Friday 22 February 2013

The Andrew Buchan, Cardiff

Andrew Buchan, 29 Albany Road, CF24 3LH
The Andrew Buchan opened last year, in a late-Victorian building on the corner of Albany Road and Arabella Street. The building had previously lain empty for five years, before that it was video shop, although it had been a grocers’ shop in the nineteenth century.

The pub is named after the Scottish founder of the original Rhymney Brewery, founded in 1838 and closed by Whitbread in 1978. The Rhymney Brewery name was resurrected by the Evans family in 2005 and the Andrew Buchan is the fourth pub in their estate, the others being in Merthyr Tydfil, Aberdare and Pontypridd. The modern brewery is today located in Blaenavon World Heritage Town.

The Andrew Buchan pub features frosted windows on the outside and is painted red with the pub name written in script with the famous Rhymney 'Hobby Horse' logo also emblazoned on the signage. The doorway leads to a very long room with a bar in the middle. On the left as you enter the pub is a large modern brick-built fireplace with a wood-burner located in it, a welcome site on these cold winter nights. Above the fireplace is a moose’s head, very Fawlty Towers and something that has become a theme with the Rhymney Brewery pubs. There are seating areas either side of the fireplace, or alternatively customers can choose to sit in the window and witness the hustle and bustle of Albany Road. A staircase in this front area of the pub leads to an upstairs function room which is available to local groups, a chalkboard by the staircase informs customers when and which group has booked the room.

The pub narrows somewhat near the very long bar, before expanding again at the rear where there is more seating and access to the outside smoking area; a compact yard with a park bench. The walls are decorated throughout with pictures of old Cardiff mounted on them. Flatscreen televisions are mounted throughout the pub for major sporting events.

Being a Rhymney pub the beers are from that brewery with former Champion Beers of Wales Dark and Export alongside Bitter, Hobby Horse, Bevans and any seasonal beer the brewery are brewing at the time. Takeout containers of five litres are also available. Ciders from Gwynt Y Ddraig are also available.

As with the other Rhymney Brewery pubs, the Andrew Buchan does not serve any food but is a pub merely dedicated to good beer and there is nothing wrong with that!

Google Map: Streetview still shows the building as the video shop
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Thursday 21 February 2013

More taxpayers money spent on beer mats

Continuing the series highlighting public bodies spending money on beermats, the latest council to do this are Rhondda Cynon Taff, now the love url actually redirects to a site called Pontypridd Regeneration at which readers can read how much public money is being spent in an attempt to regenerate the town centre. There is a brief list of bars on the site but no descriptions of them or information such as food etc. There is a far more extensive and informative non-taxpayer funded site about Pontypridd pubs here.
On the other side the also redirects to another site which is far more useful and informative than the RCT Council PR site for Pontypridd. Of course the image above does not pander to local stereotypes either!
Now I can see why councils have to promote tourism - the RCT tourism site does link to a useful heritage site but the LovePonty site does seem more of a PR stunt for the council, rather than dealing with actual visitors to the town.

Tuesday 19 February 2013

Beard lover brews craft beer

Cardiff pub landlord turns brewer

A Cardiff pub manager has swapped pulling pints for brewing pints after spending a day in Brains’ craft brewery.

Chris Rowlands, award-winning manager, beardwrangler and piemaster general of the Goat Major – one of Cardiff’s best loved real ale pubs – turned brewer after Brains invited him to brew his own beer in their craft brewery.
Chris, a lifelong real ale fan, along with a team from the pub, chose to brew a milk stout, he said:

“The day was fantastic! I've always considered myself a bit of a beer nerd but when I went down there I realised just how little I really knew of the process of making beer I'd so often taken for granted.
We named the beer ‘Beardface’, my wife's nickname for me, loosely based off the fact that I look like a lumberjack stuffed into a waistcoat. “

A milk stout is basically a standard stout brew with sugar from milk or cream added, the science behind this being that brewers' yeast cannot ferment lactose sugars so the natural sweetness and richness remains and provides a nourishing, potent counterbalance to the bitterness of a roasted malt. Brains used 5 different malts and a roasted barley to give the beer a layered depth of flavour and a truly nourishingly rich and resplendent pint of stout.

Blending Pale Ale, Munich, Crystal, Brown and Chocolate Malts with Roasted Barley, Beardface is a dark beer with a rich depth. Flavours of caramel, burnt toffee and roast coffee are balanced by the sweetness from lactose sugars, creating a sweet milk stout.
Bill Dobson, head brewer at Brains, added:
“Last year the Goat Major was named ‘Brains Cask Ale Pub of the Year’ at our annual awards ceremony, so we were keen to get Chris and the team in to brew with us. They’re knowledgeable and passionate about beer, and they pass on that passion to their customers.”
The beer will be sold in 30 Brains pubs and launched at the Goat Major pub on Wednesday 20th March at 1700hrs.

