Thursday, 30 December 2010

Brew Wales Awards 2010

The Brew Wales Awards 2010

The Brew Wales editorial team, which consists of, well myself, have sat down with a few beers to decide on these awards for 2010.

Pub of the Year (Wales)
Criminally neglected by the local CAMRA branch as to inclusion in the Good Beer Guide due to a feud that has lasted for 15 years, this fantastic freehouse offers real ales and ciders in one of the most picturesque settings in Wales. No pub website but I have covered the pub previously here.


Pub of the Year (rest of UK)
The Rake, Borough Market.
What a pub, what a beer range. If only we all could be this spoilt for choice and quality in a pub in every city in the UK.

Local Pub of the UK
It may only serve Sam Smiths Old Brewery Bitter as its only real ale but its my favourite pub in Newport. Plenty of American golf fans enjoyed the pub during the 2010 Ryder Cup, especially the £1.99 a pint price tag.


Most Improved Pub of the Year
SA Brain have completely turned this pub around by changing it into a beer emporium and installing a manager whose enthusiasm really shows through with the quality and selection of beers available at this City centre venue.


Food Pub of the Year
May come as a bit of surprise to readers but the pie and chips menu is really something special. Having won “Pie of the Year 2010” for their Wye Valley Pie, made with chicken, asparagus and Tintern Abbey cheese, the pub is an another example of what can be done when the manager is allowed some freedom to do something unique.


Welsh Brewery of the Year
Innovative and willing to experiment, the Otley boys once again proved they are the best brewers in Wales by winning the CAMRA Champion Beer of Wales award 2010/11.

Runners up: Tomos Watkin, Brains, Swansea, Neath Ales, Breconshire, Kingstone, Tudor, Conwy and all the others I have enjoyed throughout the year.

Brewery of the Year (Rest of UK)
From their marketing stunts to producing innovative and interesting beers, Brewdog are certainly one of the most talked about breweries in the world today. Added to that their beer is very good as well.

Runners up: Fullers, Thornbridge, Dark Star

Best Newcomer of the Year
The Green Bullet brewed by this brewery was simply stunning. One of the best beers I have ever tried. Brewer Jay Thomas is a real hop head who likes flavoursome beers, an enthusiast who has taken the big step of developing his hobby into his business. One to watch in 2011.

Beer of the Year
A simply stunning beer, both in bottle and on draught, the citrus flavour of the New Zealand Green Bullet hops was carefully matched by the biscuity sweetness of the Maris Otter malt.

Runners up: Otley Columbo, Brewdog Punk IPA

Cider of the Year
Well it won international cider of the year in 2010 and was a well-deserved winner at that.
Runner up Gwatkin Foxwhelp

Perry of the Year
A bit biased here as this award-winning perry was actually made by myself, Alex and John, to a recipe of my own invention using a blend of Hendre Huffcap and Potato pears. The recipe was concocted by eating the perry pears in the orchard and deciding a blend should balance out the harsh acids in the Huffcap pear. It worked and we won an award for it.

Off-license of the Year
Discount Supermarket, 97-99 Whitchurch Road, Cardiff
What appears from the outside as just another street corner shop houses the best range of bottled beers in South Wales. Featuring breweries such as Black Sheep, Sam Smiths, St Peter's, Robinsons etc as well as ciders this shop is a must-visit destination for any beer lover.

Runner up: Tesco

Festival of the Year
Although some may feel this is becoming too commercial a festival, it is still a very good event.

Runners up: Swansea Beer Festival, Great Welsh Beer & Cider Festival, Cardiff Bay International Food Festival, Great British Cheese Festival, Gwynt open day

Pub Festival of the Year
The IPA Festival hosted by the Bunch was a sell-out success proving that there is a demand for tasty , hoppy beers in South Wales, despite what brewers of boring beers from West Wales may say.

