Saturday, 9 October 2021

A pint in the Pilot

The Mumbles Mile pub crawl is one of those historic crawls that is better left to history than attempted, apparently there were 26 pubs when the pub crawl was first put around in the 1960s, far less today but at least there are no Watney Brewery pubs left. Probably about 13 pubs now, although the line blurs between "eatery" and "pub". A few of the pubs are food only so are actually restaurants, others are hardly open, The George for example but that may have to do with the Brains sale of their pubs. Anyway, any serious attempt at the Mumbles Mile faces  serious problems in that the beers in the Pilot brew pub and the nearby micropub Ty Cwrw, Welsh for Beer House, are far better than in the other pubs/restaurants along the way. Mumbles is worth a visit just for those 2 pubs. 

Monday, 6 September 2021

Former Wetherspoons in Newport closes

As if the rows of closed shops in the centre of Newport isn't depressing enough, the former Wetherspoons pub, the Tom Toya Lewis has shut it's doors. Wetherspoons put the pub on the market back in 2017 and sold it in mid-2018 with planning permission to convert the unused upstairs into 8 two-bedroomed apartments. The pub was bought by Warrington-based Close Community Ltd, who, according to Companies House run "sports clubs". Anyway, their accounts are overdue at Companies House and even when the pub was open under the new ownership their were supply problems with beer and food.

The pub was named after Tom Toya Lewis, a young hero of the 1909 Alexandra docks disaster and was originally built as the YMCA in 1909, although by the 1980s the downstairs had become a tailor's shop, Bollingtons I believe?

Elsewhere in Newport, 'Spoons have also sold the Queen's Hotel, which has become a members-only club, ending 157 years of being a public house.

Saturday, 21 August 2021

Rhymney Brewery to open pub in Newport

A stroll down Commercial Street in Newport revealed a lot of closed and borded up shops but this former bank has a notice in the window, applying for planning permission for change of use to a pub. The Blaenavon-based Rhymney Brewery are looking to convert this building into a pub to fit in with their portfolio of pubs in Merthyr (The Winchester), Pontypridd (The Wonky Bar), Cardiff, Aberdare and Maesteg. Good to see a brewery doing something positive in the City Centre.

The address, 32-33 Commercial Street was formerly a branch of the RBS, 
1948 the National Bank had chambers here
1938 National Bank
1914 Hodder,  Henry & Co Ltd,  chemists were here
1897   32,  Oliver,  Geo,  bootmaker
              -   Davies,  D,  manager, Geo Oliver
           33,  Garrett,  & Atkins,  chemists
            -   Atkins,  & Lockyear,  photographic artists

32 Phillips H. W. clothier    
33 Adams John, pork butcher    
33 Jacobs Samuel, watchmaker. &c.
Lewis, David, Builder and Valuer, 32, Commercial street.
Harden, Charles, Baker, Grocer and Confectioner, 33, Commercial street.

Saturday, 6 February 2021

Best Beers in Wales

Time for the annual review of websites to find the Best Beer in Wales
 First up is the Anheuser-Busch Inbev subsidiary of Ratebeer:

