Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Canadian beer swap

In case you were wondering, the beer swap between President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron at the G8 in Canada was 24 bottles of Goose Island 132 for 24 bottles of Wychwood Hobgoblin. Goose Island is based in Chicago, Obama's home base, while Wychwood is in Cameron's Witney constituency. Goose Island is a major step up for Obama, who infamously drank Bud Lite at the White House last year when he was sorting out a dispute between a Black American Professor and a white cop.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Blandford Fly wins top award

Badger Ales Blandford Fly has won the Speciality Beer category of the Quality Drink Awards for 2010. It's a light-coloured, medium-bodied ale with a low bitterness and a subtle, spicy ginger character that gives extra bite and wamrth even when served chilled.
Brewed to celebrate the infamous biting insect of Dorset's River Stout, folklore claims the inclusion of ginger is a remedy for the fly's sting.
The judges said: "It's a complex beer that would go very well with Thai food with ginger. It's very much a beer and the ginger does give it a much more complex character and sophistication. The back label is easy to read and is very informative.'
Rick Payne, brands marketing manager for Hall & Woodhouse, said: "We are delighted that Blandford Fly has won the award -- this is the fourth time Badger has been awarded this prestigious accolade. Stinger, Golden Champion anbd Golden Glory were also champions in 2007, 2002 and 2002.'
Blandford Fly (5.2%) is available in 500ml bottles nationally in Asda, Morrisons and Waitrose at £1.75 a bottle.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Little cheer in budget for beer drinkers

The Society of Independent Brewers --Siba -- has welcomed today's Emergency Budget decision not to raise beer duty but has criticised the planned increase in VAT as a "more of the same" failure to understand the impact on pubs. Siba points out that, without a compensatory cut in beer duty, prices will rise higher in pubs than in the off-trade, and yet more pubs will close.
Siba chairman Keith Bott said: ""We became accumstomed to the last administration talking up its support for pubs and then imposing fiscal measures that ensured more of them went to the wall. Now it seems the new government is similarly unable or unwilling to make the connection between increasing beer prices and closing pubs. The increase will cause yet more distress to our beleaguered licensees who have already had to deal with one budget this year.
"Siba is particuarly concerned that today's VAT increase does nothing to encourage consumers to drink cask beer rather than stronger alcohols with greater potential to cause harm. 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 that cheap supermarket-bought spirits."
Keith Bott added: "It seems particularly unfair that the government is announcing another hammering for pubs just when they are coming into their own as hubs for communities to gather and celebrate -- or commiserate -- over England's progress in the World Cup.
"We urge the Chancellor to give consideration in the next Budget to a reduction in beer duty as a way of mitigating against the particular damage that the increase in VAT will have on British pubs."
CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, has today predicted that the impact of a VAT hike to 20% in January 2011 will force the rate of pub closures to increase above the current devastating rate of 39 a week.
Mike Benner, CAMRA's chief executive, said: "In the New Year, many pubgoers will be hit with a VAT increase that will push up the combined taxation on a pint of beer to over a £1. This historically sad moment for the nation's 15 million pubgoers is compounded by the knowledge that this increase will cause yet more well-run community pubs to shut their doors unless the Government acts. Relentless tax increases on the nation's pubs are contributing to pub closures, job losses and a decline in community spirit.
"The announcemenbt of a review into alcohol pricing and taxation this autumn gives the Government an opportunity to avoid the harm that this VAT increase will impose on pubs. CAMRA will be pressing for targeted measures to support well-run community pubs. These measures could include a new class of business rate relief for community pubs and a compensatory reduction in beer duty."

Sunday, 20 June 2010

De Koninck to stay independent

We can breathe a sign of relief: the Antwerp brewery De Koninck has decided to remain independent and not seek a takeover with either Heineken or Duvel Moortgat. This news comes from Ben Vinken, the distinguished Belgian beer and food writer and lecturer.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Historic Highgate Brewery to close

