Published on March 6, 2018 | by Alastair Gilmour


Solving the mystery

You won’t get far into a conversation about the beer and pub industry before someone will say it has changed considerably over the last five or six years. It’s a given.

Pubs have changed, customers have changed, product choice has changed and the way beer is distributed has changed – and all because of competition, even in one of the friendliest business imaginable.

It’s not something readily noticeable when you’re working behind a bar, but there’s a whole world swirling about you while you’re pulling pints and checking change. That’s what Oliver Catt found during three years at the Free Trade Inn in Byker, Newcastle, and a previous stint at the neighbouring Tyne Bar.

“I developed a love for good beer at the Free Trade which is a more specialist bar,” says Oliver, now regional account manager for New Wave Distribution. “I loved working behind the bar, but got more into ordering and invoicing, dealing with the way the industry works – all the behind-the-scenes stuff – and got interested in the way a brewery sells to a distributor and the distributor sells to a pub. There was always a bit of mystery to it as far as I was concerned. The best beer in the country used to turn up at The Free Trade without me knowing much about it.”

A chance encounter led to a job with the Edinburgh-based company and the opportunity to service the North East with some of those top products.

Oliver says: “It’s going really well although it’s been a big learning curve. I had this idea I would be swanning around talking to people about beer, but quickly realised it’s all about numbers. At New Wave we’re about building up relationships and not interested in just stocking beers in bars that are not appropriate for them.

“There’s a definite career path in beer distribution and that interest in beer can grow. At The Free Trade I couldn’t have imagined talking to the likes of Magic Rock and Beavertown, but I meet them now and spend a day with them. I have to say that Mick Potts at the Free Trade has been absolutely invaluable in my beer education; he’s brilliant, quietly effective, and totally gets it.

“People who run pubs these days have so many things to think about; there’s an awful lot to be aware of.

There are so many breweries now that you need that personal connection to make your brand stand out. And what’s going to stand out? Putting names to faces. It’s not a hobby.”

It would appear that Oliver Catt also totally gets it.

About the Author

Alastair Gilmour

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