Thursday 14 February 2013

The Pilot, Penarth

The Pilot, 67 Queen's Road, Penarth, CF64 1DJ

Open all day

The Pilot is a Victorian pub situated on the North side of Penarth, overlooking Cardiff Bay and the City. The pub is marked on the 1880 map of the area, whilst most of the surrounding area was being developed. The original building is the one adjacent to the steep lane, it has since been expanded into an adjoining house. The pub features a colourful pub sign with a picture of a rugged-looking seaman at the wheel of his boat in stormy seas.

Below the sign, on the corner, is the pub entrance, this leads to an entrance hall with the bar on the right, towards the front and the lounge on the left at the rear. The large bar is bright and features painted wood panelling throughout. An eclectic mix of seating is available throughout the pub, from couches to unusual chairs.

 An old photo of one of the pub regulars can be seen in the pub, and the doorway was originally in the corner of the building. The front room is the perfect place to experience the rays of the afternoon sun before it sets below the hill on which Penarth is situated upon. There are also tables outside the pub for smokers or those who prefer outdoor eating and drinking.

There are four gleaming chrome handpumps on the bar serving real ales, with most of the beers coming from Brain's, although with guests ales from breweries such as Otley, Arbor or Dorset breweries. A more unusual beer is the Milk Stout from the Bristol Beer Factory which will be on this weekend and beers from Brains Craft Brewery are also on sale when available. Bottled Budvar from the Czech Republic is also available along with Brains SA Gold and Dark in bottles, together with an extensive wine list. The Pilot is owned by Wales' largest real ale brewer, SA Brain, but is leased to award-winning pub group Knife & Fork Food Limited who also run the New Conway in Pontcanna and the Old Swan in Llantwit Major.

The rear room features a wood-burning stove and an impressive view across Cardiff Bay towards the City Centre. There is a large-projection screen television used for major sporting events such as the Six Nations. Sunday nights are quiz nights in the Pilot.

Food is served all day from extensive chalkboard menu with dishes such as orange and fennel glazed pork with mustard mash together with more traditional pub fayre such as fish and chips or even haggis, neeps and tatties, a favourite of the Scottish-born pub chef.
Free WiFi.

Google Map:
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Now and Then - Cambrian, Aberdare

Cambrian, 60 Seymour Street, Aberdare

Re-opened in 2012 after a period of closure, the Cambrian is situated in a residential part of the town. The pub was originally owned by Anrew Buchan's Rhymney Brewery, then Whitbread and now Enterprise.

Wednesday 13 February 2013

March Pub Auction

Next South Wales pub auction will be on Wednesday 6th March at 1430 at the Celtic Manor in Newport.
Full list and updates available from the Sidney Phillips website.
Fwrrwm Ishta, Machen, Guide Price £265,000
Definitely the best pub in the auction, the Fwrrwm Ishta's fortunes have been up and down over the years, only a few years ago this pub gained a well-deserved reputation for its food, helped by the large car park that made it a destination pub. Situated on the main road from Newport to Caerphilly, the 'Sitting Bench' as the name translates has suffered from under investment by owners Enterprise over the years, as the previous tenant blamed the state of the building as one of the reasons for leaving. There was a planning application made last year to convert the building into a school. The nearby Tradesmans Arms went to auction in December last year.
Rhoswenallt Inn, Abernant, Aberdare, GP £165,000
A detached valleys' pub situated far enough outside of Aberdare to be a decent pub. Described on the pub;s website as 'Aberdare's Premier Location', which is an obvious case of hyperbole if ever I have read one! This pub seems to have a lot going for it – trade garden/smoking solution and the nearby former railway track from Hirwaun to Cwmbach that has now been converted into a path for walkers.
General Picton, Nantyffyllon, Maesteg, £100,000
Spacious end-of-terrace locals pub with lounge bar, public bar, restaurant and skittle alley/function room. The only downside is that the smoking solution appears to be the street. Guide price in the December 2012 auction was £125,000.
The Bertram, Adamsdown, Cardiff, GP £30,000 leasehold
Situated on Broadway, a street that has seen the closure of the New Dock Tavern and the Locomotive in recent years, this former Ansells pub has a lot of potential, especially as it has a free of tie lease. Although it is a bit unusual to see a lease go to auction. Garden at rear provides a smoking solution.
Old Coach House, Fishguard, GP £225,000
Town centre High Street location with three section bar and separate dining/function room. Trade garden for a smoking solution, seems to have everything going for it.
Smiths Arms, Rhos, Pontardawe, GP £150,000
Two bars, car park and gardens with a smoking shelter to the side. Seems to be the only pub in the village but then there is a lot of competition in nearby Pontardawe.
Neville Arms, Abbeydore, Herefordshire, GP £250,000
A close run to the best pub in the auction and a pub that I have visited for 20 years, the Neville is situated in the Golden Valley, across the road from the historic abbey. The pub has seen various changes in management over the years, some good, others not so good. This place has a lot of potential in the right ownership with letting rooms and a potential caravan site. Set in its own grounds with a car park, the pub also features a 2 bars and a restaurant.
Lion Inn, Briton Ferry, GP £150,000
Substantial main road property with lounge, restaurant and five double bedrooms. Currently closed, being sold with development potential, subject to planning.
The Pegasus, Pontnewynydd, Pontypool, GP £145,000
Set back from the main road, this is described as 'a community-style village pub', with extensive trading accommodation. Patio and garden provide the smoking solution. A nearby pub, The Horseshoe is also closed at the moment. There is a JDW not too far away in Pontypool.
Goodrich Hotel, Caerphilly, GP £195,000
A large, distinctive edge of town centre pub with two large bars and a function room, large gardens and parking. There are plenty of pubs in the town and with the opening of JDW in 2011 its hardly surprising we are seeing pubs close and be sold.

