Thursday, 30 October 2014

Do the new Wetherspoons beermats have a connection with the owner of this brewery?

An interesting question to ask, regarding the mad, sad, twisted old drama queen and former gay nightclub boss Simon Buckley. Although, I understand, since his days and nights on the gay nightclub scene he has decided that he prefers moose knuckles to the tradesman's entrance. Allegedly.

How do you like Brains for Halloween?

Brains is to launch a new seasonal ale for Halloween, complete with its first ever motion-effect pump clip.

Open Casket, a rich, deep-red beer with bite, is available across Brains’ pub estate, as well as a number of key wholesalers and retail businesses, throughout October.
The motion-effect pump clip uses lenticular printing – a first for Brains – so when the pint is pulled customers will see a changing – and spooky – face.
Bruce Newman, head of marketing at Brains, explains: “Halloween has become one of the biggest seasonal calendar dates so it’s a great opportunity to bring people together over a pint of Brains. It’s so important to tap into customer mood and maximise that opportunity with a beer that stands out on the bar.
“It’s a real talking point – we believe it to be the first ever Halloween beer to use lenticular printing on the pump clip – and has a great bar call. We think customers will be dying to try it this Halloween.”
Open Casket is deep-red, full-bodied and gives a reviving bite. Cara Red and Cara Hell Malts offer a deep saturated colour and rousing malt aroma. With just a touch of Midnight Wheat, it is rich in flavour, hopped with Bramling Cross for a spicy sensation.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Cider tastings at Monmouthshire Food Festival this weekend

With no Cowbridge Food Festival happening this year, the Food festival scene in South Wales was looking a little empty until the Monmouthshire Food Festival at Caldicot Castle sprung up. The Festival will be on Saturday & Sunday 11th & 10th October.
New Caldicot brewery Castles will be there along with Brecon and Tudor Breweries, or if you prefer cider Gwatkin, Gwynt and Ty Gwyn will also be there, the full list of producers is here.
There will also be beer and cider tastings with Buster from Brecon doing the beers and Arfur from Gwatkin Cider doing the cider tastings.
Entry is £5 with under 12s free

How to find Caldicot Castle.

Church Road, Caldicot NP26 4HU
By car
From M4 take junction 23a onto B4245 to Caldicot.
From M48 take junction 2 for Chepstow. Follow the A48 towards Newport and B4245 to Caldicot.
Free car parking is available at Mitel car park a short walk from Caldicot Castle. Follow the signs for Monmouthshire Food Festival.
Disabled parking is available at Caldicot Castle. Follow the signs for Monmouthshire Food Festival Event parking and then Disabled and Exhibitor parking into the Castle. Please have your badge ready.
This car park is only available for disabled parking.
By train
Caldicot Halt is served by mainline services between Cardiff and Gloucester. If travelling from Bristol change at Severn Tunnel Junction. The castle is about a twenty minute walk from the station.
By bus
Bus services run to Caldicot from Bristol, Newport and Chepstow. From the Cross the castle is a five minute walk along Church Road

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Cider pressing at Gwatkin Cider

The first apples of the season have arrived at Gwatkin Cider in Abbeydore
Just under 30 tons of apples!

Picking up the apples and placing them carefully in the hopper with the tractor

Denis Gwatkin and Bernard look on as the mill fires up
The apples are fed down the hopper, washed and then chopped to create a pulp which is then pressed between belts via rollers.

Mickey shovels the dry pulp away
                               The dry pulp at the end is fed to Hereford cattle on the farm

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Brains bikes beer to Bala

Brains team cycle cask of beer 150 miles

A team of 13 from Welsh brewer and pub operator S.A Brain and Co Ltd are celebrating after cycling a cask of their current seasonal ale, Le Peloton, 150 miles from Cardiff to Bala.

The team, who cycled relay style, set off from the Cardiff Brewery at 1pm on Thursday 3rd July and finished 14 hours later on Friday 4th July (the day before the Tour de France) at the White Lion Royal Hotel in Bala – having carried the cask in the specially adapted baker’s-bike-turned-brewer’s-bike. 

Bill Dobson, head brewer at Brains and part of the cycling team, said: “We’re all keen cyclists but cycling 150 miles through some pretty hilly parts of Wales, weighed down with a cask of our seasonal beer – Le Peloton - was tough.

Le Peloton was developed to celebrate the summer of cycling, which this year started in Yorkshire. The beer is available now in pubs throughout the UK, as well as Tesco stores throughout Wales.

The Le Peloton bike ride also raised more than £1,000 for Wooden Spoon, a charity supporting disadvantaged children and young people across the UK. The charity organises fundraising initiatives, spending money raised where it is most needed.

