Sunday, 31 August 2008

Tales from the Riverbank (1)

I was walking the dog the other day along the river path past the Stag Brewery in Mortlake and just reflected on the size of the site. If the handful of acres at Wandsworth realised £69 million, this prime stretch of river bank but be worth hundreds of millions of pounds.

Of course, it has always been prime land but the brewery is about to change hands again. The owners, Anheuser Busch are in the final days of being swallowed up by Inbev, to combine as the world's largest brewer, with a turnover of $36 billion and production of over 46 billion litres.

Although Mortlake Brewery is now a state of the art lager plant brewing vast quantities of Budweiser, my guess is that this could be one of the prime assets of the Anheuser Busch UK business. Luckily the credit crunch will defer any plans to "rationalise the property portfolio".

Beer has been brewed in Mortlake for over 500 years and although the Brewery History Society would have grounds for complaint about any redevelopment, how ironic it would be for a brewery whose more recent history has been anonymous to the real ale scene, to be a case for a protest campaign.

In my memory the brewery was owned first by Watneys. In those days of the late 1970's there was still a large amount of real ale produced - although it was of the Watney variety - London Bitter and Fined Bitter together with the fine barley wine, Stingo (in bottle only). Although I don't believe that Red Barrel was ever brewed here, it was for the local Sheen Lawn Tennis Club that keg beer was invented in 1960's. As Watney was taken over by Grand Met, the brewery became part of Courage and then Scottish Courage, part of Scottish and Newcastle and at that time started to become more lager driven.

ScotCo then leased the brewery to Anheuser Busch who have since made billions of pints of Budweiser on the site and, it is believed, purchased the freehold more recently.

My only comment thus far is watch this space - I would think plenty of others are.

Saturday, 30 August 2008


The winner of the SIBA South East competition was Arundel Brewer, Sussex Mild.

My category was Standard Bitter and Pale Ales up to 4%. A large category with 23 beers to taste. Our winner was Surrey Hills Brewery, Ranmore Ale.

Other winners are :
Mild : Arundel, Sussex Mild
Bitter : Surrey Hills, Ranmore
Best Bitter : Ballrds, Best Bitter
Premium Bitter : Arundel, Stronghold
Strong Bitter : Oakleaf, Gosport Bitter
Strong Ale : Westerham, Audit Ale
Porter, Stout etc : Ballards, Wild Porter
Speciality : Dark Star, Expresso Stout
Bottle : Oakleaf, Hole Hearted

A little more meat to this will follow later once I have fully recovered from tasting over 30 beers !

Thursday, 28 August 2008

The Chip Museum

Just thought I'd share a post script from the latest Pint in Hand, sent out to members of SPBW.

Although there are many beer related reasons to visit Bruges, there is now the added attraction of the Frietmuseum, the world's first museum dedicated to the humble chip.

Potatoes were apparently discovered in Peru around 15,000 BC and Belgian frites date from around 1700. The museum, set in one of Bruges oldest buildings, boasts beautiful photos of Peruvian tubers and an interesting collection of chip art (I kid you not) together with a marvellous display of retro chip fryers.

This has got to be worth seeking out on a future visit to Bruges just out of curiosity.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Lewes Arms

The Lewes Arms, in Lewes, which was the subject of a bitter battle when Greene King took out the locals' favourite beer, Harveys Best Bitter, has been bought by Fullers.

Not wishing to get into the same sort of dispute, sensibly Fullers have already agreed that Harveys Best will sit on the bar alongside the usual Fullers range. In return, Harveys have agreed that their flagship London pub, the Royal Oak in Tabard Street, Borough will permanently stock one Fullers beer.

The Royal Oak is home to the CAMRA London Regional meetings is one of the top pubs in London for beer quality. The London Pride (or other) will no doubt be in tip top form but I cannot see it competing against the delicious range of Harveys beers. Indeed I am disappointed that one of the pumps will replace a Harveys beer with the Fullers.

This is one of the only pubs in London to permanently stock a mild so hopefully that is not the one that will be sacrificed.

The beer in the Lewes Arms will also always be of good quality as it will be leased under the supervision of the landlord of the Basketmakers Arms, Brighton, another pub where real ale is king.

What's Brewing

What's Brewing, the newspaper for CAMRA members landed on the doormat yesterday. The paper was relaunched last month with a quarterly supplement, "Beer" and a welcome change it was. Of course, there are always going to be some teething problems with something so fresh and new, but it was a step in the right direction making CAMRA campaigning very readable.

The Beer supplement used to be a monthly paper, now it is a quarterly magazine, so we now have a lone What's Brewing 2 months out of 3 and as a result it appears very thin.

Because we were all together sharing news at GBBF, much of the content also seems a little old - a factor of the lead times required for printing.

Generally speaking the layout and presentation of the paper is much improved, with better use of colour and captions giving a more up-to-date appearance.

