Thursday, 27 November 2008
As you know, the British beer and pub industry is under severe and sustained pressure. Sales of beer in pubs are now at their lowest levels since the Great Depression of the 1930s, and 36 pubs are closing every week. More than 44,000 jobs were lost from the industry between 2000 and 2005 – and further redundancies are inevitable.
The situation is being made worse by the impact of the wider economic slowdown, and the Chancellor's announcement of yet another increase in duty this week - on top of plans to increase the tax on beer above inflation next year and for the next three years.
With tax already taking up a third of the price of a pint of beer, further hikes can only accelerate the decline of the pub and hit the pockets of ordinary hard working people.
We think its time to stand up for a Great British tradition and save the pub.
The “Axe The Beer Tax” campaign aims to give a voice to ordinary British pub-goers and consumers, and send a strong message to Whitehall and Westminster that we've had enough.
Please join our campaign. Go to www.axethebeertax.com and sign up as a supporter.
The campaign is being promoted by both industry and consumers - the British Beer and Pub Association represents the pub and brewing industry and CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, champions consumer rights.
There's also a You Tube site for Axe the Beer Tax
Write to your MP from the Save the Pub website - hope you have better luck than I did - I had an out-of-office reply from her, no doubt Jessie is still off on maternity leave and all her staff have bunked off!
Since Labour have come to power in 1997 the following Newport pubs have closed:
Carpenters Arms, High Street – closed – freehold for sale
Ale House, ex-Sovereign,
King William IV, Commercial St, closed – derelict building
Royal Exchange, became
Black Horse, formerly Celtic Bar/Falcon,
Old Rising Sun,
Pentwyn House, Bettws – closed
Chaplins, Caerleon, demolished, residential development
Three Salmons, Rogerstone, now an Indian Restaurant
Jolly Roger, Rogerstone, now an Indian restaurant
Globe, Rogerstone, closed awaiting change of use to residential permission
Seven Styles, was Lliswerry Hotel, closed and demolished, residential development
King, Somerton, closed, awaiting demolition, residential development
Black Horse, Somerton, closed, awaiting demolition, Tesco Extra
Roman Lodge Hotel,
Hereford Arms, Maindee, planning permission applied for residential apartments
38 pubs have closed in
1995 Wetherspoons, became John Wallace Linton
1999 Godfrey Morgan, Maindee
2002 Tom Toya Lewis,
Seven, was Yates Wine Lodge, converted from the Tredegar Arms, High Street
Walkabout, converted from the Queens Hotel
All the above apart from the Dragonfly are superpubs. Is there a connection here? If we believe the statistics the Government are pushing out then alcohol consumption is up – then is the reason - the superpub? Okay they can offer us exotic African bushmeat made to look like a steak, cheap drinks and cheap coffee but let us think of the true cost of these modern-day gin palaces. The places are so large that the management cannot keep on eye on what the customers are up to – selling illegal cigarettes, drinking too much, causing trouble, selling drugs etc, so that these places have to rely on bouncers, sorry security staff and CCTV to do the job. At weekends you won't even have a proper glass to be served out of and have to put up with plastic, sorry polycarbonate, as we now have to call them. Great idea, apart from the fact that the glass washers are designed for washing glass, not plastic, so these polycarbs become easily scratched on the inside and the resulting pint you are served takes on the appearance of something served from the sloptray. Oh and if you do want to glass someone, they still allow bottles over the bar or you can scold them by throwing hot coffee over them. But look on the bright side, if you are the victim of an attack at least it will be on CCTV and you can rest assured that it will feature on a staff training DVD for years to come.
Newport City Centre has always had the touch of the Wild West about it, it's exasperated now as on Friday and Saturday nights we now have uniformed marshals patrolling the town. Marshals! I did not think that anything could get lower down the food chain than a PCSO. What ever happened to the old days (well about 10 years ago) when uniformed police officers used to go into pubs at night? Some of them were even doing their job and not just collecting a large envelope of donations for the Gwent Police Widows and Orphans Fund.
Nowadays the police are to be seen in their cars and vans parked in strategic, well-hidden, places around the City Centre, just waiting for that moment when they can jump out, arrest someone and spend the rest of the night in the nice warm police station, drinking coffee, eating kebabs and doughnuts and colluding as they write their note books up together. Sorry, they call it doing paperwork.
