Friday, 29 July 2011

Brains launch stout in Tesco

From a SA Brain press release:
Brains Secures National Supermarket Deal

Welsh brewer S.A Brain and Co Ltd has secured a deal with Tesco to supply 600 stores throughout the UK. From mid August Brains Original Stout – which was developed exclusively for Tesco – will be available in all larger stores, making it Brains’ biggest supermarket deal.

The brewer currently supplies all national branches of Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose, as well as all Welsh Tesco stores. Paul Harvey, Head of Take Home, explains: “We’ve been working with Tesco in Wales for several years and, more recently, secured a deal to supply 100 English stores with SA Gold. This latest agreement will step change our business with Tesco in line with our ongoing objective of becoming a major player in the off trade market.”

Over the last 12 months the company’s off trade sales have increased by 15%. Major multiple customers have seen the benefit of taking Brains’ award winning ales into their English stores as consumers seek to try different products from all over the UK. Harvey adds: “The quality of our beers has encouraged repeat purchase and data shows that our SA Gold is now in the top 6% of all bottled beers in Britain.*”

Brains Original Stout has been described as a classic, full bodied and flavoursome, with bold chocolate aromas, complex malted flavours and a balanced bitter taste.

Big Cheese this weekend

Set in the shadow of Caerphilly Castle, the Big Cheese is set to be the biggest and best yet. As well as the funfair  there is a Food Tent and I've handpicked the most important producers below:
Blaengawney Cider
Celtic Spirit Company
Gwatkin Cider Co
Gwynt y Ddraig Cider
Jacobi Brewery of Caio
Otley Brewing Company
Penlon Cottage Brewery
Spyder Ginger Beer
The Celt Experience Ltd
Untapped Brewing Company
Full list available here.

It looks like a good opportunity to stock up on some excellent beers and ciders.
Open Saturday & Sunday.
If travelling by public transport to Caerphilly use the train as roads are closed and buses are diverted.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Culverhouse pub reopens

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A pub belonging to SA Brain has reopened after an extensive refurbishment. The Culverhouse, situated on the Western fringes of Cardiff has reopened as with a carvery restaurant, the first SA Brain pub to do so.
This 'roadhouse' style of pub was built in the late 1920s by Sir Percy Thomas, who is more famous for designing Swansea Guildhall than for designing pubs but in the 1920s and up until the 1950s his company built the Birchgrove and the Three Arches pubs in Cardiff as well as a few others.
Culverhouse pub website
Coopers Carvery website

Good to see a local brewery spending money and improving their pubs. Take note Pubcos!

Cowbridge Road West, Cardiff, CF5 5TF

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Wrexham Lager Brews Again!

One of Wales most historic beers is being brewed again in Wrexham and will hopefully be in pubs by the end of August. Wrexham Lager, first brewed 130 years ago will once again be flowing from the town that was known as 'The Burton of Wales'.
Wrexham Lager returns to the pub

From the BBC:
Pub-goers in Wrexham will soon be able to drink a pint of one of Britain's oldest lagers as the Wrexham brand is revived.

Local businessmen John, Vaughan and Mark Roberts teamed up with Ian Dale, former brewing manager at Wrexham Lager, to set up the new micro-brewery.

They estimate the first kegs of the lager will be ready by the end of August.

Ian Dale said he would be following the brew's recipe from the 1970s.

That was when the lager was at 4% strength before it was changed to 3.2% after the merger with Carlsberg.

"It's an exciting proposition," said Mr Dale.

"They've gone for the best equipment possible, and the new plant is second to none. The fact that this plant is much smaller doesn't matter.

"We're going to start off slowly though, let the new plant bed in and get established."

The lager will be available only in kegs, and sold to local pubs for the time being.

The brewery is located in one of the old warehouses of the Roberts brothers' distribution firm, F Jones.

"We had a business which had outgrown the premises, and we were wondering what to do with it," explained Mark Roberts.

"I wondered whatever had happened to the previous start-ups for Wrexham Lager, so spoke to Ian about what would be needed to bring it back.

"We travelled to America and round Europe in search of the best equipment, but in the end we decided to go with a German family-run firm which are the oldest makers of [lager] brewing equipment in the world.

"We did our homework because it was an important decision to make."

The new brew will currently only be available in pubs

The new-look Wrexham Lager will sport a logo which Mark Roberts sad encapsulated the town's history.

"We use the Welsh colours, have a dragon and also a football inside a rugby ball, as we do have a great tradition for rugby, be we didn't want to leave out the football fans," he explained.

"Then we've got the gold for hopefully future success and the black for Wrexham's coal mining days."

Brewing of Wrexham Lager had come to an end in 2000.

German engineers from Kaspar Schulz are currently fitting out the new micro-brewery before brewing begins later this month.

