Thursday 30 December 2010

Brew Wales Awards 2010

The Brew Wales Awards 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Runners up: Fullers, Thornbridge, Dark Star

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

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

Runners up: Otley Columbo, Brewdog Punk IPA

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

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

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

Runner up: Tesco

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday 24 December 2010

Last orders for Model Inn

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

Thursday 16 December 2010

Welsh Brewery in Liquidation

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

Simon Buckley banned as acting as a company director:
Case details for SIMON BUCKLEY
Name: Welsh Estates Limited
Date of Birth: 1957-09-02 00:00:00.000
Date Order Starts: 2014-10-20 00:00:00.000
Disqualification Length: 3 Years 0 Month(s)
CRO Number: 05219412
Last Known Address: 2 Abbey Terrace, , , , Llandeilo, SA19 6BD
Conduct: (i) Mr Simon Buckley failed to ensure that Welsh Estates Limited (“Welsh Estates”) complied with its statutory obligations to HM Revenue & Customs (“HMRC”) to file timely returns and make payments from at least 01 November 2007 to the date of liquidation on 26 January 2011. HMRC’s final Value Added Tax (“VAT”) claim at liquidation was £590,522. In particular: 

• VAT returns totalling £147,115 for 13 monthly periods from September 2007 to January 2008, March 2008 to August 2008 and November and December 2008, were not submitted until 2 and 3 April 2009. The oldest outstanding return for the period September 2007 was therefore filed 17 months late, with the earliest outstanding return for the period December 2008 filed 2 months late. HMRC were unaware of these liabilities until those dates, previously considered them to total £40,764 in central assessments.

 • According to HMRC's records no returns were submitted for the months January and February 2009, December 2009 and February 2010 to October 2010 leading to assessments of £325,810. • HMRC raised surcharges totalling £90,078 in respect of the late and non-filed returns of which £67,740 remains unpaid. • From 15 February 2008 to 07 October 2009 HMRC received payments from Welsh Estates totalling £115,750 in respect of VAT. Nothing was paid after 07 October 2009, although the company continued trading until October 2010, leading to estimated arrears before surcharges at liquidation of at least £354,162.

 • If all payments are set against the earliest VAT debt there is still £14,325 due for August 2008, payable in full by 30 September 2008.
 (ii) He caused Welsh Estates Limited (“Welsh Estates”) to trade to the detriment of HM Revenue & Customs (“HMRC”) from at least 01 January 2010 until cessation of trade on or around 31 October 2010 in respect of Value Added Tax (“VAT”) estimated at £156,031.

In particular:
 • On 31 December 2009 Welsh Estates had VAT arrears of £126,756. It subsequently incurred additional VAT liabilities of £156,031. The last payment made by Welsh Estates in respect of VAT was received on 07 October 2009. 

• Bank payments were made between 01 January 2010 and 31 October 2010 of £1,740,796 of which nothing was paid to HMRC in respect of VAT. • Company records show that trade creditors decreased by £256,171 from 01 January 2010 to 31 October 2010 whilst the outstanding VAT increased by £156,031 in the same period. 
This information is correct as at 2014-10-13 00:00:00.000

Rhymney Brewey Gift Horse

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

Wednesday 15 December 2010


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

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

Monday 13 December 2010

FirKing Good

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

Cardiff Christmas Market

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

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

Friday 10 December 2010


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

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

Tuesday 7 December 2010

Beer sales down

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

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

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

Caerphilly Medieval Fayre 2010

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

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

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

Monday 6 December 2010

Newport pubs for Sale

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

Thursday 2 December 2010

Moose named Ambassador

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

New cider for Wales

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

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

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

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

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

Abergavenny Christmas Food & Drink Fair

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

Stallholders include:

The Skirrid Bar with beers from Tudor Brewery

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

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

Tuesday 30 November 2010

Buster goes Nuts!

