Friday, 28 August 2009

Hare and Hounds

My other local pub in the news lately is The Hare and Hounds in East Sheen. This is my real local. It has been my local pub of choice for just over thirty years. It's a big pub and over the years has proved to be all things to all people. Owned by Young's it has recently been the subject of their current phase of makeovers and refurbishments.

You may remember that it was closed for the work to be done just before Easter.

The pub was closed for months due to various problems with planning and disputes with the local authority but eventually re-opened about a month ago.

First impressions were good. The pub remains very much a pub rather than a restaurant style gastropub. Being so large, it can still provide different drinking or dining experiences for everyone. The garden is hidden and huge and has been scrubbed up and is a pleasant place for a pint in the fine weather. The back of the pub used to house a snooker table (removed in a previous refurb) so is large enough to have a waiter service dining room. The other two bars are spacious, comfortable and well furnished. A large screen TV is unobtrusively sat on one wall and will be used for special sporting events. The food offering is much improved and the pub is also now open for morning coffee. A real local amenity and very much what the best local pub should be. All things to all people.

Which brings us back round to the front and the public bar that we all fought so hard to retain. The council's heritage officer agreed with complaints that this was of historic importance to the area being one of the last 30's style public bars in any of the local pubs and refused an initial Young's application to make the pub wholly open plan.

Bloody Hell ! The public bar has been turned into a Bellini Lounge ! Worse still, it is now only available for private hire and is locked most of the time. A real thumb in the eye for those of us who campaigned for its retention and a real lost opportunity for Young's (IMHO). It really does seem that that they are hell bent on removing the old style drinker for a more affluent diner.

That is fine and Young's results do not lie with approaching 30% of turnover being food driven. However, with a such a large pub surely there was space to accommodate the blokes who want to visit the betting shop next door and return to the comfort of the pub for a pint or two.

Blimey, even the gent's urinal in the old public bar has been turned into a ladies pamper room !

One saving grace is that the beer quality is superb. I have visited a few times in the last month and each time I have been struck by how good the beer is. It is my honestly held belief that a pub will change in character over time but it is the beer that is the most important for me. With the quality of the beer this good, I will hopefully be a regular visitor for the next thirty years.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Red Lion, Barnes

The nearest Fuller's pub to my home is The Red Lion in Barnes. I have written about it before.

I drop in from time to time for a pint on my way home, take my wife there for lunch occasionally and deliver copies of London Drinker magazine.

It is a good pub. Good beer, good food, comfortable and friendly.

But you no longer have to take my word for it. Recently, the managers, Angus and Claire, were crowned Fullers Master Cellarman of the Year. They were also the winners of this sought after award in 2007 but had to settle for second place in 2008.

The competition is judged each year by the Fuller’s Beer Quality Team. To achieve the accolade of Master Cellarman, licensees have to attain and then sustain a score of over 95% in four visits throughout the year.

Cellar hygiene and dispense equipment, including everything from barrel to glass, are thoroughly inspected and a sample of beer is taken away for analysis.

Eleven finalists received a 100% score in their inspections and were therefore put forward for the final.

The 10 other finalists were: The Railway Tavern, Carshalton; The Holly Bush, St Albans; Heroes, Waterlooville; The Harvest Home, Denmead; The Swan Hotel, Staines; The Harpenden Arms, Harpenden; The Spotted Cow, Cowplain; The Star Tavern, Belgravia; The Fine Line, Monument and The Partridge, Bromley.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Bumper Hop Harvest

Thanks to Phil from Beer Merchants for sending a Tweet that the Kent hop crop was likely to be the best in years due to the combination of rain and sun that we have enjoyed throughout the summer. Full story is here.

My own garden hop bine is just coming into fruit. The single plant is now in its third year and has grown extremely well this year climbing high into the elder tree. It is likely to provide a bumper harvest (well, maybe a small bag or two). Another soporific pillow ? Perhaps I should find a brewer who might be able to use a bag full. Green Hop beer anyone ?

