Hop Presshops Hop Press Issue 42 front cover

Issue 42 – December 1996

 

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

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Contents


EDITORIAL Hop Press index

Last month I attended a symposium on beer quality. Contributors from national, independent and micro breweries all spoke convincingly of their commitment to producing ales of the finest quality. It should have been an encouraging day but in some niggling way, it was not.

Whilst I listened to brewers illustrating their efforts to produce perfect products and their choices of technology and practice to get them served in peak condition, I could not help comparing these descriptions with my experience of beer as it is actually served in many pubs. The two images did not match.

Thousands of different beers are brewed in Britain, virtually every one leaves its brewery as a quality product, so why are they so frequently served to us as liquid garbage? The answer can only lie in the pub and the answer there can only be found in one place, people. All of the people: landlords, staff and customers.

Taking these in reverse, why have the customers anything to do with the bad beer they are buying? Will apathy, ignorance and diffidence do for a start? As a nation we are far too ready to accept what we are given, without comment or question. Poor beer must always be handed back, politely but firmly. Forcing it down without protest or leaving it on the bar half drunk does no service to your fellow beer drinkers and in the long term to yourself. If we could establish an ethos in which indifferent beer was always returned, as a matter of course, then simple economics would ensure that a bad pub's beer would have to improve or the pub would (deservedly) go. Before this idealised state could come about, drinkers also need knowledge. Too many of us have difficulty in defining what is wrong with a dubious pint, without the confidence that stems from knowledge we are most unlikely to venture a complaint. A cloudy pint (unacceptable anyway) – can you tell if its the end of a cask or the start of one that is not yet ready? An off taste, is it the acetic acid of an antique beer or the lactic acid of an infected beer?

Even when we know what is wrong with a bad pint and we want to complain there is still the infamous British diffidence (English might be more accurate, the Scots seem not to be so prone). How many readers can truly say that they have never kept silent to not be seen making a fuss, to not stand out from the group or to not be branded a troublemaker? Mea culpa certainly.

Staff. At the risk of having this entire edition of Hop Press committed to the bins in all of our distribution points, I will contend that this country has some of the worst-trained and least-motivated bar staff of any country that I know in several continents. But, to stay the hand over the waste bin, it should be said that this is not their personal fault, it is a total failing of the system. Bar tending is considered, in this country, to be a non-job, a last resort, a fill-in before a "proper" job. Formal training is virtually unknown and even "on-the-job" training is usually cursory at best. Compare this with some other countries. Ireland: bar work is a respected life-time career with paper qualifications often required (and available). Belgium: a bar may have twenty different beers each one needing a different sort of presentation not to mention its own special glass. The USA: even in their equivalent of a "street corner local" a barman (sorry, person) has to be able to recall, on demand, the ingredients and mixing methods of a hundred or more bizarrely named drinks, instantly, because the Americans are a notably impatient nation. Japan: serving a glass of beer here can be a ritual of extraordinary elaborateness involving exact placing of the glass before the customer, the logo forward, the coaster centralised, the stem frill smoothed down, the rim mopped thy, the free nibbles at exactly the specified distance from the glass etc. etc...! In this country, what are the bar staff taught about beer quality, how it should be pumped, how it should look, taste and smell – not much.

So often I cringe when I see the server pulling frantically on a pump that is obviously running out, filling the line with yeast in an attempt to get a last (bad) pint from the cask. In the last week alone, in different establishments, I saw: a barmaid baffled that beer would not come out of a cask that was still hard spiled, a barman, as a cask ran dry, change the line onto another already empty one and wonder why nothing could be pulled through; a barman pour a whole pint of an amber coloured beer for a customer who had asked for a dark mild (using the wrong pump is an excusable mistake, not bothering to notice the beer being served is inexcusable indifference); and a barmaid change a cask and then serve a number of customers with a soup-like substance and, when eventually queried, having no idea of where to look for a cause (in this case, a "vertical syphon" had been put right to the bottom of the cask, into the sediment). All in one week of casual pub-going.

We are now left with the landlords and managers (the buck has to stop somewhere). How many of you have a filter funnel in the cellar? The days of "it all going back in the mild" should be only a remembered absurdity, like infant chimney sweeps. Would that this was true, filtering back recovered beer is still a widespread abomination – when will Environmental Health Officers take an interest in this disgusting practice? It is true that many managers' are coerced into recycling by unreasonable pressure from area bosses. As an example, in one national brewer's area, managers are routinely expected to get income for about 150 pints from every (144 pint) kilderkin! We would, of course, love to publish any return figure that a brewery would like to make public.