 The latest offering from Breconshire Brewery:

Go Cobnuts for Wildlife

What better way to spend a day than to go for a walk in a beautiful wildlife reserve, burn off a load of excess calories and then warm up afterwards with a rich, dark ale?
Especially when you know that lovely pint has just helped the wildlife you have been appreciating all day.
This is all now possible thanks to the Breconshire Brewery. Really Wild Nut Brown Ale  has been launched at the Royal Welsh Winter Fayre. A percentage from every sale is being donated to the Wildlife Trusts in Wales. As charities the Wildlife Trusts benefit enormously from such donations as do the wildlife they work to protect. This special relationship will help support wildlife all across Wales.
After much experimentation, which was very difficult (!), the brewery and Wildlife Trusts staff settled on an ale flavoured with cobnuts, vanilla & rosemary as being a suitable beverage to support the huge diversity of wildlife in Wales.   
Really Wild Nut Brown Ale was launched at the Royal Welsh Winter Fayre on the 29th November and will be available for sale at the Welsh Wildlife Centre, Cilgerran,  as well as from the Brewery direct  and all good independent stockists. .

Wildlife Trusts Wales. The six Wildlife Trusts in Wales work together for an environment rich in wildlife for everyone. Between us, we have 25,000 members and manage 230 nature reserves in Wales – covering more than 6,000 hectares of prime wildlife habitat, from rugged coastline to urban wildlife havens.
It will be available in bottles (by the case) from Breconshire Brewery and also wholesale from Tanners Wines & Templetons and all good independent retailers , it will also be available from the Welsh Wildlife Centre in Cilgerran Cardigan and the Snowdonia Railway. 
This flavoursome beer was launched at the Royal Welsh Winter Fayre 29th November

More information is available about Breconshire Brewery on their website.

“The Wildlife Trusts play a very important part in our natural heritage. I would encourage anyone who cares about wildlife to .“
Sir David Attenborough, Vice President of the Wildlife Trusts
 Follow WTSWW on Twitter , You Tube and on Facebook 

Government to increase tax on strong beers

The Nanny State is still there and it did not go away in the General Election.
The responsible drinker is once again seen as the cash-cow of the Government, there to be forcibly milked to fund Clubbers until 3 in the morning.
This time the Government have set their greedy little eyes on increasing duty on beers over 7.5% ABV. Now I doubt if this will effect the Special Brew swigging brigade who inhabit our City Centers but it will hit a small but crucial part of the market - the craft beer scene.
Former Champion Beer of Wales, Otley O8 weighs in at a hefty 8% and is a really powerful, golden hoppy ale. From next year it will be more expensive as we have to fund the bailout to Ireland.
The Tesco American Double IPA, brewed by Brewdog (pictured left) is another fantastic beer. There is a chance that this increase in duty will put off our breweries from producing such innovative and tasty beers in the future. How is that good for the consumer or even for the Government coffers?
This duty raise will also effect imported beers - those wonderful American IPAs and Belgium Trappist beers will become more expensive because of this change in taxation.
As well as the increase in duty, the Treasury have announced a reduced rate of duty for beers below 2.8% ABV. Now I've never tried the Brewdog Nanny State at 1.1% but there were mixed reviews over that.
I have had the misfortune to try Weltons Pride n joy, a 2.8% beer that tasted so bad I, and others thought it was infected at the time. It was not, as lab analysis turned out to reveal but just tasted that bad.
It's all very well announcing a cut in beer duty for beers below 2.8% ABV, but who is going to drink them when they taste so bad?

HM Treasury Alcohol Tax Review is available as a pdf to download here.

A Drinking Nation? - a drinker responds

Not the title of a good weekend out, this is unfortunately the title of a taxpayer funded publication produced by the completely unbiased neo-prohibitionist tax payer-funded fake charity Alcohol Concern Cymru. Well worth the £250,000 of taxpayers money that is spent on this organisation by the Welsh Assembly Government. Of course any paper produced by Alcohol Concern Cymru entitled “Wales and alcohol”, will be biased, if you are looking for a balanced point as view you might as well ask the BNP to produce a paper on immigration, both organisations have set agendas and come with their prejudices but at least the BNP are democratically elected and not funded by the taxpayer!

So let's have a look at this document:
Alcohol consumption in Wales has risen markedly in recent decades
Unfortunately Alcohol Concern Cymru fail to produce any evidence of this. A document making such a bold statement as this should include details where the figures for this were obtained from, such as the British Beer & Pub Association. As they refuse to make any such qualifying statement then the reader should just take this statement as hearsay. Not a good start, but remember the fake charity Alcohol Concern Cymru has to justify its existence on taxpayers money by making unproven claims such as this.