Above: The entrance to the former Wrexham Lager Brewery, shortly before closure, when it was owned by Carlsberg-Tetley

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

M & B to spend £1million on pub refurbishment

Photo courtesy of Dom at Welsh Icons

A pub company wanting to spend money improving a pub? Well that's a story in itself. In Newport the branches of buddleia get longer on the pub roofs with no pub company willing to spend money in the deteriorating commercial centre that is so bad even established shops such as Burton and Marks & Spencer are moving out. Of course this story is about a pub in the thriving area of Cardiff City Centre and any such investment in a premises should surely be welcomed?
M & B have applied for planning permission to change the Kings Cross pub on the corner of Caroline Street and Mill Lane into a pub and bistro restaurant.
A spokesperson for M & B said, “The signage application confirms our intention to rename the pub to the Corner House in order to give the new business its own identity as the offer will be different to the existing late-night drinks-focused operation”.
If planning permission is approved the Kings Cross, which opened in 1872, will close in September and reopen in November.
The exterior of the building will not change significantly and the interior will feature a new marble bar and a first floor restaurant.
All sounds good doesn't it? A million pound refurbishment to convert what is primarily a drinks-led late night venue into an bar and restaurant. Who could possibly object?
Well more than 2000 people have signed a petition to keep the Kings' as it is because it is Cardiff's oldest gay pub. The signatures include the vertically-challenged leader of Cardiff City Council, Rodney Berman, a pint-sized Pict so unpopular in parts of the City his photograph was recently pinned to the dartboard of one Cardiff pub and used as target practise.
Now it's not that Cardiff does not have a choice of gay venues, nearby the Grade II listed Golden Cross advertises itself as 'Cardiff's Premier Gay Pub' so I can't see what the objections are to M & B wishing to improve their pub.
If you lived in Newport you'd be grateful for any pub company spending money on any pub!

Monday, 18 July 2011

Blaina gets a beer festival!

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The north Gwent valleys' town of Blaina will be playing host to a beer festival at the Tilers Arms this weekend.
Beers and ciders available are:
Gamekeepers Bitter,
Muzzzle Loader,
Brewers Choice,
Dark Age
Red Stag,
Red Castle Cream,
Summerberry Steam
Native Storm,
Dr Prices Super Hops,
Gwatkin Yarlington mill cider 7%,
Gwatkin Norman cider 7.5%

All the beers are from the local Celt Experience/Newmans Brewery based in Caerphilly as well as Bath, Golden Valley and Hereford breweries.

The Tilers Arms has undergone a transformation in recent years, from a closed and neglected former Welsh Brewers pub (the Tilers was originally owned by the former Webbs Brewery of Aberbeeg) into a thriving local once again.

TILERS ARMS BLAINA - July Beer Festival
Fri 22nd – Sun 24th July
Locally Brewed Real Ales - ALL £1.50
Music, Magic, Comedy, and Singing with Quizzes for the Real Ale Masters!!!
Friday 22nd - Starting at 5pm Saturday 23rd - All Day

Sunday 24th from 4pm WITH FREE BBQ with KARAOKE
For enquiries contact 01495 292000 OR

Tilers Arms, Abertillery Road, Blaina, NP13 3EB

Facebook Page
Pub Website

Traveline Information:
The X15 bus - Newport-Brynmawr stops near to the pub at Bourneville Post Office

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Wales This Week - watch online

For those of you who missed Wales This Week on Tuesday it's available here from the ITV website.
Yes I do have a bit to say in it, about how pubs have adapted through time and what they face in the twenty-first century.

Hmm, seem to be using the Goat Major a lot for interviews nowadays! Must be something to do with the excellent beer and the award-winning pies! And of course the Wifi!

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Great Taste Awards 2011

Its that time of year again when the Great Taste Awards are announced
Here are the Welsh results with asterisks representing the number of stars won:
Bottled Beer
*** Purple Moose Dark Side of the Moose
*** Otley O Garden
** Monty's Sunshine
** Otley O6 Porter
** Otley O8
* Otley Columbo

Bottled Cider
* Gwynt Y Ddraig Farmhouse Vintage Scrumpy
* Gwynt Y Ddraig Farmhouse Natural Still Scrumpy
* Rosie's Triple D  Black Bart

Full details are on the Great Taste website

Friday, 15 July 2011

Skenfrith gets a beer festival!

The historic village of Skenfrith in Monmouthshire will be holding a beer festival tomorrow (Saturday 16th July) to coincide with the Skenfrith Festival
 30 real ales as well as ciders and wine.

Google Map: 

No public transport, this being rural Monmouthshire 

Buffalo Cider in the heart of Cardiff

 An 11-day cider festival is currently taking place in the city centre of Cardiff at the Buffalo Bar in Windsor Place, ending on Sunday 24th June.

Buffalo's garden will be transformed including a fully stocked outdoor cider bar, Miniature Music Press acoustic garden stage, bunting, live music, DJs, Kooki Two Bit t-shirt exhibit, afternoon tea/fresh coffee, all day real Sunday roasts, BBQ & loads more!

Their garden draught Cider & Perry bar will showcase home grown, organic, locally sourced cider & perry from Wales & beyond, including:

- Gwynt Y Ddraig
- Blaengawney Farm
- Llanblethian Orchards

Plus a massive selection of bottled cider & perry at the indoor bars from:

- Thatchers
- Brothers
- Westons
- Green Goblin
- Addlestones

Not seen the full list yet but almost the entire stock of Llanblethian Orchards Cider and Perry will be on sale during the festival.
That's our Yarlington Mill/Crab apple blend, another blend of sharp and bittersweet and our Hendre Huffcap perry.

Did not mange to get this festival last year so looking forward to visiting this year.
On Wednesday 20th July there will be a CIDER SOCIAL
According to their FB site this will be a Meet up with us at Buffalo and try / discuss / taste and experience all the cider & perry we have on offer.
Open til 3am £free entry.

Buffalo Bar
11 Windsor Place, Cardiff CF10 3BY Tel: 029 2031 0312.

Fresh food served 12pm-9pm. Open until 4am
Facebook Site
Facebook event page

Google Map:

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International Cider Festival comes to Wales

Next month, South Wales will play host to the biggest celebration of cider in the world with the first ever  International Craft Cider Festival being held at an historic manor house in the South Wales valleys between the 12th-14th August 2011.