I am cautious to criticise something which is obviously a work in progress but most of the important campaigning information remains unreadable. I know I am a forty something, speccy old git, but the only branch diaries (What's On) that I can read are for the Lesbian & Gay Real Ale Drinkers and the Young Members Group - neither of which I am eligible to join.

We are, of course, a victim of our own success with 200 or so branches and 150+ beer festivals each year and space is limited - the previous layout had similar problems - but we have to get this right.

2008 is supposed to be the year to activate our membership. That is hard to do if they cannot read what they are supposed to be doing.

The editorial apologises for unreadable parts in last month's issue and promises a tweak in design and requests feedback.

Feedback : the tweak has not worked yet for me !

Monday, 25 August 2008

Andover Arms

The Andover Arms is a community locals pub hidden in the back streets of Hammersmith, W6 at the Ravenscourt Park end. It is a Fullers pub that is well worth the effort of finding. Having featured in the Good Beer Guide continuously since 1996, it remains one of my favourite places to spend an afternoon. As well as the usual Fullers range it has also hosted a couple of small beer festivals in the past year and there is another offering on 5th to 7th September.

The beers list features some great beers from great breweries, as follows :

Bateman's XXXB (4.8%)
Castle Rock Black Gold (3.8%)
Castle Rock Hemlock (4%)
Hambleton Stallion (4.2%)
Holdens Mild (3.7%)
Nottingham Dreadnought (4.5%)
Oakham JHB (3.8%)
Roosters Yankee (4.3%)
York Terrier (4.2%)

Although my visits usually coincide with a QPR match, on this occasion there is no football that weekend. So with no sorrows to drown I am looking forward to at least a half of each at some point over the weekend !

A Beer a Day

CAMRA Books' latest offering is A Beer a Day - 366 beers to help you through the year written by leading beer writer, Jeff Evans. What follows is my carve-up of the CAMRA press release to launch the book. Hopefully I will be able to write a more considered piece once I have properly read the book.

A Beer a Day is described as a beer lovers almanac. Set in simple day-to-day diary style it matches 366 beers from around the world with a major event, season, or other commemoration for each day of the year.

Author Jeff Evans says ‘A Beer a Day is not just a catalogue of great beers: it is a celebration of high days, holidays and the otherwise gentle passing of the seasons as seen through the eyes of world's greatest brewers. Major anniversaries, religious feasts and important birthdays come under the spotlight, along with commemorations, carnivals and some even more eccentric events.'

'This book has been great fun to research. It's amazing how the brewing industry keeps alive traditions and customs, and rightly celebrates famous and not-so-famous people who have been great achievers. You could say that there's almost a story for every beer and a beer for every story, and being able to look behind the label adds so much extra enjoyment to already great beers.'

The majority of the beers featured in the book are attainable from supermarkets, off-licences, online stores, and straight from the cask at selected pubs throughout the UK. The more elusive brews reflect the theme of the book- to encourage the wider distribution of fine beers.

The book is available directly from the CAMRA website at, priced at £14.99 for CAMRA members, and £16.99 for non-members.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Oakham JHB

Although I have occasionally succumbed in the past to the black art of beer ticking, generally speaking I am more than happy to keep drinking favourite beers rather than solely new scoops. A trip to Peterborough for the beer festival was an ideal opportunity to partake in one of my all time favourites - Oakham JHB.

Considering that JHB won the Champion Beer of Britain as long ago as 2001, it really has stood the test of time and remains one of the best beers available - a deserved inclusion in Protz's 300 Beers to Try Before You Die.

Most regular drinkers will know that JHB stands for Jeffrey Hudson Bitter, a few will also know that this gentleman was a small chap who lived in Oakham in 17th century, even fewer will know the whole story of this interesting life. A little research found this biography.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008


As much as I am enjoying the over achievement of Team GB in the various Olympic events, there is not really much for the beer lover. Being the 1979 Barnes Fayre yard of ale champion and a dab hand at table skittles or shut the box, I feel the IOC could make some worthwhile changes for London 2012.

My beer of the Olympics has been Downton Olympic Flame which I have chanced upon twice in recent days. Admittedly this is the only Olympic beer I have seen so far but it wins gold, silver and bronze for me. A straw coloured beer, flavoured with ginger and coriander, weighing in at 4.1%. The ginger is not too overpowering, making this a very refreshing pint for the expected balmy evenings of late August.

Staying on a Chinese theme, I notice that Tsingtao Brewery results were announced today. China's best known brand posted a 42% rise in half year profits. Although China's beer market is fragmented by nearly 400 brewers, Tsingtao brewed 26.86 million hectolitres (c 18 million barrels - over 5 billion pints) in 6 months - a staggering amount - and only 10% of China's total; the world's largest beer market by volume.

