Thursday 29 January 2009

Vulcan, Cardiff

An excellent drinking establishment serving Brains Bitter and SA but unfortunately threatend with demolishion to make way for a car park. The Vulcan has been serving excellent beer for over 150 years and attacts a wide clientele. It's attracting a lot of students recently due to the fact that the university building opposite does not have a bar! This 2 bar pub - unique in Cardiff if you don't count chav palaces, offers good beer and is decorated with old photos of Cardiff and its maritime past. Settles around the wall provide seating and a trip to the gents to see the Original brown porcelin urinals is a must. Surely a case must be made for listing this tilled pub with its Brains brewery windows and Guiness is good for you hoarding on the side. The Vulcan has previously been Cardiff CAMRA branch pub of the year and has appeared in the Good Beer Guide and the Rough Pub Guide. Loosing the Vulcan would be a loss not just to Cardiff but to the country as a whole. It's a proper pub for real people, not a concept, theme or chav-palace superpub. Save the Vulcan

Monday 26 January 2009

Brains sells free trade business to Heineken

Wales' largest cask ale producer, SA Brain have sold their free trade business to multi-national brewer Heineken, via their British subsidiary Scottish & Newcastle. The deal covers the independent free trade and SA Brain's own retail business and will allow S & N to market Brains ales as well as seeing Heineken products in Brains own estate of 260 pubs.

S & N will take on responsibility for the sales, distribution and technical support of Brain's ale portfolio in the free trade, alongside the Heineken owned brands which include Bulmers and Kronenbourg.

Brain's beers will be available more widely in Wales via S & N deals with pub companies such as Scottish & Newcastle Enterprises. An undisclosed sum has been paid by S & N for the free trade business.

From May, 34 staff of SA Brain will transfer to S & N, joining the 60,000 worldwide staff of Heineken.

Heineken was established in by Gerard Adriaan Heineken in Amsterdam when he purchased the Haystack Brewery in 1864. Heineken operates in more than 170 countries worldwide and owns more than 120 breweries in at least 65 different countries. Is Wales the next country on their road to global domination of the beer market? Could this be the first part of a takeover of Wales' largest independent brewery?

S & N will allow allow SA Brain to brew some of their brands at the Cardiff Brewery from 2010 until at least 2017. The Cardiff Brewery has been brewing under capacity ever since Brains took it over from Bass in 1999, so this deal to contract brew for S & N is a welcome boost. Who knows we may see McEwans 80/ being brewed in Cardiff? Should keep the beer tickers happy anyway.

This could be seen as the first step in a full takeover of SA Brain, a company where major changes on the board will be occurring with the imminent retirement of Chris Brain who has been chair of SA Brain for 20 years.

For the full SA Brain press release click here

And The Publican have their take on the story as well as the Morning Advertiser and Media Wales.

Thursday 22 January 2009

Win a case of Brains Beer

Wales' largest real ale brewer, SA Brain, are offering people a chance to win a case of beer. It's hardly the most difficult competion in the world as all they want is your contact details. Sounds good? Then log onto the competition website here for a chance to win. Rules are on the Brains website and the competition closes on 1st March 2009.
Not being from Cardiff, despite working there on and off for years, I've always enjoyed popping into Brains pubs for a pint or two. Goat Major is my favourite Brains pub of the moment as I tend to stay in the City Centre, although the Yard is always worth a visit.
Over the last few years, SA Brain have run a 'positive thinking' advertising campaign which has always raised a few chuckles. One of the TV ads is below, makes a change from painting railway bridges as they used to do in Cardiff.

Monday 19 January 2009

Week in Week Out - new series

Week In, Week Out - Over a Barrel ( Episode 1) at
New series of the hard-hitting report programme. With an estimated five pubs going out of business in the country every week as a result of both the recession and the smoking ban, the show questions what role licensees have had in these rapid closures.

Filming Week in Week Out in Ye Olde Murenger house, Newport.
Media Wales give their piece on 5 pub close in Wales ever week here.

