Tuesday 30 March 2010

Fox & Hounds, Risca

An afternoon out in the South Wales Valleys and on the way back popped into the Fox & Hounds in Risca. Set overlooking the village green and not far from the Monmouthshire canal, the Fox & Hounds features local cider, Blaengawney, on draught and bottles as well as beers from far away. Bottled ciders from Gwynt y Ddraig are also available. The beer today is from the Wooden Hand Brewery and is the 4.3% Buccaneer, a not too bad deep golden coloured ale. Quite a good little boozer, the Fox & Hounds is a popular pub that features live bands as well as darts and pool and a good jukebox with rock track popular on the playlist. Next beer on is RCH Steam Harvest.

Saturday 27 March 2010

Purple Moose brewery supports National Cask Ale Week

Purple Moose Brewery will be taking part in National Cask Ale Week for the first time this year, with special promotions and events involving pubs near the brewery.

There will be discounts available on Purple Moose beer as well as the opportunity to collect tokens which will be redeemable against Purple Moose merchandise at the brewery. Pubs involved include the Golden Fleece and the Union Inn, Tremadog, and the Station Inn and Spooner's Bar, Porthmadog.

In addition Purple Moose Brewery will be holding special tasting evenings where customers can chat to the brewers about the ingredients and try samples from each of their four beers. These will be held from 20.00-21.30, on Tuesday 30th March at Spooner's Bar, Porthmadog, and on Wednesday 31st March at the Golden Fleece, Tremadog.

Purple Moose Brewery has recently increased capacity with the arrival of new fermenting and conditioning tanks, almost doubling capacity.

Friday 26 March 2010

Brains launch beer tapas

Brains goes continental for Cask Ale Week

Welsh brewer Brains is going continental. The company, famed for cask ale favourites such as Brains SA and Dark, will be launching ‘Beer Tapas’ ahead of National Cask Ale Week (29th March – 5th April) in a bid to encouragecustomers to try their beers that they might not always go for.

Featuring three third pint glasses in a branded wooden tray, Beer Tapas will be available throughout and beyond National Cask Ale Week in around 200 pubs, including over 100 Brains managed and tenanted houses.
Richard Davies, Sales and Marketing Director explains: “The beer tapas tray gives customers the opportunity to try three different cask ales but drink the equivalent of one pint. We think it’s a great way of encouraging customers to switch from other categories to try cask ale and also a good way of giving current cask drinkers greater variety of choice.”
The tray has been branded ‘Brains Beer’, and the glasses are etched with ‘Beer Tapas’. Richard Davies adds, “This is about growing the cask ale category, with an emphasis on trial and exploration. Naturally we want to encourage customers to try the full Brains range, but we also want to see them trying brands and styles they wouldn’t normally try.”

A list of participating Brains pubs is available on their website here
Brew wales will no doubt be trying Beer Tapas out at one of his favourite Cardiff haunts such as the Goat Major or the Cottage next week.

Wednesday 24 March 2010

Labour Party Hates Drinkers

From Fido at the Lone Voice, reprinted in full it is that good

New Labour hates drinkers. A Facebook group opposing the Chancellor's 13% increase in cider duty has been launched within minutes of the Budget announcement. In fact two have been launched:
Leave Our Cider Alone
Cider Drinkers and Makers Say No!

The group, called, Leave Our Cider Alone! states, "Alistair Darling has proposed a tax duty increase of 10% "above inflation" on some cider from Sunday. Why? Is he not a cider lover? What have us cider drinkers done to Alistair Darling? Join the group and invite cider lovers."

The description ends with a plea: "We can't let this happen".

The new page was publicised on social networking site Twitter, attracting 320 new members almost straightaway.

Cidermakers Brothers Cider tweeted that duty on its Pear, Festival and Bittersweet Apple brands would go up by 13.13%. However, its Toffee Apple, Lemon and Strawberry flavoured drinks fit into the wine category, and escaped with a lower increase of only 5.13%.

Visit the site by clicking here.

CAMRA, chief executive Mike Benner

"Today’s budget is a charter for the large supermarkets who irresponsibly promote alcohol as a loss leader at the expense of our nation’s community pubs, real ale and responsible pub goers.

"CAMRA is totally at a loss in understanding how a Government that recognises the community value of pubs can impose such consistently draconian beer duty increases.

"Today’s duty increase has stamped down on the survival hopes of community pubs across the UK.

"This is a further tax raid on responsible beer drinkers and community pubs. It is however a tax raid that will yield little extra money for the Government as any extra beer duty will be outweighed by job losses, pub closures and reduced business taxes."

BBPA, chief executive Brigid Simmonds

"This latest beer tax hike piles on the misery for Britain's hard-pressed pubs and beer lovers. It is also a snub to voters, who by a majority of two to one wanted the Chancellor to scrap the beer tax escalator.

"Since 2008, beer tax has increased by an eye-watering 26 per cent – a £761 million tax rise - and we have seen the loss of 4,000 pubs and over 40,000 jobs up and down the country. Beer sales are down £650m in the last year alone.”

"The Chancellor’s claims that this is a Budget for investment and growth are hollow, considering he’s just hit the beer and pub sector with a £161 million tax rise.

"The extension of the tax escalator for an extra two years also means more pain. Recently, there had been some signs of improvement in our industry but this recovery will be threatened by Mr Darling's tax rise, which is putting hundreds more pubs and thousands more jobs at risk."

Fuller's, chairman Michael Turner

“Once again, by continuing with the duty escalator, the Chancellor has defied logic to heap a further tax burden on one of this country’s most valuable industries.

"This ill-advised policy will benefit no-one, as the consumer will pay more and the Treasury will receive less revenue from tax as a result.

"Pubs are closing at an alarming rate, beer sales are down an astonishing £650m and 24,000 jobs were lost in the sector over the last year. The last thing we need at this crucial time is more tax, which places beer and pubs at an even greater competitive disadvantage.

"British beer and the British pub are icons of this island and they are in desperate need of support from our politicians, whatever their political leaning. My hope now is that whoever holds the red box at the next budget will actually listen to the industry and the public at large and put an end to this destructive policy."

