Hop Presshops Hop Press Issue 31 front cover

Issue 31 – New Year 1990


A rough OCR of the original leaving out adverts & some sections such as the Crossword

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Editorial Hop Press index

Christmas and New Year greetings to all of our readers. In 1969 you will have seen some fundamental changes in the British pub as the new licensing hours take hold, 1990, we hope, will bring the start of equally important changes as new laws emerge from the findings of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission report.

We have dwelt at length on the recommendations of this important document in for most of the past year and during this time the Government appear to have been turning ever tighter and tighter cartwheels at the behest of the big brewers. Orders are at last being laid before parliament and the new laws will be in place early in the new year, they will look quite different from ideas mooted in the report. Here Is an attempt to summarise what should happen.

Guest Beers. In this area the Government may have exceeded the reports proposals. Tenants or loan-tied licensees of the big six brewers will have the right to buy one draught real ale from "whomsoever he chooses" and the big brewer is expressly forbidden from applying any penalty. This change should be in operation in the pubs by May 1990. This could be a bonanza for small brewers but much will depend upon the licensees' and brewers "entrepreneurship".

Big brewer's tied estate. This has become almost too complex to understand unless your a professor of mathematics! Her goes: a brewer with more than 2000 tied houses must free up half of all those above the magic 2000 threshold, if he sells this "half-excess" then the remaining estate can be fully tied. As an example, Bass with 7000 pubs at present could sell 2500 and end with a fully tied 4500 estate. However, should some other company buy some of the pubs being disposed of, and build up a similar 4500 estate he would now have to re-sell half of the excess over 2000 leaving him with only 3250...

The rules fill pages of legalese and should provide a steady earner for generations of lawyers! The Government's aim seems to be to encourage the brewers to sell the excess pubs rather than operating them as wholly-owned free-houses. One almost certainly correct prediction is that the '90s will be the decade of the free-house chain. Whether this will help in real choice for the drinker is altogether less certain, these pub chains will have big buying power and may well end up Just selling the big six beers that would have been there if they had not been freed in the first place –the whole point of the MMC exercise will have been thwarted. The timetable for these changes projects completion by the end of 1992.

Whitbread Investments. Amazingly, the original report made no reference to the Whitbread Investment Company. This huge financial Institution owns shares in many of our remaining independent brewers –the "whitbread umbrella" –and by so doing ensures a web of trading agreements with these brewers (Stella in Marstons pubs and Pedigree in the Whitbread ones for example); the Investment Company is 49.9% owned by Whitbread itself but is effectively controlled by them.

Under the report's original ideas, the pubs of those independent breweries under the umbrella would have been counted in the tie calculations for Whitbread's own houses, either a harsh oversight by the MMC or perhaps a concealed comment on Whitbread's present estate. Needless to say there has been some intense lobbying of the Government by Whitbread and this has born fruit. The new laws will. allow Whitbread Investments to own up to 30% of an independent brewer before it has any affect on the parent company. Even so, this should mean some changes, since this figure is presently exceeded in some cases, mostly in the South. These shareholdings that are likely to be reduced are in Brakspears, Morlands and Marstons. If the Investment Company decide to sell large amounts of these shares then the breweries could well be thrown into the takeover arena.

Vague promises from the Government also suggest that laws may be introduced if time permits to strengthen tenants property rights and there are even vaguer suggestions of a general review of the laws governing the granting of drinks licences.

Our pubs are going to change, the results are under the control of you, the pub customer. If you ask for good beers in sane and sensible surroundings and if you vote with your feet when you do not get this, then the brewers will get the message Philistines they may be but they do understand a profit and loss account.

Whitbread still wielding the axe Hop Press index

Rob Whatley

Whitbread intends to dispose of 45 pubs in the south in the coming months, at least 15 of which are in Hampshire. CAMRA has identified many of these pubs which include some fine village locals and community pubs.

The Red Lion at West Dean, as we have reported in previous Issues of Hop Press has been under threat for many months and its future is still uncertain.

Another 1990 Good Beer Guide entry, the West End Inn at Titchfield, is due for demolition after being sold to a property developer.

An entry In many previous Good Beer Guides, the Grade II listed Mafeking Hero at Bishop's Waltham, was recently put up for tender for around £300,000 on the basis that it is not kept as a pub.

