Wednesday 25 February 2009

Heritage Minister to "ignore public concerns"

The Heritage Minister of the Welsh Assembly Government, Alun Ffred Jones AM, has told the Save the Vulcan campaign that his office "will not respond further to individual postcards" sent by campaigners trying to save the Vulcan pub in Cardiff.

The North Wales Plaid Cymru AM is clearly not interested in trying to save part of the history and culture of the Capitol, after all his constituency is Caernafon in North Wales and ignoring the public support for the Vulcan is not going to effect his majority one bit.

The Welsh Assembly Government’s own website proudly claims that the objectives for the Heritage department include:
• Widening access to arts and culture for all
• Conserving, protecting, sustaining and promoting wider access to the historic environment of Wales
• Promoting and developing tourism in Wales.

Unfortunately it appears the Heritage Minister chooses not to read or take notice of his own department's website. Perhaps if Alun Ffred Jones AM offered a bit more clarity on his own dealings with property companies then his office might respond to the criticism levelled at it by campaigners trying to save the Vulcan.

The Save the Vulcan campaign has generated unprecedented support, including:
• 5000 signatures on the petition
• Celebrity support from Rhys Ifans, Huw Stephens, John Inverdale
• Political support from Glenys Kinnock MEP, Jenny Willott MP, Jenny Randerson AM, Chris Franks AM, Leanne Wood AM, David Melding AM, Nick Bourne AM, Cllr Nigel Howells and Cllr John Dixon, among many others.

Tuesday 24 February 2009

Try Essai

Photo from the Welsh Rugby Union
In order to get round the French ban on alcohol advertising at sporting events (don't worry the one-eyed teetotal jock in 10 Downing Street has something similar planned for the UK), Cardiff brewer and Welsh rugby team sponsor SA Brain have had to resort to some ingenious methods of advertising in the past. We have already seen "Brawn" and "Brawn Again" on the shirts over the past few years for the French games but this year the marketing department have really racked their brains to come up with essai which, is of course, French for try!

Friday 20 February 2009

Government Minister can't remember last time he was in the pub

The failing Brown Government has a Minister in its ranks responsible for implementing a mandatory code of practise on alcohol retailing who cannot remember the last time he was in a pub! Former teacher, Alan Campbell MP for Tynemouth, told a committee of MPs "I agree that we have to be very careful about burdens, but the evidence sessions showed that there was a whole range of reasons why pubs closed, not least the social changes that are taking place. I am trying to think of the last time I was in a pub".
It's bad enough that we have an useless unelected teetotal cyclopean Scot as Prime Minister, now his lackeys who are supposed to be regulating the industry clearly state that they do not know what they are doing.
Could anyone imagine the Armed Forces Minister not visiting a barracks or the Home Secretary not visiting or even being familiar with a police station, albeit just to pick up her armed escort to the local kebab shop?
So teetotal Gordon Brown has placed a Minister in charge of regualting the alcohol industry who admits to not understanding the industry!
One estimate puts the cost to the drinks of this new, unwanted legislation as high as £300 million, so a Minister with at least a vague idea of what they are doing should be in charge, unfortunately the one-eyed idiot who runs this country is hard pressed to find anyone competent in his party.
It's just what a country with a failing economy needs - more legislation. Gordon Brown is the most unpopular Prime Minister since Neville Chamberlain - the sooner a general election is called the better for the UK, the people and of course our pubs.
The Publican also have their take on the story here.
And of course Fido has his take on it.

Wednesday 18 February 2009

Great Welsh Beer & Cider Festival 2009

The Great Welsh Beer & Cider Festival will be once again be held at the Cardiff International Arena this June. The highly successful event, organised by CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, will feature real ale, ciders and perries from across the UK, with a special emphasis on those produced in Wales.

Above: The Cardiff International Arena, CIA

It may come as a surprise to some people that there are 39 different breweries in Wales, who between them produce over 250 different beers throughout the year.

Customers to the Great Welsh Beer & Cider Festival this year will have the choice of over 250 real ales, ciders, perries and German beers, all served in their own, specially commissioned souvenir glass, sponsored by Rhymney Brewery.