1              Mabinogion Mead / Superstition 'Hounds of Annwn' Strawberry vanilla 2              Polly's Brew DDH Oh My               

3              Polly's Brew Fallow Plans              

4              Tiny Rebel Imperial Puft                

5              Loka Polly Souvenirs       

6              Polly's Brew India Pale Ale El Dorado Deluxe Edition         

7              Polly's Brew Farrago       

8              Loka Polly Rosa                

9              Loka Polly Spur 3.79        

10           Polly's Brew Lo-Fi            

11           Polly’s Brew Every Piece Matters             

12           Tiny Rebel Stay Puft Imperial Chocolate                

13           Tiny Rebel / Siren Dark Cherry & Chocolate Barley Wine                 

14           Polly's Brew Livewire      

15           Mabinogion Mead Transformation to Eagle        

16           Polly's Brew Fickle         

17           Loka Polly Double IPA Mosaic Simcoe     

18           Polly's Brew DDH Pines 

19           Polly's Brew DDH Rosa   

20           Polly's Brew Rock The Bit            

21           Tiny Rebel Stay Puft Imperial Praline      

22           Polly's Brew Mylar           

23           Polly's Brew Avery           

24           Polly's Brew Double IPA Azacca Mosaic  

25           Polly's Brew What Did You Feel IPA          

26           Polly's Brew DDH Spur   

27           Polly's Brew Patternist   

28           Tiny Rebel Stay Puft Imperial Espresso Martini  

29           Tiny Rebel / Arbor Bonsai            

30           Polly's Brew Naive Melody          

31           Polly's Brew Discount Jazz Hour                 

32           Polly's Brew Cahb            

33           Tiny Rebel Stay Puft Imperial Salted Caramel       

34           Tiny Rebel Stay Puft Amplified Imperial               

35           Tiny Rebel Stay Puft Imperial Irish Cream              

36           Polly's Brew India Pale Ale Simcoe Mosaic           

37           Tiny Rebel Dodge, Dip, Duck, Dive and Dulce       

38           Tiny Rebel / Deya NEIPA               

39           Loka Polly Petal                 

40           Polly's Brew An Original Mix       

41           Polly's Brew Ghost Voices            

42           Polly's Brew DDH Patternist        

43           Polly's Brew Nada            

44           Tiny Rebel What's Cooler Than Being Cool           

45           Polly's Brew Like A Ghost            

46           Tiny Rebel / Siren Didgeridank   

47           Tiny Rebel / Brewdog Swansea Super Hero Landing         

48           Polly's Brew On & On & On         

49           Polly's Brew Here We Are, Again               

50           Loka Polly Stout Citra Columbus                

Once again, the Ratebeer list is dominated by Tiny Rebel and Polly's/Loka Polly (they had to change their name due to legal threats from another producer)

Ratebeer also offers their list of top places their members drink in,

  1. Tiny Rebel Cardiff (91)
  2. BrewDog Cardiff (88)
  3. Hopbunker (87)
  4. City Arms (Brains) (84)
  5. Tiny Rebel Newport (83)
  6. Fire & Ice (81)
  7. Clytha Arms (80)
  8. Vinomondo (80)
  9. Bub's Bar & Kitchen (80)
  10. Albion Ale House (79)

Although with the pubs being shut that list has not changed since last year

Meanwhile on Untappd:

  1. Polly's Brew Co DDH Spur
  2. Polly's Brew Co. DDH Pines
  3. Polly's Brew Co. DDH Patternist
  4. Polly's Brew Co. DDH Rosa
  5. Polly's Brew Co. Birthday Beer
  6. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co Super Hero Landing
  7. Polly's Brew Co. 58 BPM
  8. Polly's Brew Co. DDH Every Piece Matters
  9. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co Imperial Salted Caramel Stay Puft
  10. Polly's Brew Co. DDH Oh My…
  11. Polly's Brew Co. Nada
  12. Polly's Brew Co. Everything We Dream Of
  13. Polly's Brew Co. Acapella
  14. Polly's Brew Co. Fallow Plans
  15. Polly's Brew Co. Keeler
  16. Polly's Brew Co. Rosa
  17. Polly's Brew Co. Ghost Voices
  18. Polly's Brew Co.Cahb
  19. Polly's Brew Co Good Nature
  20. Polly's Brew Co Lo-Fi
  21. Polly's Brew Co Spur
  22. Polly's Brew Co  The New Renassaince
  23. Polly's Brew Co Every Piece Matters
  24. Tiny Rebel Imperial Chocolate Stay Puft
  25. Polly's Brew Co Amateur Dance
  26. Polly's Brew Co Circadian Rhythm
  27. Polly's Brew Co The Feels Vol 3
  28. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co Amplified Imperial Stay Puft
  29. Polly's Brew Co Farrago
  30. Polly's Brew Co Naive Melody
  31. Polly's Brew Co Dream Like Sequence
  32. Polly's Brew Co Brand New Only
  33. Polly's Brew Co Does It Matter How Far?
  34. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co Stay Puft Imperial Praline Edition
  35. Polly's Brew Co Mylar
  36. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co Imperial Irish Cream Stay Puft
  37. Polly's Brew Co. The One You Can’t Control
  38. Polly's Brew Co. Humble Clairvoyance
  39.  Polly's Brew Co.Dry Hope
  40. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co Imperial Puft
  41. Polly's Brew Co Pines
  42. Polly's Brew Co El Dorado IPA - Deluxe Edition
  43. Polly's Brew Co Mosaic Simcoe Double IPA
  44. Polly's Brew Co Bubble Dream
  45. Polly's Brew Co The Daphne Touch
  46. Polly's Brew Co Surface Edition
  47. Polly's Brew Co An Original Mix

Polly's dominating the list there and between them and Tiny Rebel, there are no other contenders! 