It's coming up to Christmas, the season that really brings the nutters out. I for one will not be drinking in superpubs this year and if I do pop out for a drink I will be supporting real pubs. Samuel Smith's Brewery will definitely be doing well out me this Christmas. Seasons greetings and have a pint in the Murenger, the Haven in a Superpub Ghetto.
Join the Campaign to Save the Pub at: www.axethebeertax.com
Tuesday, 25 November 2008
According to Mike Benner, CAMRA Chief Executive, “The Chancellor's refusal to allow beer drinkers to benefit from a VAT reduction means that 7,500 pubs could close by the end of 2012. The Government's failure to support pubs will undermine community life, ruin livelihoods and deprive people of an affordable night out at a local pub.”
Whilst Shepherd Neame boss Jonathan Neame said before the budget"The Chancellor would be guilty of “gross cultural vandalism” if he did not cut duty on beer in his Pre-Budget Report to help save community pubs".
So under Labour our pubs are being destroyed.
Also check out the Drinkers Alliance, who have this online petition:
A message from the Drinkers' Alliance follows:There are some very good points on the Publican site as well, link here
Drinkers will be paying the price for bailing out the economy thanks to this Government. The Chancellor has just announced that ordinary drinkers like you will be unfairly hit with even higher tax rises. The rates of duty for alcohol will be increased by 8 per cent, making the increase this year a whopping 17 per cent!
Click here to sign our petition to say no!
Despite a cut in VAT, the politicians have singled out alcohol as one of just a few items that will see no price relief at all. And even more, when the VAT cut is suspended, alcohol taxes will go even higher!
That means you'll pay more for your favourite drinks because the Chancellor doesn't think you'll fight back.
But we know you will. So sign the petition here:
And when you are done, ask five friends to sign up to the Drinkers Alliance. The more people we have signed up, the harder it is for politicians to ignore us.
Thank you for your support.
and of course Fido gives it a good report
Personally after this latest tax rise by the Government, no one in the right mind should be voting labour in the next General Election. The Labour Government have ruined our pubs, our economy and our country. My local MP is not even in Parliament at the moment, having dropped another sprog and is taking maternity leave again. Photo at the top of this page is the former Seven Styles, ex-Lliswerry, which was demolished last month and is in the constituency of Jessica Morden, sprog dropping new labour apologist and apparatchik and for Newport East.
Thursday, 20 November 2008
Popped into the Yard for an excellent pint of Brains Dark and yes I am old enough to remember the place as the Albert - a spit and sawdust pub where they used to run out of sawdust! However after moving the brewery to the old Welsh Brewers/Bass Hancocks site, the brewery quarter of Cardiff has now blossomed. Brains dark, SA, SA Gold, Bitter all available on the unique handpumps and the the beer tastes good as well! Also handy for a bite to eat in Caroline st!
Another surprise in the city centre is this small-frontage building that stretches back a long way. Typical of a burgess plot there has obviously been something on this site for @ least 1000 years. Today it is a pub, in fact the first pub in the centre of Cardiff to have air-conditioning, but that was back in 1995! Today the Cottage offers Brains Bitter, Dark, SA, rev James, SA gold and the seasonal beer top notch. Support British pubs - drink in them not superpubs!
Best to visit this place between 1700 and 1900 hrs as its happy hour so beers are £2 a pint. Cardiff`s 3rd brewery offers on the site brewed beers, pizzas cooked in their open kitchen and arty uncomfortable seating. Art-deco building gives rise to a boutique brewery which is a bonus for Cardiff but it does have a rather clinical ambiece.
The beers , well they are all carbonated (admitted by zero degrees staff) so we are left with fizzy "keg" beers. But its a brewery and they do a taster of all 5 of their different brews for £2.50. My own personal tasting notes follow:
Pale ale - not that pale, slighty hazy, well over-carbonated but an excellent dry finish.
Black lager - very coffish in fact almost overpowering. Wow a breakfast beer if ever I tried one.
Wheat ale - for some reason part of an orange was put into the glass (hint its lemon in a wheat beer but only in the North of Germany) spicy fizzy yeasty and cloudy - dreadful if you want a decent British wheat beer then go to a Sam Smiths pub.