What temperature is your cellar controlled to? (Of course it is controlled...?) Is it 7 or 8°C, to eliminate the cost of lager flash coolers at the expense of any hope for good quality, drinkable cask ale? Does your 5% premium bitter get a week's conditioning or just enough hours to drop bright? Conversely, does each firkin of your slowest selling beer sit in the cellar for nearly a week? Did you take too long at the Cash and Carry and so put off this week's line cleaning?

Enough of this dismal catalogue of carping and moaning – it is no doubt brought on by an outbreak of humbug at the thought of the impending season of goodwill! To all of our hard-working publican, barmaid and barman friends we really do wish a Merry Christmas and a Happy, Prosperous New Year. Thank you for this year's efforts.

DESIRABLE TOWN HOUSES Hop Press index

Rob Whatley

A recent edition of London Drinker, CAMRA's magazine for the capital, was concerned with the way that new pubs, opening in the outer London centres, sprung up in almost clone-like "clusters." Often four or five pubs opening within a few weeks. These groups usually include a "Firkin", a Wetherspoon, an "Irish pub," perhaps a Yates Wine Lodge and some other "Something and Something." This trend will, by now, be familiar to Southampton drinkers and probably soon will be to those in Winchester.

In Southampton, this year, Bass have opened an O'Neills, Greenalls their ineffable Square Balloon, Wetherspoons the Standing Order in the High Street, Allied the Ferryman and Firkin a few doors down and now Greene King have just opened their Old Fat Cat next to Tyrrell and Green (see Greene King article). In Winchester there are proposals for a Wetherspoons in Jewry Street (where Habels are presently) and for a Firkin in the former Gas Board showroom in the Upper High Street. The Firkin may open early in 1997 and we think it will be called the Fugue and Firkin. These developments encapsulate a national trend that, given their size and selling potential, will have a major impact on the whole licensed trade. What sort of pubs are they? Should we give them an uncritical welcome?

WETHERSPOONS was founded by Tim Martin and the first pub opened in 1979. The company went public in 1992 and has an impressive record of growth – shares have doubled in this year alone. The first pubs were all in the London area but now expansion is nationwide, even to the first one in Scotland. The company is looking to have an outlet in every sizeable town by the millennium, an estate of over 400 houses.

Most are conversions from other High Street businesses – shops, banks etc. They share a house style: non-smoking areas, food all day, no music and a great emphasis on lightness and cleanliness. The open plan style and clear windows make them female friendly. However, the large floor areas and high ceilings have led to some criticisms that the pubs "lack atmosphere." The early pubs have names on a Moon theme – Moon and 6d, Moon under Water etc. New names now often reflect the building's previous use, as in Southampton (the pub was a bank).

The beer range is based on Scottish Courage, Theakston Best and XB, Courage Directors and Youngers Scotch are usually available. Also a couple of small brewery guest beers and often a real cider. Beer festivals are held from time to time. All Wetherspoon pubs have one or more beers on at a special low price, sometimes less than £1 per pint.

FIRKINS also started in 1979, with the Goose and Firkin, at Southwark, a pub that was, then, a revolutionary concept brewing its own beer and with a basic decor emphasising bare wood. The style has since been copied endlessly by many other individual pubs and national chains. Much of the public view this style as the archetypical "real ale pub." The founder, David Bruce, built up the chain during the eighties before selling out in 1988. Eventually, in 1991, the Firkins came under the control of Ailied-Domecq (owners of Tetleys and Ind Coope). The estate has grown to over 60, throughout the country, although only 38 of them brew on the premises. The Ferryman and Firkin is one without a brewery, its beer is made at the Fuzz and Firkin in Portsmouth.

All the pubs opened recently have names in the F... (or Ph...) and Firkin mould, often related in some convoluted way to the history or geography of the area or building. The beers have similar styles and strengths in all the pubs but with names related to each specific outlet. In a few pubs the beers are sold from cellar tanks under a gas blanket.

In areas such as Hampshire, where Allied own few pubs, the outlets have mostly been converted from other uses but in the Mid¬lands and the North, Firkins have been created from former pubs. This has led to a number of very controversial cases in which fine old pubs have been gutted and given the "designer distressed" treatment. The Ferryman and Firkin is a bit smarter than many as a lot of the building's better archi¬tectural features have been retained.

OTHER CHAINS now in town centres and with a local presence are: Rat and Parrot (owned by Scottish Courage, always with the same name), O'Neills (Bass), Tap and Spile (owned by the former Brent Walker group) and Whibread's Tut 'n' Shive and Hogshead varieties. The local dominance of Whitbread has slowed the introduction of other national pub chains. Thus far we have been spared the introduction of an Allied-Domecq's Scruffy Murphy or a Scottish Courage's T&J Bernard. They will probably all be along soon together with a Slug and Lettuce (Grosvenor Inns), a Newt and Cucumber (Morlands) and a Yates's Wine Lodge.