SIBA, chairman Keith Bott

"Today’s announcement is another example of the apparent disconnect between what this Government says about encouraging local, sustainable economies and what it does, which is having a disastrous effect on the pubs that local brewers need to thrive if they are to thrive themselves.

"The sooner it realises the link between the two and starts making policies that support local pubs and local brewers, rather than damaging them, the better.”

“The continuous percentage hikes in duties across the board fail to address the imperative to move consumers away from stronger alcohols with greater potential to cause harm, towards cask ale.

"Cask beer, with its relatively low ABV, is always consumed in the controlled, socially responsible environment of the pub, making it a much less damaging form of alcohol than cheap supermarket-bought spirits. “

Save the Pub Group, chair Greg Mulholland

"Whilst I welcome the moves made by Pub Minister John Healy last week to ensure a fair deal for pub tenants, the announcement in today’s budget will visit great harm on the industry.

“Rise after rise in duty completely undermines the attempts by the Government to prove that they are taking the plight of the pub industry in Britain seriously."

ALMR chief executive Nick Bish

“This is not a route map out of recession for pubs and bars. Each one of these employs about 10 people and together they contribute £9 billion a year in taxes. The Pubs Minister has drawn attention to the rate of pub closures and is proposing ways to stem the decline; but his colleague at the Treasury seems to go out of his way to reduce operators’ income and profitability.

“The Chancellor, having reinstated the new higher VAT rate in January has further racked up prices by increasing duty rates on beer, wines and spirits by 5% from Sunday. This will translate into 10p increases per pint at the pumps with equivalent premiums for wines and spirits and this will drive price-conscious customers away from pubs and accelerate the downward spiral of sales in a beleaguered sector.

“The opportunity for pubs to be recognised as the best and safest places for responsible consumption has again been missed. Supermarkets will force suppliers to absorb the duty increases and thus increase the differential between the on and off trade. Minimum pricing is controversial and maybe illegal, but a ban on below-cost selling is in the gift of the government now.”


Darling invokes wrath of cidermakers

In the last few gasps of this fag-end Government, the hopeless Chancellor of the Exchequer and badger lookalike Alaistair Darling presented what will hopefully be the last Labour Budget for a very long time. Not content with the 4000 pub closures we have seen in the last two years, the champagne-socialist Darling further increased the duty on alcohol, with a 10% + inflation duty incrase on cider. Yes, that's correct, on that most traditional of British drinks that is still produced in traditional manners will now see the price increase from Sunday. Not content with being banned from the majority of pubs in the UK in previous years, darling now seems content to being banned from all cider farms in the UK as well.

Needless to say, cidermakers are not too happy about this and a few expletives were mentioned when Brew Wales spoke to some of them earlier today. Denis Gwatkin of Gwatkin Cider said, "This tax rise will hit us all, from the pickers, the growers, the medium-sized producers such as myself right up to the big producers such as Bulmers and Westons. having already ruined the pub trade, the Government now wants to ruin the producers". Denis also went on to call the Chancellor a "Fing bastard" a statement many of us are agreeing with today.
Denis and friend extend a warm welcome to Alaistair Darling should he happen to visit Abbey Dore in the future
Meanwhile in Wales, Bill George of Gwynt Y Ddraig Cider, Wales' largest producer of craft ciders and perry said, "This tax on cider is a very short-sighted view, we contribute over £100,000 a year to the economy in duty and now the champagne-socialist Darling wants customers to pay a higher price for our products just so that Members of Parliament can have another plasma TV screen on expenses. This budget is doing nothing for the economy or for businesses in this recession".

Other comments from cidermakers today described Alaistar Darling as "a dirty whore", "scumbag" etc.

So well done Darling, that's the rural vote well and truly in the bag. Now piss off back to Jockland and never screw up our country again.

Monday 22 March 2010

Purple Moose Easter Ale

From Drop Box

Current Champion Beer of Wales brewers, Purple Moose have launched a new beer, their 3.9% chestnut-coloured ale Cwrw'r Pasg / Easter Ale, described as an easy drinking chestnut session bitter with a fruity hop finish.

A delivery of a non-beer related item occured recently, Brewery boss Lawrence and his wife Jenni Washington have announced the bith of their son Edward Gordon Washington and the Mŵs Bach or Little Moose brewed to celebrate the birth was a fast seller in the local pubs who sold it. Congratulations to Lawrence and Jenni on the birth of the Little Moose!

Welsh Assembly Members highlight pub closures in Newport

From Brew Wales

Above: Pictured outside the former Corporation pub in Newport are, left to right, Nick Ramsey AM, Dawn Parry (Conservative Parlimentary Candidate for Newport East) and leader of the Conservatives in the Welsh Assembly, Nick Bourne AM

The list of pubs closed since Labour came to power is a large one, with Newport losing more pubs than Cardiff since 1997. Brew Wales have previously highlighted the loses here and more recently here and although recently we have seen a few reopenings, the Engineers in Baneswell and the Carpenters Arms in High Street, the trend is still downward with the Corporation Hotel being given change of use by the local council only last week.

Joint-Chair of the Welsh Assembly Beer Group and Conservative leader in the Welsh Assembly, Nick Bourne AM, today joined up with fellow Assembly Member Nick Ramsey and Newport East Conservative Parliamentary Prospective Candidate Dawn Parry to highlight the pub closure epeidemic that has hit Newport with 45 pub closures in thirteen years of Labour Government.

According to Newport East Conservative PPC Dawn Parry, "The pub is at the heart of the community, when that is gone where are people going to meet? Drinking in a pub is more sociable than drinking at home and we have seen a loss to the communities of Newport East of fantastic old pubs that will never be rebuilt and never open again as pubs. We have seen the destruction of our communities over the past 13 years with pubs and post offices closing in the constituency and the forthcoming general election is a chance for change for the people of Newport"

Elsewhere today, Shadow Communities and Local Government minister, Caroline Spelman said: “Under Labour there has been a surge in alcohol-fuelled violence in our high streets, while local community pubs go to the wall.

“Conservatives will stand up for local community pubs and give residents new rights to protect them, whilst giving police and councils strong powers to tackle the binge drinking violence that ruins our towns at night.”

The Tories also highlighted figures showing there had been a net closure of 3,500 pubs across England since Labour came to power.

Whereas Newport, Cardiff and Monmouthshire have lost around 150 pubs since 1997.