According to Untapped "The list shows the top beers, based on our weighted average formula, which effectively rates all beers against each-other. A beer must have 150 ratings or more to qualify for this list. For more information on our rating system, please view our ratings explainer."

Untapped is by far my favourite way of rating beers, the app is easy to use and easy to share beers around social media. The editor has been on Untapped for over 10 years now!

Untapped also produce a list of top breweries in Wales, according to them "A brewery must have at least 1,000 ratings and at least 5 beers in their portfolio to qualify for this list." Their top Welsh breweries are:

  1. Polly's Brew Co.
  2. Dog's Window Brewery
  3. Lucky 7 Beer Co
  4. Crafty Devil Brewing Co
  5. Wild Horse Brewing Co
  6. BeerRiff
  7. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co
  8. Tenby Brewing Co
  9. Wilderness Brewery
  10. PIPES™
  11. Rival Brewing Co.
  12. Flowerhorn
  13. Lines Brew Co.
  14. The Waen Brewery
  15. Gwynt y Ddraig
  16. Cwrw Cader
  17. Geipel Brewing
  18. Purple Moose Brewery (Bragdy Mŵs Piws)
  19. Porthmadog, Gwynedd Wales
  20. Brew Monster
  21. Untapped Brewing Company
  22. Mad Dog Brewing Co
  23. Gower Brewery
  24. Cwrw Llŷn
  25.  Mantle
  26. Glamorgan Brewing Co
  27. Tenby Harbwr Brewery
  28. Cwrw Iâl Community Brewing Company
  29. Hallets
  30. Hafod Brewing Company
  31. Bragdy Twt Lol / The Trefforest Brewery
  32. Lithic Brewing
  33. Big Hand Brewing Co
  34. Caffle Brewery
  35. Snowdon Craft Beer
  36. Kingstone Brewery
  37. Bragdy Lleu
  38. VOG Brewery
  39. Cold Black Label
  40. Mumbles Brewery
  41.  Coles Family Brewers
  42. Conwy Brewery
  43. Tomos & Lilford
  44. Bragdy Nant Brewery
  45. Great Orme Brewery
  46.  Bluestone Brewing Co.
  47. Tudor Brewery
  48. Tomos Watkin Brewery
  49.  Brewhouse & Kitchen - Cardiff
  50. Gwaun Valley Brewery

Once again, over at Beer Advocate, no Welsh beers make it into the top 100 but for the second year they do now have a top list of Welsh beers:

  1. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co. Hadouken
  2. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co. Stay Puft
  3. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co. ClwbTropicana
  4. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co.Cali
  5. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co. Urban IPA
  6. The Hurns Brewing Co Tomos Watkin's Cwrw Hâf
  7. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co. Cwtch
  8. Purple Moose Brewery Dark Side Of The Moose (Ochr Tywyll Y Mws)
  9. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co. Dirty Stop Out
  10. Brains Dark
  11. Felinfoel Brewery Co. Thames Welsh ESB
  12. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co.The Full Nelson
  13. The Hurns Brewing Co Tomos Watkin Old Style Bitter
  14. Brains Original Stout
  15. The Hurns Brewing Co. Tomos Watkin's Cwrw Braf
  16. Brains Bitter
  17. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co. FUBAR
  18. Brains Craft Brewery Boilermaker
  19. Purple Moose Brewery Snowdonia Ale (Cwrw Eryri)
  20. Conwy Brewery Clogwyn Gold
  21. Brains The Rev. James
  22. Brains Craft Brewery Barry Island IPA
  23. Brains SA Gold
  24. Brains Black
  25. Brains SA
  26. Felinfoel Brewery Co. Double Dragon
  27. Tiny Rebel Brewing Co. Frambuzi
  28. Conwy Brewery Balchder Cymru (Welsh Pride) 
A few odd ones in that list, Otley have not brewed for 5 years and Felinfoel Thames ESB is only made for export.
No awards from CAMRA due to beer festivals cancelled due to COVID

Once again, beers from the Llandeilo Village Idiot failed to get a mention in any of the lists

Sunday, 24 January 2021

British Taverns and the Cross Keys

I recently purchased a copy of "British Taverns, Their History and Laws", published in 1928 and written by a Lord Askwith. The first page, reproduced below, mentions a Cross Keys pub near Caerleon, which made me wonder where this pub was situated? 