Each country will have its own dedicated bar in the historic courtyard of the sixteenth-century manor house of Llancaiach Fawr, with cidermakers from Wales, England, Germany and France expected to be showcasing their ciders and perries at this event. In addition to cider and perry there will be a series of masterclasses going ahead, full details here and live music throughout the festival.

The venue:
Llancaiach Fawr Manor
CF46 6ER

Google Map:

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Traveline Cymru Information
There is a bus stop outside the venue - X5 and X38

Ticket details:
Tickets can be booked online here 
Friday and Saturday
Adult (over 18's) - £10 per day
12 - 17 year olds - £5 per day*
Under 12's - Free*

Adult (over 18's) - £7
12 - 17 year olds - £3.50*
Under 12's - Free*
Weekend Tickets

Adult (over 18's) - £25
12 - 17 year olds - £12.50*
Under 12's - Free*

*When accompanied by a full paying adult
Camping on Site

3 nights camping on site (Friday, Saturday and Sunday night) - £50 per tent based on up to 4 people sharing. For tents larger than this, two spaces must be booked.

3 nights camping on site (Friday, Saturday and Sunday night) - £60 per campervan.

This cost does not include entry tickets. These must be purchased separately.

Further Information:
International Craft Cider Festival website
Facebook Site

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Ember Inns Summer selection

With the constant changes going through Mitchells & Butlers at the moment its good to see that their Ember Inns division is still doing a selection of real ales. The Old Cottage in Lisvane has been taken out of the Ember Inns division and rebranded in the Premium Country Dining Group, leaving only the Deri Inn in Rhiwbina as the sole Ember Inn in South Wales. Not that their website allows you to find though, type in 'Cardiff' and it does not show any pubs!

Still a good selection below:

India Pale Ales

Speciality Brews

Blonde Ales

  • Ringwood Boondoggle its name means perfect reason to have a pint, 4.2%
  • Caledonian Nectar with a real fruity and citrus taste, 4.3%
  • Hadley's Blonde from the brewery owned by Spandau Ballet's Tony Hadley, 4.0%
  • Northern Star ultra pale, ultra modern and ultra hoppy, 4.1%

Golden Ales

  • Golden Pippin a former CAMRA Yorkshire Champion ale, 3.9%
  • Fuller's Summer Ale light, smooth and refreshing served cold, 3.9%

Best Bitters

  • OSB Bronze medallist at the CAMRA Great British Beer Festival, 4.5%
  • Young Rev very well balanced and with nutty overtones, 3.7%
Although I would not class Freeminer Speculation as a 'Speciality' brew, nor Young Rev as a Best Bitter, or an IPA at 3.5% or Thatcher's Cider as a 'Speciality Brew' - cider is crafted not brewed!

Cheers to the new leader of the opposition

Congratulations are in order to Andrew RT Davies AM who has just been voted leader of the Conservative Party in the Welsh Assembly. Andrew, pictured above pouring an Otley beer at the Great Welsh Beer & Cider Festival has been a staunch supporter of Welsh breweries and cidermakers in the past, something we hope he will continue to do as leader of the Conservatives in the Assembly.
More on this over at the BBC

New brewery for North Wales

A beer inspired by the bardic legends of Bardsey Island, off the Llyn peninsular has been launched by a new cooperative brewery

Cwrw Llŷn’s first ale, brewed at Llwyndyrys, Pwllheli, is named “Brenin Enlli” after Bardsey’s last known king, as barley used to be grown on the island.

One of the group’s members is acclaimed poet Myrddin ap Dafydd, owner of Gwasg Carreg Gwalch Publishing.
He said: “In Llyn many of us already have the experience of running a successful co-operative venture in the community – the local pub, ‘Y Fic’ in Llithfaen, near Pwllheli.
“When friends in the Conwy Valley decided to develop their micro-brewery business, their small scale brewing equipment became redundant.
“Over a pint at the Fic, I introduced the idea of setting up our own micro-brewery using their equipment. Everyone was keen on the idea!”
Cwrw Llyn members come from various walks of life – some farm, one is a coal man, another is a national chaired bard. Maths teachers, stonemasons and accountants also make up the mix.
Casked Brenin Enlli ale is currently sold in four Llyn pubs, with orders being lined up at another six.
Already demand is outstripping supply and there is talk of expansion. Members are assessing plans to bottle the brew and are examining whether to introduce more lines, including a lighter coloured ale and a form of mild beer.
All are likely to maintain local themes in their names.
Cwrw Llyn member Euron Griffiths, a builder from Nefyn, said it had been a steep learning curve.
“You can imagine the party we had when the first ale was brewed,” he said.
“We currently source the malt barley from a company in Nottingham, but as we have Llyn farmers in the co-operative, we are keen to grow the barley ourselves.
“We already have eight acres of barley planted, which will make us more self- sufficient and lower our food miles.”
The co-operative has received support from Cywain, an RDP-funded project spearheaded by Menter a Busnes set up to add value to agricultural produce.
Alwen Eidda from Cywain said: “We brought in an expert consultant to advise on different aspects of their product, including financial planning, marketing advice and branding.
“The initial success and customer response to ‘Brenin Enlli’ bodes well for ‘Cwrw Llyn’s future plans.”
These include the purchase of a building to be adapted as a micro brewery. Visitors would be encouraged to witness the brewing process.
Two members have already been on fact-finding tours to micro breweries in Pembrokeshire and Copenhagen.
Myrddin ap Dafydd said the group had been astounded by customers’ initial reaction to their first ale.
“Because our beer is produced naturally, the taste is completely different to the mass product you usually buy from supermarkets and pub chains,” he said.
”We don’t add any chemicals to the beer, which more often than not, cause the dreaded hangover the following day.
“Many of our members, who were passionate about their previous tipple, have now been converted to drinking ‘Brenin Enlli.”