Off to Peterborough Beer Festival today for a marathon - or at least a decathlon...

Dog and Fox

Continuing the theme, I happened across these examples of Young's new pub signs in Wimbledon last night. Did not manage to sample the pub's beer as I was hot footing it to a "meet the Downton brewer" evening at the Brewery Tap opposite, where the Quadhop was in great form; one of my current favourites.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Hop Farm Beer Festival

I have once again been asked to be a judge at the SIBA South East beer judging. This is being held for the second year next week at :

The Beer Festival is organised by SIBA (Society of Independent Brewers).

30+ breweries in the South East will enter over 120 beers competing in categories to include Best Bitters, Strong Ales, Porters, Old Ales & Stouts, Milds, Speciality Beers and Bottled Beers. The judging panel will comprise SIBA Members, Brewers, CAMRA members and well-known Beer Writers.

The Beer Festival will also include craft brewed, traditionally matured continental style lagers produced by SIBA brewers in the South East as well as a selection of ciders.

SIBA used to host their SE competition at one of the larger local beer festivals; Ealing and previously Reading. Such is the growth of the micro brewing sector and the success of SIBA itself, they have now outgrown even the largest CAMRA festival in SE England and now host their own event.

Although, not a CAMRA beer festival per se, many of the volunteers here are local CAMRA members and last year's event was a great success and an enjoyable day out.

I commend it to your attention !

Spotted Horse

At the Young's agm a month or so ago, there was a comment from the floor from a small shareholder that he was disgusted that some of the company's pubs now had pub signs that had been painted by the local kindergarten.

The only pub that I caught the name of was The Green Man at Putney Heath, though I have yet to visit to see for myself.

However, on my way home from the volunteers party after GBBF, I changed night bus in Putney. As I waited for my connection, I glanced across the road to see this :

Now I can't get worked up about pub signs - my campaigning is all about the actual drink that I love - however, I can concede that "disgusted of Wandsworth" does have a point. For a company that is working hard to convince us (not always successfully) that they are focused on their company's history and heritage, I cannot see the value in causing such a storm in a teacup by such nonsense.

A visit to The Green Man is now a must to see their new signs, I am led to believe they are not quite as "basic" as this one.

Friday, 15 August 2008

GBBF (11) The Last Post

The end of the week. 60,000 customers, 250,000 pints, 450 British cask ales, 108 ciders and perries ...... we are exhausted after a long week.

My tradition at the close in recent years has been to have a final pint of ESB with my friends from Fullers - and Arfur of course

Some final pics .....

GBBF (10) The Perfect Pint

As GBBF week came to a close, I was asked to perform for a video on the Perfect Pint. Tim Lovejoy, he of Soccer am fame, has just launched a web TV channel called Part of the channel is a three minute slot for experts to share the crucial 1% of their chosen field with the layman. I could not quite manage it in three minutes but here is my four minutes of fame.

Friday, 8 August 2008

GBBF (9) Beer Ticking

I spent yesterday taking a camera crew around GBBF doing a film about beer ticking. Brian the Ticker had previously drunk 39,985 different beers over a 30 year period and was chasing his landmark 40,000.

The first 2 hours was spent analysing the programme to see how many winners there were on the list. Luckily there were 18 which given some might not be available would mean that chasing 15 over the day would be possible.

A further couple of hours spent watching Brian sampling his beers approaching the 40,000th; then it was time for the money shot.

By this time Brian was oblivious to the camera crew and marched off to buy his 40,000th beer. The camera crew chased after him to the Scotland bar. With perfect timing, just as Brian was buying his landmark beer Tryst, Stars in Stripes, the battery in the video camera failed and we missed the big moment.

A quick replacement battery meant that we were able to film Brian drinking his 40,000th and he was clearly delighted to be Britain's Best Beer Ticker !

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

GBBF (8) American Beers

An early start today, 10am beer tasting and judging of the US cask beers at this year's festival. The winning beer is The Angel's Share from Lost Abbey Brewery in San Marcos, California. A massive 12.5% ABV strong ale matured for 6 months in freshly emptied bourbon barrels. Vanilla, cherry and licorice on the nose, a clean flavour followed by a warming finish with the bourbon characteristics coming through. A perfect start to the day !

GBBF (7) Champion Beer of Britain

The full results ....