Another Newport pub closure

That's the end of the Corporation, more lately known as just the Corpa, as Newport City Council has granted planning permission for it to be changed into flats. The pub closed late last year and suffered a "suspicious fire" just after new owners had bought the pub from some Pubco. Situated on the corner of Corporation Road and Cromwell Road, the Corpa had a good catchment area but years of neglet by both the brewery who owned this building and the later pub co took its toll. The Corporation was built in 1898 by Hancocks Brewery and featured all the modcons of a late nineteenth century pub, including a skittle alley that was in use until quite recently. The Corpa is currently derelict and joins the nearby King and Black Horse pubs in the sad state of Newport pubs that have closed under this Government.

Thursday 11 March 2010

The Rake

Well worth popping into this pub in Borough Market. Three real ales on draught, 7 on keg and loads in bottles 130 different beers in total. On the Whitstable Brewery East India Pale Ale at the moment, a 4.1% light coloured thirst quenching ale. Now the only problem is which beer to go for next?

A beer with Old Holborn

After the fun at Westminster Magistrates Court with Morley, Chayter et all the Brew Wales editor went for a pint with Old Holborn in the Westminster Arms. Both the Spitfire and the Master Brew were in top form, served in branded glasses as well. The pub was packed as the Westminster types crowded in, spot the MP, he's the one with the suitcase as he is going back to the constituency tonight. Any chance of our elected representatives doing a full working week? I doubt it. Also will alleged expense fiddling MP Eliot Morley claim the taxi fayre from the magistrates court back to Westminster on expenses? Time will tell, the troughers are up in Crown Court later this month.

London Drinker Beer Festival

A nice day out in the smoke and a few beers sank at Camden Town Hall, venue of the London Drinker Beer Festival, a Festival I have known for 20 years. Excellent beers on with a good crowd in, London Drinker looks like it will once again be a success. Beer of the Moment is Saltaire Chocolate, which even has a chocolate aroma. Right off to heckle some MPs at Westminster Magistrates Court!

Wednesday 10 March 2010

Blue Anchor, East Aberthaw

The Blue Anchor is an historic pub on the coastal road from Barry to Llantwit Major with a useful bus stop outside. The pub is an unmistakable stone-built building and features a thatched roof. A fire destroyed the roof back in 2004 but the pub has been carefully and sympathetically restored by the family who own this Grade II* Listed Building.
The entrance doorway is on the side, with a sturdy blue-painted wooden door opening into a small wood-panelled lobby, made from wood salvaged from a ship that ran-aground on the nearby coast. The lobby is taken down in the summer months, to create more room in this pub. The lobby leads into the central bar with its gleaming brass beer engines offering real ales such as Wye Valley HPA, Theakston's Old Peculier, Brains Bitter and Wadworth 6X. An additional handpump is used for a guest beer, Tomos Watkin Cwrw Idris was a recent beer to feature on the bar. A range of bottled ciders and perries from Gwynt Y Ddraig are also available.
Above the bar hang glass and pewter tankards belonging to the regular customers of the Blue Anchor. Around the bar area black timber beams contrast with the grey Jurassic limestone stonework and there is a large fireplace, lit in winter, with a roaring coal fire. Tree trunks support the wooden beams above the bar and against one wall rests a high wooden settle, where the black varnish is wearing off on the handles due to the continued use of customers using it over the years. The flagstone floor is also wearing a bit thin in places, a testament to the age of the Blue Anchor, 1380 is the date traditionally associated with this inn. The name of the pub comes from the connection to the once busy port of East Aberthaw, once a thriving commercial centre, now overshadowed by the cement works.
A blocked-up lancet arch is in one wall of the bar, whilst a low-beamed doorway and separate spiral staircase lead off the other end. The low doorway leads through to another drinking/dining area and an upstairs restaurant. The Blue Anchor has been extended over the years and blocked-up doorways and windows which now look into other rooms of the pub all add to the charm of this ancient building. Towards the front of the building there is another couple of rooms, with the old walls acting as a divider.
Food is served from 12-2 and 6-8 Monday to Saturday and features an excellent range including locally shot pheasant and River Exe Mussels. There are also vegetarian and options for children on the menu as well as an upatairs restaurant open 7-9.30 Monday-Saturday.
The Blue Anchor is an award-winning freehouse and is recommended by CAMRA, the Which Pub Guide and Michelin Guide to name a few.

Blue Anchor, East Aberthaw, CF62 3DD, 01446 750329
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Journey Planner (North)

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Nick Hogan Smoking Day

Today the health nazis celebrate national No Smoking Day with over a million pounds of tax-payers money going to support this fake charity. The Brew Wales Editor is an occaisional smoker and today a few cigars will be smoked as two fingers go up to the bully State. Also it is the day that Nick Hogan is to be released from prison, thanks due to the campaign launched by Old Holborn. How soon will we see a @No drinking day'? Piss off Nanny State!
Image from GOT and OH

Sing with Brains!

From SA Brain:
 Award-winning Welsh brewer and WRU shirt sponsor SA Brain and Co Ltd is launching a new campaign - Anthem Karaoke - to coincide with the start of the Six Nations.
Rugby fans who feel that their rendition of their favourite rugby anthem is worthy of public scrutiny can record their singing efforts and upload the results, YouTube style, onto the ‘Anthem Karaoke’ micro-site , powered by Brains SA.
Public voting will deem which singers are worthy of prizes, and will also elect the overall winner when the Six Nations challenge ends on March 20 at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. Top prizes include highly sought after rugby tickets and Brains merchandise.
Here is one of the videos:
Richard Davies, Sales and Marketing Director at Brains said: "Rugby fans are masters of harnessing the power of song to improve their team’s sporting performance. In Wales we’ve seen how a rousing rendition of the national anthem or a powerful chorus of Cwm Rhondda can turn a game around. As vocal passion is such an integral part of the sport we were convinced that the concept of an Anthem Karaoke competition would be a huge hit."
Howard Scott, Sequence digital marketing director explains more: "It’s like an online Britain’s Got Talent. It’s open to all rugby fans and it’s up to them to choose their favourite anthem. It could be someone from France singing La Marseillaise, an Italian belting out Republica Italiana, or someone singing a more colloquial anthem such as Flower of Scotland or Sosban Fach."
The competition will be supported by official media partner Red Dragon FM. It will also be marketed online via social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, with the aim of generating a flood of interest virally.