Thursday 15 January 2009

Paul Cooper - a sad loss

Well-respected local publican and real ale supporter Paul Cooper, of the Globe, Talywain, Torfaen, has lost his battle with cancer. Paul, pictured above behind the bar of the Globe during CAMRA's National Pub week in 2008, was a firm supporter of real ales and local breweries. Paul first came to the attention of CAMRA with his pub, the Prince of Wales in Cwmnyscoy, near Pontypool, before moving to Pontypool Rugby Club. Here, at the Rugby club, he co-hosted with CAMRA the First (and only!) Poola Beer Festival in 1997, a forerunner of Gwent CAMRA's bars at Tredegar House and Abergavenny Food Festival. One of the first beers at the beer festival was from the newly formed Swansea Brewery and Paul continued to support this brewery by regularly ordering their beers in years to come.
After the Rugby club Paul and his wife Phyllis took over the Labour in Vain, High Street, Pontypool, where the pub sign had mysteriously gone missing a few years previously. Luckily Paul found an old photo of the sign and allowed me to photograph it.
The not-too politically correct pub sign of the Labour in Vain, High Street, Pontypool

The exterior of the Labour in Vain with a different pub sign

Paul and Phyllis behind the bar with their array of pumpclips

Paul Cooper behind the bar of the Labour in Vain

Again beer festivals occured at the Labour in Vain but it was a bit of a trek up the hill from the town centre.
More recently Paul and Phyllis took over the Globe in Talywain, a 2-bar pub, high up on the road to Blaenavon. This pub became a rare local outlet for beers from Felinfoel Brewery alongside other guest ales from breweries such as Breconshire. A warm welcome was always assured when visiting Paul and Phyllis in the Globe and quite often I would miss my planned bus home and would have to wait another hour for the next one whilst chatting to Paul over the bar. Paul's death is a sad loss to everyone who new him and our condolences to Phyllis

Another unique pub sign, the Globe in Talywain

Thanks to Dave from the RATS for permission to use some of his photos on this site.

Save the Vulcan

The Vulcan pub in Adam Street, Cardiff has been serving customers since 1853 and yet is set to be demolished so that a multi-story car park can be built on the site.

A public meeting will be held on 29th January at 7pm in the
'ATRiuM' building - (directly opposite The Vulcan on Adam Street). A map of the area can be found - HERE

Other ways to lend your support are ...

Write to the Heritage Minister Alun Ffred Jones, urging him to list the building - (he has powers independent of CADW to list things) that'd be really helpful.

His contact details are:


Snail-Mail: Alun Ffred Jones AM, National Assembly for Wales, Cardiff Bay, Cardiff, CF99 1NA.

Write into - (and urge others to do so as well) - the South Wales press ...

The Western Mail (

The South Wales Echo (

Please sign the online petition at -

CADW have continually refused to list the pub, despite the tiled frontage, old Brains windows and the 1950s Guinness is good for you sign that has been recently uncovered on the side.

Wednesday 14 January 2009

Winchester, Merthyr Tydfil

Alongside Rhymney Brewery Dark and 3 other real ales in this Oasis of Good beer set in the keg desert of Merthyr, the Winchester has now installed a piano for the use of customers. With the immortal words "free beer if you can play" above the piano, the Winchester can only attract the Top peeanists of the valleys!

Capel, Gilfach Fargoed

An easy stop on the number 50 bus service from Newport, this welcoming valleys pub still retains its original layout. The bar is decorated with hops and quotes about drink. Good range of real ales and a draught cider are available in the Capel, which incidently is the Welsh name for chapel, but the pub is named after a member of the local landowning familyJohn Capel Hanbury. The family also gave their name to the Hanbury Arms in Caerleon and more recently to a souless beer/supermarket come chav palace in Pontypool. Anyway back to the Capel, the pub hosts regular beer festivals throughout the year and is well worth popping in for a pint or 2. Did I mention the etched glass windows? It reminds me to come here on a sunny day and photograph them. Good beer, good conversation and good cider, what more do you want in a pub?

Punch Taverns aiding the Temperance Movement?