Other local pubs on the hit list include:

The Andover Arms, King's Somborne –closed for some months and up for sale.

The Red Lion, Netley –closed suddenly earlier this year, its future under review.

The Boot, Houghton –Hall and Woodhouse were at one stage interested in the pub but decided not to go through with the purchase. Presumably the pub is still on the market.

The Waterloo Arms, Freemantle, Southampton –an application has been made for a change of use to a graphics studio.

When the closure story was reported In a local newspaper a spokeswoman for Whitbread said: "It's our Intention to sell 45 pubs across the entire Whitbread South estate this year –pubs we see not to have a future."

"About 30 of these have sitting tenants, and we're in the process of informing them of our Intentions. We're honouring our commitment by offering each one the option to buy, but otherwise the pubs will be put on the market."

"It's anticipated we'll retain the bulk of our business by agreeing new free trade agreements."

When the Monopolies and Mergers Commission report on the supply of beer was published earlier this year, Whitbread was one of the brewers that claimed the implementation of the report's recommendations would lead to the closure of pubs. In reality the big brewers have been closing pubs for many years. This latest list of pubs for closure was drawn up before the new regulations for the brewing industry had been put before Parliament, thus showing that these closures are part of a long term policy and not a result of any new laws.

Although the Whitbread spokeswoman said that sitting tenants would be offered the chance to purchase their pubs, they may well have to pay more than the pub would fetch on the open market. In addition many of the threatened pubs do not have sitting tenants.

If Whitbread wishes to sell the pubs it should give others the chance to run them profitably –or are they frightened of competition? The new laws resulting from the Monopolies Commission Report, which will be laid before Parliament this winter, will contain restrictions on brewers selling pubs with forced de-licencing or with forced ties but these laws will be too late for these pubs.

Whitbread recently ran a national Community Care Awards competition. With the brewery closing so many locals, which in some cases are the only pubs in the villages they serve, we do not expect Whitbread Itself to be nominated for next year's award.

Open all hours Hop Press index

Rob Whatley

Open all hours

When the new licensing hours came into effect on 22nd August last year (1988) it meant that pubs were, after years of campaigning by CAMRA and other groups, at last able to open all day. There was a great range of opinion on how widely pubs would take up the extra hours and when the new law came into force there were indeed wide variations in the times during which pubs were now open.

In order to get a clear picture of how pubs have changed their opening hours CAMRA conducted a nationwide survey earlier this year.

Of the pubs surveyed 80% had tried some change in their opening hours and 22% had tried all day opening. The proportion of pubs which had tried new hours varied somewhat across the country with 85% of pubs in the South experimenting with new hours compared with 80% in the North and 75% in the Midlands. The biggest factor, however, influencing a pub to change opening hours is population density, 89% of town centre pubs had tried different opening hours compared with only 68% in rural areas. This national picture is reflected locally in Hampshire with pubs in the high streets or near shopping centres being much more likely to stay open all day than pubs in country areas.

Another pronounced trend is for pubs to open all day only on Friday and Saturday when more customers will have the time (and maybe finances!) to be able to take advantage of extended opening hours.

The number of pubs opening all day, every day, has increased greatly since the early days of the new regulations. When CAMRA's local branch looked at the opening hours of 32 pubs in the Eastleigh area just two months into the new law only three of the pubs were opening during the afternoon. Earlier this year, however, all Whitbread managed houses changed to all day opening –as witnessed by the proliferation of red and white banners proclaiming the fact. This means that now 12 of the 32 pubs open all day.

These Whitbread pubs are generally open from 11am to 11pm and so do not actually open all the permitted hours since in most areas of Hampshire. they could open at l0am. We have found very few pubs locally which are open between l0am and 11am –perhaps even fewer than before the law changed.

Whitbread have been trying to encourage more customers into their managed houses during the afternoon with their 'Winning Words' competition in which customers have to collect letters which they receive every time they visit a managed Whitbread pub between 230pm and 530pm Monday to Friday. Perhaps the future will produce many of these promotional ideas, much as the late afternoon "happy hours" have become so commonplace in the USA

The opening hours of pubs are often (unreasonably) difficult to establish. In CAMRA's national survey only 31% of pubs displayed their opening hours outside. The situation locally is better as Whitbread, who own around 40% of pubs in this area, have supplied display boards which are used by most. CAMRA believes that the law should have insisted that pubs had to display their opening hours outside although it would have had to have been better drafted than the lenient law on the display of prices and the similarly worded new one on marking alcohol by volume. Perhaps if an MP with a good place In the private bill draw is reading this...