The beer will be officially launched on July 23rd at Tafarn y Fic, Llithfaen.

Celebrate the summer with Thai-Bo

The Otley Brewing Company has kicked off the summer by re-introducing ‘Thai-Bo’, its popular Thai-Green curry inspired, golden ale which was brewed in collaboration with beer writer Melissa Cole.  

This 4.6% ABV beer was a massive success during its re-launch at the Great Welsh Beer and Cider Festival which took place at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff in June. The speciality ale sold out halfway through the festival and proved to be a bigger success during its London re-launch earlier this month.

The ale which is infused with lemon grass, lime zest, kaffir lime leaf and galangal, is the first of two collaborative ales jointly brewed by Otley and Melissa Cole, the second being a gooseberry and elderflower pale ale, HedgrO.

Both Thai-Bo and HedgrO were launched together in London last month, which involved a real ale pub crawl, starting at the Jolly Butchers in Stoke Newington, which continued to The Rake in Borough Market, The Euston Tap in Euston Station and finished at The White Horse on Parsons Green. Those taking part ‘tweeted’ along the way which meant that real ale enthusiasts could follow them online during the event.

Melissa, who has judged at beer festivals all over the world and was the first beer writer to collaborate a beer with Otley, said: “If it's true that there's a fine line between genius and insanity, then I think every time I brew with Otley we walk it! The creation of Thaibo has taken the beer-loving world by storm; I'm simply blown away by how much people love it and I never get tired of handing it to unsuspecting drinkers and watching their faces light up as they experience something utterly unique.

“Hedgero was a different proposition, we wanted to subtly enhance existing flavours in beer, that come from the hops, by adding gooseberry and elderflower. I'm also very keen on local heritage and provenance and being able to walk from the front door of the brewery and pick the elderflower to put directly into the barrels of beer, was a truly fantastic experience.

“But more than that, it's about helping build drinker relationships with beer based on an artisan approach and a commitment to quality, which is why our Oh, Oh Tour around London was so valuable and thanks to the hundreds of people who came out to see us.”
Managing director of the Otley Brewing Company, Nick Otley, said: “Our series of collaborative brews have been really popular. We’ve already teamed up with a select number of beer writers including Adrian Tierney Jones, Pete Brown, Roger Protz and of course Melissa Cole. Thai-Bo’s huge success last year meant that we had to bring it back this summer and what better way to do it than at the Great Welsh Beer and Cider Festival for Welsh fans followed by a real ale pub crawl in London. We’ve had great feedback on both ales and we look forward to future collaborations.”

Thai-Bo and HedgrO are both available on cask only with prices starting from £82.

Queen's Vaults, Cardiff

Queen's Vaults, 29 Westgate Street, Cardiff, CF10 1DA

Situated on the corner of Westgate Street and Golate, this City-centre pub is unmistakable with its yellow and green glazed terracotta tiles bearing the legend “Ind Coope Entire” after a long forgotten beer brewed by a long-gone Burton-upon-Trent based brewery. The tiles are unusual for a Cardiff pub and this building deserves its Grade II listed status. The rest of the building is built out of nineteenth-century red brick and the pub sign is of a rather stern-looking Queen Victoria. The name 'Vaults' is unusual for South Wales, the term is more familiar in the North of England and meant a working mens bar, as opposed to a more upmarket 'Smoke Room' or 'Lounge'. The Queens Vaults was built in the nineteenth century when this area of land was drained, previously the river came up to Golate. This pub was the working class bar and formed the rear of the now defunct Queens Hotel on St Mary Street. The Queens Vaults was much smaller in those days, the glazed tiles on the exterior show the extent of the original pub on Westgate Street, the pub later expanded sideways into the former coach-house of the hotel and today a large, arched window, with some stained glass at the top marks the entrance to the former coach-house. The art-deco building next door is the former 'Queens and Royal Garage' and is now home to Zero Degrees.
The Queen's Vaults did go through an odd period in the late 1990s when the owners Carlsberg-Tetley decided to rename the pub the Flyhalf and Firkin, thankfully the pub reverted to its original name in the early years of the twenty-first century. Today, although the pub is owned by Mitchells & Butlers it is run by a local pub company, JW Bassett, who have pubs from in places as diverse as Penarth and Kilburn.
The interior of the Queen's Vaults is open plan, but still manages to retain separate and distinct areas, the Golate side features red-leather seats against the wall, this leads to the well-stocked bar which stretches around the corner with bar stools provided to sit on. At the front of the pub, is a raised dining area and at the rear, in the old coach-house, blackened wooden ceiling beams are exposed and there is enough room for three pool tables here. Unusually for Cardiff, the beer range is from Wales' oldest brewery, Felinfoel of Llanelli, and their Double Dragon takes pride of place alongside their Bitter and the stronger Celtic Pride, all served from the gleaming brass handpumps at very competitive prices. Brains SA Gold is served straight from a cooled cask at the rear of the bar.
The bar back features intricate wood panelling and the dark green walls and ceilings contrast nicely with golden plaster mouldings and golden-framed mirrors.
The Queen's Vaults is open all day and serves food, from a traditional pub menu with value-for-money grills on offer alongside curries and Sunday Lunch.