Mango beer -yeasty cloudy and, well Crap.
Last one to try is the Pilsner - sparkling clear and after half an hour after being poured is still fizzing proving that the so called "real ales" are under CO2 pressure. Actually the pilsner is very good - smooth, good ,hoppy aftertaste despite being under blanket pressure something the Campaign for Real Ale is willing to allow now in the Good Beer Guide as they allow Bristol Zero Degrees in.
The Queens Vaults, Westgate st, Cardiff, is currently selling Felinfoel Best Bitter @ £1.49 a pint. The pub is run by the JW Bassett pub co so hats off to them for offering 3 real ales below £2 a pint. Best sign in the pub was a job offer for "a pub sing song pianist required" can a pub get any better? Support pubs not superpubs - this place is still a real pub in the centre of Cardiff. It may be a bit too far for hacks to walk to now Thomson house has been demolished - too many distractions with all the coffee bars on the way but for a real Cardiff pub you can't do better.
Brew Wales is out rediscovering the pub again. Today was a visit to the Goat Major in Cardiff for a superb pint of Brains SA Gold. Served in a branded glass, this is a truely fantastic beer @ 4.7%, a golden hoppy beer which is not just different from the usual range of Brains beers but is an added complement to the Bitter, Dark and SA. The pub itself has a tiled floor and plenty of brass fixtures and fittings giving the impression that the last time it was refurbished was the 1930s. The food also features Welsh produce and bottled Welsh cider is on sale. Oh and the name Goat Major - the pub was originaly called the Goat until 1813 then the Bluebell until 1995 before attaining its present moniker, which refers to the mascot of the Royal 41st Regiment of Wales. During the Crimea War the regiment adopted a local goat after a skirmish at a farmstead and the tradition has carried on since into the 3rd Battalion The Royal Welsh. Altogether an historic pub that is well worth popping into if you are near Cardiff castle or shopping nearby.
Fagins Ale & Chop house
8 Cardiff Rd
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Wednesday, 19 November 2008
Ye Olde Murenger House is able to sell a pint of old brewery bitter for £1.86. Why you may ask? Well it's owned by Sam Smith's brewery in Yorkshire not some pubco who regard themselves as a property speculator. This means that Sam Smith's brew their own beer and supply it to their own pubs to sell at a reasonable price. Unlike the majority of pubcos where the price is hitting almost 3 quid a pint in their local pubs. So well done to Sam's for putting on a good real ale at a good price. Oh and wednesday night is quiz night! Definetly the haven in a superpub ghetto for Newport
A nice surprise to find a felinfoel beer in a Newport pub. Alongside other real ales from bass and brains the Pen and Wig also offers food lunchtime and is a welcome change from chav filled Wetherspoons pubs that dominate the centre of Newport. Situated on Stow hill this pub has regular guest beers and is well worth going into even if the NUJ do have the odd meeting upstairs.
Tuesday, 18 November 2008
The Rough Pub Guide – Book Review
Paul Moody & Robin Turner £9.99 (£7 Tesco Extra)
I was surprised to find this book on offer at my local Tesco Extra, though it was almost hidden by books by chefs who are more famous for being famous rather than their cooking. The Rough Pub Guide is a compact (15cm x 15cm) book put packed into its 194 pages are excellent colour photos and some very witty descriptions of “50 of the most extraordinary drinking experiences in the UK”.
The criteria for selection in this guide is:
-The pub has been open for at least 10 years
-The pub has not been refurbished recently
-The pub has “an independent spirit”
Although the last criterion seems a bit ambiguous, authors Paul Moody and Robin Turner, founders of Socialism Magazine, have successfully managed to include the 50 best pubs in the UK, from the 55,000 or so still left open in Brown's Britain.
Flipping through this book I was reminded of quite a few pubs that I already knew – the Cornubia in Bristol, Plough & Harrow at Monknash, Vulcan in Cardiff, Bessies in the Gwaun Valley, even Rodger Wilkins cider farm gets a mention. What struck me though, was not just that I had been to these pubs before, but they were pubs that I liked and had returned to, time and time again. Perhaps the only exception is the Green Man, situated in a corner shop in South West London. Don't think the personal chauffeur of the owner is allowed to drink in that bar he owns. Still that is my only gripe and the authors do put an apology in for it. Another pub that features in this guide is the Ellangowan Hotel in Creeetown which became the Green Man in that documentary film on traditional Scottish religious practices, the Wicker Man.