Now and then - Lamb, Newport

 The Lamb, 6 Bridge Street, Newport

The address used to 5 Baneswell Road before it was renumbered and renamed. The old photo shows the pub was owned by George’s Brewery of Bristol, who were taken over by Courage, Barclay & Co in 1961. The Lamb has been owned by a pub company for many years, the freehold has recently been bought and the new owners are planning on spending a lot of money on the place, as well as putting real ale on for the first time in nearly 20 years!
Good to see a Newport pub open and having real ale back in the place, was Tiny Rebel on my last visit! Also good to see the glazed tiled frontage survive when other Newport pubs have lost it - Church House in Pill springs to mind.

CAMRA Pub of the Year

The Baum, Rochdale, Lancashire has been crowned the best pub in Britain by CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale.
CAMRA’s National Pub of the Year competition recognises all the criteria that make a great pub, including atmosphere, decor, welcome, service, value for money, customer mix, but most importantly, the quality of the beer.

The building, which sits next door to the Pioneers Museum, which is the original Co-op store, has only been a pub for around 30 years and was converted from Morris’s Hardware Store in the 1980’s. The name Baum is pronounced 'Bome' so as to rhyme with 'Home'.

Simon Crompton, one of the owners, started work in The Baum in 1993 and became manager in 1994. In 2005, Simon and his wife Heidi, who co-owns the business, bought the pub just two days after having their first child.

On hearing the news, Heidi Crompton said, “We were ecstatic to hear that we had been voted CAMRA’s National Pub of the Year. We are very proud of the team that have played an important role in The Baum’s success and it is a testament to their hard work that the consumers have recognised our pub with this prestigious award.”

Heidi continued, “We are a family run pub with our values influencing every aspect of the business in relationships with our staff and suppliers. We are dedicated to the ‘buy local, shop local’ initiative, always willing to support independent businesses. The support from the regular customers and local CAMRA members is valued and we would like to thank everyone for their continued support.”

CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide 2013 describes the pub as “A split-level hostelry with old world charm next door to the world’s first co-operative store. The Baum has eight handpumps, one dedicated to cider, and a large variety of continental bottled beers. Excellent food includes vegetarian dishes, with a tapas menu available throughout the week. There is an upstairs dining / function room. The large rear garden, over looked by a conservatory, contains two full-size pĂ©tanque pistes.”

CAMRA’s Pubs Director, Julian Hough was delighted with this year’s winner and said, “I would like to congratulate Simon, Heidi and all of the staff at The Baum on winning CAMRA’s national award. This close to town pub has a winning formula which is well supported by customers. The range of quality products and their fresh modern approach means I’m delighted to crown The Baum our National Pub of the Year. Go and see it for yourself and experience what a brilliant pub it is”.