Brewery Website of the Year
As befitting the largest real ale brewer in Wales, SA Brain have a large and informative website. Easily accessible with quick navigation the site also features an RSS news feed and downloadable SatNav info for their pubs. Links to individual pub websites, Facebook pages and Twitter feeds, where applicable are also on the site.


Pub Website of the Year
An informative site that is updated on a daily basis with the beers and ciders available that day. The pub has also embraced, Twitter, Foursquare and Facebook and uses these social networks to inform customers of what beers are on and of events occurring. Full tasting notes of the beers and ciders on and coming on are on the site as well.  

Worst Pub Website of the Year
Warning: Turn down gamma on monitor, put on sunglasses and prepare to be dazzled.
Tafarn John Y Gwas, Drefach-Felindre, Carmarthenshire

Worst Pub of the Year
A multiple award for JD Chaverspoons. Having avoided them for most of the year, just before Christmas experienced the Gatekeeper with some friends and multiple beers were returned as they tasted off. Staff refused to taste the beers or take them off sale. Well the manager would have to explain to head office why bad beers were taken off so its easier for the off beers to be sold to the public. And people wonder why I am willing to pay £3/pint for excellent beer at the nearby City Arms?

Beery Moment of the Year
Winning a year's subscription to My Brewery Tap 52 week beer club. Packed with old favourites and some new breweries I had never come across before.

Runner up: Deep fried beer , invented by Mark Zable for the Texas State Fair. Beer is put into a dough pocket and deep fried, the dough forms a crust leaving the beer inside! Not tried it yet though.

Cidery Moment of the Year
Winning a Gold Medal at the Welsh Cider & Perry Championships for a perry made from my recipe.

Non-beery moment of the year
Being quoted in the Daily Mail for heckling the expense-fiddling then Members of Parliament, Morley, Chaytor and Devine, as they came out of Westminster Magistrates Court. Along with Old Holborn and the Taxpayers Alliance, together with Sir Olly Cromwell who was penned across the road, the troughers were greeted with “Oink oink” as they left court to face a row of press and protesters. As the troughing trinity climbed into their taxi I shouted “Is the taxi on expenses?”, much to the amusement of onlookers and was quoted later in the Daily Mail. Video below of the event.
 


Friday, 24 December 2010

Last orders for Model Inn

One of the oldest pubs in Cardiff, the Model Inn on Quay Street will be closing for good on Christmas Eve. Originally called the Ship on Launch, this building is clearly marked on John Speed's map of 1610 and was renamed the Model Inn, according to tradition, after Cromwell's New Model Army were bileted there during the civil war.
The Model Inn has seen better days, the pub has been in a slow decline for years with its dark and dingy interior hardly providing a warm welcome to customers. The pub stopped doing food some years ago, though the tiled roof of the food servery is a classic example of late 1960s/early 1970s pub refurbishments. The odd bits of wood around the bar do nothing to attract customers into this surprisingly spacious City Centre bar, though the Brains Bitter was spot on when visited the other night. In the week before Christmas, other pubs were packed; the Old Arcade, Duke of Wellington, City Arms, Goat Major, yet the Model shut early at half six due to lack of custom.
Owners of the Model Inn, SA Brain, were asked to comment on the closure of this old inn but it came as a surprise to the PR department and they have been unable to find anyone in the company to willing to make a statement about the closure.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Welsh Brewery in Liquidation

