Beer Mats General
Q - Do I call them beer mats or coasters or what?
A - It seems the most common term for these things in the UK is 'beer mats' so that's what we generally go with, but 'coasters' is pretty popular too, especially over the pond in the USA. They are also referred to as 'drinks mats', 'drinks coasters', 'bar mats', 'table mats' and probably many other things.
Q - Are beer mats just for breweries?
A - Hell no! We make mats for all sorts of beverage companies including gin and whiskey distilleries, vineyards, cider makers, soft drinks makers, coffee shops and many others. We are seeing an increase in the use of custom coasters in upmarket bars and restaurants - we even make them for Michelin starred chefs! Then there's the taxi firms, save-the-date customers, beer festivals and events, public sector customers such as NHS trusts, businesses in general and just about any organisation you can think of!
About Thirsty's Beer Mats
Q - Do you actually print the beer mats at Thirsty's?
A - Yes we absolutely do. We have a four-colour litho-printing press in-house. This machine is huge and takes an extraordinary amount of skill and experience to operate and maintain. There are many other beer mat sellers online that do not actually print the mats themselves - they actually come to a real printers like ourselves for the printing and resell them to customers with a markup on the price. If they do print themselves then most of them use inferior digital printing techniques and some print onto paper before gluing to cardboard. There are only five companies in the whole of Europe (and possibly the world) that print REAL beer mats on REAL wood pulp board - we are one of the five! We don't wish to appear like we are bad-mouthing the opposition, but we do feel it necessary to point out the difference. See more here.
Q - What is the standard size for beer mats?
A - In the UK a square beer mat is usually 94mm across, and a round is 94mm in diameter. In Europe, especially Germany, they tend to go with larger 100mm+ round mats. Of course, we can produce just about any size and shape within reason and we offer a smaller 75mm round and a hexagon shape in our usual production time frame of 10 working days from approval of proofs.
Q - How thick is the board your beer mats are printed on?
A - We use 1.2mm board. Thicker 1.4mm and 1.6mm board is available but we do not believe it is necessary to use this thicker board. The specialist imported board we use is very stiff and absorbent even in 1.2mm thickness. Thicker board simply leads to additional weight, volume, cost and environmental impact to import the board. Then it takes up more space and weighs more when we send the mats out to you.
Q - Is your board sustainably sourced?
A - Yes it is. Although we are not FSC accredited ourselves, the producers in Scandinavia and our UK importers are FSC accredited. It's exactly the same board we would get if we were FSC accredited ourselves.
Q - Why do you use a special board for beer mats?
A - Cardboard or other alternatives simply do not work as drinks coasters. Beer mat board is a specially designed wood pulp board which is incredibly absorbent. It can absorb water/beer/wine/gin/your choice of beverage and dry out again without losing its shape. In fact, they can be soaked many times over without the mat losing shape or inks running.
Q - What kind of inks do you print with?
A - We use vegetable based process inks, as opposed to the standard oil based inks. Our vegetable based inks are biodegradable and offer the same outstanding print quality and colour reproduction as any traditional oil based ink.
Q - How will my colours look on beer mat board?
A - Beer mat board is not absolutely pure white. It has a very slight yellow tint, and as such we can never achieve pure white in the finished product. However, the tint is so slight most people don't even notice unless they put a white mat against a piece of pure white paper, and against black and other colours, it looks as white as it needs to look. One thing this does affect is very pale colours which may not appear quite as they do on a computer screen. It is always best to keep pale colours to at least 7% in CMYK terms. Finally, because beer mat board has a slightly rough surface texture, colours will always be matt in appearance rather than glossy.
Q - What is this HD printing I've read about? Are your mats printed in HD?
A - Anyone talking about "HD printed beer mats" is probably using fancy terms to sound impressive. It doesn't refer to any established standard in printing like it does with High Definition televisions. Something may be considered HD if the pixels (on a screen) or dots (on printed media) are too small for you to see individually from a reasonable viewing distance. The type of litho-printing techniques we use to print our beer mats have been around for decades and have always been "HD", if you want to use that term. You cannot possibly see the printed dots with the naked eye - only with a good quality magnifying glass.
Q - Why do so few companies print real beer mats on wood-pulp board?