A look at the 1901 Kelly's Directory reveals 5 pubs of that name in the County of Monmouthshire
The Cross Keys in Usk and Cross Keys are still with us and Blaenavon is hardly near Caerleon so that leaves us with Llansoy, a village famous for, well, not much really, apart from an Iron-age hill fort. The pub can be found on an old OS map

Picture taken from Google Street view as the former Cross Keys looks today

Llansoy is hardly "near Caerleon" but this pub seems to be the one in question as the roads give it no where to expand to. In the following pages, Lord Askwith takes us on his presumed history of the pub, from the time of the Roman Conquest to the time it loses it's license. Quite a bit of poetic license is taken in that story as the building is probably only a couple of hundred years old and only became licensed after the Beerhouse Act of 1830. About a mile away, the Star, Llanfihangel-Tor-y-Mynydd claims to have sixteenth century origins. Oh well, back to the book!

Friday, 11 September 2020

Now & Then former Prince of Wales ph, Baneswell, Newport

The former Prince of Wales, 1 St Woolos Road/corner of St Mary Street, opposite the former Oddfellows & Foresters, also now closed. Both pubs converted to residential.

First mentioned 1872, 1905 was owned by Phillips Brewery, closed 1958 and license transferred to the new build Centurian ph, St Julians, Newport. The Centurion ph was recently demolished (2020)

For some reason the new Blogger format won't allow me to embed a Google map, so the map link is here

Friday, 3 April 2020

Transpennine Pub Crawl

A few weeks before the country was in lockdown, two of us decided on doing the Transpennine Real Ale Trail, which is on the Manchester to Leeds service via Huddersfield. The pub at Manchester Piccadilly station isn't the best in the world so a quick Uber to the relatively new Brewdog Outpost Brewery on Oxford Road was called upon for lunch. Set in the heart of the University quarter, this bar was surprisingly quiet .
A short bus journey back to Piccadilly, saw us catch the Transpennine Express service to Huddersfield.  A fast, regular service with modern rolling stock, the service has both fast non-stopping trains and slower stopping services which run every hour and are ideal for the Ale Trail which we were going to do the next day. Having only visited Huddersfield once before it was a good excuse to spend the night there and discover some of the excellent bars around the town. On the way to the Magic Rock tap I came across a the unusually named pub, the Slubber's Arms. A slubber was someone who used a slubbing machine - In wool-spinning, a machine used for imparting a slight twist to rovings, to give them the needed strength for working them in the subsequent operations of drawing and spinning.
Well-worth visiting for a range of superb beers including a cask mild as well as Timothy Taylor beers. A former Wilson's pub, this was owned by Tim Taylor's and is now a freehouse. The interior has a 1950s feel to the place which, along with the coal fire adds to the ambience of the pub.

A short walk uphill from the Slubbers is the Magic Rock brewery tap
Another good pace to spend a few hours, however I was avoiding anything too strong as in the morning we were doing the Ale Trail.

First pub of the day was Stalybridge Buffet Bar, situated just outside of Manchester and dating back to 1885, a fine selection of real ales on tap here and we could've spent longer here but the train was beckoning to:
Unfortunately the Railway was closed at the time of visiting, early afternoon in the winter, so a steep walk downhill brought us past one of those lookalike Marston's eateries to the excellent Wellington
Seven real ales on tap, including a dark mild and Salopian Lemon Dream, could've spent longer in here but the train was calling, a steep walk uphill to return to the station and the next stop:

The Riverhead Brewery and Tap is one of four micro-breweries run by Ossett Brewery Again we could not fault the beer but too soon it was time to catch another hourly service travelling east through the Pennines.
Slaithwaite is not pronounced how it is spelt, the locals say it fast and it comes out something like "Slewit or Sloughit"
Another excellent range of real ales, including locally-brewed ones in the Commercial

The next stop on the line is Huddersfield, as we were using a Rail Rover ticket that does not allow travel between 1600 and 1800, we caught a train to the other end of the line at Batley and visited the Chaverspoons to have something to eat, meanwhile, I'll continue the crawl in the direction of travel.

Huddersfield Railway Station has been praised by both Pevsner and Betjeman, although in their days there were not 2 pubs either side of the main station building, today the Head of Steam (above) and the King's Head (below) straddle the entrance to the grand building.
There was another licensed premises on St George's Square, the former George Hotel was the birthplace of Rugby League in 1895

The former hotel closed in 2013 and after rejected planning applications by the owner for change of use to student flats, the local council have recently purchased the building.