Failing pub company Punch Taverns has closed the doors on another of its pubs. This time the Engineers Arms in Baneswell, Newport, has received the death sentence from the Staffordshire-based company. The pub shut last week and rumours abound that Punch plan to turn this old Newport pub into residential accommodation. This two-bar pub was famous for its regular jazz sessions and attracted regulars such as author Alexander Cordell and journalist Mike Buckingham.

Unfortunately the heavy rents and overly-expensive beer that had to be bought via Punch, drove the customers away to cheaper, free-of-tie pubs such as Wetherspoons and the Pen & Wig. Hardly surprising that trade diminished to a point that the Engineers became unviable.

The Engineers Arms was formerly run by Welsh Brewers and served Bass and Hancocks HB. It was mentioned in 1872 and seems to have been built when Baneswell was developed in the 19th Century as the pub overlooks and runs parallel to the main line railway cutting.

A few Baneswell pubs have seen a bit of a boost recently as the area has attempted to reinvent itself to become Newports gay quarter. The former Great Western Railway Association Club reopened as a gay pub called “Through the Arch”, the former Paddy Palace O' Reilleys became “Ex-it” gay bar and the Oddfellowes And Foresters Arms has a rainbow outside and advertises itself as 'gay friendly', whatever that means? Oh and you can still get shafted in the Red Lion but don't expect the lazy landlord to open the pub until he gets up in the late afternoon after an alleged heavy night of partying throughout the early hours of the morning.

Newport's newest gay pub, the Red Lion on Stow Hill

The Red Lion is another Punch Taverns pub and the present landlord seems intent on running his business into the ground. Punch seem to have little or no interest in seeing their pubs survive as they would rather get the money, even in a depressed housing market, that would result from the premises being sold off as accommodation. The only thing that will save this pub from certain closure would be a regime change, but unfortunately none seems likely.

Elsewhere in Newport, the Hornblower remains closed. This pub has now been closed for around 14 months and is owned by another failing pub company, Admiral Taverns. The Hornblower suffered in the last few years from a succession of bad managers, the last being 'Alchy' Karen who not only drank the place dry but allowed the pub to fall into a dreadful state with mould growing on the walls of the pub and filthy glassware. The 'Blower now stands empty, in the middle of 2 other derelict buildings, waiting for the inevitable insurance job fire to sweep through this run-down area of the City. Admiral Taverns are advertising for a tenant for the pub but with their high rents and beer tie, who would want to go into this business. Admiral Taverns have had an offer from a local brewery to buy the freehold of the Hornblower, but refuse to sell. In the crazy world of the Pubco, it makes more sense to hold onto a closed, derelict and soon to be collapsing building than to realise its capitol immediately. But at the end of the day the pub is still closed so it is the customer that looses.

Further down Commercial Street, the King William IV is also shut, though more securely boarded up, than other buildings. Perhaps the owners of this property are not waiting for the fire to rip through this place. This large building stands on the corner of 2 main roads, so Newport council may come out with a plan to demolish this pub to “assist with the traffic flow”.

King William IV traffic obstruction
Heading down to Pill, the pub situation is even more dire. The saddest closure of them all is of the Church House, birthplace of Newport Tramp poet, WH Davies. Again, this pub is shut and boarded up, no sign on the outside of the building as to which Pubco owns it – it may be Punch as the Church House pub came from the former Hancocks/Welsh Brewers empire.

The Temperance Movements of the Nineteenth Century could only ever have dreamed of the pub carnage that has been caused by the Pubcos with their high rents and expensive beer ties. It has become clear that the tied-house system has failed with regard to the Pubcos – but will the Government ever realise this and bring in legislation that will open up the market to our smaller brewers? I seriously doubt it.

Tuesday 13 January 2009

Oldest Pubs in Wales

The Skirrid Mountain Inn claims to be the oldest pub in Wales but only dates from 1640 at the earliest. Here is a list of older Welsh pubs:

Llanthony Abbey Hotel, Monmouthshire, dates from 1107, though first mention as an inn, the Travellers Rest, is in 1852. Which still makes it 7 years older than the first mention of the Skirrid Inn as a beerhouse in 1859.