Champion Beer of Britain: TRIPLE FFF, ALTON'S PRIDE (Hampshire)

Second: Beckstones, Black Dog Freddy (Cumbria)

Third: Wickwar, Station Porter (Gloucestershire)
Mild Category
Gold - Beckstones, Black Dog Freddy (Cumbria)
Silver - Rudgate, Ruby Mild (York)
Bronze - Rhymney, Dark (Merthyr Tydfil)

Bitter Category Gold - Triple fff, Alton's Pride (Hampshire) Silver - Lees, Bitter (Manchester) Joint Bronze - Jarrow, Rivet Catcher (Tyne & Wear) and Surrey Hills, Ranmore Ale (Surrey)

Best Bitter Category
Gold - Skinner's, Betty Stogs (Cornwall)
Silver - Highland, Scapa Special (Orkney)
Bronze - Cairngorm, Nessies Monster Mash (Highlands) and Timothy Taylor, Landlord (West Yorkshire)

Strong Bitter Category
Gold - Thornbridge, Jaipur IPA (Derbyshire)
Silver - Fuller's, ESB (London)
Bronze - Highland, Orkney Blast (Orkney)

Golden Ale Category
Gold - Otley, O1 (Mid Glamorgan)
Silver - Loddon, Ferryman's Gold (Oxfordshire)
Bronze - Skinner's, Cornish Knocker Ale (Cornwall)

Speciality Beer Category
Gold - Otley, OGarden (Mid Glamorgan)
Silver - Wentworth, Bumble Beer (South Yorkshire)
Bronze - Nethergate, Umbel Magna (Essex)

CAMRA Bottled-Conditioned Beers
Gold - Wye Valley, Dorothy Goodbody's Wholesome Stout
Silver - Fullers, 1845
Bronze - Wells and Young's, Special London Ale

Winter Beer of Britain Winner (announced in Jan 2008)
Wickwar, Station Porter

GBBF (6) Champion Beer of Britain

CAMRA's Press Release .....

Alton’s Pride is named Champion Beer of Britain 2008 at the Great British Beer Festival

Alton’s Pride brewed by Triple fff Brewery in Hampshire was today judged to be the best beer in Britain by a panel of brewers, beer writers and journalists.

Alton’s Pride, which has an ABV of 3.8%, is described in the 2008 edition of CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide as, “Clean-tasting, golden brown beer, full-bodied for its strength with an aroma of floral hops. An initial malty flavour fades as citrus notes and hoppiness take over, leading to a hoppy, bitter finish.”

The Hampshire brewed beer was chosen as the overall winner from over sixty finalists in seven categories (Best Bitters, Bitters, Golden Ales, Milds, Speciality, Winter Beer and Strong Bitters) including beers from tiny micros to major regional brewers.

Roger Protz, one of the finalist judges and Editor of the Good Beer Guide said, “A magnificent victory for a craft brewery that opened in 1997 with a five barrel plant and has just opened a new brewhouse with a 50 barrel kit. It has grown due to consumer demand for its rich and complex beer and proves that the future for real ale in Britain is assured.”

Graham Trott, Head Brewer of Triple fff Brewery said, “We are over the moon and delighted to put Alton as a brewery back on the map. I would like to thank everyone who is connected with the brewery and we look forward to more people enjoying our winning beer.”

The Silver award went to Black Dog Freddy from Beckstones (Cumbria).

Bronze went to CAMRA’s current National Winter Beer of Britain winner Station Porter from the Wickar Brewery (Gloucestershire).

Monday, 4 August 2008

GBBF (5) Beer from the Wood

Today's highlight will be the arrival of a 250 litre (c54 gallons) cask of Dutch beer - De Molen - Tsarina Esra. The brewer is bringing the cask himself from Holland; but I am sure it would have been easier to bring two, one under each arm.

Of particular interest is that the barrel is wooden; the beer having undergone extra maturation - one definitely for our friends from SPBW.

Described as being dark brown in colour, with aromas of caramel, chocolate, dried fruit and licorice, the taste is more dark chocolate with a light peat smokiness, tobacco and a warming sweetness. This is one for the connoisseurs withing in at a beefy 11% ABV.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

GBBF (3)

A bare Earls Court welcomed the first volunteers today.

Friday, 1 August 2008

GBBF (2) American Beers

This year's Great British Beer Festival will see seventeen of America ’s craft breweries represented, showcasing 57 of their beers, the largest amount of American Craft Beer to be available at the GBBF in its 31-year history.

Well, let's hope so at least. A couple of years ago, we were expecting a large consignment of American beer but alas, it was impounded by British customs and excise, days before the event as illegal foodstuffs. By the time it was released, GBBF was over and some other lucky local CAMRA beer festivals were the beneficiaries of this misfortune.

The foreign beer stand at GBBF is know as "Bieres Sans Frontieres" and is managed by Andy Benson who reports "We aim to feature the best beer from around the world and American craft beer is a very important part of that, and one which has increased in size at the festival over recent years.

“American brewers are extremely innovative and produce an incredible variety of beer styles, which are of the utmost quality.

“They brew beers which others wouldn’t dare to brew, push the boundaries of brewing and have acted as an inspiration to brewers in many other countries.”

I have just found the list of beers and breweries on the BSF website - now linked above.

The American beers are of considerable interest to me this year, as I have been invited to be a judge at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver in October. This will give me a taste of what USA has to offer.