The introduction of increased permitted hours has led to a variable response from breweries and publicans which has certainly not yet settled down; if Scottish experience is repeated it will be five years or more before things stabilise. As expected, many pubs are varying their opening hours to suit the demands of their customers, for whom the increased choice of when they can drink is naturally welcome. However, it is a pity that on the day that customers would be most able to take advantage of more flexible licensing hours, namely Sunday, pubs are still not permitted to open during the afternoon.

Wiltshire Brewery Company Hop Press index

Rob Whatley

Wiltshire Brewery Company

Beer was first brewed at the Wiltshire Brewery site in Tisbury, 12 miles to the west of Salisbury, in the 1860's. Although beer Is still being brewed in the splendid building next to the village church, brewing has had a number of interruptions during the intervening years.

The current occupants of the site are the Wiltshire Brewery Company, who took over from the Tisbury Brewery in 1985. The company has undergone many changes since then. It currently owns 11 pubs in the South, mostly tenanted. They include the South Western in Tisbury itself, which is the brewery tap'.

This year the Wiltshire Brewery purchased the Old Swan, Netherton, West Midlands which is better known to beer connoisseurs as "Ma Pardoe's" after a former owner. The pub is famous for brewing on the premises the excellent Old Swan Bitter. The Wiltshire Brewery has continued to brew at Ma Pardoe's, with assistant brewer Paul Dowd making the 100 mile trip to start the brew the day after the raw materials have been sent to the Midlands from Wiltshire. Recently a mild has also been brewed at the pub. The dark brew has the same original gravity (1034) as the bitter but is brewed separately and is proving popular in the West Midlands free trade as well as in the five pubs the company owns in the Midlands.

Back at Tisbury, three main beers are brewed: Stonehenge Best Bitter (o.g. 1041), Old Grumble (1049) and Old Devil (1060). In addition Exhibition Ale (1084) is brewed just once a year for Christmas. The beer is so named because it won a prize at the Great Western Beer Festival in Bristol.

The brewery at Tisbury has a capacity of 120 barrels per week and is based on the tower system, where the raw materials are taken to the top of the brewery and gravity is used to take the beer from one part of the brewing process to the next, Brewer Andy Burrows, who previously worked at the Belhaven brewery In Scotland after taking a degree In brewing at Heriot-Watt University, uses whole Fuggles and Goldings hops to produce his prize winning beers.

The brewery also, possibly uniquely in modern times, produces a potent Ginger Beer which has an original gravity of 1060. A kilogram of root ginger per barrel is used to produce the drink which is pasteurised and sold in half pint bottles. When the brewery first produced ginger beer It contacted Customs and Excise to discover how it would be taxed. The local office thought that it should be taxed as a beer, but it was overruled by London headquarters, where it was considered to be a 'made wine' (between a beer and a wine) and thus to be taxed more heavily. After numerous exchanges between the brewery and Customs and Excise it was eventually decided to tax it as a beer and new regulations now include a reference to alcoholic ginger beers in their own right.

The impressive brewery building started life as a workhouse in the 1720s, and the present reception office was at one time the mortuary of the workhouse. By 1862 the building was "... in a state of extreme dilapidation ...", and in 1868 it was bought by Mr. Beckett of Hindon who converted it into a brewery. The building was damaged by fire In 1885 and was rebuilt under the name of the Wiltshire Brewery, operated by F.H.S. and T.W. Styring. In 1913 the company was taken over by Eldridge Pope and brewing ceased, although it was briefly revived in 1922 when a fire at Eldridge Pope's main brewery generated a sudden need for additional brewing capacity. The premises were then purchased by Mr J. H. Bartlett, who installed a steam powered grist mill which was in use for more than 50 years.

Every old building has its ghosts, and one of the five that are claimed to haunt the Wiltshire Brewery Is a monkey which was a pet of one of the former brewers and came to a sticky end when it drowned in a fermenting vessel. The fate of the brew was not recorded.

