Southern Hampshire CAMRA

Hop PresshopsHop Press Issue 66 front cover

Issue 66 – Spring/Summer 2009

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EDITORIAL Hop Press index

April the third brought a new era for Eastleigh's cask ale drinkers, with the opening of the town's first Wetherspoon pub.
Our cover picture shows the new venture, recognisable of course to many as the Home Tavern, but now operating as the Wagon Works — alluding to Eastleigh's historic past as a railway town.

Wagon Works pub signReportedly, £640,000 pounds was spent on a complete revamp of the building and a layout in the familiar Wetherspoon house style. If the opening night crowds are anything to go on such expenditure could quickly be recouped, even with the well publicised Wetherspoon 'cheap beer' policy. The entire stillage of real ales sold out on the opening day, by day two only three cask beers were back on pending a new delivery! The pub manager said "We never anticipated such a demand..." possibly the understatement of the month. Meanwhile, it is rumoured that another nearby local pub reduced some beer prices the next day in response to the opening, and are applying for 9am opening to match their new rivals.

[I will interject here a small personal criticism, of the railway theme. It is very surprising, and disappointing that the pub signs and much of the interior theme did not use Eastleigh built engines. The signs in particular do not even feature a Southern Railway engine, it is a Swindon built GWR freight loco used for hauling coal in South Wales.

Any chance, Mr. Martin, of a bit more expenditure on two new signs, perhaps with a Nelson or a Merchant Navy? — Ed.]

[Update 01/05/2009: The Editor's comments, and those from many others, have not fallen on deaf ears it seems. The pub signs have already been taken down, even before Hop Press is published, and we are told more suitable replacements are on their way — Webmaster]

Greene King high tech cask beer engineNow another occasion, unusually, to include a picture in the Editorial section. The Greene King national brewing/pub company issued a press release at the start of April (not the first, surprisingly) which, whilst in passing extolling the sales increases and growth of the real ale market place, announced what they describe as "a cask beer revolution" — a new beer dispense system.

After some months of trials in a number of Greene King pubs around the country , over 2000 of their pubs will now be fitted with what they describe as:

"...a new high-tech cask beer engine, which gives beer lovers a choice of styles for their favourite pint – 'smooth and creamy' or 'clean and crisp'."

"Taking inspiration from the revolution in coffee, where choice is the name of the game, the stylish Cask Revolution font is now being rolled out to pubs across the country — for the serving of fresh, crafted, award winning Greene King IPA."

And, in the picture, here it is. Why, just to dispense beer with or without a 'tight head,' should require such a chrome edifice when a simple request to slacken or tighten the sparkler on a conventional hand pump would serve as well, is beyond us.

Now to Mr Stephen Oliver. Mr Oliver, a name some may recognise, is the Managing Director of the Marston's Beer Company and is a frequent, outspoken, columnist in the Morning Advertiser , the licensed trade's newspaper. On Friday, March thirteenth he must have woken in a particularly splenetic mood for he produced a rant against CAMRA and our membership that was almost unbelievable for its bigotry, bile and malice.

Starting mildly enough, his column welcomes an increasing cask ale market — far and away better than any other drink sector, and rightly welcomes it; pointing out that it's an area that the supermarkets cannot penetrate. Then he flips:

"... You'd think that the beardy weirdies of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) would be happy that their favourite brew is seemingly coming to the rescue of at least part of the British pub scene. But no! Apparently, according to the Malcontents of CAMRA's sandal-clad, whisker-stroking stormtroopers a guest ale's not a guest ale unless it comes from some oddball brewery down a country lane and is served with bits in it under a name like Knackered Old Cripplecock."

Then, after a small promo for the numerous beers produced within the Marston empire, we get:

"Bizarrely, though, some licensees seem to think that they should have an even wider choice, egged on of course by the itinerant CAMRA bunch that go promiscuously from pub to pub, looking for their next eclectic pint brewed in a cupboard with dubious benefit of progressive beer duty. They're a gobby lot, the beardies. Holding up the glass, opining on the beer before them, more often than not talking rubbish about ingredients and how it's brewed. Licensees should be aware [sic, beware? Ed.] of kowtowing to them. .. it would be a tragedy if the hobbits took over the show."

There's more but you get the general tenor. Clearly, the clean-shaven Mr Oliver must have had some awful childhood experience of a hairy nanny perhaps!

Keystone Brewery Hop Press index

Rob Whatley

There was an open day at the Keystone Brewery on January 30th. In charge of showing visitors around was Alasdair Large who, together with his wife Charlotte, founded the brewery in 2006. Tour guide is just one of the jobs that Alasdair performs, alongside delivering the beer, sterilising the bottles, cleaning the floors, not to mention brewing the beer. Charlotte, who is better known as Charlie, is in charge of marketing and sales. Further assistance is provided by Nick Browne, Alasdair's brother in law, who has done much of the work on converting the 'Old Carpenters Workshop' into a brewery.

Alasdair spent 20 years in the army. He has used the brown, green and red colours of his regiment, the Royal Tank Regiment, as the colours for the bands painted on the brewery's casks to distinguish them from those of other breweries. He had done some home brewing while based in Edinburgh and for the last couple of years while he was in the army he would spent weekends at breweries, doing odd jobs and finding out how everything worked. He also completed the Brewlab training course at the University of Sunderland.