Google Map:

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Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Bell wins Cider Pub of the Year

The award-winning Bell Inn at Caerleon has another feather in its cap as today it was announced that it has won 'Cider Pub of the Year 2011' for South & Mid-Wales.
The village pub, set on Bulmore Road, a short walk over the Usk bridge from the main part of the village, has gained a reputation for cider since the previous tenant decided to start offering up to 20 different ciders and perries, both on draught and in bottle. New landlord Lee Taylor has kept and expanded the range and the Bell is now firmly established as the cider drinking pub in this part of Wales.

Article I previously wrote about the pub:
Situated across the river from the Roman fortress of Caerleon, the late-medieval Bell Inn is unmissable with its large chimney stack projecting out into the road and honeysuckle growing against it. This type of building is known as a lateral chimney house and when originally built the fireplace would have heated a large open hall, the present ceiling and first floor being inserted in the early seventeenth century. The stone-built fireplace has been partly filled in with building stones over the years but its arch shows how big it used to be. A black metal wood burning heater now stands in the fireplace, nowadays ample enough to heat the pub in winter. Above the fireplace are hung some of the awards this pub has won throughout the years. The Bell was a coaching inn in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and next door was a large malthouse to produce the vital ingredient to the pub's beer.
On entering the Bell there is a restaurant area to the left and a bar to the right. Exposed stone walls, dark wooden beams and flagstone floors add to the ambience of this historic inn. Settles and wooden chairs provide the perfect resting place to sit back and enjoy the live Celtic Music on Wednesday nights or the Jazz & Blues Sunday afternoons. Paintings from local artists are displayed on the walls and are available to buy.
There are three real ales on the handpumps featuring beers from breweries such as Charles Wells, St Austell and Black Sheep. The fourth handpump is reserved for a cider from International Cider Producer of the Year, Gwynt y Ddraig and features a rotating cider from their range such as Dog Dancer, Black Dragon or Brown Snout. To the left of the bar is a chalkboard with the different ciders and perries available, the Bell specialises in cider and offers around 20 different types, both still and sparkling. The draught ciders are served from the cellar as well as from the handpump on the bar. The Bell has previously won CAMRA Cider & Perry Pub of the Year for Wales and has even been a finalist in the UK national competition. The ciders often find their way onto the Bell's menu, being used as an ingredient in their award-winning chef's recipes.
The Bell features a car park to the side of the pub and there is a split-level outside drinking area decorated with colourful garden plants towards the rear. The Bell also hosts regular beer and cider festivals throughout the year.Bell Inn, Bulmore Road, Caerleon, NP18 1QQ

A closed Barry pub

I was in Barry recently and saw this large pub closed and boarded up. The Admiral overlooks Cadoxton Train station and went up for auction ealier this year but was not sold as it did not make its guide price. The reason I posted the photo is that I have an old photo, from the 1960s of the same pub when it was the Wenvoe Arms Hotel and owned by Rhymney Brewery, who were taken over by Whitbread and the pub later passed to a pub company such as Admiral or Enterprise and closed.
My only visit to the pub was in about 2005 when I had a half of Brains Bitter and was quite surprised at the scale of the place, as I discovered later a lot of Barry pubs were built on an immense scale due to the docks trade. The pub has its own car park as well as a skittle alley, is situated in a residential area and is one of those pubs that had everything going for it apart from the fact it was owned by a pub company.
I do hope this building will reopen as a pub, however even conversion to flats would be preferable to decay and eventual demolition.

Cock and Bull in Stony Stratford

According to Wikipedia a 'Cock and Bull Story' is
  1. (idiomatic) A far-fetched and fanciful story or tale of highly dubious validity
and is believed to have originated from stage coachcoaching inns, travellers' gossip and rumour exchanged between two The Cock and The Bull in Stony Stratford, England. These inns were a main stopping point on the turnpike road from London to Birmingham , Chester and North Wales (for Ireland).

Stony Stratford is sited on the Old Watling Street, now the High Street and this road contains some fantastic old coaching inns which I once spent an afternoon researching some years ago.

However one Stony Stratford Councillor, Paul Bartlett, has decided to take it on himself to introduce a smoking ban in public places.

"Stony Stratford is a historic town which is blighted by cigarette butts," said Herr Bartlett.
"The plan that I am trying to put forward is for smoking to be banned in public in the High Street, surrounding streets, and preferably elsewhere as well."
"Why should people be able to smoke in my face and spoil the environment?," he added.

Yes that is correct, this health Nazi has invented his own Cock and Bull Story by wanting to ban smoking in public, not content with thousands of pubs being closed in this countrythis idiot is now proposing to ban a perfectly legal pastime form the streets of his town, though it is more of a surburb of Milton Keynes now.

Where to start with this authoritarian idiot? Well over at Dick's Place place a protest has been organised for this Saturday at the Vaults Bar, High Street, Stony Stratford, Buckinghamshire, MK11 1AQ.
There is a Facebook Group 
A number of articles have been written about this:
Pro-street smoking rally in Stony Stratford - Joshua Lachkovic
For once I'm missing England - Angry Exile
On manoeuvres in Stony Stratford - Misanthrope Girl
A day in Stony Stratford - Devil's Kitchen
Is there honour amongst thieves? - Frank Davis
Stony Stratford, the sequel - Filthy Engineer
... and there are a collection of posters at Lawson Narse's place.