The Campaign for Real Ale runs different beer festivals throughout the year in Wales, in venues as diverse as the Home Farm Stables at Tredegar House, Newport in May to the Brangwyn Hall, Swansea, in August. The Great Welsh Beer & Cider Festival is the biggest beer festival in Wales and all the Welsh CAMRA branches come together to organise this huge event which attracts customers from across the UK. For 3 days, the Cardiff international Arena is transformed into the biggest pub in Wales. The highlight for the brewers of Wales at the Great Welsh Beer & Cider Festival is the Champion Beer of Wales competition, which will be announced on the afternoon of Friday 12th June. Previous winners have included Bullmastiff Brewery of Cardiff with their Son of a Bitch beer, Rhymney Brewery of Merthyr Tydfil with Dark and Breconshire Brewery with Golden Valley. These beers range from a strong ale at over 6% ABV, to a dark mild at 4% and a golden ale at 4.2% respectively, so the whole spectrum of beer styles and flavours is represented at the Great Welsh. Last year, the Champion Beer of Wales competition was won by Otley Brewery of Pontypridd, with their dangerously drinkable barley wine O8. Competition will be tough again this year with brewers such as Plassey from North Wales, Ffos y Ffin from Carmarthenshire and Kingstone from Monmouthshire, to name just 3, all competing with their real ales against older brewers such as Brains and Felinfoel. The brewers of Wales have now formed a trade association, AWIB, the Association of Welsh Independent Brewers, in order to work together to promote their Welsh real ales.

If customers prefer cider to real ales then they will not be disappointed as 4000 pints of cider and perry (that's fermented pear juice) will be available. Cidermaking in Wales has increased in interest in recent years, with around 35 cidermakers now practicing the art of fermenting apples and pears. The Great Welsh Beer & Cider Festival will aim to have ciders and perries from every Welsh producer as well as from English makers. CAMRA also runs a Champion Cider of Britain award and we will have previous winners at the Festival, including ciders from Wales' largest producer, Gwynt y Ddraig. Gwynt Y Ddraig was formed in 2001 and now offers customers 2 open days every year as well as farm-gate sales and online ordering for those who want to enjoy their award-winning ciders at home. The range of flavours in ciders and perries is as great as in any other food or drink, from the subtle taste and light colour of a perry to the strong, tannic flavour and dark colour of a spirit cask cider, along with every colour and flavour in between. The expert staff on the cider bar, many members of the Welsh Perry & Cider Society themselves, will be able to offer their expertise on finding a drink to suit everyone's palate.

As well as the real ales, ciders and perries, food will be available all day along with a selection of traditional pub games. Friday and Saturday nights will see live music being performed at the Festival.

There are 17 branches of CAMRA in Wales and if you like good beer or cider or wish to campaign for drinkers rights and to help save our pubs, then why not join the Campaign for Real Ale? Each branch contributes to the annual Good Beer Guide and holds regular meetings. Many of the branches hold regular beer festivals and volunteer members are more than welcome to come along and help. The Welsh branches of CAMRA also supply volunteer staff to the Great British Beer Festival at Earls Court in August, the largest beer festival in Britain. CAMRA members also get a monthly newspaper, Whats Brewing, keeping them up to date with industry news and local campaigning. If you do wish to join CAMRA, then why not come along to the Great Welsh Beer & Cider Festival to learn more and take advantage of our special festival membership offer.

Festival Facts

  • 6000 thirsty drinkers are expected at the 3 day event
  • 24,000 pints of real ale, cider and perry will be consumed during the Great Welsh
  • Over 10 pints a minute will be served during the festival
  • Almost 4000 pints of cider and perry will be available
  • Over 250 different real ales, ciders, perries and foreign beers will be available at the Great Welsh
  • 2000 pints of German beer will be specially imported for the Great Welsh
  • Over 120 CAMRA members will be volunteering to work at the festival
  • The bar is 70 metres long!
  • The Great Welsh Beer & Cider Festival 2009 is the 9th annual festival, the 2nd at the CIA, the previous 7 having been held at Cardiff City Hall
  • CAMRA outgrew Cardiff City Hall and with help from the Welsh Assembly Government relocated to the CIA last year
  • Pub games, stalls and food will be available at the Festival