The rapid build-up in every town of a central group of identikit drinking superstores will mean major changes to Britain's traditional pub scene. Changes that exactly mirror those brought to local and high street shops by the supermarket and the shopping mall. None of these big pubs can ever become a "local." However expensively appointed, whatever wide choices of beer and food and however clean and efficient, they remain drinking machines without souls. To the ever-changing, uniformed staff and the anonymous manage¬ment a customer remains always just that. With these huge floor spaces to fill, other pubs will lose trade and go to the wall. The trade of these new pubs, especially evenings, is mainly young and so as they will draw that trade away from other pubs, the traditional local will be even more stereotyped in the "old man in a cap with a brown ale" image, not a recipe for a dynamic future. It could become as hard to find a thriving, friendly pub full of all age groups, as it is to find a grocer weighing sugar into blue paper bags.

Of course it is good that younger drinkers will be drawn to pubs with, currently, a wide selection of real ales. The key problem is to ensure the ales are bought by them! Figures just released by Bass show their real ale sales falling at over 10% per annum while nitro-keg is increasing at this rate. They predict not only a massive cut in real ale variety but also its very survival only in "top quality outlets." CAMRA's millennium challenge will be a much tougher battle than our original success¬ful little skirmish with keg beer.

THE GREENE MOVEMENT Hop Press index

Rob Whatley

The Greene King brewery has purchased the 277 pubs of the Magic Pub Company chain for £200m. The Magic Pub Company was built up by former Devenish chief executive Michael Cannon with purchases from Chef and Brewer (Grand Metropolitan). Most are within the M25 but some are local, including: Goblets Wine Bar, Above Bar, The Mitre (Pickled Newt), Portswood, The Red Lion, Bitteme and Shamblehurst Barn, Hedge End.

This purchase brings their estate up to 1139 pubs, 462 managed and 677 tenanted. It makes Greene King a "mini national." Rather than being a determinedly East Anglian brewer, Greene King is now at the very least a South of England and Metropolitan brewer. The 3000 free trade accounts strengthens this national position. However, not satisfied with this expansion, Greene King are also opening brand new pubs, some in this area.

Greene King started in 1799 (look out for a "200 year" brew soon?). Until recently the company was run as two operations from its breweries in Biggleswade and Bury St. Edmunds, it also acquired, many years ago, the lovely Rayments Brewery in the oddly named village of Fumeaux Pelham. This closed in 1987 and Biggleswade is now lager only; all cask ales now come from Bury. These include a beer called Rayments, which although pleasant, is not the wonderful brew that once came from "Fumey." The best beer is probably the 5% Abbot Ale, a complex fruity/hoppy brew that is all too drinkable! The IPA is a fairly bland bitter but there are some good and unusual seasonal beers.

The new Southampton pub, the Old Fat Cat, opened on November 29th in the old Gas Board showrooms (rapier wit, eh?) next door to Tyrrell and Green. The pub is an Ale Café (other examples are in Oxford, Reading and Fleet). The feel is very pleasant – plenty of bar space but also extensive seated areas. Lots of polished wood, a light and airy look and no obtrusively loud music. IPA (f1.70) and Abbot (£2.01) are on handpumps and there is a cooled stillage with cask beers on gravity dispense. On opening day these were Rayments, Black Baron (autumn brew) and an anonymous beer called "guess ale." It was suggested that identifying the beer would get a free beer prize. There were no takers as we watched, this wheeze will probably be very short-lived! There are some "quality" aspects – for example proper espresso coffee and orange juice squeezed as you watch, we hope the clientele appreciate the effort. Food is available all day but it looks somewhat more expensive than competitors like the Standing Order or the Rat and Parrot.

In Eastleigh the former Boots in Leigh Road opens as Lucky Jim's on December 12th. Nice wood and carpet, very similar decor to the Old Fat Cat. Triple handpumps dispense WA, Abbot and a seasonal ale. Bric-à-brac is all sport/pastime oriented, there is a big screen in the rear area and there will be a dartboard. As is now usual, opening will be 11 to 11 with food 12 to 8. The Manager is Mark Winlove-Smith.

A Sop to Santa Hop Press index

Pat O'Neill

Chances are that this issue will hit the bar in Christmas week so, presumably, it should be chock full of ho! ho! ho! and jingle bells. As a life member of the militant humbug tendency (founder E. Scrooge, 1843) I found it not only easy but also my duty to resist. However, since readers may be spending a bit more time in the pub during these weeks, here is a time wasting quiz. No prizes, answers on the back page [below].