Peter Alexander, Chairman of Rochdale, Oldham and Bury CAMRA said, "Clearly we are absolutely thrilled that the Baum has been chosen as CAMRA's National Pub of the Year. While we locally know how good a pub the Baum is, it is fantastic to have this confirmed by senior judges who have never visited it before. Given that the Baum was up against some tremendously fierce competition, Simon and Heidi have done a tremendous job. There is no higher accolade in pub awards and we in the local CAMRA branch are very proud to have Britain's best pub in our area. "

The presentation of the National Pub of the Year competition will take place at The Baum, 33-37 Toad Lane, Rochdale, Lancashire, OL12 0NU on Wednesday 13th February at 1pm.
The three other finalists were:
· Bridge End Inn, Ruabon, Wales – winner of CAMRA’s National Pub of the Year last year and the first Welsh winner of this award. Taken over by the McGivern family in 2009, it sells five different real ales.
Address – 5 Bridge Street, Ruabon, Wrexham, LL14 6DA

· Conqueror Alehouse, Ramsgate, Kent – Ramsgate’s smallest free house, where ale and cider are served straight from barrels. It offers a quiet, music and TV free atmosphere in which to enjoy a pint or two.
Address – 4C Grange Road, Ramsgate, Kent, CT11 9LR
· Tom Cobley Tavern, Spreyton, Devon – a former CAMRA National Pub of the Year in 2006, it sells 14 different real ales every week, plus 20 ciders in a pub that is ‘part of community life’.
Address – off A3124 in Spreyton Village, EX17 5AL

Zero Degrees Stormin' Norman

Zero Degrees Stormin' Norman 4.5% ABV, available at Zero Degrees, Westgate Street, Cardiff

Zero Degrees microbrewery is housed in an art-deco former hotel garage in the City Centre. The brewster Victoria Stippa is shortly to move to Austria to take up a new job there and she has brewed this one-off beer in honour of octogenarian pub regular Norman Tandy, who has been a CAMRA member since the 1970s.

Stormin' Norman is a dark, Munich Style wheat beer, Victoria previously worked at famous Munich-based brewer Paulaner so the beer is true to that style. The beer pours with a slightly beige head and has an aroma of of cloves and caramel. Initially sweet tasting with some rich caramel notes, that leads onto an aromatic finish. Dry, flavoursome and very drinkable, Stormin' Norman is a fine finish to the time Victoria has spent in Cardiff.

This article originally appeared in the South Wales Echo 09.02.13

Friday 8 February 2013

Fire Island, Cardiff

Fire Island, 25 Westgate Street, CF10 1DD

Open all day

Fire island opened shortly before Christmas in the two-storey red brick Victorian building on the corner of Westgate, Quay and Womanby Streets. The building had stood empty for about 5 years and was previously home to the Glamorgan Councils Staff Club for around 50 years, a club which had a good reputation for real ale despite its somewhat lively atmosphere and interesting clientèle. Have a look at Maciej's photos to see for yourself what the place used to be like.
There is a building on this site on Speed's map of 1610 when it was next to the river and by the nineteenth century the town slaughterhouse was on this site. In the latter part of the nineteenth century the cattle market that was sited opposite, where the multi-storey car park is today, moved to Canton and the slaughterhouse was demolished with the building we see today replacing it. Originally this building was the house of the town and later in 1905 city treasurer and the small barred windows on the Womanby Street side once held the strongroom.

Today Fire Island has two entrances, the original one on Westgate Street and a new one with a ramp on Womanby Street. The interior of the pub has been stripped back to the brickwork in a New York warehouse style of refurbishment that shows off the unusual vaulted ceiling in one part. However, some original features remain such as the sash windows, wood panelling and ornate ceiling design in the room facing the stadium. The central staircase, finely carved out of wood is also an original feature.

The large bar features 18 gleaming chrome handpumps in three sets, although not all are used except during busy periods. Chalkboards above the bar back show which beers are available together with tasting notes. The house beer is Beat Box, named after the company that runs Fire Island and this 4.8% American Pale Ale is brewed by Tiny Rebel Brewery of Newport. The rest of the cak ales change regularly but may come from breweries such as Dark Star, Buxton or Waen from Mid-Wales. All are served in handled tankards. There is an extensive bottled beer range with American imports such as Flying Dog, Brooklyn, Anchor and Sierra Nevada alongside Coopers and Little Creatures from Australia. There is also a local cider on handpump and in bottles. A free loyalty card gives money off the price of a pint and other offers that change monthly, all advertised in a free monthly magazine that the owners produce.

Fire Island features an eclectic mix of furniture with wooden tables and school-style chairs with one room even featuring a grand piano. Upstairs there is a another bar with more rooms running off from it.