Great Welsh Beer & Cider Festival, Cardiff International Arena, CIA, Mary Ann Street, Cardiff CF10 2EQ

Open: Thursday 11th June 11-11, Friday 12th & Saturday 13th June 11-11

Entrance £5 (£4 for Under 26s and CAMRA members), includes souvenir glass and festival programme. For more information log onto:, tel:07807 609712

Great Welsh Beer & Cider Festival Facebook group can be found here

View Larger Map

This event is supported by the Welsh Assembly Government

Thursday 12 February 2009

Save the Vulcan - Welsh Assembly protest

Today a 5000 name petition was handed into the petitions committee of the Welsh Assembly. A crowd of Vulcan supporters holding banners and placards greeted assembly members from all parties who all offered their support for the Save the Vulcan campaign.

Wednesday 11 February 2009

Pen & Wig, Newport

Yes I do like this pub but we are not spoilt for choice in the superpub ghetto that is Newport city centre. Brains Bread of Heaven was the guest beer today and I think SA Brain may have tweaked the recipe a bit this year as this 4% beer is more bitter than I remember it from last year. There are even hops in the nose which is almost unheard of for a beer from Wales' largest proper brewery. NB the factory in Magor is not regarded as a 'brewery', it is an industrial complex that uses waste water from trains using the Severn Tunnel to produce various products that call themselves beer such as Steal a tortoise and the 'the Cream of Manchester'. Think another pint of Brains is called for.

Tuesday 10 February 2009

Bell, Caerleon

Lee rings in the changes at the Bell

New licensee Lee Taylor is definitely ringing the changes in the Bell, Caerleon. But cider lovers need not worry as South Wales' unique and award-winning cider house is not about to change into a chav-palace or, as has happened to pubs to the west of Newport, a curry house, instead Lee has decided to change the opening hours of the Bell and open all day. As well as keeping the cider menu – 24 ciders and perries at the last count, the food menu contains ingredients from local farms, including Trealy farm, as well as local cheeses. The menu changes regularly and recently one popular dish was Gwynt Y Ddraig Haymaker Cider and Butternut Squash Soup.

Another new innovation is that from 1000 on Saturdays and Sundays, the Bell will be open for breakfast.

For those of you who do not like cider, the Bell is also keeping up its tradition of serving real ales including those of the nearby Cwmbran Brewery.

Lee hopes to continue the tradition of regular beer festivals at the Bell and the dates will be published here later.

Bell Inn, Bulmore Road, Caerleon, NP18 1QQ, open 11-11 Mon-Fri, 10-11 Sat, 10-10.30 Sunday.

The cider menu

Monday 9 February 2009

Rhymney Brewery cans the opposition

Former Champion Beer of Wales winner, Rhymney Brewery of Dowlais, have set out to offer customers a choice for the take-away market. Not only do they offer bottles of their award-winning beers but they know offer cans of their beers. In fact Rhymney Brewery are the first craft-brewery in Europe to install a state-of-the-art North American canning line – something that previously was only available to larger producers. Wales has a proud history in canning beer, Felinfoel Brewery of Llanelli were the 2nd brewery ever to can beer way back in 1935 and Rhymney is now following in that proud tradition.

But will the CAMRA purists will be up in arms over canned beer? They need not worry, unlike the mass-produced supermarket cans of stuff that masquerade as beer, the cans of Rhymney Lager, Dark, Hobby Horse and Export are not pasteurised, but merely sterile filtered so that the flavour of the beer is not destroyed by heat. It came as a surprise that for the first time ever when I opened a can I found a canned beer that I liked and could drink. The beer retains condition in it but is not overtly fizzy and the flavour of the beer comes through. It's not some tasteless, eurofizz, but a hand-crafted Welsh beer from the valleys. Not necessarily something I would drink all the time, but ideal for parties and who knows it may even convert some tinnie drinkers into trying real ale the next time they are in the pub.

Rhymney Brewery can regularly be seen at various farmers markets and later in the year at the food festivals and county shows where their products are available.

