to pull me under. Circling ever closer to the depths. It hasn’t been an easy one – trying to balance and resource business growth it was, for me, a year of long hours and no weekends (and yeah, I know, hospitality industry innit… it’s no easier for many of our customers.) It was a year of hitting limits – mainly my personal limits – and those limits causing delays, customer service issues, things I consider failures. But we have worked through them – expanded the team, and Jolly Good Beer is becoming more of a “we” and less of an “I”. Perhaps the tide is turning, the sea calming, the spin slowing – the grim portal to the dark depths closing. What now… hypothermia? Sharks?

I’d like to focus on four subjects key to Jolly Good Beer – and present a bit of background on these, and then try and think ahead into where we hope these things are going in 2019…


People – The Lifeblood of Business

Melodrama aside – the key point in the deep dark watery paragraph above is the growing of the team. One year ago there were five of us – Lee and Peter in the warehouse and driving, Bill in the warehouse and doing some admin, Helen offsite raising invoices, and me doing a bit of all of the aforementioned and everything else. Bill left at the end of March, as he needed to move home to the US – it was sad to see him go as he was an effective and enthusiastic worker. And it wasn’t until he left that I realised how essential he had been… we’d lost a lot of blood… hello additional 30 working hours in my week!

Over the ensuing months we had a very bumpy ride, a couple of recruitment attempts that didn’t really pan out – which is a very high overhead situation for a tiny business (paperwork, training). We were stretched thin, hard up against limits – which caused a whole load of problems as I failed to adequately cover all of supply, sales, support, and accounting (to name just 4 of my jobs at the time). Then we had Dan start taking on some sales & account management load – it was the start of a much needed blood transfusion, I was then also lucky enough to nab Justin with his extensive industry experience – and between them Dan and Justin are taking over most of the customer-facing sales and accounts operation. The next lucky break was Amber – another case of the right person at the right time, well, to be honest the right time would have been April – but we should count our blessings. Amber comes with the right connections and experience to run the procurement & inventory operation fantastically, and you all have her to thank for keeping us in beer over the last 3 months – and for some of the fresh additions too. In the background Helen is continuing to do an excellent job – and helping more on further accounting, Lauren too did a good job tightening up our credit control but has had to take some time out to focus on other things now.

In the warehouse we’ve gone from two to four – with Rik joining in July then Simon coming on late in 2018. We’ve got an additional van and another on the way shortly. Lee, Peter, Rik, and Simon are the muscle of the business – getting the beer organised in the coldstore, picking, loading, and delivering. Rik is ostensibly our HGV driver, we just don’t quite have the HGV yet – and he is also very handy with the tools so has been helping with dispense work as well. Meanwhile Peter has stepped up to the plate, aided by Rik, in generally getting warehouse operations functioning more smoothly.

Finally, there’s still me here of course – and from time to time a bit of Kat dealing with IT and events.

That’s the team right now… we’ve doubled from about five to about ten. (I say “about” because we’re a mix of various time loadings!)

In 2019 in the fairly near future we’ll be looking for at least another driver, HGV preferably, and probably something in more core accounts/finance as attempts so far to outsource that work have yielded fairly abysmal results. It would be nice to see us supporting a team of 15 by the end of the year. Three more in warehouse/logistics, one more in admin, and perhaps another in dispense tech.

We’ve got a long way to go still, and no doubt hiccups will happen – fact of life really. But in 2019 I am hoping to bring our customer service back to where I want it to be. Our people are the key to making that happen.


Vehicles – Logistics is What We Do!

Really JGB is a logistics business – a specialist one of course, but ultimately our job is to move physical objects around the place. In a world of massively commoditised logistics operating a quality focused logistics operation has proven to be difficult. “The market”, per se, doesn’t value supply chain quality above supply chain cost. (People complain endlessly about certain courier firms… yet still use them.) So we see a lot of beer being shunted around the place via crappy courier and pallet operations.

I was delivering to a customer recently (I still do the odd delivery run, when resource limits demand it) and they commented how grateful they were that we actually deliver to their cellar, like a proper brewery dray ought to. I inspected for empties and took ours away, for which they were also grateful. The problem, the chap said, was “everyone else just uses couriers”. I’m not sure who “everyone else” is – but it means that at best the beer gets delivered just inside the doorway of the pub, and often just to the pavement outside. In their relatively small cellar they had a pile of probably 3 pallets worth of empty kegs and casks. This pile consisted of eCasks, KegStar, and brewery containers – the latter will be there for who knows how long? Some had distro labels on from far parts of the country. But the thing is these guys keep using these other services. Which kind of goes to show that whilst grateful for better service this doesn’t often extend to any perceived tangible value. I’m hopeful that things generally come around on that front – once the problems of the whole low-grade hands-off courier approach mount to a breaking point as it has for several of our customers. We don’t send brewery containers far and wide by pallet, we actively discourage pallet shipment and direct folk to whatever we think their best local option is – sending only the odd pallet to the persistent so long as it is just smallpack and OWKs, and always next-day-AM. And we never use couriers.