All in all this is a well-researched book featuring some of my favourite pubs from across the UK. A bit of a disappointment that there are no Sam Smiths pubs in the guide, but they deserve a full book for themselves. Moody & Turner have produced a well-documented snapshot of British pubs in the twenty-first century and the problems they are facing. If there is a message from this book, it is that the British pub is under threat – so if you don't want to lose it -use it. I just hope that there will be enough pubs still open for future volumes.
Friday, 14 November 2008
Anyway to get back to the story - JDW pubs have always had a no music policy which applies to customers. I politely asked some local chav sat behind me not to whistle, it was disturbing our conversation. Unfortunately this chav, after visiting the bar to top up on his gallon or two of Stella which he had already downed decided to bump into me, despite there being more than ample room for his more than ample fat chav gut to get past. I told him to watch where he was going and him and his Stella-sodden partner launched into a tirade of abuse and attempted to attack me. They don't call Stella wife-beater for nothing. Both fat chavs were escorted out of the pub by JDW staff, as in the somewhat shaky video below:
Now the duty manageress did apologise to us but unfortunately the stella-supping chavs had a friend in the pub, an OAP who insisted on joining in. Rather than ask this geriatric gangster to leave, the duty mangeress, who referred to him as "Grandad", allowed him to be served again and he continued to abuse both myself and Fido. Finally when complaining to the duty manageress we were the ones asked to leave, not the geriatric gangster who was being allowed to phone up his sons "to sort me out".
Fido has down a posting on this event as well
Further videos of the events of that night are below
Suffice to say I will not be going back into Wetherspoons again, despite being a customer for 20 years. A complaint has been made to JDW head office and I will give them the full right of reply on this website, in the meantime, why not join the Avoid Wetherspoons Facebook site.
Tuesday, 11 November 2008
A former Newport city centre pub is to reopen with a better beer range and offering much improved quality. Lloyds on Cambrian Road, okay went under the name of Jarcals for a while, has been completely stripped out and refitted and will open as..........a Tesco Extra! Offering bottles of Theakstons Old Peculier, Czech Budvar and Black Sheep this will drastically improve the beer range in the half-derelict half built ghetto that Newport City Centre is at the moment.
Can't say I'm sad to see the pub go - beer used to be awful even in the days they did real ale. It was an Ansells house as the Brummie Brewery had bought up Newport brewers Lloyd & Yorath in the 1950s. After demolishing the brewery - it became an open-air car park for years as Newport was never improved by the Luftwaffe to any great extent, we had to rely on post war demolition to get our town to look like a bomb-site - Ansells had their local HQ above the Lloyds pub. Ansells Best was the standard beer or if you were lucky a warm pint of Tetleys could be found. Occasionally, the very rare Burton Ale would be found, even rarer would be finding it drinkable!
Ansells once dominated Newport, now very few of their former pubs are even open. Photo below is of the Tredegar Arms, Pill, taken in about 1997 before the area was "improved" ie, demolished.
Wednesday, 5 November 2008
CAMRA attacks decision to close Tetley Brewery - the largest real ale brewery in the World
'Probably the worst decision in the World for real ale drinkers'
Issued: Wednesday 5th November
Status: For immediate use
Beer consumer group, the Campaign for Real Ale has attacked the decision by Carlsberg UK to close the iconic Tetley Brewery in Leeds by 2011. CAMRA has criticised Calsberg UK for failing to promote the famous Tetley beers at a time when consumer interest in real ales is growing.
Bob Stukins, CAMRA Vice Chairman and Director of Brewery Campaigning said, "It is unclear where Carlsberg UK intends to brew the famous Tetley beers which remain household names in the UK. Brewed outside their Leeds heartland I fear they would lack the provenance which today's discerning consumers expect. While we recognise the enormous challenges facing the brewing industry at present, I think this is a shortsighted decision. Recent statistics clearly show that real ale is performing better than other beer styles in a declining market. There is an opportunity to respond to this, invest in the Tetley brands and bring them back to glory."