Food is served all day, with an American-style menu featuring pulled pork and ribs alongside favourites such as a full English breakfast.

WiFi is to be installed soon.

Taxpayers money spent on beermats again

 Good to see that in a time of so-called austerity the public sector is cutting back on spending, unless, of course, you refer to Gwent Police, who have once again produced beermats for pubs. This time they are advertising local taxi numbers via a text messaging service that costs you 50p. Okay its not all down to the doughnut-munching Gwent rozzers but the local councils as well.
Now I've got no objection to beermats or what they advertise but why the hell is taxpayers money being spent advertising a service run by private companies? Surely the taxi firms themselves should be producing this, not counciltax payers?
More beermats from the rozzers here, here and here

Thursday 7 February 2013

Now and then - Castle Inn, Usk

Castle Inn, Twyn Square, Usk
Three photos this time for a pub whose exterior has not altered much over time but the cars outside are the most significant change! The first photo is from the days when it was owned by Rhymney Brewery, the second in the Whitbread ownership and the third as it is today.

Wednesday 6 February 2013

Unknown pub - Please help!

So here is another photo from the same collection which we cannot identify. The collection consists of photographs of old Rhymney Brewery pubs, some extending into the Whitbread era but they tend to be in colour.
All we know about this photo is that it was a Rhymney Brewery pub and that it is labelled 'New Inn' and the place name is 'Porthiwithen' which does not appear to exist. Have also tried a few other spellings in Google but to no avail so have decided to put it out to the net for any ideas as to where this is.

Update: After a few years of searching I finally found the former pub, the place is Porth-y-widden in Monmouthshire, just to the East of Llangattock Lingoed

Today the house is called "The Old Inn"

The Glancynon, Hirwaun

  The Glancynon Inn, Swansea Road, Hirwaun, CF44 9PE
Open all day

The Glancynon is situated on the main road through Hirwaun, close to the bus stops or alternatively the pub has a large car park. The pub is marked on the 1877-86 map and next door was a china shop, which was much larger than the pub as old photographs on the walls of the pub show. Today the Glancynon Inn has expanded into that shop and beyond with extensions built in the 1970. The Glancynon has been in the same ownership over 40 years and the owner is also a founder of Penderyn Distillery.

The entrance today is from the car park rather than the street as is shown in the old photographs. The entrance hallway leads to a lounge to the left and the bar straight ahead. There is also a separate restaurant. Both the lounge and the bar feature gleaming copper-topped bars and contrasting brilliant chrome handpumps. The bars also feature tiled roofs, a once common feature of 1960s/70s pub refurbishments. Decorative wooden beams also feature throughout the pub.

Five gleaming chrome handpumps serve real ales from breweries such as Greene King, Felinfoel and Wye Valley breweries with regular guest beers making an appearance. Spirits from the nearby Penderyn Distillery are also available, in fact the idea for the distillery was borne in the pub and the lounge features a 'Founders Corner' dedicated to the distillery.

The public bar features a section devoted to RAF pictures as well as a trophy case full of awards the pub teams have won over the years. Old brewery memorabilia also features on the walls. This rear section also features a pool table and an extensive library with subjects ranging from architecture to the CAMRA Good Beer Guide, in which the Glancynon Inn has featured for years. There are doors to the side of the pool table that lead to an outside area with tables and chairs which is named 'The Smokers Paradise'.

The Glancynon Inn has teamed up with Accessible Wales and the pub features ramps and handrails throughout together with a mobility scooter park and disabled toilet.

Food is served 1200-14.30 and 1800-21.30, not Sundays when booking is advisable for lunch. Local ingredients are used wherever possible and there are extensive printed menus, a braille menu, a menu for children and chalkboard specials.

Google Map:

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Tuesday 5 February 2013

Brains get crafty with single hop beer

It looks like the brewery gurus at Brains Craft Brewery have been busy thinking up new beers for 2013 and they will be doing a 'Single Hop Range', brewed, as you've guessed it with one variety of hop. The first of these is Citra, a 4.2% beer using this American Aroma hop that is added during three different stages of the brewing process to provide the maximum aroma, flavour and bitterness to this golden ale with vibrant citrus aromas with hints of peach and lemon.
Brains craft Brewery Citra can be found in these pubs.

Now and then - Winning Horse, Pontypool

The Winning Horse, Market Street, Pontypool, Torfaen, has been renamed the Scrum Half. The pub is situated opposite the market and the old photograph from the days when it was owned by Rhymney Brewery shows the special hours it was allowed to open on market days.


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