Good to see SA Brain get on the multmedia bandwagon: 
Brains You Tube Channel
Brains on Twitter
Anthem Karaoke Website
Anthem Karaoke on Facebook
SA Brain Website

Tuesday 9 March 2010

“Hypothermia has become a smoking-related disease under this Government”.

From Great British Beer Festival 2009

“Hypothermia has become a smoking-related disease under this Government”.

That was a quote from Nigel Evans MP (pictured above at the Great British Beer Festival last year), Vice-Chair of the Parliamentary Beer Group and taken from Hansard 23 February, the Westminster Hall Debate on the Future of the British Pub which he secured.
A better attended debate than the one last year in the Commons Chamber which saw 6 MPs attend, the Westminster Hall debate had a lot more MPs in attendance and the one and a half hours devoted to the debate was well spent with some intelligent point raised by the members. Newly appointed Pubs Minister John Healey was absent, which just goes to prove the importance that the Government of Colostomy Brown put on the importance of the pub.

Nigel Evans had done his research for the debate, quoting the landlord of his local, the Swan with Two Necks in Pendleton, along with the landlady of the The Durham Ox in Longridge. Nigel also raised the following points:
  • Pub prices used to be twice those of supermarkets, but they are now much greater-sometimes seven times as much-with aggressive pricing by the supermarkets. 
  • An 11-gallon barrel of Fosters costs £127 from Heineken, but from a wholesaler it would cost £92. 
  • Cask ales-nine or 10 gallons-cost £96 from Heineken, or £55 from a wholesaler.

According to Nigel Evans MP, Irene Nuttall of the Durham Ox listed the following problems facing pubs:

1 Aggressive supermarket pricing is crippling for a lot of pubs.

2 The tie can be oppressive and should be opened up.

3 Dry rent is paid, but a lot of publicans also pay residential rent, as they are required to live on the premises, which can be incredibly expensive and insurance on top of that takes a huge chunk of money.

4 The duty on pub-sold beer is too high

5 Business rates are too high. Irene Nuttall is paying £4,617, and although there is a small amount of business rate relief, for her it amounts to only £182.

6 Council tax must be paid on top of that sum for the residential part of the property.

7 She has a TV in her own flat and a TV downstairs, so she needs two licences for the BBC, even though both sets are in the same building.

8 The water rates cost several hundreds of pounds.

9 Sky Sports costs £594 in a relatively small publication

10 The building insurance of £1,500, which must be paid, even though Irene Nuttall does not own the building.

11 Electricity costs £400 a month. The gas bill is £850 a quarter, and bank charges of £90 a month are charged for paying money in, taking money out and direct debits.

12 “She finished by saying, "I wonder why I'm doing it." Considering all the pressures on one pub, I think exactly the same thing. She clearly loves the business in which she operates, otherwise she simply would not do it”.

Greg Knight MP, East Yorkshire raised a very good point that has been devastating for many pubs and clubs, “The heavy-handed way [the smoking ban] had been introduced in the United Kingdom....and that is is ludicrous that the only way in which a licensee can provide an indoor smoking room for his or her customers is if they happen to operate on a boat?”

Nigel Evans replied, “The way in which the smoking ban was introduced was far stricter than in almost any other country. There are 12 million smokers out there, and a lot of them used to go to pubs, but now that is clearly not the case. I know that my right hon. Friend and hon. Members from other parties are trying to get changes in the law, not to lift the smoking ban but to amend it sensibly so that smokers will at least be treated like human beings when they go to pubs and clubs, and be looked after as opposed to being treated like lepers. A friend of my right hon. Friend, Antony Worrall Thompson, stated:

"The smoking ban has had an extraordinary detrimental effect on pubs and clubs. The legislation as it stands is excessive and I would like to see it amended."

As I have noted, MPs from all parties have co-operated with my right hon. Friend in his campaign. We are all familiar with seeing people standing outside pubs having a cigarette in sub-zero temperatures, in the rain and the snow with all the elements against them. Hypothermia has become a smoking-related disease under this Government”.

That last comment from Nigel was so good I used it as the title of this post.

Pubfacts from Mark Hastings of the British Beer & Pub Association as reported by Nigel Evans MP:

  • On average pubs inject about £80,000 a year into the local community. 
  • On average a pub pays £107,000 in taxes
  • Over half a million people are employed in pubs
  • 380,000 people are employed in associated industries
  • Beer taxes have risen 20% since March 2008 with another 2% above inflation expected at the budget this Month. 
  • Research by Oxford Economics suggests that halting the proposed Budget increase of 2 per cent. above inflation could save 7,500 jobs and the Government tax take would increase.
  • Since March 2008, 4,100 pubs have gone bust.
  • Beer sales are down 16 million pints a day compared with 1979.
  • Turnover on beer in the past 12 months alone is down £650 million.
  • Since 1997, beer duty has gone up 14 per cent. in real terms, yet spirits duty is down by 20 per cent.
  • Every year, 13.2 million tourists visit pubs in the United Kingdom

According to David Hamilton (Midlothian) (Labour), “The Government have the opportunity to separate draft beer tariffs from those of normal beer where canned beer is involved. It would need a change in the European legislation, but surely all parties can agree across the board that if we change the draft beer position, that would give an edge to all the pubs and clubs that are involved”.

Mr. Evans: I could not agree more; I am 100 per cent. with the hon. Gentleman. What he describes needs to be done. I have asked Ministers about it and every time, they say, "Brussels won't allow it. There's a problem with Brussels." Let us sort out Brussels. The pub is an iconic British institution. If we want to support pubs and ensure that supermarket pricing does not give supermarkets such a great advantage, the one thing that we need to do is recognise that the product served in a pub is different from the product that people receive when they get 24 cans from a supermarket. Therefore, different taxation on draught beer-pump-pulled beer-needs to be put in place.

Now this is an interesting idea, a differential price for cask and packaged beer. Of course our Parliament has no such remit to introduce this law and we have to ask our true political masters in the Fourth Reich under Von Rumpey to legislate for this. Somehow cannot see this happening, the EU supporting our unique pub industry? Hell they will be giving us a vote on issues that matter next.?