A - Because it isn't easy! To print on such thick and absorbent board the printing press has to be specially modified. This isn't a simple process and regular printing companies cannot possibly flip back and forth between printing on regular paper/card and beer mat board. It's either do beer mats or don't. We do.
Q - What else can beer mat board be used for?
A - We regularly make clothing or product tags by sending the printed mats for hole punching and stringing. We can supply dozens of different strings or ribbons, and the holes can have metal or plastic eyelets. Beer mat board is also used as air freshener and insect repellent by adding scents or chemicals to the absorbent board. And everyone knows that beer mats are also excellent for propping up wobbly tables.
Q - What shape beer mats can I have?
A - Obviously the most common shapes are square and round, and we manufacture ours to the standard UK 94mm size. We also offer a continental style 75mm small round mat, hexagon, larger German style 104mm round mat, heart shape or rugby ball shape as special shapes available in usual time frames. Then there are custom shapes where we can make just about anything you want, within reason. Our sister company Fast Finish (www.fastfinishltd.co.uk) specialises in cutting die making and can turn around a new shape cutting die quickly and at relatively low cost. The main limitations on shape are that sharp points and corners do not work so well because it makes it difficult to separate the mats from the printed sheets without damaging the points/corners.
Costs and Quantities
Q - Why are there quantity breaks in the price list?
A - We use the quantity breaks such as 1,000, 2,000, etc because it makes our printing process more efficient. By printing multiple customers' orders of similar quantities together we can do this more quickly and at a lower cost. We do multiple print runs each week, with a different number of board sheets each time, so that we can accommodate orders from 50 to 500,000.
Q - Why does it take up to 10 working days from approval of proofs to receive my beer mats?
A - We do not print every order for small quantities individually. To maximise efficiency we print multiple orders for similar quantities of mats together, which means we have to group orders together into "print runs" and we have to wait until sufficient orders come in to us to fill a run. As we have lots of happy customers all week, we can fill a print run every few days, but it does mean we cannot always simply print an order the next day. There is also the time consuming job of preparing print graphics, having lithographic printing plates made and delivered, then making ready (calibrating) each print run to ensure that the four colours (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) are perfectly aligned to create the beautiful final print image. Finally the printed sheets must be die-cut, after which the mats are 'popped' out of the sheets, stacked and packed ready to be sent.
Q - I want multiple designs? How will this be costed?
A - Many customers have multiple designs in the same order. For example a customer may wish to purchase 5,000 mats with five different designs, so 25,000 in total. The cost for this would not be the basic cost for 25,000 mats as shown on our 'prices' page, but we won't charge you 5 x the individual cost of 5,000 mats either. Each design takes up its own space on the print run, so many of our costs such as graphic design, print plating and print calibration are duplicated with each additional design. The cost for board and for stripping and packing the mats after printing would be the same either way. But the cost for delivery and possibly packaging would be reduced. So we try to be as fair as possible with our prices and accurately represent our own costs.
Packing and Delivery
Q - Why do you pack the mats in stacks of 125?
A - 125 is the magic number for us! Firstly, when we strip the mats (removing the mats from the surrounding unwanted board) we do this for 25 sheets of board at a time. This is just the right balance between physically being able to get the mats out (any more and they just won't budge!) and keeping the process as quick as possible by doing multiple sheets together. We then put 5 of these smaller stacks together to make a 125 stack. We use 125 because that number rather conveniently goes into 250, 500 and 1,000 and obviously any other multiple of 1,000 thereafter. We can then group 8 stacks of mats together and we know it is 1,000.
Q - How do you send the printed beer mats?
A - For orders under 30,000 beer mats we will ship them using reliable couriers such as Parcel Force and DHL. We can pack up to 5,000 mats in a single box, and orders between 5,000 and 30,000 mats will be sent as multiple consignments. For orders over 30,000 beer mats we ship on a wooden pallet using a reliable freight network. Mats are wrapped in a waterproof film and securely banded to the pallet with steel straps for safety during transit.
Q - How much does delivery cost?
A - We offer free delivery to all mainland UK addresses, regardless of the size of the order. For smaller orders we use a 24 hour courier service although for outlying areas of Scotland the service may take 48 hours from dispatch. For larger orders we use a pallet distribution service. Extra fees are applicable on deliveries to Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Europe and the rest of the world.