H olidays
1. Who has a "Respect for the aged" day?
2. Where and what on earth is Up-Helly-Aa?
3. Who can fly you for a week in Alderney?
A les
4. Who feared the end of "cakes and ale"?
5. Who first explained the action of yeast?
6. 57.1% alcohol by volume is...?
P aperchains
7. C P Scott was editor for 59 years (!) of...?
8. In the days of hot type-metal, the alloy used contained antimony, why?
9. Reuters, started by Israel Beer Josaphat between Brussels and Aachen, was first a...?
P arties
10. The GOP is...?
11. Oldham, 1900- Woodford, 1964, who?
12. The parliamentary electoral deposit is...?
Y ulelogs
13. Balsa is a hardwood! Why?
14. Where does Trafalgar Square's Christmas tree come from?
15. Dendrochronology is...?
C rackers
16. Who's motto is "Who's afeared?"?
17. Funny hats – mad hatters, why mad?
18. Where is the cracker in Waterside?
H umbugs
19. What are sweets to a brewer?
20. Wigan's peerless peppermint product...?
21. Flavoured latex of the Sapodilla tree is ... ?
R udolf and friends
22. Only in reindeer do both sexes...?
23. Crossing the Atlantic, reindeer become...?
24. Rudolf I (b1218) founded the ... dynasty?
I n the bleak midwinter
25. Bishop's Rock thermometer has never...?
26. Winter wheat is sown in...?
27. Some get SAD in winter, what is SAD?
S easonal fare
28. Fruit of which tree gives two spices?
29. Where are the Spice Islands?
30. Whatever is Meleagris Gallopavo!?
T urkeys
31. 1947, flew 914m, never left the ground?
32. The Trabant, slow and dirty and most inaptly named, what is a Trabant?
33. R101, our answer to the Zeppelins, crashed at Beauvais on a maiden flight to...?
M istletoe
34. Who made a kiss in 1898?
35. And who wrote that "the coward [kills] with a kiss" also in 1898
36. To "Kiss the Gunner's Daughter" is...?
A nnuals
37. The Beano is published from?
38. First Guinness Book of Records, 19??
39. Almanac comes from which language?
S tocklng fillers
40. What area is an A4 sheet of paper?
41. How many legs has a harvestman?
42. Who's round is it now?

BREWERY ROUND-UP Hop Press index

Rob Whatley

They were celebrating in the Cheriton Brewhouse again this August when, for the second year running, one of their beers was judged to be the second best in Britain. At CAMRA's Great British Beer Festival, held at Olympia, Diggers Gold was champion of the Strong Bitter Class (another local beer, Hop Back's Summer Lightning, was third in this class). The winner from each class then goes forward to a final competition for the Champion Beer of Britain. This is chosen by a panel of independent judges that this year included the England bowler Devon Malcolm. Wherry Best Bitter, brewed near Norwich by Woodfordes, took first place with Diggers Gold as runner-up. In last year's competition, Cheriton's lower gravity Pots Ale gained the same overall runners-up place – can they take th6 big one in 1997?

Drinkers at Winchester's Wykeham Arms led the mourning for the death of Eldridge Pope's Dorchester Bitter. The Wykeham sold more than any other house, over 1,000 pints a week. Sadly, other pubs did not come near this level of sales of the delicate 3.3% "Boys Bitter." The brewery offered the bland Websters Green Label as a replacement but this got the thumbs down from the customers. Eldridge Pope have also abandoned their old family name, they now wish to known as The Thomas Hardy Brewery.

We hope that the Hop Press circulation area may be getting a new brewery during 1997. The Hampshire Brewery, founded in Andover in 1992, has run out of space at its present site. With trade mostly to the south of Andover it is looking for premises in the Romsey-Southampton-Winchester triangle. Rather than leasing an industrial "unit," they would like to purchase and convert an existing building. This month the brewery's strong 1066 bitter has appeared in bottled form in a number of Tesco stores. The 330ml bottles are not bottle-conditioned but are Unpasteurised. There is a 5% Christmas ale, Good King Senseless (or something similar!).

On a somewhat larger scale is the proposed merger of Bass and Carlsberg-Tetley. The £200m deal will put Bass back to its traditional top place with 35-40% of the UK market. Scottish Courage, formed by the recent merger of Scottish & Newcastle and Courage, have 31%. Whitbread, although locally dominant, have only 14%.

The merger (which is still awaiting MMC and OFT approval) may not have much direct impact on Hampshire pubs since neither company has many tied houses here. However they are very well represented in the free trade, especially in clubs. In the long run, all drinkers will suffer from this further massive concentration in the industry. The new company will have even greater power to offer huge discounts in return for tying up outlets, restricting the opportunities for the small brewers to sell their beers. This will increase the already dominant position of their bland, heavily advertised, national brands at the expense of the tastier, craftsmen made beers from the independent brewers.

EDITOR'S POSTBAG Hop Press index

Another request for local information:

Dear Sir,

Many years ago my grandmother, when she was alive, gave me an old pint glass. On it, is written, in white glass lettering: Scrase's "Top Hole" Beer.