Highgate Brewery, the historic Walsall mild ale producer in the West Midlands, is to close after many years of constant change of ownership. Twenty jobs will go. The company, now called Highgate & Davenports, has gone into voluntary liquidation following its second financial crisis in 10 months. It went into administration in September 2009 with reported tax debts of more than £1 million.
The brewery in Sandymount Road was quickly sold in a deal worth £80,000 by the administrators to two property developers, Simon Toon and David Lindol. But insolvency firm KK Watkin toady confirmed the brewery's liquidation. Administrator Peter Darcy said: "The company has ceased trading and all employees have been made redundant."
The red-brick Victorian buildings are Grade II listed but this would not prevent the site being turned into flats.
Highgate opened in 1898 with a capacity of 100,000 barrels a year, to make dark mild for workers engaged in the local leather industry. In 1938, Highgate was taken over by the giant Birmingham brewery Mitchells & Butlers, another major producer of mild. M&B planned to close Highgate but kept it open during world War Two, when every brewery received rations of malt and hops, and M&B didn't want to lose the raw materials earmarked for the Walsall plant.
When M&B became part of Bass, Highgate continued to brew as the smallest plant in the Bass group. It was bought by its management in 1995 and ownership passed to the Aston Manor brewing company in Birmingham, which produces packaged beers and ciders. Aston Manor eventually sold Highgate on again. The brewery acquired the rights to use the old Davenports name and recreated some of the beers from that long-closed Birmingham brewery. But its main products continued to be Highgate Dark, its legendary mild, and the stronger version, Highgate Old, brewed for the winter months.
A local campaign to save the brewery has been set up and signatures are needed. See the Facebook page Save the Highgate Brewery at:

De Koninck -- not a done deal

The latest on the De Koninck situation via the Reuters news agency: Heineken has not yet bought the Antwerp brewery. De Koninck used to produce 140,000 hectolitres of beer a year but is currently running at half that figure. The company blames falling beer sales in western Europe.
Managing director Bernard Van de Bogaert said: "We are looking for a strategic partner." He admitted that he has held talks with both Heineken and the major Belgian independent brewer, Duvel Moortgat.
Clearly, for beer lovers, a link-up with Duvel Moortgat would be preferable to that arch closer of breweries, Heineken.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Heineken to buy De Koninck?

Rumours from Belgium this evening that Heineken has bought De Koninck, the famous Antwerp family-owned brewer of pale ale, served in the even more famous Bolleke glass. Will report further.

Friday, 11 June 2010

In training for the World Cup

I limbered up for the World Cup last week not by donning track suit and trainers but by raising a glass to my lips. In my book, that’s the sensible way to keep fit. As a former president of Chicago University once observed: “Whenever the urge for physical exercise comes over me, I lie down until the feeling passes.”
I was in Derby for a World Cup beer tasting organised by Trevor Harris in his pub the Royal Standard. This was a pub saved from closure and demolition by Trevor and his son Paul. With an attractive open-plan interior, an outside bar for smokers and a terrace overlooking the River Derwent, the pub has become a popular addition to Derby’s pub life.
For several years, Trevor ran the Brunswick Tavern, a brew pub close to Derby station. That’s now an Everard’s tied house and Trevor moved on, first to launch his Derby Brewing Company and then to save the Royal Standard, which acts as his brewery tap.
Before the beer tasting started, Trevor whisked me off to his second pub. The Greyhound in Friargate has had a chequered history. It was once part of a circuit known as The Mile, a group of pubs that led in to the city centre and which attracted large numbers of enthusiastic drinkers. But most of the pubs have closed, the Greyhound among them.
The pub is a building with an impressive pedigree. It was built in 1734 and has been a licensed dispenser of healthy beverages since the 1770s. It became an Offiler’s house, a revered Derby brewery whose signs can still be seen throughout the city.
Offiler’s was eventually taken over and shut by mighty Bass. When the Burton giant decided to quite brewing in 2000, the Greyhound became an Enterprise Inn. The pub company closed it three years ago but now Trevor Harris has revived it and is immediately breathing life back in to The Mile, with other pubs planned to re-open.
As with the Royal Standard, Trevor had a long battle with the local council to get planning permission to restore the Greyhound. In common with many authorities, the good burghers of Derby prefer yuppie flats to pubs but eventually Trevor won the argument.
The restored Greyhound is a clever example of old and new. It was once a single bar pub but a wall at the back has been demolished to create a second bar in what was once an on-site brewery. Old ceiling beams, long covered over, have been revealed. There are bare brick walls and tiled floors but bright lighting and modern bar areas give the pub a contemporary feel.
Ten handpumps dispense a dazzling array of cask beers. As well as Trevor’s Double Mash, Triple Hop, Dashingly Dark, Penny’s Porter and Old Intentional, there are several guest beers, including Tim Taylor’s Golden Best and Landlord. The Czech Budweiser Budvar has three taps for its golden lager and black lager, with the third pump serving a blend of the two beers as “Half and Half”.
Back at the Royal Standard, an upstairs room was packed with people waiting to toast the World Cup and England’s chances. The first beer was brewed by Trevor. It’s a 4.4% cask ale called African Dream. As a long-standing supporter of Derby County, Trevor is understandably cautious about England’s chances in South Africa.
The beer is rich and complex, brewed with pale and darker malts and hopped with English Bramling Cross and Fuggles and American Willamette. This was followed by a beer brewed by a new craft brewery in Durban, called Robsons. The 5.7% bottle-conditioned Durban Pale Ale has a fine malt and hop flavour and proved there is, at long last, an alternative to the bland offerings of South African Breweries.
Next up, as they say in football circles, was an American beer, a 4.7% Doggie Style Pale Ale from the Flying Dog brewery in Denver, Colorado. It was typical of American craft brewers’ interpretation of a style that originated in England: intensely hoppy and bitter, balanced by juicy malt and with a powerful blast of citrus hops. In sharp contrast, the fourth beer was a lager from Brazil called Palma Louca. The 4.5% beer is brewed by Kaiser Brewery: as the name suggests, it was founded by Germans using European lager technology. The beer has a toasted malt and light hop aroma and palate, with a refreshing finish.
The final beer was a revelation. It comes in a Grolsch-style stoppered bottle and is a German “kellerbier” (cellar beer) from the Brauerei Goller. It breaks all the rules of modern lager beer: it’s cloudy, unfiltered and unpasteurised. The 4.9% beer has a yeasty, hoppy character and a big fruity note reminiscent of gooseberries. It’s a full-tasting and memorable brew and shows what lager was like before the global brewers replaced taste with fizz.
The evening was judged a success. The drinkers enjoyed the beers on offer and, on a show of hands, gave their vote to Trevor’s African Dream. Whether the dream becomes reality, the next few weeks will show. But I fear Capello has missed a trick. As every ageing England football supporter knows, it needs three West Ham players in the team if we’re to lift the World Cup.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Stars & Stripes to fly in south London