They first entered what is now the brewery on June first, 2006. It is located some 18 miles to the west of Salisbury, on a rural business park set within the Fonthill Estate. Its previous use as a store for game meant that it already contained a large cold store. The first brew was on June 28th that year but unfortunately there were problems with the boil so it just became a learning exercise. Since then, though, there have been no brewing or the equipment problems.

As far as possible, the brewery produces its beer using local products. All the malt is purchased locally from Warminster Maltings. In February the first delivery was taken of barley that was grown 300 yards from the brewery door and then malted at Warminster. All hops are grown in the UK, in Kent, Herefordshire and Worcestershire. This does mean that Alasdair is unable to use some varieties that he is keen on, such as Cascade, as none are currently available from UK growers. The water, or liquor as it is known in the brewing industry, is sourced direct from a borehole. The yeast used to come from the nearby Hop Back Brewery but now they propagate their own.

As mentioned above Nick Browne is much involved with the construction of the brewery. His main job involves solar panels, so now there are solar panels on the roof of the brewery which help to heat the water for brewing in the summer. Even with less sun in the winter months the panels do mean that the water is some 15 degrees warmer than it would be otherwise.

To the beers. The best bitter, and the first beer brewed, is Large One, which has an abv of 4.2%. This is the brewery's best selling beer. Cornerstone, at 4.8%, is mainly a summer beer while Cheer Up (as in, 'Cheer up the days are getting longer!') is available between December 21st and June 21st. The 4% abv Gold Standard is brewed using Boadicea hops and the same recipe with added ginger is sold as Gold Spice.

The brewery's Porter is 4.5% on draught but 5.5% when bottled. Occasionally the stronger version can be found on draught in pubs where Alasdair knows it will be appreciated by discerning drinkers. In addition to Porter, Large One and Gold Spice are also bottled. The bottled beers have won a number of awards but contribute to just five percent of production. There are also seasonal beers in the brewing schedule, including Wiltshire Pale Ale and Solar Brew.

The beer is brewed on a ten barrel plant with four ten barrel and two five barrel fermenters, quite small in the new micro-brewery spectrum. While Alasdair would like to expand production, he has no wish to expand to the extent that the brewery outgrows the current premises. He wants to keep control over both production and where the beer gets sold. Therefore there are no plans to use wholesalers to distribute the beer. Most of the brewery's customers are community pubs, which is how Alasdair likes it. The trading area is bounded by Southampton, Bath and Swindon. The two pubs in our area where you are most likely to find Keystone beers are the Guide Dog in Southampton and the Royal Oak in Fritham.

But why Keystone Brewery? Alasdair said that choosing the name was one of the more difficult decisions that had to be made when setting up. The name Keystone was inspired by the carved keystone in the archway that is located on the estate and is known as the Fonthill Arch.

Most Hop Press readers live near enough to the Keystone Brewery that they are likely to come across one of their beers in a local pub. Perhaps, in the future, the brewery may become more famous on a national scale if a television company ever decides to produce a 'How Green is my Brewery' series! (opens new window/tab)

Pub News Hop Press index

Rob Whatley

The Editorial in this edition has already welcomed a new star in the Easteigh firmament, the new Wetherspoon's outlet, the Wagon Works that has opened in the former Home Tavern following a massive £640,000 refit.

Another pub that is again serving customers following a lengthy period of closure is the Ship Inn, which featured on the cover of the last edition of Hop Press. It reopened in November, having been closed since May, and is being run by Scott Garner and Alberto Costellone, who also manage the Chase Inn at Waltham Chase.

Lower Upham
Nearby in Lower Upham, the Alma is now trading as a Crown Carvery. This was the 101st opening by the national chain which is part of Mitchells and Butlers. On the chain's website, when looking for the nearest Crown Carvery one is able to narrow the search to those establishments that have Sky TV, Setanta Sports or a quiz night. Some readers may wish to use the facility to identify outlets with or without one or more of these features.

The Haywain at Bartley underwent a similar conversion late last year, having previously been, like the Alma, a Brewers' Fayre and then an Innkeeper's Fayre eatery.

Shirrell Heath
The Prince of Wales at Shirrell Heath reopened in November after a major refurbishment. A good selection of real ales was on offer when we visited the pub. Owners Admiral Taverns spent £130,000 on the revamp, while licensees Grace and Drew McCartney also invested £30,000 on the project.

A further £150,000 was invested by Admiral Taverns on the Hyde Tavern in Winchester. The gas fires have been replaced by log burning fireplaces and the original floorboards have been uncovered. Two features that remain are the undulating floor and the unusual gents urinal. A number of beers are now served straight from casks behind the bar in addition to those from the bank of three hand-pumps.

Almost opposite the Hyde Tavern work is at long last progressing on converting the former Prince of Wales into homes. It is more than five years since the first planning application for the scheme was submitted and even more since the pub closed.

Another former pub site, lying vacant for five years, is in Weeke. Chimneys closed in February 2004 and the pub was demolished in 2005. Now, following five rejections by council planners and two public enquiries, an inspector has given permission for an Aldi supermarket to be built on the site.

Will there be as much delay at the site of the Stanmore Hotel? Despite a vociferous campaign from locals, the last pint was served in the early hours of 2009 at a New Year's celebration attended by some 150 customers. Although the planners refused plans to use the site for a 56 bed care home, this was reversed on appeal last autumn. Campaigners wanted to challenge the decision but the cost was prohibitive. Colten Developments have suggested that it might be some time before the care home is built.

Despite this doom and gloom about pub closures, some are still thriving. An application has been made for single store