The speakers so far confirmed are as below (others may follow): 
Bill Etheridge - Midlands representative for The Freedom Association
David O'Dell - Head of Stony Stratford Chamber of Commerce
Patrick Hayes - Journalist at the Institute of Ideas and columnist at Spiked
Nigel Farage - Leader of UKIP

So if you fancy satnding up for civil rights this Saturday in Stony Stratford, pop along and give the smokers your support.
First they came for the Smokers, next they came for the drinkers. The health Nazis are out there - time to start hitting back now!

Google Map:

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Image courtesy of Lawson Narse at Flying Warpigs

O Roger for Burton

Burton ale makes comeback thanks to Welsh brewing collaboration

Burton-on-Trent is set to welcome a revival in its famous Burton ale as a new style goes on sale in local pubs this week (12 July).

The beer, named O Roger, has been brewed by South Wales based Otley Brewing Company in collaboration with world-renowned beer writer, Roger Protz.

Described as a ‘traditional Burton ale with a twist’ by Nick Otley from the Otley Brewing Company, the brew has been created with a pale malt and a small amount of amber malt to 5.2% ABV. As well as English Fuggles and Goldings English hops, American dry hops – Colombus, Galena and Aurora - were used to give it the twist.

Nick Otley, managing director of the Otley Brewing Company, said: “As a brewer that’s constantly experimenting with new types of real ale, we joined forces with Roger Protz to brew something really special. We’re really excited to be bringing back the traditional Burton Ale and what better way to launch it than in two of the best pubs in Burton-on-Trent.

“We’re inviting anyone along who fancies giving it a try and learning about Burton ale – a beer that goes back to the 18th century and has seen a colourful history. We thought it was about time to relaunch it for the 21st century and we’re looking forward to seeing how well it goes down with drinkers in its home town.”

After maturing in casks, the beer is now ready to be launched in Burton-on-Trent, and will be available from the 12th July at The Devonshire Arms on Station Street and The Alfred, on Derby Street, from 4pm.

Roger Protz said: “This is an exciting moment as it is the recreation of a great British beer style that has almost disappeared from view. I chose to have this version of Burton Ale brewed outside of Burton-on-Trent to stress that in the 18th and 19th centuries the style was so popular throughout the country that most brewers had ‘a Burton’ in their portfolio.

"It was a massive beer style with the strongest versions exported to Tsarist Russia and the Baltic States. I am looking forward with keen anticipation to tasting Otley's version.”

Monty’s Brewery and Miss England finalist

News from SIBA website:

An award-winning Mid-Wales brewery, Monty's has managed to secure the talents of Miss England finalist Amy Wollerton to promote their Award winning Monty’s Mischief.
Mischief posterMonty’s Mischief is a strong golden bitter with initial punches of hops on the pallet, subtle malt character aftertaste, refreshing and easily quaffable for a 5% ale. It is a SIBA 2011 regional award winner, getting a bronze in the strong bitters category at Ludlow in the Wales and West competition.
Monty’s want to wish Amy every success in the Miss England competition!

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Brains rebrand cask ales

Wales' biggest real ale brewers, SA Brain have announced that they are to rebrand their pumpclips, full press release below:

Welsh brewer S.A Brain and Co Ltd, famed for its much loved SA, has completed a major re-brand of its cask ales as part of a wider plan to grow sales and market share throughout the UK.

The company will showcase the new designs at the Great British Beer Festival in August, with an on trade roll-out following soon after. 

Brains began the re-brand process 12 months ago after identifying that the cask market was changing and product brand design would be even more important to future success. Richard Davies, sales and marketing director at Brains explained: “Cask ale is growing its share of the total beer market and the development of our range of cask beers is a key element of our growth strategy going forward, both within Wales and across the UK.

“Our current cask design has been in market since 2002 so, with more interest and competition in the category, we felt the time was right to modernise.”

After a pitch process, Brains recruited integrated branding and design agency Blue Marlin. Their brief: to evolve the brands, modernise the look, and create a unique design; all with the aim of engaging with new consumers and appealing to a wider demographic.

Chris Hart, creative director of Blue Marlin Bath said: “We looked at Brains’ heritage and what Welshness means today. The Welsh dragon is really important so we wanted to find a modern, contemporary way of representing it that is stylish, adaptable and ownable. What we came up with is a massive step away from the usual cask ale territory that reawakens the legend of Brains.”

And the result? A simplified and distinctive design, featuring clear product descriptors and a unique dragon’s tail, which, Davies explains: “is a design device we can own as much as Nike own their swoosh”.

Brains’ last major re-branding exercise began 10 years ago and resulted in the ‘more positive thinking’ strap line, while more recently the company successfully redesigned its keg range. This latest re-brand will be supported by national advertising in the Daily Telegraph throughout the Rugby World Cup in September. Brains range of bottles and cans will also carry the new design look and will be introduced ahead of the Christmas trading period.

Scores on the doors

A while ago the Food Standards Agency launched their 'Scores on the Doors' programme with scores from 0 to 5 being award with 0 being 'Urgent improvement necessary' to 5 being 'Very good'. Now these scores are produced by local councils and I'm a bit disappointed to see that environmental health officers from Newport have not got around to all the Newport pubs - also the listing system is a bit confusing - 'The' appears in the alphabetical list in some places and not others so if you search for a pub name the search will not show up the pub name unless you use 'The'! A bit of a data entering error there on behalf of my useless council.