Celebrate Your Beer Drinking Independence with the White Horse on Parson’s Green’s third American Beer Festival from July 2-4.
If you think American beer is all bland, mass-produced and fizzy then think again, as the White Horse on Parson’s Green, unleashes the finest the American craft brewing movement has to offer in July.
Take your taste buds on a trans-Atlantic trip as south west London’s finest beer pub showcases some of the very best America has to offer, including some never before seen on these shores: draught beers from respected brewers like Goose Island from Chicago, Yard’s Brewing from Philadelphia, and Flying Dog from Maryland. The pub will also be bringing over brews from Odell’s, Brooklyn, Blue Moon, Sierra Nevada, Left Hand and Stone.
The White Horse is hoping to repeat the success of last year's similarly themed event. Timed to celebrate Independence Day, the fest kicks off on Friday July 2 and will carry on throughout the weekend. As Dan Fox, general manager at The White Horse, says: “We hope to engage customers with some craft beers from America to extinguish the myth that all American beer is tasteless.
“A a result we’re really proud to be offering a tremendous choice of the finest American beers, which will include a very special beer from Goose Island, their Bourbon County Stout in cask, that will only be served in halves, alongside some extremely special cask beers from the ever anarchic, and always tasty, Flying Dog, including the brewery’s latest offering Raging Bitch – an IPA brewed with Belgian yeast.
“There will also be a wide array of keg beers on offer from highly-respected breweries like Sierra Nevada, and also little-known in the UK but nonetheless multi award-winning micro-breweries like Yards from Philadelphia..
“And, because the White Horse is always all about demonstrating the diversity of British beers as well, we will have beer on handpull from a whole host of English beers that boast an American influence in hop form from breweries like Crouch Vale, Thornbridge and Dark Star.”
Weather permitting the BBQ will be fired up and offering a whole host of American classics, as well as the ever-popular hog roast and, as you would expect from the White Horse, the beer quaffing will be accompanied by appropriate live music from The Steelers and Fallen Heroes, and there will be live barn dancing with Cut a Shine.
The nearest tube to the White Horse is Parson’s Green on the District Line and the 14bus stops a few minutes walk away on the other side of Parson’s Green.