Priory Inn, Lower Priory, Nr Milford Haven, 1100s, though only became a pub around 1986.

King's Head, Llandovery, 1100s

Old House, Llangynwydd, 1147

Llindir Inn, Henllan 1200s

Old Nag's Head, Monmouth, 1200s,

Cross Keys Inn, Swansea, 1300s

Pen-y-Bont, Llarwsrt, 1300s

Sun Inn, Rhewl, 1300s

Rhydspence Inn, Rhydsence, 1300s

Blue Anchor, East Aberthaw, 1380

Plough & Harrow, Monknash 1383

Duke's Arms, originally the Talbot, Presteigne 1480

Red Lion, Llanafan Fawr, 1400s

Harp, Old Radnor, 1400s

Kings' Arms, Abergavenny, 1500s

Robin Hood, Monmouth, 1500s

Murenger House, Newport, 1520s

Black Boy, Caernarfon, 1522

Radnorshire Arms, Beguildy, 1500s

Old Swan, Llantwit Major 1500s

Plough & Harrow, Murton, Gower, 1500s

Duke of Wellington, Cowbridge , was the Half Moon, 1500s

Three Tuns, Hay on Wye, 1500s

Hanbury Arms, Caerleon, 1560s, though the tower is Norman!

Red Lion, Llanfihangel-Nant-Melan, 1500s

Fforest Inn, Llanfihangel-Nant-Melan, 1500s

Wheelwright Arms, Erwood, 1500s

New Inn, Newbridge, Radnor, 1500s

Bridge End Inn, Crickhowell, 1500s

Llanerch Inn, Llandrindod Wells, 1500s

Crown, Rhayader, 1500s,

Red Lion, Llangadog, 1500s

Brunant Arms, Caio, 1500s

Radnorshire Arms, Presteigne, 1530s, but only became a pub 1792

Cornhill, Rhayader, 1540

Lion, Trellech, 1560

Groes Inn Hotel, Conwy, 1573

Fishers Arms, Cellan, 1580

Penrhyn Old Hall, Penrhyn Bay, 1590

Lion Royal Hotel, Rhayader 1600s

Old Stag, Llangernyw, 1600s

Olde Bulls Head Inn, Beaumaris, 1645 at least

So there we have the list of 43 Welsh pubs that date to before the Skirrid Inn was built.

Thursday 8 January 2009

Name that Cider

Gwynt Y Ddraig, the Welsh Cider and Perry company, have produced a brand new Cider aimed directly at the pub trade which will be launched in the New Year. This draught 4.5% cider will be available in selected outlets in the the next few months.

All you have to do is ... give it a name !

A panel of “expert” judges will painstakingly sift through all your entries to choose a winning name. The prize for the winning entry is:

1) A four ticket guest pass to the Gwynt Y Ddraig farm. You and three guests of your choice will be given a tour and demonstration on how the cider is made, and will then be invited to a tasting session where you get to sample the various varieties and blends that we produce.

2) £50’s worth of Gwynt Y Ddraig products.

3) We’ll even chuck in a couple of T-shirts! – choose from Black Dragon, Refreshingly Welsh, Orchard Gold and Pear-Fection

....not to mention the kudos of having your named beverage on sale in pubs throughout Wales!!

Of all the names entered we will make a short list of the ones we like best, and if we use any of those names in the future the person who came up with it will also receive a prize.

So get your thinking caps on!!

The competition is open to all so feel free to spread the word.

Entries to be sent via email to:

Please put “Name that Cider” in the Subject.

Alternatively, if you’re feeling a bit 1980s you can put your suggestion on a postcard and send it to:

GYD Cider Naming Competition
Llest Farm
Llantwit Fardre
CF38 2PW

Please remember to put your contact details on the entry.

Cheers and Good Luck


The competition is restricted to one name per entry and one entry per person.

Closing date 17th Jan 09.

Oh and the Portman Group guidlines might have to apply so nothing too rude!

