I've actually known Noel for many years as an active member, and former Chairman, of Peterborough CAMRA; he was also brewery Liaison Officer for Elgoods for a long time. He joined Waverley in April taking up a job which sounds like one of the best in the world! - of which more later.

Waverley TBS is one of the biggest drinks wholesalers in the country and is a subsidiary of Scottish and Newcastle, the last of the big brewers to also own pubs. The "TBS" bit comes from their purchase a few years back of The Beer Seller, a large specialist cask beer wholesaler. Waverley have over 20 depots throughout the country and this network gives them a major advantage over smaller agencies. If a customer wants a particular beer, telesales will contact the depot nearest that brewery; the depot takes delivery, ships the cask quickly to the customer's local depot, and the beer arrives at the pub nice and fresh. All the depots have refrigerated stores and Waverley pride themselves on delivering ale in prime condition; they're the only wholesaler to have achieved Cask Marque accreditation.

Waverley can supply customers with any real ale they want, provided the brewery is willing to deal with them (some brewers still distrust agencies, especially because of problems in getting their empty casks back - though Waverley have taken active steps to overcome that difficulty). Each month, customers receive the "totalcask" newsletter, setting out current deals on particular real ales. The prices shown are enough to make the likes of Greene King tenants weep! (I don't know how much Greene King charge their own tenants for Ruddles Best but Waverley customers could get it in August for £45 a firkin). What's more, you get points with each purchase which you can save up in the same way as supermarket loyalty cards, plus some offers come with polo shirts, books and so on. The August list contained lots of beers from the bigger brewers like Greene King, Marstons and Adnams but also plenty of micro-brewery stuff from folk like York, Stonehenge, Bath and Titanic.

The Waverley customer base obviously includes S & N's own pubs and also the Mitchell and Butler pub chain plus a huge number of free traders. Beer festivals are another important outlet and this is where Noel, as Beer Festival Manager, comes in. Many CAMRA festivals are supplied of course but an increasing market is pub beer festivals. Waverley can provide a pub with what's virtually a ready-made festival - not just the beers, but (free of charge) posters, fliers and programmes, all professionally designed, the last with full tasting notes. A 12 firkin festival ought to make a licensee a clear £2,000 profit.

There's no doubting the enthusiasm within Waverley TBS for real ale. Managers attend a regular Cask Council to look at ways of further promoting cask beer. Noel himself is working on a Cask Beer Awareness booklet for publicans (which mentions CAMRA a lot!). Cask sales by the company are on the up and they see real ale as very much a growth market as drinkers become more discerning in their tastes. Just goes to show that even the big brewers have their positive sides.

Paul Ainsworth