For further information please email or call the below number. High-res logo attached to the email this release came on and if you require any further pictures we have a selection available.

The White Horse, 1-3 Parson's Green, London, SW6 4UL
T: 020 7736 2115 W:

Monday, 7 June 2010

New life for Bass and Boddies?

It’s not often that the sale of once-famous beer brands could be heralded as good news but the off-loading of Draught Bass and Boddingtons by InBev could breathe new life into two badly neglected ales.
When I first started writing about beer in the late 1970s and was asked in radio or press interviews to name my favourite tipple, I routinely answered “Draught Bass”. It was a magical beer, with the famous Burton sulphurous aroma, followed by a complex intermingling of juicy malt, tart fruit and gentle but persistent hop bitterness.
Bass had an enormous tied estate throughout Britain that meant Draught Bass was available from the West Country and even into parts of Scotland. You were never far from a Bass pub or a pint of Burton’s finest. The sales figures were prodigious. Some two million barrels of Draught Bass were produced annually, making it far and away the biggest-selling premium cask beer in the country.
And it wasn’t confined to Bass pubs. It was not only widely available in the free trade but was also taken by other brewers for their outlets. I remember the late John Young, chairman of Young’s of Wandsworth, telling me that when he went into the family business in the 1950s and worked in the brewery’s pubs, Draught Bass always stood alongside Young’s beers.
“If you didn’t sell Draught Bass, there was no point opening the pub doors,” he said.
And yet first Bass and then InBev let the beer slide. The reasons are not difficult to grasp. Giant modern brewers are interested in volumes. Lager brands such as Carling and Stella Artois have far longer shelf lives than cask ales that have to be sold within a few days of being tapped.
The global breweries no longer own pubs. When Bass controlled a large tied estate, it could also control the quality of the cask beers it dispensed. But following the ham-fisted intervention of the government in the 1990s, the then national brewers had to sell off many of their pubs, and were no longer responsible for beer quality in the free trade.
Burton-brewed beers, with their volcanic secondary fermentation in cask, are notoriously difficult to look after. Without Bass cellar technicians on hand, the good name of Draught Bass suffered.
But if a brewer believes in a brand it will climb every mountain to support it and promote it. The new global brewers who now dominate British brewing have starved their cask beers of investment and support. The result is the massive and staggering decline of Draught Bass, along with the cask versions of John Smith’s and Tetley’s.
At the same time as I was cheerfully supping Draught Bass at every opportunity back in the 1970s, I heard there was another amazing beer brewed in the North-west. When I first encountered Boddington’s Bitter in a pub in Hyde near Manchester, I refused to leave. I didn’t know that beer could taste quite that good. “Boddies” was distinctively different beer to Bass. It had a famous straw colour and a modest strength of 3.5%. But, by golly, it tasted good.
The family-owned Boddingtons made the fatal error of going on the merger trail and drawing attention to itself. The result was a takeover by Whitbread. The national group, briefly, turned Boddies Bitter in to a national brand but the beer was sidelined by InBev when it bought Whitbread along with Bass in 2000. It’s still brewed – by Hydes of Manchester – but is now rarely seen outside the North-west.
InBev once promoted itself as “the local brewer”, promising commitment to regional beers. This promise has been washed down the sluice. The group has put all its kegs in one basket. Its only interest is increasing volumes of Bud and Stella – a re-run of the bad old days of the 1960s when the Big Six national brewers axed hundreds of local brands to concentrate nf new keg beers.
The off-loading of Draught Bass and Boddies points up the glaring gap between the priorities of the global producers and even large regionals. Some years ago, Bass tired of producing Charrington IPA and hived off production to Shepherd Neame in Kent. The beer’s volumes were too small for Bass yet it was the biggest brand Sheps had ever produced.
Similarly, when S&N could no longer be bothered with Courage Best and Directors it sold them to Wells & Young’s. Even though W&Y’s Bombardier is one of the Top Ten premium cask ales in the country, Courage Best is now the company’s top-selling beer.
In the right hands, Draught Bass and Boddies have a bright future. Clearly, Bass would be a good fit for Marston’s as the Burton brewery is currently producing the beer under licence for InBev. Similarly, Hydes might well wish to take on Boddies if the price is right.
So here’s to a new future for two renowned, classic and much-loved beers. As for InBev, the group should sack its entire accountants department if such lame-brains think the likes of Draught Bass and Boddington’s are not worth the candle.