I also have a photo, circa 1900, of the Bargate. To the right of the Bargate is a pub with a sign advertising Scrase's Ales.

I believe that the Scrase brewery was behind Hanover Buildings but if any readers have a full history of the brewery I would be most interested to get some background to my old glass.

Yours hopefully,
Steve Fryer
23 Cranford Gardens
North Miller's Dale
Chandlers Ford
S053 1PU
 

Scrase's Star Brewery was behind the Star Hotel, registered at 29 High Street. It started in 1829, was bought by Strongs in 1927 and ceased brewing in 1947. The coppers were taken to Strong's Romsey brewery and were still in use when Whitbread closed that brewery in 1981. At its peak, Scrase had over 80 tied pubs. The pub by the Bargate, if the photograph was taken from the north, could be Scrase's Coachmakers' Arms which, in 1904, was refused a licence due to its dilapidation! Its site is now under the tarmac to the west of the Bargate. This is all I can add, if a reader has full details please let Steve know (and me, there could be a good article in it) – Ed

The following letter is a copy of one originally sent to the Editor of the Morning Advertiser, the licensed Victuallers' trade newspaper.

Dear Sir,

In over twenty years of reading the Morning Advertiser I have never before been provoked into responding to any correspondence. However, a letter published from Mr Hart, the MD of Hall and Woodhouse, which seemed to consider Tenant Publicans much as medieval Barons considered their serfs, so enraged me that I wrote directly to him. Amongst other points, I stressed that! would never stock any of his products.

He replied to me, in detail, I responded and was happy to end the matter there.

However, I then had a telephone call from my landlord (the MD of Wadworth) quizzing me about my correspondence!

How did my landlord get access to letters sent through the Royal Mail? If anyone has suspicions that brewers run a cartel this episode will not dispel them.

My advice is to do business only with those with whom you share mutual respect. Certain brewers still believe that we Tenants are the little people between themselves and their customers. They should remember that we pay their rent, we buy their beer and it is our endeavours that generate their (often inflated) salaries. I wonder what response we can expect next – our chattels taken as tribute, or perhaps our cottages burnt to the ground?

Yours
HFW Buckner MB!!
St. James' Tavern
Winchester

A comment on the last Hop Press article about cross-Channel beer imports.

Dear Sir,

This summer The Archers storyline had the Grundys making cider for nothing from P.Y.O. apples sold at an inflated price. The legal and tax aspects seemed to be fudged.

The Guardian, months ago had a report about a small brewery in Kent, called I believe, the Canterbury Brewing Company. Their "angle" was to ferment to order small batches of wort, individually tailored, for personal consumption. The claim was that there was no tax requirement.

If this is a legal activity, isn't this preferable to having Transit vans coming and going to France? Does CAMRA have any more details on this intriguing concept?

Yours
Nigel Cook
66 Ivy Road
St. Denys

 

The Canterbury brewery is actually The Great Stour Brewery, Stour Street. Indeed this apparent scam is quite legal as long as the resident brewing advisers do nothing towards the brewing after one has bought the materials. There are a number of similar operations: Brewers World at Watford and at the Ivy Bush in Birmingham and in London Mr Bung at Acton. The idea has come from Canada where there are over 250 tax-free brew-your-own establishments. Could it happen here? – Ed.

PUB NEWS Hop Press index

Rob Whatley

Eastleigh acquired a new pub, the Litten Tree, in August. The first new pub in the town centre since that classic example of post-war architecture, the Good Companions, opened in 1955. (Ignoring the short lived Hancocks, which became part of the Martines "nightclub"). The Litten Tree is run by the Surrey Free Inns pub company, which has 29 pubs in the South of England. A number of these also have the Litten Tree name, we know not why. The pub is in Eastleigh's High Street, in the former Cantor's furniture store. During the day it is aimed at the general pub trade but in the evenings lights begin to flash and loud music breaks out to drive out the older clients and to target a younger element.

At the start it looked promising for real ale drinkers, there was a range of beers including the excellent Youngs Special. Unfortunately this was not to last long and now there are only products of the Bass and Scott-Co nationals. A big screen TV has also appeared in the main bar. [On a recent visit I was surprised and saddened to see a four or five year old boy standing at the bar with a group of swearing youths, all of whom appeared to be acquaintances of the "door control staff" – Ed.]

A second new Eastleigh pub, the Gateway, has just opened in Leigh Road by the M3 junction, opposite Manor Bakeries. This Whitbread establishment is a Brewers' Fayre and Travel Inn. It is on a small parcel of land within the motorway slip roads and was constructed in a few weeks from ready-made bedrooms stacked up like Lego bricks. The original application in 1992 was for 108 rooms, outline permission was for 98, a revised application in 1995 was for 80 but the end result is 60, with more space being given to the restaurant and bar area. The bar sports three hand-pumps with Boddingtons and Flowers on two and the other awaiting a possible guest beer. Ironically, Ken and Barbara Ingrim, who run the Gateway Inn in Northlands Road, Southampton, have been considering changing the name of their pub to avoid the supermarket jokes and have asked customers for suggestions. As it was originally built in the thirties as a girls' school there must be scope for something, if not witty then at least lewd!