The London Gazette is not on my usual list of reading material but a Welsh brewer sent me this little gem which appears to show the company behind the Evans Evans beer brands has gone into liquidation. Now to those who follow the trials of tribulations of Simon Buckley know that it is no big surprise that another of his companies has gone to the wall yet again.
In what has been described as by the brewery as, "A complicated company restructure", it would appear that the brewery is still brewing, the assets of the Buckley Bros Brewing & Brands Ltd having been transferred to another company before liquidation, in what some might say sounds allegedly like a phoenix company fraud. Now the Brew Wales team are not going to be spending hours going through the various accounts of Buckley Bros Ltd, Welsh Estates Ltd or Beer Brands Ltd or whatever name the brewery is trading under this week, we shall leave that job to the forensic accountants who are no doubt sniffing around the remains of the liquidated company attempting to discover what has happened to investors money.
After the economic failure of Y Cadno, the flagship Evan Evans pub that was situated on Cathedral Road, Cardiff, one can only wonder how much longer this brewery will continue trading under any name.
Above: the state of one of Simon Buckley's companies, Beer Brands Ltd, according to Companies House
Below: Welsh Estates Ltd, again from Companies House
Hardly a healthy state of affairs for any company director to be proud of?
The Brew Wales editor did attempt to contact Simon Buckley at the brewery, only to be told by someone at the plant in Llandeilo that he was out of contact as he was "On his annual Christmas shopping trip to New York"! 
Nice for some!

Rhymney Brewey Gift Horse

The seasonal offering from Rhymney Brewery is out in pubs around South Wales. Not tried it myself yet so no tasting notes but its good to see the Rhymney Hobby Horse with a seasonal picture.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Champear



Popping the cork this Christmas/New Year? Then why not splash out on a bottle-conditioned perry from award-winning cidermaker Denis Gwatkin instead of the usual supermarket plonk? Made exclusively from the Oldfield pear variety, this perry is originally fermented in a wooden barrel and then undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle, producing a naturally fizzy medium-dry perry, in the M├ęthode Champenoise style. This method of producing perry has been popular for many hundreds of years in the United Kingdom but reached a peak during the Napoleonic Wars when French imports were unavailable, since then there has been a decline in the production of British made bottle-fermented perry but there are a few enthusiasts out there who still make a few bottles.

The bottle labels feature the Gwatkin family Coat of Arms.
Bottles are priced at £10 each and are available from the farm in Abbeydore, Cardiff Christmas Market (High Street, by the Goat Major), or at the Federation of Poultry Clubs Show, this weekend - 18th-19th December in Stafford.

Monday, 13 December 2010

FirKing Good

Wales largest brewery, SA brain have surpassed them this Christmas with this offering which should lead the Christmas pun jokes on Pumpclip Parade.
Available in the Goat Major, Cardiff and all other good FirKing pubs.

Cardiff Christmas Market

In the run up to Christmas why not support independent drink suppliers by buying direct from the producer?
Gwatkin Cider have a stall in Cardiff High Street, close to the Goat Major pub where their award-winning ciders and perries are on sale. If you need something to warm you up then a glass of their mulled cider is perfect for a cold day. Alternatively their bottles of Sant-a-Cider are available in a presentation box with a Gwatkin cider glass and spices to mull your own cider over Christmas.



 The Christmas Market is open every day in the run up to Christmas and closes at 6pm, apart from on Thursday nights when it shuts at 8pm.
If you prefer something stronger than Denis Gwatkins' ciders and perries then another award-winning producer, Condessa Welsh Liqueurs is also at the market.
 Above: Matt from Condessa has a chat with his imaginary friend
Condessa have recently purchased the Danzy Jones spirit brand from the Celtic Spirit Company who were based in Abergavenny.
Better than buying your Christmas booze in supermarkets anyday!

Friday, 10 December 2010

Sant-A-Cider


 Denis Gwatkin has launched a seasonal cider this Christmas.
Gwatkin Sant-A-Cider, 7.5% ABV £3.50 568ml bottle, available at Caerphilly Medieval Fayre (11th-12th December) and at Cardiff Christmas Market (from 11th December). Also available in a gift pack with mulling spices and a Gwatkin cider glass.

Award-winning cidermaker Denis Gwatkin, originally from Pontypool but who now farms in Herefordshire at Abbey Dore, has produced this special seasonal drink. Yarlington Mill apples, picked in the Autumn of last year were pressed into juice and this was fermented and aged in oak rum barrels for 12 months.
Santa-A-Cider is a deep orange colour with an intense oaky spirit aroma from the rum cask the cider was fermented in. A medium-dry taste is balanced by some astringency in the aftertaste together with the rum flavour and a warming sensation. Sant-A-Cider is suitable for drinking on its own, or being mulled with cinnamon and spices, as there is a recipe for mulled cider on the bottle label. 


Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Beer sales down

According to figures released by the GMB Union, compiled from Government data, the volume of on-trade beer sold in the UK in the year to September 2010 was down by 7.6% on the figure for the year to September 2009.
In contrast the off-trade saw 0.54% fall over the same period, and overall beer sales released for UK consumption in the year to September 2010 were down by 4.4%.
Hayley Brennan, GMB organiser for tied pub tenants, said: “Overcharging for wet and dry rents by the pubcos is rapidly killing the pub trade with sales in pubs down 37.8% on 2002 levels.  Customers are simply refusing to pay the additional pound per drink to pay these inflated rents.”
“Tenants are desperate and many fear that their pubs will not survive the rate of VAT increasing to 20% in January unless there is action by the Government to end the market abuse by pubcos.”


Elsewhere, research by Mintel, points to alcohol sales falling this Christmas.
In 2009, spending on alcohol fell a huge 9% to £37bn, from £40.5bn in 2008.
In real terms alcohol spend in the October-December period has declined from £11.5bn in 2000 to £10.4bn in 2009, costing the Government more than £1bn in lost revenue.

Still the Government insists on throwing money at fake charities such as Alcohol Concern and their bastard off spring Alcohol Concern Cymru to produce innacurate reports saying that alcohol use is on the up. Time for some Government cuts at the fake charity?

Caerphilly Medieval Fayre 2010

Looking for somewhere to stock up on ciders, beers and wines this festival season? Then head to Caerphilly where the castle and the town will be transformed into a Medieval Christmas Fayre over the Saturday & Sunday 11th-12th December. Yes I realise there are over 150 other stall holders there but lets face it the booze ones are the more important!
Award-winning cidermaker Denis Gwatkin is pictured with a couple of locals who have been using homeopathic remedies to cure the plague.
Denis will once again be at the show with his ciders and perries, including his Christmas special, Sant-a-Cider, fermented in rum casks and sold in presentation boxes with engraved Gwatkin Cider glasses and spices to mull it yourself.
These plague carriers get everywhere!
Ralph's cider will also be there.
 "You just can't get the staff nowadays!"
Above: Some of the entertainment at the castle.

Also at the Medieval Fayre will be the Jacobi Brewery of Caio, a rare chance to see their beers this far east.
Other producers closer to home include Wernddu Organics, with their ciders, perries and fantastic award-winning wines.
Last year saw the Untapped Brewery at the Fayre with their bottled beers and the local brewery Celt Experience are also hopping to have a stand at the show.

Caerphilly is easy to reach by train from Cardiff or by bus from Newport.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Newport pubs for Sale