The hops on display at Kew Gardens seem to be less hardy. Although this photo is from earlier in the summer, I visited last week and the plants are a little way from showing any significant hop flower growth. At least Young's, Kew Gold beer is in better shape than the hops that inspired it.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Lego Beer Song

One of the great things about blogging is that folk will often send me stuff they think might be worthy of a greater audience. Thanks to David for this gem from You Tube.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Pub of the Year

You may have noticed that I have not disclosed the winner of the CAMRA Pub of the Year for the London region. That news is embargoed until mid September to coincide with the launch of The Good Beer Guide in order to gain maximum publicity for the Guide and the regional winning pubs. It is not necessarily an embargo that I personally agree with but I have had sufficient bollockings from CAMRA's leadership to observe it. You can probably discover the winner elsewhere on the web but I am pleased to say that, for once, I am in line with the CAMRA directors' preferred way of doing things.

Given that I am no longer a judge of the next phase of the competition I may even refrain from commenting on the pubs in the super regional competition for fear of being accused of prejudicing one pub against another (and another scolding) - I cannot promise though.

Something I can disclose is the short list for the SPBW London Pub of the Year :

Bree Louise, Euston
Bricklayers Arms, Putney
Calthorpe Arms, Clerkenwell
Crosse Keys, Bishopsgate
Duke of Hamilton, Hampstead
Old Fountain, Old Street
Old Monk Exchange, Victoria
Pembury Tavern, Hackney
Red Lion, Ealing
Royal Oak, Borough
Wenlock Arms, Hoxton
Willoughby Arms, Kingston

Judging will occur in September and October.

Friday, 21 August 2009

A Gap Year ?

Proud Dad yesterday as my son received good enough A level grades to join Portsmouth University for the next three years.

With my daughter already two years into an English degree in the People's Republic of South Yorkshire, the next year is likely to be a little quiet around the house.

As a result Mrs W and I are already making plans to travel more.

My list includes Bamberg, Prague, Belgium - various sorties, Amsterdam, Peak District - must include Sheffield. You get the idea.

Any other ideas gratefully received.

Her list includes a cruise, Vegas, New York, New Forest,Suffolk and Kent - for birds, Barcelona and Rome.

Pete Brown's latest book, Hops and Glory, gives just enough flavour of a Med cruise to give it a go (I think I have just about reached a certain age where cruising is acceptable). However, I must research the beer opportunities of the other places before I commit.

Many of the World's most famous beery places have been well covered on books and blogs over the years but hopefully this blog will be going International over the coming months.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Wikio Blog Rankings

At last The Beer Justice blog has received the recognition it deserves.

I was delighted to hear that my good friend, Arfur, who writes Brew Wales Blog is lying second in the Wikio Blog rankings for Wine and Beer just ahead of my other favourites, Jeff (nee Stonch), Pete Brown, Mark Dredge's Pencil and Spoon and Tandelman who sit third to sixth respectively.

I have no idea how this stuff works. RSS, dynamic links, backlinks, algorithms - my eyes are glazing over. However a couple of tweaks to the blog, a registration with Wikio and as if by magic, The Beer Justice blog is a new entry at number 51 - yes FIFTY ONE - nestled between "A Swift One" and "Hip-Hops".

The Mojo is definitely back.

Unfortunately I don't really have any clue how to increase the ranking so I will just try to write stuff people might be interested in and see if I can make it into the top 50 for next month.

Beer Blogger finds Mojo

Bit quiet here lately, I admit. GBBF always takes its toll. I haven't been used to proper working hours since I stepped off the City treadmill over six years ago. The 100 or so hours spent in the week at GBBF Press Office at least give a reminder of how tired and emotional one can get by working hard. At least GBBF is great fun.