In the 1960's the building was threatened with demolition so that the site could be used as a car park. Thankfully the threat was never carried out and in recent times the building was used for paper storage and by a woodworking business. Brewing on the site was restarted in 1979, when the Tisbury Brewery was founded. When that company folded in 1985, Graham Axford, the present chairman, set up the Wiltshire Brewery Company.

After a couple of years of consolidation the company was restructured in 1987 and has progressed steadily since, with 12 people currently working at the brewery. The Wiltshire Brewery Company eventually hopes to own around 30 pubs in the South and 12 pubs In the Midlands. Although the beers are also available through agencies, Free Trade Sales Manager Steve Turton hopes to expand the brewery's own free trade operation in the future. The next major step in the company's development will come next spring, when it will be launching a share issue and will be listed on the Third Market of the Stock Exchange.

Finally, a note for those of you who would like to try the Wiltshire Brewery's beers a little nearer home. The Wiltshire Brewery Company has recently purchased the Fountain at Whiteparish, between Romsey and Salisbury.

Beer strength average rises to new level Hop Press index

Iain Loe

THE AVERAGE declared gravity of British beer exceeded 1038 in 1988 for the first time since 1940-41.

These latest figures issued by The Brewers Society make interesting reading for not only has the strength of the British pint marginally increased (1037.8 OG in 1987) but at the other end of the scale the quantity of low and alcohol free beers has increased and now amounts to 1.2 per cent of beer production.

The average strength British beer has remained at about the 1037 level since 1950 when there was a marked increase from the 1033 levels of the war and post-war years of restraint.

Whether this increase signals the start of a return to the levels common at the turn of the century (1055 OG) is unlikely but what it does show is the move by brewers to premium strength ales and lagers and a corresponding phasing out of light bitters and milds. Total beer production in 1988 was 36.8 million barrels, according to the Brewers Society, making the UK the third largest producer behind the USA (140m barrels) and West Germany (56m barrels).

Lager now apparently accounts for 48.8 per cent of 'beer' sold compared to 26 per cent in 1978.

15.6 per cent of the total beer production is accounted for by packaged lager.

This latest missive from Portman Square does not however reveal any information about that small market sector 'real ale', I wonder why?

And is it also significant that the cover of the Brewers Society 'Beer Facts 1988' leaflet carries a picture of 60 of the bottled and draught NABLABs (No Alcohol Beers / Low Alcohol Beers) currently available in the UK.

Pub News Hop Press index

Rob Whatley

Pub News

We begin this edition of pub news by welcoming a new brewery to the area, Belhaven. The brewery itself is in Dunbar, East Lothian but it is part of the London based property and leisure group Control Securities plc. Belhaven has acquired a number of local Watney pubs some of which have undergone major alterations.

The Smugglers in Bernard Street, Southampton is one of these pubs. It recently re-opened after major alterations and, in common with the other local Belhaven acquisitions, stocks mainly Allied Brewery products. Tetley Bitter and Burton Ale are on sale but the only Belhaven product is a keg bitter. To make matters more complex the Smugglers is actually run by independent pub chain, South Coast Taverns.

Another of these "Belhaven" pubs in Southampton is the Telstar in Northam which has been re-named Pitchers. Unfortunately there is no real ale on sale. The White Swan at Bishop's Waltham is a third acquisition, no details to hand yet. We would be pleased to hear of any other local Watney pubs which have changed hands.

Just round the corner from the Smugglers, Whitbread have opened another Beefeater, Around the World, on Town Quay.

We are pleased to report a real ale gain in Southampton. Following one of the better Whitbread refurbishments the Shirley, Shirley High Street, is now selling Flowers Original and "real" Whitbread Best Bitter. Unfortunately the real version of Best tastes little better than the keg version and we know of at least one Good Beer Guide pub where it had to be taken off because so few customers were drinking it.

The pub has always been the setting for a wide variety of activities and recent events at two Southampton pubs show that, despite the efforts of the big brewers to produce endless stereotyped pubs, this is still the case. The Griffin in Shirley is holding a croft sale on Thursdays while the Saints in Millbrook has been holding afternoon tea dances!