Presently we operate about 8 routes a week with up to three vans a day – in January 2018 that was 5 routes a week. Vehicles are expensive and we need to try and use them as effectively as possible – come February we plan to expand this to up to 4 vehicles running 11 routes a week with all customers serviced weekly. It’s going to be a real stretch to achieve this, and we hope the increased service provision brings the returns needed to make it work. As part of this we’ve extended our geographic coverage as well – a little reluctantly, but as encouraged by both breweries wanting us to get them to these areas and customers in the areas wanting us to get to them. I’ve been saying no to both for at least a couple of years… but it fits our plans a bit better now so we’re saying hello to new customers in London, Bath, Bristol, Gloucestershire, and Staffordshire – also having added Lincolnshire earlier in the year as the craft-beer battlefront begins to penetrate even through the East Midlands.

Refrigerated Vehicle
Taking coldstorage on the road…
This may all sound “big” to some – but the reality is that we’re one of the smallest beer distributors, including amongst the “craft beer” focused end of the industry. JGB operates hand-to-mouth on available cashflow and scant earnings, so growth is careful and conservative. When we take big steps upwards it is generally after months of consideration – in this case it has been about a year since I started mapping out the wider logistics plan we’re now beginning to execute. With our first 7 tonne GVW refrigerated Iveco van all but sat in the yard…

The goal is to have two 7 tonne vans on the road in 2019 and three normal 3.5 tonne vans. The 7 tonne ones will both be refrigerated for coldchain trunking and backhaul operation, which we’re looking to potentially hook up with some satellite coldstorage locations. I’d like the 3.5 tonne ones to be chilled too – but it’s a difficult viability balance between this and payload. The future may be to move these to smaller van-format HGVs as well.

2019 is when we start to do some proper work to solve the next level of the coldstorage problem: coldstorage in transit.

The original Jolly Yellow Beer Van
In 2019 we’ll say goodbye to the original Jolly Yellow Beer Van after nearly 5 years and over 100,000 miles of service.


Coldstorage – How Did We End Up Here?

When I started JGB in April 2014 I did two things before I bought my first beer: 1) bought a van 2) secured coldstorage. Back then the coldstorage was in the form on a mere 20 foot refrigerated shipping container. I did my research, I spoke to brewers – this was clearly the correct place to start out.

I never intended to become some sort of a coldstorage crusader. I started Jolly Good Beer with only one motivation: there wasn’t enough of the beer I loved in my area.

It wasn’t until further down the line that I discovered my approach of coldstoring 100% of beer stock was possibly unique in England and maybe the UK at the time (still not sure of that). Faced with what turned out to be a competitive disadvantage in terms of overheads one could easily have chosen to shut down the reefer, move to a shed, and join the status quo. But to me that seemed wrong – I grew up with my mum often saying: if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. A saying I think was inherited from my grandfather. I try to live by that mantra. So it seemed I needed to become a crusader for coldstorage – ultimately this means for beer quality. And I plugged on – two reefers, three… then our current 1500 ft2 coldstore found on a farm. Now we’re trying to work out how to expand that without breaking the bank…

It is now gratifying nearly five years later to see more people in the industry talking about coldstorage, and breweries perhaps starting to take it more seriously. Albeit always sweeping it carefully under the carpet when it comes to the hard reality that enforcing higher standards on this would leave them with reduced or limited sales. The reality is this is business – product needs to be sold to pay the bills. There is still a long long way to go. We should celebrate the folk taking quality seriously, like The Bottle Shop folks for example (thanks for the mention) who made a serious investment in this and are continuing to work to improve things up and down the supply chain. We especially celebrate those at the retail end of the chain launching with, or adopting, better practice – to name a few: The Stoneworks in Peterborough (my number-1 UK bar), Hereford Beer House, The Hopmaster General in Rushden, Kilder Bar and The Paper Duck in Birmingham, and of course Cloudwater setting the example with their Unit 9 and 73 Enid St bars launched in 2018. Yes, I installed 5 of these – I’m blowing my own trumpet just slightly, but without them being willing to try doing things differently, taking a chance on busting the status quo, none of this could happen. I really should mention Magic Rock here to – for they are the first people I saw talking about direct draw dispense in the UK with their taproom (which I have yet to visit) and they’re also responsible for introducing me to an enduring obsession with Perlick taps. (NY2019 resolution for me: finally visit the Magic Rock taproom!)

For me the end-goal here is “cold chain” – a phrase starting to show up more in UK beer. Too often, IMO, slightly abused – but on the other hand it’s fantastic it is now part of the conversation. It is still a puzzle to me that brewers will spend money keeping beer chilled in the brewery but live with the fact that care ends at their doorway. Some of these guys, even those selling the most sensitive styles of beer, will use 2-day pallet services in summer to save themselves 20 quid (on 3000 quid of beer!). When they’re having clear quality issues at point of sale – yet are reporting 20% net profit… but will not spend a trifle more to reduce the danger their beer faces in transit… the mind boggles. We’re back to commodification of logistics again here. Jolly Good Beer is actively working to solve this particular issue and I hope that 2019 sees us setting up our first 100% coldchain connections for UK beer. It seems mad to me that we receive imports from the likes of Amundsen, Stillwater and Firestone Walker fully coldchain to our coldstore but UK brewers don’t have the will to do it even in summer – if they won’t step up to the plate then we will, and we are doing just that…

The Jolly Good Beer warehouse coldstore.
The Jolly Good Beer warehouse 4°C coldstore.