Stag Brewery finally gets culled

The beer factory in Mortlake, which translates as “Dead Water”, has finally been put on death row and will receive its bolt through the head in 2010. Although its sad to see any brewery close down, I can't help cheering that this keg palace on the Thames is about to disappear. In recent years the brewery has been owned by American Beer giant Annheuser-Busch and they made their famous rice beer there – Budweiser. Before that the brewery was the home of Watneys and their great contribution to beer culture – Red Barrel.

The Mortlake Brewery began life in the 15th Century and in the 1840s was acquired by a Charles James Phillips. In 1888 it was owned by More & Co Ltd and Watney & Co bought it in 1889. It was renamed the Stag Brewery in 1959 after Westminster Council decided to drive a road through the original Stag Brewery in Pimlico. Destroying a brewery owned by Watneys could only ever be regarded as an improvement.

Now Watneys were bought by Grand Metropolitan who ended up buying Courage and the whole ownership got a bit convoluted as people stopped caring where their mass produced fizzy water came from. Courage went to Scottish & Newcastle who went into a partnership with Annheuser-Bush in the case of the Stag Brewery. Still with me? Annheuser-Bush has now merged with In-Bev and so the Stag Brewery is surplus to requirements as In-Bev has spare capacity at the modern motorway breweries at Salmsbury and Magor.

And now we see the Welsh connection, the former Whitbread Magor Brewery, now In-Bev, uses water from the Severn Tunnel to make Stella Artois and other traditional Welsh products. Magor – the home of wife-beater, as it should say on the sign posts going into the town. Now for years the local branch of CAMRA have had a salute to the Magor beer factory. When we have been imbibing the other side of the River Severn, we always make sure that we empty our bladders and flush the toilets on the train in the Severn Tunnel. We know where the waste water is going. I like to think that when I see someone drink Stella in a pub, that I have contributed a little bit to that pint. Now if production of the rice beer Bud moves to Magor I can have double satisfaction when I see a lager drinker. It will be a coup for Wales if Bud does come here and will rank alongside Pot Noodle as one of the great icons of Welsh food and drink.

CAMRA should be applauding the closure of the Stag Brewery, Mortlake, a non-real ale producing keg factory. Let's have a day of celebration when the plant does shut. There's a half decent Youngs pub opposite the factory, or even better, let's hire a barge on the Thames and stock up at the Griffin Brewery on the way to Mortlake. CAMRA members can then toast the demise of the last Watneys Brewery with bottles of Fullers London Porter and celebrate real ale and the fact that the founders of CAMRA way back in the 1970s never thought they would see the day when real ale wins over keg.

Stag Brewery to close – a victory for real ale drinkers everywhere.

Mythical Pub Award

Brew Wales, Mythical Pub Award

This award is for the biggest amount of non-facts, out and out lies and mistruths ever written about a pub.

The winner is, The Skirrid Mountain Inn, Llanfihangel Crucorny, Monmouthshire.

So much rubbish has been published about this pub over the years it's difficult to know where to start debunking the rumours and myths so let's start chronologically.

Western Mail, Country Supplement 01.10.96. Reporter: Kate Smout.

“A building is believed to have been on this site since Roman times”.
FACT – no Roman artifacts have been recorded here. If they have been found then they found there way to Ebay before the local museum recorded them.

“Records show that courts were held in the main room of the pub, known as the Millbrook alehouse as early as 1110”.
FACT – no records exist from such a date. Every reference to these supposed records does not mention them by name, if they did then these supposed records could be read by everyone. Also the Skirrid pub is on a hill, if somewhere known as The Millbrook existed it is more likely to be on the river Honddu than higher up the hill.

“Local brothers James and John Crowther were tried and sentenced at the inn. James got nine months for robbery with violence. John's sheep stealing activities cost him his life”.
FACT Both have modern names for 1110 and in the days of branding and amputation for criminal activities, along with trial by ordeal, it seems a bit strange that James gets sentenced to nine months in an era where prisons did not exist for punishment but merely as holding places before trial, sentence and execution. Again there is not any documented evidence to support this pub myth, but in different accounts of this myth, sometimes it is James who was hung.