There is some good news for Winchester drinkers. Following the introduction of Marstons Pedigree in the South Western, next to the station, all pubs in Winchester now boast handpumps. However, this good news is outweighed by bad: the Bird in Hand has been sold and we believe will cease to be a pub, the Southgate Hotel has closed for extensive repair (how it will be on reopening we do not yet know) and finally there is a third Winchester pub where handpumps are no longer being pulled –the Riverside. The pub has been boarded up and if plans are approved a restaurant and offices may soon replace this Eldridge Pope establishment.

Another pub under threat is the Saddlers Arms at Sutton Scotney. Salisbury brewers Gibbs Mew, who bought the pub from Watneys, have won permission to build houses on the site but in the months since permission was obtained the housing market has stagnated and the pub is still open.

Plans for major new signs at Good Beer Guide entry the Cart and Horses at King's Worthy were turned down by Winchester planners with members of the planning committee criticising the excesses of Marstons. But this rejection looks mild indeed when compared with the treatment Whitbread received when they applied to erect nine signs at the Potters Heron, Ampfield. Planning Officer John Robinson told the planning committee that the "total package is gross, out of keeping with the rural location and a potential traffic hazard." Councillor James Wyss also condemned the plans: "It's a terrible application. I cannot understand why Whitbread's architects think we are thick enough to accept this application."

Just up the road, the White Horse has new licensee Stephen West, who was previously at the Royal Oak, Charlton, near Andover.

Continuing along the A31 to Romsey, we bid farewell to one time Saints goalie John Hollowbread and his wife Vera who have left the Sun at Romsey after eight years.

Back to the signs again. Colden Common parish councillor Bill Bayley has called for the "proliferation" of signs outside the Fishers Pond to be investigated. Visitors to the area are better recommended to try the Queens Head, which now has Burton Best Bitter in addition to Pedigree.

The Shearers Arms at Owslebury now has a skittle alley while a nearby pub which also has a skittle alley, the Phoenix at Twyford will be undergoing alterations. Plans for major alterations to the Alma Inn at Lower Upham have, however, been rejected. Extra bar space, accommodation and 102 car parking spaces would have transformed the pub. A revised application has now been submitted which will still involve substantial changes to the pub if accepted.

Bursledon's Jolly Sailor, of Howards' Way fame, re-opened during the summer after a £400,000 facelift. The new licensee is Angela Tuck, who was previously at the Bugle at Hamble. The beer range is more restricted than before with owners Hall and Woodhouse providing Tanglefoot and Best Bitter alongside Gale's HSB. It was interesting to hear Jack order a pint of "triple B" in a recent edition of the TV soap; this was presumably meant to refer to Badger Best Bitter rather than the more familiar Gale's BBB. Many customers may not have enjoyed their visit to the revamped pub –police issued 100 parking tickets in the first two months after the pub re-opened.

Two brand new pubs have opened to the east of Southampton. The Grange at Netley Abbey is owned by Mill House Leisure and has an agricultural theme. It is a large pub with a skittle alley and a restaurant which seats 90. The managers are Carol and Joy Wisken, who previously lived In Essex. Ruddles County, 6X and Ringwood Best were on offer at the time of our visit. The other newcomer, the Two Brothers at Townhill Farm, has Charrington IPA and Draught Bass, We offer a belated welcome to Mike and Nella Lawrie who are managing their first pub.

Also in charge of his first pub is former bus driver Rodney Croxton, who has taken over the Hampshire Yeoman at Blackfield.

In the last edition of Pub News we said that the Three Bells at Hordle was to become a Beefeater. In fact the pub has now re-opened as a Brewers Fayre establishment. The price of the beer will be similarly high, no doubt.

Another Forest pub which is set to become more of a food orientated establishment is the picturesque Cat and Fiddle at Hinton. It is likely to become a Harvester after being bought by Trust House Forte

Plans to demolish New Milton's Speckled Trout have been thrown out by New Forest planners. There is a chance that owners Hall and Woodhouse will appeal against the decision, however. The Dorset brewers seem to be engaged in a major review of their Hampshire estate, with the Osborne View Hotel at Hill Head near Gosport under threat of being replaced by 40 flats and the Southerner in Southampton has been boarded up for a number of months.

Hop Press issue number 31 – New Year 1990

Editor: Dave Neale
25 Withewood Mansions
Shirley Road
0703 701648.

© CAMRA Ltd. 1990