Alcohol has also become closely linked to the widespread Welsh passion for sport, with major brewers seeking to enhance their Welsh brand by associating themselves with teams and events.
And what is wrong with that? The sponsorship of the Welsh Rugby team by SA Brain proved to be a great success with some of the best adverts for beer we have ever seen in Wales. If a brewer or any other company wishes to spend their money on supporting our players and teams then why should not they? Brains also sponsor Glamorgan Cricket and the Football Association Wales. The Tomos Watkin Brewery of Swansea sponsor Pontypridd RFC and Welsh boxer John Phillips. Coors sponsor Welsh rugby teams via their Worthington brand and even InBev sponsor Welsh teams, so what is the problem?
We don't live in a puritanical society where all alcohol advertising of sports events is banned. Yet the fake charity Alcohol Concern Cymru suggests there is something wrong with this type of sponsorship.

Awareness of the concept of units of alcohol was very low amongst interviewees
Hardly surprising this since the whole concept of units of alcohol was, according to the Times 20.10.07., “plucked out of the air” as an “intelligent guess”.
Richard Smith, a member of the Royal College of Physicians working party that invented the concept of units told The Times that the committee’s epidemiologist had confessed that “It’s impossible to say what’s safe and what isn’t” because “We don’t really have any data whatsoever”. So a make-believe unit of alcohol has a very low concept of awareness among drinkers. Perhaps instead of referring to 'units' of alcohol we should refer to Shenkers of alcohol after the head of the fake charity Alcohol Concern.
'Drink Limits useless' Times.

Recommendations by fake charity Alcohol Concern Cymru to address the situation of increasing alcohol misuse, despite the facts that the above examples are hardly instances of abuse:

1.      Minimum Pricing
As recommended by the UK’s Chief Medical Officers and the National Institute for
Health and Clinical Excellence, a minimum price of 50p per unit of alcohol needs to be implemented in both the on-trade and offtrade across England and Wales. This needs to be coupled with a new scale of duties incentivising the production and consumption of lower strength drinks. Given the lack of progress in establishing a minimum price per unit across England and Wales, Alcohol Concern supports devolving the necessary powers to the National Assembly for Wales.
So the fake charity Alcohol Concern Cymru supports more powers to the National Assembly for Wales, no doubt hopeful of more taxpayers money finding its way into their coffers. Notice how the Nanny State in the form of Alcohol Concern Cymru states that the minimum price needs to be implemented. No it does not, for one thing minimum pricing is illegal under competition law as it falls within the remit of price fixing. So the taxpayer-funded fake charity Alcohol Concern Cymru is advocating that competition law be broken. Time for the Charity Commissioners to take a long, hard look at why these idiotarians are given charity status.
Minimum pricing was rejected by the Scottish Parliament as they had considered it to be illegal.

2. In recognition of the growth of alcohol misuse as a public health issue, and in order to enable licensing authorities to properly address this issue, the protection and improvement of public health needs to be established as a fifth objective within the Licensing Act 2003. This has already taken place in Scotland, and if the UK Government is unwilling to make this important change across England and Wales, the necessary powers should be devolved to Wales.
We have already established that there is no growth in alcohol misuse. Protection and improvement of public health used to refer to clean water supplies and a working sewerage system; the fake charities of the twenty-first century now use the term to justify their handouts from the taxpayer.

3.To reduce irresponsible promotions and increase consumer choice, the Mandatory
Code for Alcohol Retailers in England and Wales must remain in force and be implemented in full.
Now we would all like to see increased consumer choice but the Mandatory Code had nothing to say about it. Instead it was an overly bureaucratic piece of legislation brought in by the Brown Government that was estimated to cost £58million for the first year and £38million in subsequent years. It did mention banning 'Happy Hours' though, as the puritanical pen-pushers who dreamed up this ill-thought-out rubbish would hardly want customers to be happy!

4.Given the current low levels of understanding about sensible drinking in Wales and deep-seated habits of alcohol overuse, targeted and sustained social marketing campaigns are needed to increase understanding of alcohol and bring about a lasting change in the
drinking culture in Wales.
No doubt these “ targeted and sustained social marketing campaigns” will require funding from the taxpayer. You cannot change thousands of years of drinking culture. You can however throw hundreds of thousands of taxpayers money at organisations who vainly attempt to change this culture.