Cardiff Council does seem to have covered their pubs well, take for instance Cathedral Road and the scores available for those pubs:
The Cayo Arms is owned by Marston's and scores 3, 'Generally Satisfactory' - FSA link here

Further up the street the Evans-Evans flagship pub, the Cricketers fairs less well:
Scoring a 1, ' Major Improvement Necessary' - FSA link here
The pub also had a disapointing review of its food here.
Now to take this in context a quick look at the search for Caroline Street, Cardiff's 'Chip Alley' reveals these scores:
All scoring better than the Cricketers.
Finally the Halfway, owned by SA Brain, FSA link here
I often eat in this pub when in Pontcanna and have always found the pub to be clean and welcoming.

Check out the cleanliness of your favourite pubs via the Food Standards Agency website here

NB: The above screen shots were taken from the Food Standards Agency website on the 11.07.11. and are subject to change and alteration dependent on future surveys by Cardiff Council.

Monday, 11 July 2011

City Arms American Beer Festival

Well done to SA Brain for allowing the City Arms in Cardiff to host an American Beer Festival. The first order of beers had sold out in a few days but reorders were done and the full range was replenished within a few days. Most of the beers were served in brewery branded glasses – a nice touch that added to the festival. With 2 beers on draught and the rest in bottles a good and unusual selection of beers was put on. The festival also gave me a chance to put the beers on Untappd – a social networking site for beer drinkers – with a lot of American beers on it.

I started with a bottle of Goose Island IPA from Chicago – a beer recommended to me by Glynn from the Rake last year. An excellent IPA to start the day off, packed with citrus and hop notes. Very enjoyable, I could have gone for some more of this but in the interests of research I decided to try a few more beers. Probably the best beer brewed by Inbev or whatever they are calling themselves this week - AnInBev, AnBev?

One of my drinking companions had chosen to go for a beer from Flying Dog Brewery of Maryland and the bottle label intrigued me – it featured the unmistakable artwork of Ralph Steadman on it, so I ordered their Raging Bitch – a Belgium IPA, weighing in at a hefty 8.3% ABV. The glass it came in was decorated with the company logo and featured a quote from Hunter S Thompson on it, “Good people drink good beer”. Can't argue with that! And the beer – a hop bomb on the tongue, dangerously drinkable at this strength, straight away I realised this was to become one of my favourite beers. Could have stayed drinking this all night but thought I'd better go for something a bit weaker next.

Onto the Brooklyn Summer Beer – a bit weaker than the others at 5% - one drinking companion thought it was a bit bland but I thought it was a quite a pleasant and refreshing beer that made a change from the hop bombs tasted earlier.

Decided to change coasts and have an Anchor Summer Beer – another light one at only 4.6%. The San Francisco-based Anchor Brewery were one of the first American breweries I tasted about 20 years ago and their beers never fail to impress.

Perusing the beer list, the Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout stood out and not just because it weighed in at 10% - it's been quite a while since I tried an Imperial Russian Stout so that was the next beer to try. Rich, dark and tasty, this is a beer meant for sipping. By now my tastebuds were becoming slightly tired so had to decide on one last beer to go for – went for a bottle of Flying Dog Raging Bitch, my favourite beer of the festival.

All in all this was a good little festival at the City Arms, giving customers a chance to try beers not usually available in Cardiff. With German and Belgium beer festivals being planned for the pub, the City Arms is becoming the best beerhouse in the City.

Popped in again on Monday night (tonight) for another bottle of Flying Dog Raging Bitch.

The beer festival is continuing this week until the beers are sold!

Elderflower wheaty goodness

Popped into Zero Degrees in Cardiff to see what their monthly beer is, it turns out to be an Elderflower Wheat beer. Now I'm not normally a fan of wheat beers but this one works and the elderflower is noticeable in the aroma and taste. The floral notes of the elderflower compliment the vanilla tones of the wheat beer quite well. A bit on the sweet side for me but very drinkable, especially at only 4.2% ABV

Worth watching

For those of you in the ITV Wales region, Wales this Week takes a look at the pub trade in Wales tomorrow (Tuesday 12th July, 1930hrs)
Update: via a Facebook acquaintance:
View watching your Sky Box via add channels 10832.00 H 22000 5/6
or on Freesat tune in in non-freesat mode

Update II
Its on the ITV Wales Blog here

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

The Crofts, Roath, Cardiff

The Crofts,  14-15 Crofts Street, Roath, Cardiff, CF24 3DZ
 Situated in a residential area of Cardiff, the Crofts was built in 1957, replacing an earlier pub known as the Crofts Hotel that dated back to 1867 but had been destroyed during the Cardiff Blitz between the 2nd and 3rd January 1941. Built out of brick, today the Crofts is a two-story street-corner pub with sash and dormer windows and is slightly larger than the original building on the site, the rebuild encompassed two neighbouring properties that were also destroyed. Originally owned by local brewers Hancock's, the Crofts later went into decline under Welsh Brewers and a pub company before an enterprising local company bought the pub and have set about improving this back street community local.