Nigel Evans MP summed up his speech with this:

We cannot let the pub die. It is the hub, the social centre, the heart of villages and towns. It is where business deals are done, family occasions are celebrated, and darts teams, pool teams and football teams play, celebrate their wins and drown their sorrows. It is where every problem is discussed and where, as the Minister will know, a Government in waiting drink regularly. It is where the general election will be discussed daily and every evening. It is where we as candidates will banter with the regulars, and on election night it is where we shall have a final tipple, perhaps, to steady our nerves. It is where I have celebrated every election victory since moving into my village, with locals, friends and those who have helped out in the campaign.

The British pub is iconic. It represents the very heart of Britain. We have seen so much of the fabric of our way of life threatened in so many ways over the decades, from post offices to churches and from village schools to small shops and rural bus services. Now is the time to make a stand, so the message for the Minister for pubs is that we are holding him to his word about giving a helping hand now to the great British pub. Now is the time to deliver. I hope that at the end of the debate, this Minister will do just that-stand and deliver for the great British pub.

Teetotaller David Drew MP (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op) raised a point about the high price of soft drinks in pubs as well as having a go at Whitbread and Pub Companies, before saying “Sadly, from all my experience of talking to publicans, I have to say that it is the norm that people are being driven out. I accept that the Government have a role to play in terms of how they price beer, spirits and all the other things for which they are responsible, but I shall hold fire on them for the moment and concentrate my energies on highlighting the complete unfairness in the way in which pubcos now operate with regard to the people they should hold dearest, who are of course the people who run the pubs that are making money for them. I agree with much that the hon. Member for Ribble Valley said about things such as Sky TV and the way in which all those costs accumulate and make it much more difficult for people to run a pub”.

Anne Main (St. Albans) (Con) said, “......St. Albans apparently has the most pubs per square mile of any place in England, and pubs are part of the historic street scene. Anybody who has been to St. Albans will have seen the historic pubs, and there can even be two or three in one short road. Those pubs traditionally supported people on the many pilgrimages to St. Albans, so they go back a long way".

Interesting snippet there about the number of pubs in St. Albans, hardly surprising that CAMRA have their headquarters there. Ann Main also gave Chav Palace operators JD Wetherspoons a mention, “.... The Waterend Barn in St. Albans is synonymous with some unfortunate incidents, and I have seen people sitting outside it vomiting into the bushes late at night. I have also seen the ambulance crews picking them up”. No doubt Tim Martin will have something to say about that?

“It is a real shame that the smoking ban, which many people welcomed, has not only hit some smaller pubs disproportionately, but brought them into conflict with some of their neighbours. Pubs have to create smoking shelters, or people have to stand in the pub garden. As a result, doors are opened, and music drifts over to houses that were not previously bothered by noise. There is chatter, laughter and other noise outside in the garden in the winter, which one would never have expected. That causes conflicts with local residents. The legislation, which was introduced for the best possible reasons, has therefore had some unfortunate consequences.

I pay tribute to pubs for the fact that they are not only the heart of the community, but put things back. I have regularly done the prize draw with Cilla in the Three Hammers pub, and all the funds raised go to our local hospice. Pubs are not just drinking dens. Every time a VAT rise goes on to the price of a pint of beer, the assumption is that it will be on the pint in the pub”.

It is important that we look at the unfair blame that is often shifted on to small local pubs. In St. Albans, it is difficult to finger the pub that made the last irresponsible sale to a young person. If there is only one pub in a village, it is easy to see where people who are causing trouble are coming from, but it is hard to do that in areas such as St. Albans, and we are not alone in that-many historic cities have the same problem.

On behalf of the smaller, well run pubs in St. Albans, I welcome the possibility of a rethinking of the tied pub, because damage is being done to young people who are prepared to take on what are in effect historic buildings, in conservation areas.

The pub is potentially picking up the reputation of causing antisocial behaviour in the community, but perhaps we should be looking to the supermarkets or small corner shops that sell people alcohol irresponsibly”.

Quite a good contribution to the debate from the MP from St Albans who is no doubt familiar with the problems of anti-social behaviour in her constituency.

John Grogan MP (Selby, Labour), joined the debate by first paying tribute to those who had spoken before him and to Nigel Evans MP for securing the debate in the first place.

“Eighty per cent. of people visit a pub at some time in the year, and very few other institutions, even the Church or the Post Office, have such a reach. Perhaps only our most popular television channels have it in the course of a year”.

John Grogan MP then preceded to mention the 'takeover in all but name' of Mitchells and Butlers Pub Company who employ 40,000 people. Interesting bits of information there on the possible future of this company and the next few weeks should be very interesting as to the future of this company.

“CAMRA has suggested that rate relief, which has been a big boon to village pubs in recent years, should be extended more widely, to community pubs in suburban areas and small market towns. That needs to be considered. A proper definition of a community pub is obviously needed, but I think that local authorities would be well placed to judge whether a pub is a community pub. That would be a good way forward”.

“Various hon. Members have discussed putting a lower rate of duty on draught beer. I want to underline the fact that that is a current issue. The European Commission is reviewing the rules on duty now, and I hope that all three Front Benches will unite in what they say about this and that the British Government will argue-although we need allies, and potentially have them in such countries as Germany and the Czech Republic-that the European Commission should allow different nation states to impose a lower rate of duty on draught beer. That could do as much for pubs in the next Parliament as the lower rate of duty on small brewers has done for the expansion of micro-brewers in this Parliament”.

“.........If we are honest, it is unlikely that any Government in the near future will reduce the overall take from alcohol tax, given the pressure on public finances. However, there is a strong and fair case to be made that beer and pubs have lost out in recent years. A rebalancing is needed with spirit tax and duty on cider”.

That statement hits the nail on the head, no Government will reduce alcohol tax, it is the cash cow that is there to be milked until the poor bovine dies of dehydration.