Another of Eastleigh's newer pubs, but oldest buildings, Ham Farm, has had a £350,000 refit, much of which went on re-thatching the roof. We are wearily used to brewers' ideas of decor being only something the Philistines could live with but Bass's efforts here take some beating. It is so crass that we can almost recommend a visit to marvel at it, however, since there is only a single cask beer (Bass) available perhaps not...

Another old building within the Bass empire that has undergone an extensive, £500,000, refurbishment is the Cowherds on The Common. Boards outside the pub proclaimed that it would reopen "200 years behind schedule." Customers expecting earth privies, candlelight; bear-baiting etc. will be disappointed; as will anyone hoping for beer at twopence a pint! Stone floors and open fires have been restored and Bass and Worthington Best are served by handpump. A food table service is available all thy. The new licensees are Mancunians Gary and Jackie Thomasson. One change is that customers will no longer to be able to drink outside the pub, which should help to avoid the mess that greeted early morning visitors to the area last summer. The licensee said that he was not too concerned because he wished to get rid of any "rowdy elements."

One of Winchester's oldest pubs, the Bell at St. Cross, has also had minor alterations, happily these have not greatly changed the two separate drinking areas. Changes will be more dramatic at the Fulflood, where the two bars are to be knocked into one. As some compensation for this loss of internal variety, there is a promise from owners, Marstons, to restore the original tiled frontages.

A Winchester pub that has been refurbished after years of neglect is the Albion opposite the bottom of Station Hill. The basic bare wood decor has been done in a smart rather than "distressed" style and the outside has been smartened up to give a much better impression to those arriving in the city by train. Beers on sale in this free house include Hook Norton Bitter. The new managers are Guy Carpenter and Helen Sutherland. The pub is one of eleven now owned by Albion Leisure, which was only founded in February. One of the founders, John Clark, was formally Chief Executive of Devenish. Possibly a similar transformation may appear at the other end of the city at the Louisiana, which closed in June. New leaseholders, Luton-based Luminar Leisure, have renamed the pub Barringtons and there will be a smart dress code. It will have a Victorian theme and the upstairs will be a restaurant. Barringtons opens on December 18th. Nearby residents, who have had to suffer nuisance caused by customers of the pub in its previous incarnation, may still be concerned about the application for a late license for midnight closing during the week.

A brand new and unusual venture in the city is to be the North Pole in Parchment Street. It will be a theatre pub with a mixture of food, live drama, film and discos on the proposed menu. Friday nights will, we understand, be non-alcoholic! A bold idea but is it commercial? The front of the building is a cafibar with the entertainments in a separate room to the rear. We await developments with interest. The businesses of Wykeham Arms licensee Graeme Jameson have expanded as he has now reopened the post office and general shop opposite his pub.

Following Charlie Chalk in Brewers Fayre and Tom and Jerry in Berm Inns, Whitixead's latest attempt to capture the imagination of the drinkers of the future has surfaced in Winchester. Chimneys (ex Weeke Hotel, Weeke Tavern, Blighty's, Chesters etc. etc.) is now a Mouseketeers Family Inn. Some customers were not too impressed by being charged 50p to allow their children to play in the ball pool.

Elsewhere in Winchester families, and many other drinkers, are likely to welcome discussions that are to take place between "interested parties" into establishing non-smoking areas in all Winchester pubs. We wish such an experiment well but with the notorious individualism of licensees as a whole can it have a chance of success?

After many months of planning controversy the Horse and Jockey, on the Romsey bypass (Mainstone Road), has finally reopened. It is run by the Emberley family who also run the White Hart at Cadnam. The Horse and Jockey, which had been closed for 24 years, is very much in the same vein, with a strong emphasis on the food trade. Though it claims to be a free house all the beers on sale when it opened were from Scottish Courage – John Smiths, Old Peculier and Directors at £2.00 a pint. The menu makes the most remarkable claim, that the pub is "recommended in all major pub guides." For a pub reopening after a quarter of a century this must demonstrate formidable clairvoyance on the part of guide editors! Perhaps the various guide publishers and the local Trading Standards department should take an interest...

Moving to the west, the "new" Cross Keys in Totton reopened as a "sports and games pub" without real ale. At Eling it is to be hoped that the proposed demolition of the ladies' toilet at the Anchor Inn will be made up for in the alterations and additions in a second subsequent application. A more serious proposal is to put three houses on the site of the Orchard Inn at Pook's Green near Marchwood. The Flying Boat at Calshot is likely to undergo alterations that will see part of the building converted to six en-suite hotel bedrooms. Although it is against local planning policy, it is felt that this is the only way in which the remote pub can remain a viable business.