Gloucester Food Festival Beerex

This weekend the Gloucester Food Festival is on in the Quays and as well as Gwatkin Cider being there, the local Gloucester Brewery will be holding a beer festival at their premises. The Food Festival is on for 3 days and looks a good one to attend.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Now and Then: Tredegar Arms, Pill, Newport

The Tredegar Arms used to stand on Church Street in Pill, Newport and was demolished around 1999, the large pub, formerly owned by Ansells Brewery had closed some years previously. A large section of the surrounding Victorian houses were also demolished to be replaced by modern flats and houses.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

New pub for Newport

Last month a new pub opened in Newport, on the old town dock, the Blaina Wharf is on the corner of Usk Way and the Southern Distributor Road. Owned by Marston's Brewery the Blaina Wharf is not there first pub in the City as the brewers have sat on the empty and derelict Westgate Hotel for years, however, this new build is a welcome development in an area of the town where a lot of the old pubs have closed.
This modern pub features three real ales from the extensive Marston's stable, a beer from Jennings Brewery of Cumbria was one of the ones on tap on my visit as well as a carvery and full pub menu. Situated in what is becoming a new residential area, this pub is sure to be a goldmine for Marston's, the junction on two main roads and a large car park are also helpful!

In the right-hand side of the photograph above the burnt-out remains of the former maltings of the Phillips Brewery can be seen. The pub was quite busy when visited and it's good to see a Newport pub thriving when so many others in the City are not.
The Google Map supplied on the Marston's website is slightly inaccurate and the Streetview just shows an undeveloped plot of land.
View Larger Map

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Former pub unearthed in Newport

Above: Scene from the Musuem, looking North
As the centre of Newport undergoes demolition and rebuilding, the footings of the medieval Austin (Augustinian) Friars have been uncovered after being buried underneath the bus station for years. So, you may ask, what has this got to do with this blog?
Above: Looking East, the foundations of the priory can be seen in the lower part of the photo

Well by 1801 William Coxe describes the buildings as a cider mill and in 1809 it was known as the Old Red Cow and also brewed its own beer. There is also mention of a cider press in the buildings.
Being situated close to the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal (the address of the pub is given as Canal Parade in 1835), this seems to be prime territory for a pub, although it was described as 'Notorious'!

The pub lost its licence in 1842, Monmouthshire Building Society later used the buildings before they were demolished in 1860 by Newport Corporation. The foundations were only visible for a few weeks until they were covered up again, with the new Friars Walk shopping centre being built over the site.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Farewell to the King


After lying derelict for a number of years, the King on Somerton Road, Newport has finally been demolished. First mentioned in 1872 as the King of Prussia, it was renamed as the King of Russia during the First World War but went by just the name of the King by 1923.

The pub sign in the 1990s still showed Frederick William III of Prussia on it though! The pub was owned by local brewers Phillips in 1905 and later Courage Brewery. The pub was once the headquarters of Newport AFC, no doubt due to it's proximity to the former home ground of Newport County, Somerton Park. The former football ground is now a housing estate and housing is no doubt what will be built on this site.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Hornblower closes again

Once again, the Hornblower pub in Newport has shut. This time around it managed to stay open for about 10 months, something of a record given the recent history of the pub. The last owners failed to get things right from the very start with poor quality beer and indifferent staff who were more interested in stuffing their faces with crisps behind the bar than in making sure customers had decent pints of beer to drink. The pub was also competing with a nearby Wetherspoons and the Talisman pub, the latter has successfully cornered the market for the pond-life of the 'Port who are not catered for elsewhere.
So what's the future for the Hornblower? Not a good one as I doubt anyone would be stupid enough to take this once-popular bikers pub on. It's heyday was in the early 1990s when it boasted 5 real ales and was the spiritual home of Reckless Eric's Brewery. Although after that the pub went down hill with a succession of bad tenants including one alcoholic and one who had an interest in photography which raised the interest of the local rozzers. Hardly the type of people to attract customers to the pub?
The building to the right of the pub is also empty but this being Newport it is doubtful if any store will move in, especially with the new shopping centre under construction elsewhere in the city centre. So more dereliction for Newport.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Cider Festival at the Clytha Arms this weekend!

The place to go this weekend is the Clytha Arms in Monmouthshire as they hold their annual cider Festival!

Cider List

Llanblethian Orchards
Kingston Black Medium
Stoke Red Medium
Biglis Farm Sweet
Orchard Blend Medium Sweet
Mayday Sweet
Hendre Huffcap Perry

Raglan Cider Mill
Boris’ Brainbender Medium
Hanky Panky Spirit cask Medium K
ingston Black Dry
Eaters & Cookers Medium Dry
RCM Medium
Barn Owl Perry Dry
Snowy Owl Perry Medium

Three Saints
Bit of Rough Dry cider
Blush Sweet Perry
Divine Medium Perry
Nice Boys Dry Perry
Laughing Juice Perry
Sweet Burgundy Perry

CJs Cider
Wench Medium
Surprise Sweet
Rosie’s Triple D
Dry Scrumpy
Triple D medium
Wicked Wasp medium
Black Bart sweet

Skyborry Cider
Medium Dry

Ty Bryn
Twisted Oak Dry
Vintage Oak Dry
Sunset Medium sweet
Blakeney Red Perry Sweet

Ty Gwyn
Naughty Horsey medium
Very Naughty Horsey, medium dry

Williams Brothers Cider
Dry Cider
Medium Cider
Sweet Cider

Bartestree Cider
Fox Snout
Frome Valley
Harley Gum Perry Hellen's Early Perry
Oldfield Perry
Painted Lady Perry