5.In order to raise public awareness of sensible drinking and the concept of drinking in units, the number of units of each drink should be prominently displayed: on the front of the packaging, bottles and cans for drinks bought in the off-trade, and on menus and pumps in pubs and restaurants. Given the failure of the drinks industry so far to comply with voluntary labelling codes, such labelling requirements should be mandatory.
Since we have established units of alcohol are totally fictitious is there any point in having them listed on all packaging? We already have ABV, Alcohol By Volume, listed and most people understand that. There is no need to bring in this unnecessary, complicated, difficult to understand and expensive option. Expensive as all packaging would have to be changed to show the Shenker unit.

The document then diverts from its hectoring, puritanical Nanny State course and gives a brief history of alcohol in Wales!

Wales' Alcoholic Timeline:
7th Century – the Gododdin, describes an army of ancient Britons taking their fill of mead before
a raid on the village of Catterick in modern-day Yorkshire. No doubt pre-loading before a night out, this lads night out has obviously been taken out of all proportion by the press.

10th Century – the laws of Hywel Dda made several references to drink as a method of payment for officials, and to royal taxes to be paid in mead or beer.

14th Century – the poet Dafydd ap Gwilym wrote his humorous verse Trafferth mewn tafarn (Trouble in a pub).

1836 - one Merthyr Tydfil publican was found to be offering three drinks for the price of one as an early morning special offer. So price promotions are nothing new!

Not unsurprisingly Alcohol Concern Cymru then mention the 1881 Welsh Sunday Closing Act which closed pubs on Sundays. The neo-prohibitionists who wrote A Drinking Nation rejoice at this bit of legislation but fail to see what it achieved. For one thing the Act only applied to pubs and not to clubs, leading to the profusion of members-only clubs throughout South Wales and eventually to the Clubs' Brewery at Pontyclun. It also lead to the popularity of the two-pint flagon bottle and even to breweries delivering to customers houses on Saturday nights. According to tradition, on the passing of the Welsh Sunday Closing Act, the owner of a brewery in St. Mary Street in Cardiff, John Griffen Thomas resolved to sell his brewery and his brother-in-law immediately offered to buy him out. That brother-in-law was Samuel Arthur Brain!
Even in living memory when the pubs were shut on Sundays the front door was often locked and the back left 'off the latch' to allow customers to have their Sunday drink. The Welsh Sunday Closing Act was eventually repealed and common sense has now prevailed with more liberal laws.

A Drinking Nation? then proceeds to some rather dubious statistics, always a good last resort to use to help pad out an already dubious publication. For instance it mentions that in 1978 men in England and Wales drank an average of 15.5 units a week. Now I'm pretty sure that no one was drinking Shenkers of alcohol back in the 70s so these figures are obviously extrapolated from other data. Data, for instance that changed in 2007 when the Office of National Statistics assumed that larger glasses were being used and stronger alcohol was being consumed. So a glass of wine post 2007 contains 2 Shenkers of alcohol rather than one as it did pre-2007. With beer, one Shenker is now counted as 1.5, 1.5 is now 2 and 2.3 Shenkers is counted as 3. Can you see how data can be manipulated by Alcohol Concern when the rules for measuring data alters?
Unfortunately Alcohol Concern Cymru do not give any up-to-date figures for the average Shenkers drank today, perhaps the data shows that we are drinking less on average and does not fit in with their world view?
 The graph below shows the percentage of men and women drinking more than their 21/14 unit weekly 'limit' and shows a decine
 The graph above uses the altered unit which appears to show that consumption is rising. It's not. Source Office of National Statistics.

The estimated health service cost of alcohol-related chronic disease and alcohol-related acute incidents is between £70 million and £85 million each year.
According to the House of Commons Library is the alcohol industry contributes £14.79 billion to the economy every year. So any cost to the NHS is more than covered by the taxes we pay on alcohol. Taxes that also pay for fake charities such as Alcohol Concern Cymru to peddle their unscientific drivel.

In summing up, this publication is a typically biased report written by a fake charity who have to justify their existence by waging war on the alcohol industry and responsible drinkers. They even celebrate the Mandatory Code abolishing the 'dentists chair' despite the fact this has proven to be an urban myth. Myths, legends and bad science this work of fiction might as well be entitled the Chronicles of Narnia rather than A Drinking Nation.