The Intelligent Choice report published in September by CAMRA, Cask Marque, SIBA, the IFBB and Why Handpull shows that real ale sales are moving towards growth while the overall beer market has declined by 8% in the year to May 2008*.
CAMRA is calling on the Government to overturn its decision to increase beer duty over the next four years to give struggling breweries a chance to compete. The group claims that high beer tax is driving beer drinkers out of pubs and into their armchairs as the price gap between the on and off-trade widens.
Bob Stukins said, "The Government has a responsibility to act to save British jobs in brewing and pubs and an urgent review of beer tax is required."
CAMRA is seeking a meeting with Carlsberg UK bosses to discuss a way forward for the brewery. The brewery still has its unique open square fermenters and brews various real ales including Tetley's Dark Mild, Tetley's Mild, Ansells, Best Bitter, Burton Ale and the famous Tetley Bitter.
Mr Stukins added, "We have a two year window of opportunity before the brewery gates are set to close for the last time. We will be supporting anyone who has a plan to keep the mash tuns running in this historic brewery and we'll be looking at every possible option to save the brewery. Jobs and this iconic Yorkshire Brewery should not close due to the development potential of this city site"
For further information-
CAMRA Press Office, 01727 798443
Mike Benner, CAMRA Chief Executive, 07971 591224
Iain Loe, CAMRA Research and Information Manager, 07801 706607
The White Hart, Machen, Caerphilly Borough, will be holding their annual beer festival this weekend. 20 real ales and cider. Now, you may wonder what this all has to do with with the photo of the liner the Empress of France above, well the ship was scrapped in Newport by Cashmore's in 1960 and the fixtures and fittings were auctioned off and used to decorate the pub. So the White Hart is in the possibily unique situation of being an art-deco pub with features from the 1920s that were only put in in the 1960s.
The pub is also home to Carter's Brewery and the landlord Alan Carter will be brewing a beer or 2 for the festival.
Thur 6th-Sat 8th Nov 08
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Bus stops on the main road - Newport- Caerphilly service 50
Tuesday, 4 November 2008
What happened on the day the new brewery in Llansamlet, Swansea, was opened by Rhodri Morgan could be construed as being amusing if something not quite legal occurred.
Things started to go down hill when the boss of the brewery started to heckle the Welsh Assembly Economic Development Manager during his speech to open the plant – the invited guests were cringing in their seats as the Managing Director raged into the funding policy of the Welsh Assembly. Now the brewery MD was reading from a pre-prepared crib sheet, supplied by his Public Relations firm, Ron Lewis Associates. By this stage, even the local TV stations had given up filming as none of this would be fit to broadcast. Well done Ron, your perfect PR opportunity ended up on the cutting room floor! Fair play to Rhodri – he gave the MD a good argument back.
Having allegedly imbibed of a few samples of wine and beer at the opening – Ron Lewis then attempted to drive his black Volkswagen 2-door back to Carmarthenshire but got all of a few yards from the brewery before crashing into another car - a mauve-coloured Lexus. The driver of the other car was luckily uninjured but seeing the “tired and emotional” Mr Lewis, the other driver went off to call the police.
Now here is where the story gets interesting. The black VW was pushed back into the brewery and the gates of the brewery were locked. Ron Lewis was bundled into another car along with the MD of the brewery and driven away from the scene before the local rozzers could turn up to breath test him. Now that would have made the TV news – a brewery opening and a shareholder (5,250 ordinary shares were held by Ron) crashing his car after allegedly over-imbibing in the lavish hospitality of the liquid type freely available at breweries.
Damage to the Lexus after being hit by the VW
The brewery currently flourishes under different ownership.
The Managing Director of the brewing company at the time of the opening and who is mentioned in the article above bears no connection to the website below:
Ron Lewis is currently running the public relations for the police in the form of the ITV Wales show “Crimestoppers”. So far no cold-case crimes have been broadcast covering anyone fleeing the scene of an accident or allegedly perverting the course of justice and there's little doubt if the “Swansea Smash” will be covered. So just enjoy the photos and fell free to use them for any purpose.