There are new licensees at Minstead's Trusty Servant. Tony and Jane Walton have moved there after four years at the Queen's Head, Burley. One change noticed is that Ringwood Best has replaced the Hook Norton Bitter.

One Forest pub that has been seen by millions throughout the country, is the Foresters' Arms at Brockenhurst. It featured in the BT advertisement in which customers are asked how much they think it would cost to have a telephone reconnected. A pub that has been disconnected is the Red Linnet in Barton-on-Sea. It has been closed by Whitbread and is likely to be replaced by housing, although the first application for four flats has been turned down. The closure came as a great shock to a couple from Bashley who had arranged for their wedding reception to be at the pub and claim not to have been told of any impending closure.

A new outlet in Lymington is the former Monet's which is now the Pied Piper. It is attracting a mostly young clientele. Whitbread has lost its appeal to retain two blue and white PVC marquees behind the Mayflower in Lymington. The marquees had been used in recent years but will not be allowed in future because, according to the planning inspector, they are, "...completely alien to this pleasant and attractive modern half-timbered building." The Royal Oak, in Dowton, has been having unplanned alterations as cars keep crashing into the pub and its surroundings – four within eight weeks! Perhaps the drivers are trying to speed up the alterations that are proposed to enlarge the car park and to join the adjacent car showroom onto the pub.

Two Southampton pubs are to have a change of use. The Royal Oak in Millbrook is to become a Misseibrook and Weston shop and some flats whilst the Old Black Cat in Swaythling is being rebuilt as a MacDonalds. This seems a rather short sighted action by owners Greenalls as the pub would have been in an excellent location when (or maybe if), the new stadium at Stoneham is built. Another group of Southampton pubs under threat are the Wig and Pen, the Spa Tavern and the Dog and Duck. All three are threatened by the need to create a link between Above Bar and West Quay shopping developments. It is not yet certain if all three pubs will have to be demolished. The Robert Burns in South Front may also be demolished to become a car park. In Northam, the Ship Inn was taken over for a time by squatters who held all night raves at the "Hip Inn." Now these have now been stopped perhaps the revellers will be visiting the Oriental in Queens Terrace, which has now reopened as a club.

Another pub that recently had a reopening was the Rising Sun in Shirley. The proposed publicity stunt of getting well known imbibers, The Beautiful South to visit the pub before playing the Guildhall fell somewhat flat when they failed to turn up. The pub is a lot brighter and more airy than before but with Sky football, quizzes and twice weekly discos, little else appears changed. The Rising Sun is owned by Greenalls, who have just bought the Heathlands Hotel/Vine Inn at Ower. This will become part of Greenall's "Millers Kitchen" eatery chain. An unusual change of management is at the Sports Centre's Pub in the Park. It has been renamed the Sporting View and will be run by a consortium of local sports clubs. It is owned by Southampton City Council.

One piece of pub news we have previously overlooked is Maurice and Maureen Quirk's take-over at the Salisbury in Shirley last winter. The pub was substantially altered during its closure and refurbishment and most comments have been very complimentary. The owners, Marston's, are certainly pleased with the results themselves as they have entered it for CAMRA's annual "best pub refurbishment" award. As well as the usual Pedigree and Bitter the Salisbury also has Marston's Head Brewer's Choice and Banks's Mild. Nearby, Bass's Old Thatched House may be getting an extension at the back and some new thatch on the roof. Nearer the city centre there is a licence application for another new outlet that is being built behind Bedford Place, opposite the Pensioners. Its exact nature is not yet clear but the location suggests it will target the younger market.

The plurals plague is still with us. New licensees Mike Riley and Delia Gray have renamed the St. Leonards in Northam, Bootleggers. Buskers in Bevois Valley has been acquired by the owners of the nearby Hobbit and has reopened as yet another Irish Theme Pub, Festy O'Malley's. It is little more than a copy of those opened by all the big brewers. Ironically, until a couple of years ago, when it was still the Stoneham Inn, it had a large percentage.of real Irish customers, presumably they will now avoid it.

Greene King opened a new pub in Southampton several weeks ago (the Old Fat Cat) and are about to open another (Lucky Jim's) in Eastleigh, see the Greene King article for more details. A few doors up from the Old Fat Cat, another brand new bar, the Centro, opened on December 7th. This is owned by Swaybar, the company that also has the Lizard Lounge in Bedford Place. Described as a "trendy café-bar" the Centi o unfortunately has no draught ales and is aiming more for the beer-by-the-neck clientele. Finally, there is to be yet another outlet just below Tyrrell and Green, we have few details, except that the owners are said to be the Just So Pub Company.