Andrew Pelling MP (Croydon, Central) (Ind) joined the debate but apart from the often quoted and inaccurate statement “beer and wine is cheaper than water in supermarkets” he contributed little to what had been said earlier. Luckily he gave way in his speech to a first-class interruption by Sir Nicholas Winterton, “ ....... Would he not describe the debate initiated by my hon. Friend the Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) as an emergency debate? The huge number of pubs now closing will create a huge problem for many communities. For many, the village pub or the community pub is the only facility where people can meet. It is important that the Government take the matter seriously, and that the Budget that we are shortly to have announces some relief for those in pubs and the smaller breweries.

Greg Mulholland (Leeds, North-West, Liberal Democrat), now joined the debate. Now I have a lot of time for Greg, he nearly missed a train home once in order to let me finish doing an interview with him! Rather quote directly from Hansard, here are the bullet points made by Greg:
  • We need to consider the level of beer duty and the way in which it has risen.
  • We want the Minister to tell us that the duty will now be frozen
  • We want to see the abolition of the beer duty escalator that has caused so much damage.
  • We should consider a lower rate for draught beer, which is something that both all-party parliamentary groups support.
  • I should like to explore the possibility of a lower duty for real ale.
  • Cask-conditioned ale is more costly to produce, store and serve, so I agree that we should take the fight to Europe.
  • We should also consider minimum pricing, which the hon. Member for Selby also champions. However, let me add a note of caution. People talk about putting the level at 50p, but an independent body should assess the level so that responsible drinkers, either at home or in the pub, are not penalised. Such a scheme will help pubs to compete, especially as they offer that uniqueness that we all know about.

“We need to consider live music in pubs. The Live Music Bill is going through the other place, but I ask the Government to review their exemption level of 100 people because it is not sufficient. The Bill stipulates 200 people, which would do more to help pubs as well as encouraging more live music.

Rate relief is another area of consideration. The community pub inquiry report stated that there was no recognition of the contribution that pubs make to the community, which was also mentioned by the hon. Member for St. Albans (Anne Main). Pubs make vast contributions to charity and offer a hub to the community, but that is not reflected in the rate system.”

......We still have the absurd situation in which it is perfectly legal to demolish a free-standing pub overnight without planning permission or to turn it into a restaurant, a shop, a café, or, ludicrously in England and Wales, a financial services office. I have nothing against accountants, but let us face it, they are not hubs of community life.

The last line raised a chuckle from myself.

Greg did gave way to Sir Nicholas Winterton, “Does the hon. Gentleman, whom I respect for what he is doing on the issue of pubs and beer, not believe that the tied system is very important for the smaller brewer?”

Greg Mulholland MP , “That is an interesting point. One of the problems with this debate is that that argument comes out. The big pub companies say, "You shouldn't abolish the tie." No one is talking about abolishing it; we are talking about reforming it to make it fair for the tenant and the customer. The inflated beer prices are bad for pub consumers and the unfair rents are closing pubs. It is not about abolition, but having a fair and transparent system, which we do not have. The excellent Business and Enterprise Committee report last year highlighted that issue and showed that even when pubs had a turnover of more than £500,000, more than 50 per cent. of lessees earned less than £15,000. That cannot be right, and it is about time that the Government did something about it. That means not waiting for the Office of Fair Trading, which has shown that it does not understand the issue and that it is of little use in this area, but referring the matter to the Competition Commission. The report concluded:

"The time has now come for Government to intervene to ensure a fair and legal framework."

Will the Minister indicate that the Government will do that, because this is an issue of fairness and of exploitation of workers-the kind of things that one would hope a Labour Government would take seriously.

The British Beer and Pub Association is trying to stall the process. I have nothing against the organisation, and I agree with it on many things, including on beer duty and minimum pricing, but it represents the big pub companies and breweries. It is not the voice of the industry as a whole. It has introduced what it calls a UK industry framework, but it is nothing of the sort because it applies only to its own members. As Greene King has shown, all one has to do if one does not agree is to leave the BBPA. In the meantime, the Independent Pub Confederation has come together with a number of organisations-CAMRA, the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, the Federation of Small Businesses, the Guild of Master Victuallers, the Society of Independent Brewers, trade unions and Justice for Licensees-to call for, among other things, reform of the tie.

If we are serious about British pubs, I want to make it clear that what we do not need is yet another debate. I am glad that we have had this opportunity for a debate today, but we do not need another debate to say how important pubs are. I have said that again and again and again-and they are important. However, that importance is not being recognised in planning law. Also, we are not dealing with the fact that more than 50,000 of our pubs are owned by pub companies that, in too many cases, really do not care about the impact of pub closures on communities. We need structural reform and reform of planning law. We also need to give the pub back to the British people.

I simply ask everyone here today to look at the Independent Pub Confederation's excellent charter "Time for a Change", and at CAMRA's beer drinkers and pub goers charter. Those charters are real manifestos for reform and reform is the only thing that we should be talking about today and in the future.

Tobias Ellwood MP (Bournemouth, East) (Con), compared the debate in Westminster Hall to a Cheers, with all the familiar faces around the table. Again the absence of the Pubs Minister John Healey was noted with Mr Ellwood sying that, “He [John Healey] says that he has a few ideas in his locker; today would have been the ideal day to open that locker and let us see what is actually going on. It is a little bit like someone realising that their glasses are in their pocket at the very end of their driving test; it is a bit late to put things into focus and it is certainly a bit late to impress anyone”.

  • The contribution that brewing and pubs make to our economy is huge-£28 billion a year.
  •  13 million visits are made by tourists every single year to pubs.
  •  One in four of us here in Britain drinks in a pub every week.
  • 90 per cent. of all alcoholic drink in Britain is brewed domestically, which is another very positive statistic that was cited by other Members earlier.
  • The pub tie needs to be reviewed
  • 4,000 pubs have shut since the Budget of 2008
  • The Treasury will lose about £250 million in receipts by 2010 if the present rate is maintained.

.................I am afraid that the Government simply do not get it. They do not understand that by looking after the pub industry, they can make more money for the Exchequer, help defend our communities and preserve the glue that holds our society together. Instead, they are trying to turn a nation of quizzers into gamblers, which is simply wrong. It is time to say goodbye to this Government unless they can come up with something far more imaginative, which I do not think will be the case”.

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Peter Gerry Sutcliffe)

..........One thing that this Government cannot be accused of is not having, listening to and responding to a number of debates about pubs and their future.