Back to the trains and the next stop heading east on the Real Ale Trail is:
The Navigation, so named as a canal is close to the pub, has almost the entire draught range of Theakston's real ales on the bar, as well as two guest beers.

The West Riding Refreshment Rooms are on the station, and it's worth just coming to Dewsbury for the pub. In fact, is there any other reason for visiting Dewsbury? The Refreshment Rooms are run by Beerhouses, the same company that runs the Stalybridge Buffet Bar.

Opposite the station entrance is the Cellar Bar. Batley is an odd little place, there is even a Wetherspoons here, the Union Rooms, with odder customers than usual so it was a good time to put the app to use, saved mingling with the inmates. No photos of the 'Spoons as it was raining heavily and cold, by this time we were understanding why no one completes this Ale trail in the winter.

Back in the King's Head, Huddersfield for about 2230 at night!
It was a hard day out!
The Transpennine Real Ale Trail has come in for some bad press over the years, partly to do with a lack of toilets on the more rural railway stations and, according to a local, an eagle-eyed pensioner with a camera who waits at her window overlooking one of the stations, ready to catch anyone having answering a call of nature. However, what it does offer are some fantastic pubs and fantastic beers. We spent 12 hours up and down the line using a not-that-well-advertised West Yorkshire Train Day Saver which only cost £8.10. We discovered some great pubs that are worth travelling out to visit just on their own, without the Ale Trail, I could have spent the afternoon in the Riverhead Brewery Tap for instance!

Wednesday, 11 March 2020

A visit to Greene King Brewery and the Old Cannon Brewery

Greene King have increased their pubs a lot over the last 30 years, I can remember seeking out their somewhat exotic (for North London) XX Mild in the Compton Arms in the back streets of Islington all those years ago. The Compton is now a free house, the pub being to small for the likes of the giant Greene King. In those days, even Abbot Ale was rare, although it did make it onto the bar in the fledgling JD Wetherspoon chain. Nowadays Greene King operate over 3000 pubs under names such as Taylor Walker, Hungry Horse, Loch Fyne, Flaming Grill, Chef & Brewer, Farmhouse Inns, Old English Inns and Belhaven in Scotland. My first job from school was actually working for Belhaven Inns in the Queens Hotel, Newport, which is now a Wetherspoons. Anyway, back to Greene King!In those 30 years, Greene King have bought up Morlands Brewery (who had bought Ruddles Brewery previously), Ridley's Brewery (who had bought Tolly Cobbold brewery), Hardy & Hanson's, they had previously closed Rayments Brewery in 1987 which was an odd little brewery in rural Hertfordshire. So a large portfolio of beers are brewed here, but for how much longer? The day I visited Greene King Brewery was the day in October 2019 when the takeover by Hong Kong based CK Assest Holdings had been cleared by the High Court. Property companies who own breweries are never a good thing as history has proven.
The complex of buildings that make up the present brewery is an amalgamation of two breweries with a 1938 brewhouse tower in the middle
Above: the Westgate Brewery, dating from the early 1700's which was purchased by Benjamin Greene in 1806. He had been brewing in Bury St Edmunds since 1799, the date the company regards as it's foundation. 

Today a pipe connects the former Westgate Brewery to the brewhouse as this side of the brewery is used for fermentation.  

Above and below: the East side of the brewery, formerly Frederick King's brewery.  The two breweries were merged in 1887 to form Greene King & Sons 
Below: the former barley store

Above: Looking eastwards from the tower, King's Brewery

Above: Looking south from the tower brewhouse, the flat-roofed building is the packaging department

Above: Looking West from the tower brewhouse, the Westgate (Greene's) Brewery
The roof of the tower brewhouse houses the liquor tanks for the brewery as well as giving spectacular views of Bury St Edmunds.  
Working our way down the brewery we have the grist mills
The large silos underneath the mills
The masher, looks like a Steele's Masher, leading to the copper mash tuns

Above: the rather modern-looking copper
Below: In a corner of the brewery, sits the St Edmund Brewhouse, a 30 barrel microbrewery that can brew short-run brews, craft beers and experimental brews

One of the fermenters in the Westgate side, unfortunately the tour did not include any of the wooden fermenters still used to brew Old 5X, which is rarely sold but instead used as a base for other beers such as Strong Suffolk.

 The tasting room, a good tutored tasting was given on the beers here

No visit to Bury St Edmunds would be complete without a visit to Britain's smallest pub, the Nutshell

There is another brewery in the town, also worth visiting, the Old Cannon Brewery


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