Monday 29 November 2010

Zero Degrees Cardiff

Zero Degrees, 27 Westgate Street, Cardiff, CF10 1DD

Situated opposite the Millenium Stadium, this art deco building was originally built as a garage, the motiff on the front of the building still has “Queens and Royal Garage” above the new “Zero Degrees” sign.  Below the signs, the large glass windows provide a view of the brewery, immaculate shinning stainless steel vessels which are illuminated during the night with colourful lights. Zero Degrees is a lot different from the usual brew pub, here the brewery is not tucked out the back of the pub but positioned strategically at the front for all to see. The entrance, on the left hand side of the building leads to thee bar area with the serving counter at the rear of the brewery. Again stainless steel dominates with a collection of tubes and pipes leading from the cellar tanks to the beer taps. The brewery brews a range of different beers including a Pilsner, a Wheat Beer, a Pale Ale, a Mango Beer and a Black Lager, in addition a monthly guest beer is also brewed. In October the monthly special was a 6.5% Oktoberfest Beer which had been maturing or lagering in the tanks since it was brewed in early August. Other seasonal beers have incuded an Apple Wheat Beer and an Asian Lager. In December the beer is Peach Vanilla. The resident brewer, Victoria Stippa is originally from Germany and previously worked for the Paulaner Brewery. There is an interview with her on Wales Online.
A nice touch is that a sample selection of all the regular beers can be ordered giving the customer the opportunity to try their range of beers without having to order halves or pints.
The interior of  Zero Degrees is cavernous and there is a choice of seating on the ground floor from tables and chairs to sofas and stools. The bar is circular in shape so that wherever you choose to sit the brewery is always at the focal point of the pub.
Also on the ground floor is the open-plan kitchen with it's pizza oven, which bears a similarity to part of the brewing plant. Directly opposite the kitchen are the cellar tanks for the beer. Food is available all day with pizzas being a speciality on the menu together with more unusual pub food such as mussels.
Upstairs there is more seating and at the front, above the brewery, a doorway leads to an outside terrace, an unique feature for a Cardiff City Centre pub. Customers do not have to worry about carrying their drinks upstairs as a dumb waiter is installed by the bar.
Zero Degrees features a regular price promotion with all the beers reduced to £2 a pint between 4-7pm. At night the bar becomes popular with sports fans as the widescreen televisions and projector are put into use. 

27 Westgate Street
CF10 1DD
029 2022 9494
Facebook Site here

Saturday 27 November 2010

Mythbusting - West of England Pub

An occasional series devoted to exploring the myths, half truths and outright lies that pubs use to promote themselves.

A bit of Googling the other day and I came across this website for the West of England pub in the part of Newport known as Pill. Now I used to live in the area and this pub was a keg only boozer inhabited by local drug dealing pondlife who had been banned from the rest of the town. In fact the only decent pub in the area at the time was the nearby Ship & Pilot, which featured a regularly changing guest beer, something no pub in the area now does.
So let's examine the claims made on the website of this pub (in bold): 

One of the oldest taverns in Newport”
Apart from the Royal Mail (Old White Lion), Murenger, Carpenters Arms, Potter's Arms, Six Bells, Greyhound, King's Head, Cross Keys, Red Lion, Griffin (Blucher's Arms), Delilah's (Tredegar Arms), Ship & Pilot, Prince of Wales. Not even in the oldest dozen.
First mention of the West of England Tavern is not until 1838

dating back to in and around the 1800s”
In Kelly's 1838 Directory the West of England is listed as a beerhouse, the Beerhouse Act of 1830 was a boost for the pub industry and it is very unlikely the pub dated to before that time.

a Grade 1 listed building”
Now this really takes the biscuit. The West of England was rebuilt in the 1880s and a lean-to extension was built in the 1980s using bricks of a different colour to the original. If it was a Grade I (NB to their webmaster: Roman numerals are used in listing descriptions not Arabic numerals) listed building it would rank alongside the Abbey Hotel in Llanthony as one of the most important buildings in Wales. The nearby Waterloo Hotel is Grade II listed and quite rightly so. In fact the West of England is not listed by Cadw at all.

serving a selection of lagers and real ales in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere”
Carlsberg, San Miguel and Tetley's Extra Cold keg beers is not a selection of real ales but then again if you believe this building is Grade 1 (I) listed then the author of the website is clearly deluded. Relaxed and friendly is a good description of the natives in the pub with their drug habit.

Well there you have it, a bit of mythbusting on one of the pubs of Newport. 


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