The Crofts still retains its original two bar layout, with an impressive wooden front door leading to the surprisingly large bar area with its red leather-coloured settles, tables and bar stools. There is even room for a dartboard in one corner. This public bar is also home to Crofty, an African Grey Parrot whose whistles and calls keep the customers and passers by amused in the warm weather as his cage takes up a doorway to the side. In the colder weather, a wood-burning stove is situated in the fireplace. The bar itself is carved out of mahogany and the dark wood panelling extends around the door frames and above the bar. The original deeds to the plot of land the pub was built on are framed and mounted on the wall of the bar.
At the moment, only one real ale is served and this alternates between the house beer 'Parrot Beer' and guests such as Sharps Doombar from Cornwall and Charles Wells Bombardier, a rare outlet this far West for the Bedfordshire Brewery.
A door to the left-hand side of the bar leads to the toilets and, more surprisingly to a wooden-clad skittle alley. This area will be used in the future for exhibitions from local artists. The corridor also leads to the lounge/dining area which is also accessible via the glass fronted doors on Partridge Road. The lounge features plenty of seating and on a wall is a large photo of Winston Churchill waving as he was driven past the bomb-damaged pub on his visit to Cardiff on the 14th April 1941. The pub can be clearly recognised by the Hancock's Toastmaster sign hanging from the wall.
At the rear of the Crofts is a patio area that features a covered smoking section.
At the moment the Crofts only does food from 11-3 as well as Sunday lunch, wherever possible local produce is used with allotment-grown fruit and vegetables being utilised alongside other locally-sourced ingredients such as fresh fish delivered daily.  There are set menus featuring pub favourites as well as home-made specials on chalkboards which change regularly but can feature such favourites as Pea & Ham Soup and Turkey & Ham Pie. Vegetarians are also catered for with Glamorgan Sausages and other options available.
This Thursday (07.07.11) will see a Players, Poets and Pints night with free admission. More details via Facebook here.

Google Map:
The pub is on the corner of Croft Street and Partridge Road, the Google Map is only slighty out!

View Larger Map

Grouse and Telegraph get together in search for famous pubs

Following on from the success of the Famous Grouse/Telegraph competition last year to find the most famous pubs in Britain, these two have coupled up again to run the feature this year with the supplement being printed in the The Sunday Telegraph this October.
The supplement from last year can be found here.
A good bit of pr for the pub trade despite the rubbish written about the Skirrid Inn in Monmouthshire - check out some fisking of the Skirrid stories here.
That aside the photographs of the pubs are excellent and I hope the same quality publication will be forthcoming this autumn.
All the pubs that make it into the supplement will be awarded a commemorative plaque and there is a prize of a trip around the Famous Grouse distillery to be won by someone who nominates a pub.
More information from the Telegraph here.
Nominate a pub here.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Newport Publican celebrates 20 years behind the bar

 Above: There is no truth in the rumour that Al Murray based his most famous character on Rob Jones of the Murenger!

Award-winning publican Rob Jones has recently celebrated 20 years of managing one of Newport's finest pubs, Ye Olde Murenger House. A regular entry in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide, the Murenger is famous as the 'Haven in a Superpub Ghetto' - with its no chav policy and sportswear being banned - polo shirts and rugby shirts excepted as, of course, they would be - the Murenger is one of the best pubs in the City. The Murenger does not have bouncers outside on weekends as other pubs do - the main reason for this is that if Rob does not think the customer is suitable they do not get served - a policy that has served Rob and customers well for 20 years in this grand old Tudor building.
Above: Ye Olde Murenger House, High Street, Newport

Rob previously worked for Sam Smiths in the Swiss Cottage pub in Chalk Farm, North London before returning home to his a native town to take on the reigns of the Murenger. During his time running the Murenger, owners Sam Smith's have restored the building with their sensitive refurbishments and Rob has even introduced a charity bookshelf made from the timbers of the old bar into the pub. 

And a blast from the past below, from the archives of the South Wales Argus, Rob Jones with hair! 

Some history about the Murenger House is available here.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Saturday Kitchen gets Twitterjacked!

It was enjoying seeing the Saturday Kitchen hashtag (#Saturdaykitchen) Twitterjacked by beer lovers today. I must admit I gave up watching the show years ago after Anthony Worrall-Thompson stopped presenting it - I prefer to spend my Saturday mornings watching repeats of Time Team on More4 than watching some unfunny comedian and theatrical has-beans waffle on about their likes and dislikes when it comes to food.
The big problem it seems on Saturday Kitchen is that the presenters are always suggesting wines to go with the food - even today suggesting wine with curry! Now all beer lovers know that hoppy ales, IPAs, even King Cobra are far better to match with a curry than wine - but the presenters and most probably the producers of the show still promote the grape over the grain.
Today beer drinkers took over the #Saturdaykitchen and suggested their own beer matches to the food being prepared.
 Above: Some of the Tweets today
Check out this blog post from Hardnott Dave
He has also made a complaint to OfCom, the basis of which is below:
Beer is the national indigenous drink of Great Britain
Beer is deliberately omitted from Saturday Kitchen
Wine is almost completely an imported product
Beer can be matched with food very successfully
By omitting beer in favour of wine, the BBC is deliberately and unreasonably biasing its content to a foreign import
The BBC, our national broadcasting authority, which is paid for by a tax on television ownership, is deliberately and recklessly damaging the UK economy by its unreasonable and deliberate rejection of beer as a beverage to drink with food. The vast majority of beer consumed in the UK is brewed in the UK using British grown ingredients
Drinking alcohol when eating is a much more responsible activity than heavy drinking sessions when no food is consumed. The BBC, in omitting beer from one of its prime time food programs is alienating beer drinkers from the healthy activity of moderate drinking whilst eating; therefore the BBC is being reckless with the nations health
With many eating and family pubs it is disingenuous to suggest that beer does not form part of the British dining culture
Promoting brands of wine in named supermarkets without also giving air time to quality British beer brands is unacceptable bias for a public funded organisation
Beer is an inclusive beverage. Choosing wine in favour of beer is divisive and deliberately seeks to engage with a much narrower section of society than is acceptable in todays cosmopolitan and liberal Britain.

Over  1500 comments were made on Twitter this morning using the hashtag Saturday Kitchen and suggesting beers to go with the food being prepared on the show. 

A good start to a campaign to get the BBC to put more beer on our screens.


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