Dispense – I Didn’t Expect To Be Here

We seem to have become “dispense experts” – with folk looking to JGB to set the standard and support improved dispense in the UK. This really did happen by accident and I still struggle with the idea of considering myself an expert on the subject, but here we are. There are many good dispense tech folk out there in the UK doing the best they can – they’re mainly limited by the materials and budgets available. The key issue with UK dispense is that as it is almost always “free” (cost: your soul) it has suffered decades of cost reduction to make it just barely fit for purpose in the context of serving low carbonation sterile filtered British lager. I stepped into this industry 5 years ago with a predominantly cask-ale hat on, but was positioned such that we became one of the conduits for a keg beer revolution amongst microbreweries. And brewers putting beer in keg without really understanding the basics, leading to many problems – which as the distributor became my problem. So by necessity I had to understand how dispense worked – so studied it, learning a lot from US Brewers Association sources and Certified Cicerone® material – then building my own dispense systems to get to grips with the parts and practical functionality. At base it’s all physics – gas and fluid behaviours – and I’m lucky enough to have had a reasonable amount of physics in my education covering this stuff.

Bit by bit I learnt how stuff works – I also did the BFBi NCCSIM qualification, completed in 2017, which was important for its coverage of regulatory and safety factors.

Wind forward nearly 5 years and here we are installing taprooms for folk like Cloudwater and having articles about dispense published in The Brewers Journal. It feels pretty weird, with a heavy dose of impostor-syndrome I must admit.

Ultimately it’s only happened because of that outlook mentioned above: If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. Working with UK dispense equipment I quickly discovered a lot I don’t like about the materials readily available. And I couldn’t find anyone to do work to the standards I was looking for. And 2018 feels like the year this came to a head – with little left to improve beyond marginal tweaks. The final piece in our particular puzzle being buying 10km of high-grade Gen-X beer line. And beyond tweaks here and there I think there’s little left to improve on the work we have done for Cloudwater this year and I hope it contributes to setting a new sort of standard for UK dispense.

So 2018 was a big year for direct-draw dispense for us, with somewhere over 70 direct-draw lines installed for people and the building and deployment of our own direct-draw dispense mobile unit for festivals and events. And in 2019 we expect to do more of the same!

I’d love to combine all this knowledge and experience and open a bar or two … because it’s not like I have enough to occupy my time already, right? Whether or not that happens in 2019, let alone ever, is impossible to predict – but what I’m sure will happen in 2019 is more of the same: we will help more people do it right, we will spread more direct-draw dispense love in the UK.

Cloudwater 73 Enid St Dispense
Cloudwater 73 Enid St Dispense Install


So… 2019….

We have some big goals for 2019, and have the team gathering together in Cambridge this week to try and create some sort of roadmap. I laugh as I type this… “roadmap” he says, this shit is getting serious now, innit. Jolly Good Beer is growing up – 5 years old in April this year.

There are difficult challenges ahead – I believe Jolly Good Beer has a bit more of a journey ahead of it before it becomes a sustainable business. It’s not an easy market sector to operate in, with very low margins – there have been some seriously difficult times in 2018, moments where I’ve come close to giving up even. There’s a personal element to business – a personal weakness perhaps – and the difficult times and heavy workloads can grind you down. We have had (and need to have) some tough talks with some breweries sometimes – and make sure we’re all on the same page and working together. It’s a young and chaotic emerging market niche – with a lot of maturing needed, a lot of experience lacking. In 2018 we’ve seen two distribution businesses wound down (gracefully, as much as that is possible), clearly indicting it was the weakest component of the larger mixed businesses they were attached to. We also saw two other mixed retail/wholesale businesses shut down less gracefully – causing brewers to lose money. I hope we don’t see too much more of this, especially the latter cases – brewers are badly exposed to risk in this, where an individual customer can be owing tens of thousands on a monthly basis. Managing credit control and cashflow is vitally important for all of us, a lesson often learnt the hard way.

In 2019 we will keep building on what we have – do more of the same and do it better. Continue working to make the 100% coldchain dream a reality, that’s become a core goal at the heart of the business. Quality, quality, quality! We’re not here to fuck spiders. Quality beer, quality supply chain, quality dispense. It is all about the product at the end of the day – we do this for the beer. And whilst dispense is really a peripheral business function that we don’t intend to focus on, we’ll continue to do what we can in that space as well – it is a key part of the beer quality equation. Attention to detail from the ingredients of the beer all the way through the supply chain and into the mouth of the consumer.

Also in 2019, by popular demand, we’ll have some more Jolly Good Beer hoodies & t-shirts made 😉

As the apparel says: Warm beer is sad beer, cold beer is Jolly Good Beer!

All the best for 2019 folks – may it treat us all well.