The City centre of Newport is dying and has been for years. With the news that Marks & Spencer are moving to an out-of-town shopping centre another nail in the coffin has been hammered into the commercial centre of the city. There are only 1 or 2 pubs worth drinking in; the Pen & Wig and of course the Murenger, the rest being Chaverspoons or day care centres for the mentally ill, yes Barracuda pub group, you know I mean you. Barracuda run the Page in High Street, one of their worst pubs in their group, yet also manage to run the excellent George in Chepstow – a complete contrast to their Newport outlet and well worth going in.
It is hardly surprising that so many pubs are either closed or up for sale in Newport, the City Centre with its boarded up pubs and shops is not a nice place to walk through and I much prefer to drinking  in Cardiff rather than Newport.
So a look at the Sidney Phillips website reveals what pubs can be had in the City:
The leasehold of the Oddfellows in Maindee is up for £23,700 and the lease of the Royal Albert is going for £25,000 whilst nearby the freehold of the Globe (pictured) can be had for £145,000. Maindee also has a Chaverspoons and another superpub called the Banc so any incoming publican would have to compete with the prices offered by those places. The Oddies, Royal Albert and the Globe are currently owned by Enterprise Inns.
Elsewhere, in Baneswell, at the reopened Engineers Arms, troubled pubco Admiral Taverns are advertising the freehold for £225,000.  Since this pub reopened late last year there have been two changes of licensee. My last visit there was disappointing to say the least as they no real ale on, the delivery from the Admiral Taverns supplier had failed to arrive.  The freehold of another Admiral Taverns pub, the Hornblower, is on the market for £175,000. This pub has suffered in recent years due to a series of drunken, slovenly licensees who have run this pub into the ground with their lack of hygiene, both personal and that of the pub. Once a regular in the Good Beer Guide, the 'Blower has only just reopened and I have heard some good reports about the place, even one regular telling me that the place is clean for the first time in years!
Elsewhere on Commercial Street the Talisman is also on the market, this time for £250,000 freehold. A pub that currently serves the local derelict community whilst they sell knocked-off electrical equipment that even the nearby Smack Generator refuses to touch. Still there is a Chaverspoons nearby that will no doubt cater for their needs.
Meanwhile on the High Street, the freehold of the Carpenters Arms is on the market for £250,000. Currently owned by Enterprise Inns and let to the JW Bassett Pub Company this is a rare local outlet for beers from Felinfoel Brewery. Before JW Bassett took the pub on it had been closed for a couple of years.
The Windsor Castle is also for sale, freehold £220,000, though I understand there are some structural problems at the pub which have put off potential owners.
Well there you have it, a round-up of pubs for sale in Newport, many of them having suffered from neglect from their owners for years, with the City Centre dying a commercial death to out-of-town shopping centres and Cardiff and Cwmbran shopping centres, the future does not look good for pubs in Newport.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Moose named Ambassador

 For the second year running Lawrence Washington, the owner of the Purple Moose Brewery, has been awarded the 'Gwynedd Product Ambassador' award.
Lawrence was delighted to collect his award and certificate at Parc Glynllifon at the start of the Craft and Food Festival.
Lawrence said,  "I'm very pleased to have won this award for the second year in succession - it proves we must be doing something right!"

New cider for Wales

 Blaengawney Farm, situated high up in the mountains of South Wales, overlooking the Ebbw Valley, is producing a new cider, Hallets Real Cider is made by hand at the farm using a blend of traditional cider apples.

Hallets Real is made using both the traditional fermentation method, plus the addition of juice fermented using a rarely applied method called Keeving.
This produces a sweet rich juice, which is then blended with the traditionally fermented juice from other varieties to produce a unique cider which has its own subtle texture and taste.

Once blended it is matured, then bottled and stored for a minimum of 3 months, which allows a natural conditioning to occur.

Hallets Real Cider is available via Real Beer Box, direct from the farm or via a number of other outlets listed on their website. Alternatively they will be at Blackwood Edwardian Xmas Market this weekend, the  4/5 Dec.

Hallets Real Cider
Blaengawney Farm, Mynydd Maen
Hafodyrynys, Crumlin
NP11 5AY 
Follow Andy Hallet on Twitter

Abergavenny Christmas Food & Drink Fair

Abergavenny looks like the place to be this Sunday (5th December) as the historic market town plays host to their first Christmas Food & Drink Fair.
Not quite as big as their food festival, this winter wonderland for gastronauts will still extendover the Market, the Brewery Yard and the Priory Centre.

Stallholders include:

The Skirrid Bar with beers from Tudor Brewery



Full list of stallholders here but the above ones are the most important. 

Entry is £3.50. The Market Hall, Upper Brewery Yard and St Mary’s Priory Centre, all situated in the centre of the town. Children under 16 get in free if accompanied by an adult!
Author and Blogger Pete Brown will also be doing a tasting at the Priory Centre with his favourite festival ales, including Mary Mother Mild from the Waen Brewery.
Pete will also be launching a gourmet cheese matured with Blackberry Stout, again from the Waen Brewery.

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