“The existing stone structure is Elizabethan”
FACT So having argued the point that the pub dates back to Norman times in 1110, the Western Mail now asserts that it only goes back as far as Elizabethan times. Let's reach for Pevsner, or in our case John Newman, the Buildings of Wales, who states, “It is a remarkably complete mid- to late 17th Century building”. That dates it 1640-1700. The myths are starting to break down.

“Owain Glyndwr rallied his troops from the mounting block in the courtyard”
FACT The stonework of the mounting block is contemporary with that of the inn, mid- to late 17th Century. Owain Glyndwr was long since dead and buried over the border in Herefordshire before the Skirrid was built.

The reporter, Kate Smout, continues to spout more rubbish about the pub such as “time-stained granite walls”.
FACT the walls are the local Devonian Old Red Sandstone, there is no granite in Monmouthshire and certainly none used in the building of this pub.

It's not just the National Newspaper of Wales that has published such rubbish that pertain to be facts about this pub. The pub itself has published a leaflet full of these myths.
This goes even further by saying that the mounting stone has been used by Princes of Wales and Kings of England!

FACT No evidence exists of Kings arriving or leaving from the pub on horseback, or even visiting the pub.
The leaflet claims the wood paneling and beams in the dinning room came from an Elizabethan ship.

FACT Why import wood 40 miles inland when there is a perfectly good forest nearby. Carpenters from either Abergavenny, Hereford or Monmouth would have been able to work this into the finished paneling we see today.

I'm indebted to an annoying, badly written and with even worse photographs, little book, Strangest Pubs in Britain, for claiming that 1800 people were hanged in the Skirrid over the years. Not even the booklet published by the pub claims this figure, they go for a modest 180, although they add the rider “no exact or positive records exist”.
FACT No proof is even offered for this myth but it is accepted as fact, one website even claims that the 180 were executed in the aftermath of the Monmouth Rebellion.
FACT The Monmouth Rebellion involved the Duke of Monmouth and the battle of Sedgemoor was in Somerset, as was the aftermath when Judge Jeffreys tried the conspirators.

Claims are made that the Skirrid was used as a courthouse.
FACT No records exist for any criminal courts being held here. Local Manorial courts which dealt with the day-to-day administration of the lands, boundary disputes and the election of the Ale-Taster may well have been held here as the pub was owned by the local landowners, the Neville family.

The booklet says that the marks on the stairwell are from the rope that was used to hang people.
FACT Since the pub dates from 1640 and there has not been one documented execution in the pub, the marks on the stairwell could easily be put down to scratches made whilst moving furniture.
One previous landlord went as far as to have a mannequin hanging from the stairwell. Popular with Ghost Tourists and the exceedingly camp ghost hunting TV programmes.

The booklet mentions that behind the Elizabethan plasterwork is the inscription JHT 1306.
FACT If the date is behind the Elizabethan plasterwork how does anyone know it's there and if it dates from that time it should be in Roman not Arabic numerals? If you are going to make a pub myth at least get the typeface right – clue it's MCCCVI

Quote from the pub pamphlet, “The Skirrid Inn is the oldest public house within the borders of the Principality of Wales and ranks among the foremost claimants to the title of the oldest public house in Great Britain”.
FACT The first mention of the Skirrid as a licensed house was in 1859, when it was described as a beer house. This meant it was not even a fully licensed pub and according to John Eisel and Frank Bennett in their book, the Pubs of Hay-on-Wye and the Golden Valley, it was unlikely to predate the 1830 Beer Act.
According to local historian Fred Hando, writing in 1958, “No relic survives which would date the present building to before 1640.”

So there we have it, the Skirrid Inn dates from the earliest 1640 and probably became a pub in 1830. Hardly the “oldest pub in Wales”.

Pubs with a better claim to the title in Wales:

Cross Keys Inn, Swansea, 1300s

Kings' Arms, Abergavenny, 1500s

Murenger House, Newport, 1520s

Old Swan, Llantwit Major 1500s

Plough & Harrow, Monknash 1383

Duke of Wellington, Cowbridge , was the Half Moon, 1500s

Old House, Llangynwydd, 1147

Hanbury Arms, Caerleon, 1560s, though the tower is Norman!

