The Blog Spot: Euan Ventners, Managing Director, Brewing and Brands, Greene King


Well, Susan, here it is my “maximum 400 words, no sales pitch and try to make it interesting!” blog. It was the last bit that really concerned me but here goes. Little did I know when I left Scotland in 1980 to work for Grand Met in London at their Brick Lane brewery that I wouldn’t be back to live and work here for the best part of 30 years. Work also took me to South Africa and the US – thousands of miles from home – and having picked up an English wife and four children on my travels, I returned home to start work at Belhaven in 2008 and settled the family into a new home in lovely North Berwick. I always dreamed of living beside the sea and my drive to work with views of the Bass Rock has to be one of the best in the world. At the weekend, running with the dog on the beach – no matter the weather – is a constantly changing challenge. Cycling around East
Lothian’s many quiet, beautiful roads is another thing that make living here so special. The main question people asked on my return was: “What’s different?” or “How have things changed?” A simple answer wasn’t always easy to give. Scotland has of course changed, but fundamentally it is still the same country I knew all those years ago – and
it’s like no other place on Earth.
The humour, the characters, the culture and, of course, the weather are exactly as I remembered. We, however, are a happier, more confident and more civilised nation than the one I left behind. One of the most dramatic changes has been in the quality, choice and variety of pubs, clubs, restaurants and hotels on offer. With something to suit every taste and budget, Scotland’s licensed venues have improved beyond all recognition from the ubiquitous, bland, smoky and often dangerous establishments I remember before I left.
Our industry can be very proud of what it has done to improve Scotland and to ensure our hospitality industry stands comparison to any other in the world. We are one of Scotland’s success stories and should be celebrated as such, but we don’t always get the recognition or the support we deserve from the UK and Scottish Governments.
The increasing burden of taxes, duties and legislation imposed on our industry makes life very difficult for most operators and impossible for an increasing number each year. However one measure that I do support is minimum pricing for alcohol. As an industry we have a responsibility to ensure alcohol is sold and consumed responsibly and a minimum
price would remove the ‘pocket money’ prices that alcohol is sometimes sold at in supermarkets and convenience stores in Scotland. It therefore has the potential to reduce binge-drinking and ensure more people drink their alcohol in the safe, controlled environment of the pub. That has got to be good for Scotland.
Another major change is the way the drinks market has evolved to offer greater choice to consumers. The same man drinking in the same pub might favour Belhaven Best on a week night, Belhaven Black on a Friday night with his mates and wine when he is out for a meal with his girlfriend on a Saturday. The examples may change, but the point is that the days
of sticking rigidly to the same product are over, particularly amongst the under forties.
Brand leaders like Belhaven Best, now in its 21st year, will always be popular – but consumers want variety and choice. That’s why Belhaven’s “Champion of Choice” strategy has been so successful and why we continually optimise our offering. It’s also why I believe that only those brewers and licensees who mirror this approach will be successful in the future.
So, some things have definitely changed for the better since I moved away and, now I’ve been back a while, so has the question. People no longer want to know what’s different about Scotland – they want to know what’s so great about being back. That’s an easy one – there’s nothing like being around folk who work hard and share your sense of humour. It’s why working at Belhaven is such a privilege and why I’m so proud to lead such a passionate and dedicated team.
Scotland still has great characters and no more so than in the licensed trade. For an intensive lesson on Scottish humour and appetite for drink, there is nothing better than hosting The Belhaven Golf
Challenge final with 20 Scottish licensees in Spain or Portugal for three manic days… nobody does a wee trip abroad like Scots! I could share many amazing stories about many colourful characters, but don’t worry guys, I have already exceeded my 400 words!

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