Gwatkins Cider
Silly Ewe, Dry
Yarlington Mill,
Medium Norman,
Medium Rum Cask,
Medium Game Cock,
Sweet Stoke Red,
Squeal Pig Perry
Farmhouse Perry, Medium

Olivers Cider & Perry
Medium Making Hay,
Traditional Perry,
Dry Classic Perry,
Medium Classic Perry,

Monday, 19 May 2014

The Not So Tiny Rebel Beer Festival

The Tiny Rebel Brewery Tap, the Urban Tap House in Cardiff, will be playing host to their biggest ever beer festival from Thursday 5th to Sunday 6th June 2014 with over 240 beers and over 60 ciders available at Cardiff's Best Pub.
There will be special one-off brews available, including some that have been matured in wooden casks for a year and were not wanted at the bigger festival opposite!

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Don of Brains Brewery retires

Brains’ Rev James creator to retire
One of Brains’ longest serving master brewers retires today after more than 40 years in the brewing industry - 26 of which have been spent with Brains. Don Jeffrey was recently presented with a special award by Cardiff CAMRA in the City Arms, he is pictured above together with Cardiff CAMRA Chair Rick Zaple.
Don’s brewing career began at Heriot Watt University in 1971, where he completed his brewing degree. His first job took him to Courage as a production trainee, moving across various sites including John Smith’s, Tadcaster and Simonds Brewery. He gained his master brewer qualification while working at the Courage bottling plant, London Bridge. In 1979 he joined Guinness, Park Royal, producing both Harp and Guinness, before relocating to the Isle of Man to become head brewer at Castletown Brewery, which later became Okell’s.
In 1988 Don took on a head brewer role at Buckley’s in Llanelli, which was later acquired by Brains. While there he created a new premium ale, The Rev. James, which was named after one of the brewery’s early owners, Methodist minister James Buckley, and has since become one of Brains’ most popular cask ales. Don’s last move was to Brains’ Crawshay Street site in 1999, becoming packaging manager.
Bill Dobson, head brewer at Brains, said: “Don has been a pivotal member of our production team for the last 15 years, supporting the growth of Brains brands, and more recently was part of the team to establish Brains Craft Brewery.”
Don added: “There have been many changes during my years in the industry – often challenging and demanding, but always stimulating. I’ll miss the day to day contact with my colleagues but I’m now looking to put a bit back by offering my skills as a brewing consultant and trainer, for both brewing apprentice programmes and formal qualifications for the Institute of Brewing and Distilling.”
To mark his retirement, Don has brewed his own Alt style beer in Brains’ craft brewery, with a name that plays on his other passion – magic. Don is a long-time member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians and the Society of American Magicians. Old Tricks uses Munich and Crystal malts, Hallertau and Saaz hops and Dusseldorf Alt yeast, resulting in a combination of sweet malt, caramel and rich raisin flavours, and a classic floral, spicy aroma from the noble hops.
Old Tricks will be available in 30 Brains pubs from May 14th. For more details visit

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

CAMRA says tied pubcos must be disarmed

Campaigners say the tied pubco model is a ticking time bomb the Government must disarm

CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, has today mounted renewed pressure on the Government to act now to save Britain’s struggling pubs, with a petition delivered to Business Secretary Vince Cable calling for vital large pub company (pubco) reform. The petition gained over 30,000 signatures in just 5 days and surpassed the 42,000 mark ahead of it being delivered to Vince Cable today. As well as the delivery of the petition, over 100 campaigners, pub-goers and licensees gathered outside Parliament to rally behind Vince Cable’s pledge to end the Great British Pub Scandal.

CAMRA says it is essential that Vince Cable sticks to his guns and makes an announcement in the next few weeks, to allow action before the upcoming General Election.

“It is absolutely vital that the Government disarms the ticking time bomb threatening the nation’s pubs. CAMRA is demanding the introduction of a Pubs Watchdog to rule on disputes between licensees and pubcos, plus a guest beer right and a market rent only option for tied licensees. These measures are essential in order to create a level playing field for licensees, ensuring those tied to the large pubcos are no worse off than those that are free of tie.” Colin Valentine, CAMRA’s National Chairman.

It is now well over 12 months since the Government launched its consultation and despite several assurances of action, including a recent letter to CAMRA from Vince Cable stating that “We intend very soon to publish the Government response to our pubs consultation and to announce the next steps”, the Government has so far failed to make an announcement.

Currently tied licensees must purchase their beer and other products from the pub company at an inflated rate, which is often at least 50% more expensive than the market rate. As a result 57% of tied licensees earn less than £10k a year.

“The reforms CAMRA are seeking will enable publicans tied to the large pub companies to make a decent living and invest in their business, protecting thousands of valued pubs and creating a thriving industry. The current model is weighted far too heavily in the favour of the pub company at the expense of the licensee and it is essential the Government acts now to redress the balance, before thousands more people lose their livelihood.” Colin Valentine added.


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