Not at all Gerry, the couple of things this Government has not done is to listen to and respond to the problems facing the industry. Instead we have tax after tax on the pub and brewing business as well as legislation such as the crazy smoking bill and the ridiculous Mandatory Code as well as all those Government-funded fake charities churning out made-up figures on the dangers of alcohol.

Sutcliffe gave way to Nigel Evans who asked, “The Minister is in power. He can say something about taxation. What is he going to do?

Sutcliffe: “I will deal with that question. I just thought that it was interesting that the Opposition did not deal with it when we touched on it”.

Unfortunately the Under-Secretary did not deal with that question and the debate finished soon afterwards. So one-and half hours of debate without the Minister for Pubs present on the future of the British Pub resulted in a string of facts and figures about how much pubs contribute to the community, how we all love them and very little on what can be done to save them. As the present Government does not appear to have any interest in supporting pubs it is hardly surprising that no firm commitments to help save the pub by reducing taxation were mentioned. Roll on the General Election when pub-hating Colostomy Brown and his party are voted out of power. It can not come soon enough for our pubs.


Monday 8 March 2010

Murenger House - 1970s

Here is a photograph of my local pub, Ye Olde Murenger House, taken in the 1970s. Now I have previously written about the Murenger in one of the first posts I ever did back in November 2007. In the 1970s the Murenger House was in a perilous state, having to be propped up with scaffolding to prevent it from collapsing as in the photograph above. Buses were diverted from High Street to prevent vibrations from damaging the Tudor builing any further and it the future did not look good for the building. Luckily Sam Smith's Brewery of Tadcaster, Yorkshire stepped in to repair and save the building. Today the Murenger House is a thriving pub with good beer (its in the Good Beer Guide) and good conversation. Well done Sam's!

SIBA finds some balls

From the Morning Advertiser:

SIBA chief executive Julian Grocock has slammed the “health nannies” he claims are targeting alcohol as the new tobacco.

Last week at the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) conference in Stratford-upon-Avon, Grocock criticised the health lobbyists who blame the trade for binge drinking.
“I contend that we (the brewing industry) are better organised around people and their health and welfare than any lobby prohibitionists who want to haul us over the coals towards complete oblivion.”

He added: “I confess that I view the health nannies with the same kind of mistrust and suspicion that I sued to view those people in my village who I never got to know simply because they didn’t go to the pub.”
This year’s conference focuses on people power and the vital importance of people in the industry.
Stratford-upon-Avon mayor Jenny Fradgley gave a rousing introduction, praising the role that real ale plays in combating binge drinking.
“Beer is a delight and should be drunk in company in traditional pubs,” she said.

Community pubs facing tax bombshell

From the Conservatives on what Colostomy Brown has planned for our pubs:

Community pubs facing tax bombshell

Shadow Housing Minister Grant Shapps has warned of a ‘tax bombshell’ faced by community pubs this April.
New research by the Conservatives reveals that Gordon Brown’s tax inspectors are hiking up business rates for local pubs across country. Friendly community pubs with darts and pool tables face the biggest threat.
This comes as figures show that a net 3,690 local pubs have closed under Labour, according to official records held by tax inspectors.
"Gordon Brown has pushed local community pubs to the wall", Shapps said, pointing out that at the same time Labour has ignored "the binge-drinking dens that have wrecked our town centres and fuelled violent crime".

The three key elements of the tax bombshell are:

  • New tax hikes on local pubs: New analysis of Government figures slipped out before Christmas has revealed that pubs, pub restaurants, wine bars, wineries and coaching inns face above-inflation hikes in their Rateable Values – and thus their tax bills. This will be top of Brown’s above-inflation rises in alcohol duty imposed in the Budget.
  • Stealth tax on pub sports: According to the tax inspectors’ guidance, features such as a pool room, skittles alley, bowling green, children's play area and darts have been targeted. The clipboard-wielding inspectors have secretly toured pubs, recording "pool, darts or football teams playing in leagues". Pubs showing sport will not escape, as Sky Sports will be taxed extra, Ministers have admitted.
  • Stealth tax on nice pubs: The tax manuals tell the state snoopers to take photographs inside and outside the pub, and record "Does the pub appear friendly and popular?". Factors being logged include good beer cellars/stores (thus taxing real ale), "rare and unspoilt pubs", and beer gardens (taxing those which have ducked the smoking ban).
"Not content with a council tax revaluation to tax people’s home improvements and scenic views, Gordon Brown also wants to hammer the nice local pub with higher local taxes", Shapps said. "Only Conservatives will stand up for the local community pub".

Now here at Brew Wales we are non-political, as the editor has not been a member of any political party in the last 15 years. However when we have a Government hell bent on destroying the pub and beer industry as the one run by Colostomy Brown we will quite happily print press releases from other parties critcising the shambles we have have in power at the moment.

Wednesday 3 March 2010

New Chairman for CAMRA

From a CAMRA Press Release:

CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, has appointed a new National Chairman to lead its 110,000 members.

Colin Valentine (pictured), former CAMRA National Vice-Chairman and Branch Chairman of CAMRA's Edinburgh and South East Scotland, has taken over the role from Paula Waters, who will remain on CAMRA's board of Directors, the National Executive.

Mike Benner, CAMRA's Chief Executive, said:

'CAMRA has grown in stature since Paula Waters took over the position of CAMRA's National Chairman in 2004, and through her leadership, CAMRA surpassed its 100,000 member milestone, and has campaigned successfully on many levels to promote and protect community pubs and local brewers and consumer rights. Her reign as Chairman over the past 6 years has seen a shift in the number of consumers trying real ale for the first time, a boom in the number of real ale brewers operating in the UK, and major changes to the pub industry, not least in the way pubs are now licensed and regulated.

'The appointment of Colin Valentine is an exciting one for the Campaign, and we've no doubt Colin will provide the strong leadership and direction necessary when tackling the major issues affecting the future success of the organisation. These issues include stemming the rate of pub closures across the UK, championing pubs as the centres of community life, and fighting to reform 'beer tie' arrangements in the pub market.'