The award-winning Rhymney Brewery

Thursday 5 February 2009

Vulcan - Welsh Assembly response

The historic Vulcan pub in Cardiff is threatened with demolition and even the Welsh Assembly is trying to save the pub with a Statement of Opinion (roughly equivalent to a Parliamentary EDM) which I reproduce below. Well done to those AMs who have signed this

OPIN-2008- 0088 - Save the Vulcan!

Raised By:

Jenny Randerson


Leanne Wood 12/11/2008

Peter Black 12/11/2008

Nick Ramsay 12/11/2008

Dai Lloyd 13/11/2008

Bethan Jenkins 13/11/2008

Nerys Evans 13/11/2008

Gareth Jones 13/11/2008

Rhodri Glyn Thomas 13/11/2008

Chris Franks 13/11/2008

Mohammad Asghar 13/11/2008

Leanne Wood 13/11/2008

Helen Mary Jones 13/11/2008

Mick Bates 18/11/2008

Michael German 18/11/2008

David Melding 18/11/2008

Christine Chapman 20/11/2008

Kirsty Williams 24/11/2008

Andrew RT Davies 26/01/2008

Eleanor Burnham 30/01/2009

Save the Vulcan!

This Assembly:

Opposes the proposed demolition of The Vulcan Hotel in Adamsdown, Cardiff and calls on the developers to re-consider their proposals with a view to saving this historic pub.

Believes that it will be a great loss to Cardiff and Wales if, in 2009, this pub pulls its last pint.

It's not surprising so many AMs have registered their disgust at the demolition of part of Cardiff's past, nor that very few Labour AMs have signed this motion. After all we have a teetotal Prime Minister ruining this country and the Labour Assembly Members hardly want to be seen supporting a pub that their bible-bashing-beer-hating-one-eyed-leader wants to demolish to satisfy his associates in the temperance movement.

Wednesday 4 February 2009

Bullmastiff Brewery launches new beer

Cardiff-based Bullmastiff Brewery have launched another beer to their award-winning brewing pedigree. The 4.6% Welsh Pride is a pale ale, brewed with Northdown and Styrian Golding hops and is available in selected pubs such as the Mochyn Ddu, Cardiff, the Old Swan in Llantwit Major and and the Vale of Glamorgan in Cowbridge, as well as in other well-known real ale pubs throughout South Wales. Bullmastiff Brewery have now been brewing for 22 years and are one the oldest of the new breed of Welsh independent brewers. Brewing brothers Bob and Paul Jenkins also produce the multi-award winning beer Son of a Bitch as well as Welsh Gold, Thoroughbred and Brindle.

Bullmastiff Brewery 029 20 665292


From the Welsh Assembly:

Nick Bourne AM, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, today launched his “Save our Pubs” campaign by highlighting the problems faced by publicans in Wales.

Nick Bourne said, “I am mindful of the important role that pubs play in our communities and I am fully aware of the impact changes to alcohol duty have had on the pub trade.
I was particularly concerned to learn that research conducted by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has found that many local pubs are struggling and around 1,300 pubs nationwide are currently under threat of closure.
In these difficult economic times many publicans who live in their commercial properties are faced with eviction due to their mortgage arrears.
Commercial mortgage payers are not covered by the mortgage rescue plan and they are not allowed mortgage holidays. I believe this is extremely unfair on people who have ploughed their assets into their business which is also their home.

In his Pre-Budget Report the Chancellor announced plans to increase alcohol duties in order to help pay for the temporary reduction in VAT. This will add about four pence onto the cost of every pint in pubs.

Meanwhile, drinks bought in supermarkets have had their VAT reduced.

At a time of economic uncertainty and rising costs across the board, I appreciate that for many people the cost of pint at their local pub is becoming increasingly expensive at a time when their disposable income is being squeezed.

I believe that a much better approach would be to specifically target those drinks associated with binge drinking. Last March, the Shadow Chancellor, George Osborne, proposed a revenue-neutral package of changes to alcohol taxation. This comprised tax increases on problem drinks combined with tax cuts on those which have lower alcohol content, such as beer and cider. Similar schemes have proved effective in other countries and have been backed by medical experts and alcohol charities.

I also believe it is time to extend mortgage relief schemes, such as payment holidays, to commercial mortgage payers to help our pubs survive in this difficult economic climate.”


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