LAST ORDERS Hop Press index

Dave Etheridge

I look back to the earliest days of my involvement with real ale and I miss the easy decision making of those days. Back at the start of the eighties, when I had my irrevocable conversion to real ale, I used to drink in a Whitbread pub that was all keg. One day a handpump appeared on the bar selling the newly re-created Strong Country Bitter (still then from Romsey). The landlord persuaded me to try it – from then on I was hooked. The beer from this lone handpump was always in good condition and many of this pub's customers, both the novices like me and the more mature drinkers re-discovering real ale, drank it.

Soon after, in 1983, I discovered CAMRA and started trying beers from other brewers in pubs throughout the country. Most of these pubs then had no more than a couple of handpumps – a Mild and a Bitter or perhaps a Bitter and a "Best." Occasionally one got the choice of all three.

One of the very best pubs I ever visited was in Edinburgh, the Athletic Arms, packed to the gunwales it only served one real ale (McEwan's "Eighty-shilling"), but from twelve fonts! The beer was nectar! This pub has the record for selling a thirty-six gallon barrel of beer – sixteen minutes.

Now, thirteen years on, friends suggest trying a pub because it has six handpumps, or eight, or more... When we get there the bar is, as likely as not, nearly empty and you now become a compulsory entrant in the deadly game of real ale roulette. As you approach the bar there are six beers to choose from, are they a couple of vinegars, a soup, two barely drinkables and, if you are in luck, the one really good ale you are looking for? Can you outwit fate, find perfection and make your day? Unfortunately this is not something the pump clips will tell you, so you can only pay your (often considerable) money and take your chance.

I know I can take the bad ones back but given the seemingly unequal odds should I have this hassle on almost every visit to an unfamiliar "beer exhibition" pub?

Before I am banned from some of my favourite haunts, especially the ones with a wide choice – yes, there are many pubs that can, and do, serve six or more real ales in excellent condition. But, I do feel that the ratchet-like, ever increasing race to offer more choice has not been universally favourable to the best interests of the real ale cause. I would rather know, on entering a strange pub, that I could trust the single handpump to serve me a sublime brew than to worry that the long row of handles in front of me may offer only false hopes and indifferent tastes.

As a post script, it is encouraging to see that one or two pub groups now have a policy of offering free "tasters" to any customer trying to choose a beer from their range on display. Although, in itself not tackling any underlying quality problems, it does at least lower the roulette odds!

Quiz Answers Hop Press index

Read the questions first! Page 10. [above]
I. Japan (September 15th).
2. Fire festival in January in the Shetlands.
3. Aurigny Air, the Yellow Perils.
4. Sir Toby Belch (Twelfth Night).
5. Louis Pasteur.
6. Proof Spirit.
7. Manchester Guardian, from 1872. Appointed at age 26.
8. It expands on solidification, fitting the type mould exactly.
9. A carrier pigeon service.
10. Grand Old Party, the Republicans.
11. Sir Winston Churchill.
12. £500.
13. Because it is deciduous (softwoods are all evergreens).
14. Norway, a gift for our WWII effort.
15. Historical dating by tree ring evidence.
16. Dorset men (are not), it is the county motto.
17. Vapour from mercury, once used in felt making, sent mad, then killed early hatters.
18. Fawley refinery (catalytic cracker).
19. Fermented fruit and sugar mixtures, mead, "British Wine" etc.
20. The famous Uncle Joe's Mint Balls.
21. Chewing Gum.
22. Have antlers (male only in all other deer).
23. Caribou – they are the same species.
24. The Hapsbergs.
25. Gone below freezing.
26. Autumn (ie not winter).
27. Seasonal Affective Disorder, depression caused by dark days.
28. Nutmeg tree – nutmeg from the fruit's inside and mace from its husk.
29. Indonesia, now known as the Moluccas.
30. A Turkey.
31. Howard Hughes' giant wooden flying boat, the "Spruce Goose," preserved at Long Beach.
32. Trabant is German for satellite!
33. India.
34. Auguste Rodin sculpted it.
35. Oscar Wilde (Ballad of Reading Jail).
36. To get flogged (in Nelson's navy, the miscreant was tied to a gun carriage).
37. Dundee.
38. 1955 (as a "one off," it was never expected to be a regular event).
39. Arabic.
40. 1/16th of a square metre (A0 is one square metre, halving at each smaller size, imagine continuous folding).
41. 8, it is a spider.
42. Yours, of course!

Hop Press issue number 42 – December 1996

Editor: Pat O'Neill
1 Surbiton Road
Eastleigh
Hants.
SO50 4HY
01703 642246
hop-press@shantscamra.org.uk

© CAMRA Ltd. 1996

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