Colin Valentine, newly-appointed CAMRA National Chairman, said:

'I am overwhelmed that my fellow directors have chosen me to lead the Campaign. I have a very hard act to follow having taken over from CAMRA's first female Chairman and I can only hope that, as CAMRA's first Scottish Chairman, I carry on the good work. Even with record number of members signing up, we still face challenging times and I aim to be as strong a champion of the pub-goer as Paula was. CAMRA has helped create the circumstances where consumers are increasingly demanding quality and provenance. The competition to be included in our Good Beer Guide is as strong as ever, even in these difficult times, and proves that if you offer the consumer a quality product in good surroundings, they will spend their hard earned money in your pub.'

Paula Waters, CAMRA's former Chairman, said,

'It's been an honour to serve CAMRA as its National Chairman and I thank our thousands of committed activists and my fellow National Executive members for their hard work and support. I rest assured that the Campaign will continue to thrive under the Chairmanship of Colin.'

Artisan Micro Beer Festival

Artisan Brewing Co. presents the first microBEER Fest for 2010.

SATURDAY MARCH 6th - (12noon start - 9pm finish).

As per the norm. We've planned a whole day of live music performance, matched in brilliance by a delicious array of specialty beers (brewed on-site). Tasty wholesome food - hot off the BBQ, resident artists open studios, and a big bucket of fun.

Bands/Artists confirmed so far...
Calling Madison
The Method
Miss Maud's Folly
The Ped & Joe Show
John Fazal
Kathleen McGee
Rowan Ligget & Saunders

we are contemplating hosting an open mic prior to the booked acts - what is your feed back on this? anybody game?

More Music, beer and BBQ details will follow

*Please note - no bottle sales will be permitted on the Festival Saturday. Although bottles will be available the Friday 5th March and Sunday 7th should you wish to stock-up for the weekend.

View Larger Map

Tuesday 2 March 2010

Brains goes Back to Black

Brains goes Back to Black

 From a SA Brain Press Release:
Wales’ best loved brewer has added a brand new beer to its portfolio on St David’s Day, S.A Brain and Co Ltd unveiled Brains Black.

The beer marks Brains’ return to the stout market. Having already achieved success in the cask ale and smooth market with Brains SA and Brains Smooth respectively, Brains is hopeful that its new product will prove equally popular.

Brains’ Sales and Marketing Director Richard Davies said: “We are very excited about Brains Black and proud to launch it on St David’s Day. From early research we found there to be a real passion for a Welsh stout that could be offered as an alternative to the market leader.

“Brains Black has a bitterness and a distinctive dark malt flavour that marks it out as a true reflection of this style of beer. Beer drinkers will instantly recognise this as a classic stout. It has proven extremely popular in consumer taste tests and we are hopeful that it will appeal to established stout drinkers, as well as those discovering stout for the first time.”

Putting the beer to the test at the launch was former Wales scrum half Rob Jones and former Ireland flanker Simon Easterby. In a blind taste test Brains Black was pitted against the market leader and Rob and Simon were asked to distinguish between the two. And while the Welshman guessed correctly the Irishman struggled to tell the difference.  

Brains Black has been given a distinct and modern identity, which draws on Brains’ Welsh heritage. The pump clip features an iconic Celtic symbol, which has been designed using the tongue of the Brains corporate dragon. It will be available at selected pubs and bars later this month and by the end of the year it will be stocked in at least 100 outlets.

Rob Jones and Simon Easterby go head to head in the taste test.

Well I'm Buggied!


Celebrate National Forgiveness week with Bullmastiff Brewery

An award-winning Cardiff brewery is launching a new beer this week with a theme of forgiveness. Bullmastiff Brewery is celebrating National Forgiveness Week with a 5% real ale, hand crafted by brewing brothers Bob and Paul Jenkins at their small craft-ale brewery situated off Penarth Road in Cardiff. The new beer, called Well I'm Buggied was named after an incident that occurred a few weeks ago involving a member of the Welsh Rugby Union team and a golf buggy. However, according to Bullmastiff brewer Bob Jenkins, “Now is the time to forgive and what better way to do it than with a pint of Bullmastiff beer. Throughout the year there are celebrations for various events so why not a National Forgiveness Week to forgive those who may have stepped out of line in the past?”

Bullmastiff Brewery Well I'm Buggied! 5% ABV, will be available on draught in pubs across South Wales such as Fagins in Taffs Well and the Lorelei Hotel in Porthcawl.

Bob Jenkins continued, “We brew our regular ales such as Son of a Bitch and Bullmastiff Gold throughout the year but every now and again we decide to create a new beer recipe which we find is popular with CAMRA members who appreciate a different locally brewed hand-crafted real ale. This is what we have done with Well I'm Buggied and I'm sure it will be hit with our customers”.

Bullmastiff Brewery was established in 1987 in Penarth by brewing brothers Bob and Paul Jenkins and moved to Cardiff in 1992, their beers have won awards in CAMRA local and national competitions. The brewery does not run any pubs and all their beers are served on handpump in pubs throughout South Wales, including the unofficial brewery tap, the Wetherspoons-owned Boars Head in Penarth. The Bullmastiff Brewery was named after Bob's prize-winning dogs and the beer names often feature a humorous play on words involving dogs.

Tasting Notes: Well I'm Buggied is a tawny-coloured strong ale with a fruity aroma, caused by the use of Saaz hops added later to the boil. Fuggles and Goldings hops also provide the bitterness to this beer and the taste is of a biscuity flavour caused by the use of Maris Otter Pale Malt. Both Crystal and Chocolate Malt are also used in this beer, the latter for colour more than for flavour. The hoppy aftertaste gives a satisfying bitter finish to this beer.

Further Information:
Bob Jenkins, Bullmastiff Brewery, 029 20 665292 or 0790 190 1810

Monday 1 March 2010

Brains Black

A new beer for March. Launched on St Davids Day, Wales' largest brewer of cask ale, SA Brain have decided to go for the Guinness market with their stout. Yes it is nitro-keg but that aside it is a flavour-packed beer and with less carbonation than Zero Degrees on Westgate Street. Brains have produced a full-flavoured stout with a wonderful dry astringency to it. Although brewer Bill Dobson would not tell me all the ingredients, chocolate malt did go into this brew. I fully admit to liking this beer, lets face it, the Irish stout has dumbed down its flavour so much over the years it is more of a drinking experience than a taste experience. Tasty keg beers,whatever next, tasty real ales from west of Swansea?


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