Anyway, I think most visitors enjoyed the event. From a press and publicity angle, we managed to get coverage in most of the national newspapers together with plenty of regional and international press and a sprinkling of good TV. A lady from a Chinese TV news agency suggested that at least 100 million viewers might see her piece filmed from the Bombardier bus.

I am now back at the blog with plenty to share. Hopefully your visits here in the coming weeks and months will prove to be entertaining and informative.

A couple of final GBBF photos to sum up the event.

If anyone ever says that the press office at GBBF is a soft option, this is what they look like at the end of the week. From left to right, Arfur, Royce and Brian
re-hydrating at the staff party. Thanks for your company lads.

And to prove that I can get my hands dirty too, here is the new boy on the Fuller's bar covering for absence during the final session. I did my best but I managed to spill half a pint of Pride over a customer. I don't think I will be asked back.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

GBBF - American Beers

CAMRA has announced the winner of the annual competition for American cask-conditioned beer sold on the Bières Sans Frontières bar at the Great British Beer Festival, Earls Court, London.

An international panel of judges agreed that the overall champion cask-conditioned beer was Cambridge Brewing Company- YouEnjoyMyStout. The head brewer is Will Meyers and the brewery is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The beer is a 10.5% abv Imperial Stout aged for two years in previously used American oak bourbon barrels. The beer is very full-bodied with complex notes of caramel, treacle, and espresso mingled with vanilla and tannin from the oak.

The runner-up was Brooklyn Brewery's East Indian Pale Ale and in third place was Stone Brewery's Levitation Ale.

The Bieres Sans Frontieres bar at the Great British Beer Festival has this year featured a record 55 different American cask-conditioned beers in 2009 from breweries as diverse as Stone Brewery in California, Dechutes Brewery in Oregon and Victory Brewing in Pennsylvania.

Bières Sans Frontières is the International bar at the Great British Beer Festival and features 300 different beers from around the world. The bar is organised by volunteer Andy Benson and is staffed by over 60 volunteers from as far away as America and Japan.

I was lucky enough to be on the judging panel again this year and my category was Speciality Beer - an eclectic mix of Brett, grapefruit, coriander, smoked malt, espresso and a little lemonade like tartness - my notes are hazy with a 10am start and a flight of 6 beers to try.

Friday, 7 August 2009


Some bad stuff happens once the public are off the premises .....

GBBF Day 3

GBBF Day 3

Many of our favourites are here this week ....

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

GBBF Day 2

Apologies, camera shake is an occupational hazard at GBBF

Surely the cheapest Wandle in town ....

GBBF Day 1

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Champion Beer of Britain

It is now 10am on Tuesday.

The judges for the Champion Beer of Britain competition are all assembled and ready to use their finely tuned taste buds to agree which is the best beer this year.

5pm update ...

And the winner is ........

Rudgate Brewery, Ruby Mild - York, North Yorkshire

Described as a 4.4% nutty, rich ruby ale, stronger than usual for a mild.

CAMRA reaches 100,000 members

A large banner hangs over the hall at The Great British Beer Festival (GBBF) declaring the news that CAMRA now has 100,000 members.

The membership stats have suggested as such for a month or two but it is great to make the announcement of such a significant landmark at such a significant event as GBBF.

I have often thought that CAMRA punches above the weight of its actual membership numbers and has a far reaching influence but even so, 100,000 is an important milestone and should definitely be celebrated.

Michael Hardman, one of the founding members, said "We would have hailed it as a roaring success if we had managed to attract 1,000 like minded souls....."

Raise a glass today to Michael, his fellow founders, and all members who have contributed to CAMRA's growth over 38 years.

Cheers !

Monday, 3 August 2009

GBBF Set-up

The first of the 1,000 CAMRA volunteers have been on-site at Earls Court over the weekend and are getting the World's best beer festival ready for London's thirsty drinkers.

The festival opens to the trade tomorrow at noon and to the public at 5pm. The Champion Beer of Britain announcement will be made from the stage at 3pm.

Stay tuned.


Test message from Earls Court.

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