Red Lion, Llanafan Fawr, 1400s

Mythbusting Pubs

More rubbish has been written about pubs then of any other buildings. Often the stories are instigated by previous landlords, the rumour gets turned into a story within a generation and the locals now take it as true. Anyway here are some of my favourite myths which have been seen in print or mentioned to me:

1. The pub is mentioned in the Doomsday Book. Unfortunately the Normans did not do the Good Beer Guide 1086, despite Roger Protz being available as editor, so no pubs are recorded in the Doomsday Book. Mills, fisheries, manors and farms are recorded along with the amount of produce, whether honey, iron,cattle or pigs, so an estimate of the size and wealth of a manor may be assumed, but no pubs are either mentioned or named in this book.

2. Oliver Cromwell stayed at this pub. Funny that in every pub that claims Cromwell was a guest at, also claims an assassination attempt was made on his life there. Normally the attempt was made with a pistol, as the roof beam on the ceiling has the musket ball hole in it! This hole is more to do with age, woodworm and a wall partition being taken down, than with a member of the New Model Army deciding to change sides and become a Royalist. Also biographies of Cromwell fail to mention these attempts and the Myth Pubs are always vague about the exact date it happened.

3. The pub dates back to the 13th Century. One enterprising landlord once pointed out a date of 1217 carved into the stonework of an archway in his Myth Pub, as evidence of the antiquity of the pub. Now this was carved using Arabic numerals, not Roman numerals, a full 200 years before the Arabic Numerals we use today came into use! The landlord was not too impressed when I pointed this out to him.

4. The pub has a secret passage to the church/manor house. Quite often pubs have been built on the site of a previous pub and this has been going on for centuries. Why destroy a perfectly good stone-built medieval cellar just because there is going to be a new building on top of it? Of course, the new building may be smaller than the old one, so not as much cellar space will be needed and part of the cellar gets bricked up. Jump forward a few hundred years and the blocked up part of the cellar becomes a tunnel to the church or manor house or even a smugglers route. Medieval tunnel building is not that well documented and very difficult – it was far easier to cross the road to the church opposite than excavate and prop up a tunnel to do the same job!

5. The pub is haunted. Want some free publicity for your pub? Then say it's haunted. There is a whole industry built up on haunted pubs. From cheap guide books sold on the bar to camp over-the-top TV programs, this is one aspect of the pub trade that is booming. Next time a member of staff falls on the stairs blame the ghost and phone up the local rag – should get half a page of free advertising for your pub there.

6. The pub is built from ship's timbers. Fair enough if the pub is on the coast but I heard this about a pub 40 miles inland! Why dismember a ship and cart the wood inland for 40 miles when there is a perfectly good forest nearby? Where this myth comes from is that Navy timber was a term for the quality and thickness of wood and the story spread from there.

7. The oldest pub. Always be wary of any pub claiming to be the oldest. There is normally a nearby pub which not only looks older, but is older. The age of the Myth Pub has often been decided by the local bore, sorry historian, after a few too many beers in the pub after hours. The landlord then decides to put this myth on the sign, often with a rider such as “Without a shadow of a doubt”, or “Without fear of contradiction”, which is just asking for some decent academic research to actually dispel this Myth.

Wednesday 7 January 2009

Oz & James Drink to Britain

Oz and James Drink to Britain at

New series following Oz Clark and James May, both have been Champion Beer of Britain judges in the past, as they go around the UK in a roller with a caravan in tow. Eight half an hour episodes where they try and find a beer better than Thornbridge Jaipur IPA - they won't, they found it and drank it on the first show!

Quite an amusing show and well worth watching - I might even buy the book.
The one episode I am looking forward is the visit to Denis Gwatkins' Cider Farm in Abbeydore. Now this involved a cricket match with a team from the Clytha Arms. Anyone who has been to the farm would describe it as a bit rustic to say the least and as a working farm, it's probably the only cricket pitch in the UK where the cows have to be cleared off before the match can start! added to that the wonderful cider and perry that Denis produces, it's sure to be a good episode.


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