Saturday, 1 May 2010

Marston's Fast Cask spreads

Marston's new Fast Cask system for storing cask beer will be used in every Piano & Pitcher bar along with any other sites that take the brewery's new EPA brand. Fast Cask employs "yeast beads" that drop straight to the bottom of casks but allow a normal secondary fermentation to take place. The system was launched during Cask Ale Week in March. Justin Wray of Marston's said the system had been well received. "CAMRA's endorsement -- or at least a lack of opposition to it -- has been really good news for us."
As reported exlusively on, the concept allows beer to "drop bright" almost immediately, which means it can be served from upright casks in bars or pubs that do not have conventional cellars. Fast Cask removes the problem of casks being knocked and having to wait for several hours for it drop bright again.
The system is being rolled out to Pitcher & Piano sites as a programme of refurbishments for the bars is completed. "We've also had pubs in the free trade signing up for Fast Cask and these are pubs that have never had cask ale before," Wray added.
Fast cask was initially available for two beers: Marston's Pedigree and Wychwood Hobgoblin but it's now also available for Marston's EPA, which was launched on St George's Day.
"EPA is a new product and it will only be avilable using Fast Cask, whereas the other brands are also available in conventional form," Wray said. "As a result, we think it should be a lot easier to encourage trials of Fast Cask via EPA."

Mild comes storming back

CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, kicks off celebrations today (1 May) for national Mild Month with research showing an increased profile for the Mild Ale beer style. In a survey of 500 real ale drinkers spread across Britain, CAMRA found that 84% have seen an increase in the number of Mild beers served in pubs and at beer festivals during the past five years. Similarly, 75% of those surveyed also noted the availability of Mild beers in pubs and brewery shops within a 30-mile radius of their home.
The aim of Mild Month is to encourage locals pubs to stock the style throughout May and to encourage trials of the traditional beer style through such initiatives as "try before you buy" with a third-of-a-pint sampling measures, Mild beer and food matching events, and Mild beer tasting sessions.
Once classified as an endangered style, there are now more than 200 Milds beer brewed in Britain, more than twice the number at the end of the 20th century. CAMRA's research shows that even a proportion of real ale drinkers are unaware of the variety available, with 41% unaware of the fact that there are more than 200 Milds brewed today.
Duncan Woodhead, CAMRA National Beer Styles Co-ordinator, says: "In the past six months alone, some of Britain's leading brewers have reverted back to calling their renowned brands a Mild. With the overall growth of the real ale sector coinciding with figures showing 50% of British drinkers have now tried real ale, there's a real opportunity for Mild to return to its former glory, when in the 1950s it was the nation's most popular beer style."
In the survey, CAMRA asked drinkers to name their best-loved Milds. The top three were Rudgate's Ruby Mild from York, which is CAMRA's current Champion Beer of Britain, Sarah Hughes of Sedgley's Dark Ruby, and West Berkshire Brewery's Magg's Magnificent Mild.
*Daniel Thwaites of Blackburn has launched Highwayman (4%) to coincide with Mild May. The beer is described as smoky and dark in colour, with a rich, plummy sweetness dervived from roasted chocolate malt.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

LibDems close the gap in beer election

With just over a week until polling day, the Society of Independent Brewers' "beer-ometer" -- indicating parliamentary candidates' support for local beer, is showing a similar pattern to the real opinion polls, with the Liberal Democrats closing on the Conservatives' early lead.
When the election was called, SIBA wrote to some 2,300 candidates encouraging them to replace the traditional victory tipple of imported Champagne with a glass or two of beer brewed in their constituency by one of SIBA's 450 brewers. To date, the Tories have been the most enthusiastic, accounting for 36% of positive responses, the LibDems second with 32% and Labour trailing with 18%. The Greens have 11% -- a high proportion given that they have fewer candidates, while independents take the remaining 3%.
SIBA chairman Keith Bott said: "We've been very pleased by the response from parliamentary candidates and from SIBA brewers who have followed up our initital offer to candidates with a personalised approach of their own. It would be good to think that this could be the start of a continuing dialogue between local brewer and local MP -- and even better if it also involves local pubs."
He added: "We haven't heard from any of the party leaders in response to our offer, though I'm delighted that Minister for Pubs John Healey was one of the first to reply. We're confident that around 50 new MPs will be celebrating their success with beer rather than Champagne on election night."

Monday, 26 April 2010

Batemans wins top award

Batemans, the family-owned brewery in Wainfleet, Lincolnshire, won the Best Regional Brewer award in the prestigious ceremony staged last week by Publican newspaper. Brother and sister Stuart Bateman and Jaclyn Bateman, great-grandson and grand-daughter of the founders, collected the award before more than 1,500 guests at the Grosvenor House Hotel.
The annual event recognises the best companies and individuals within Britain's licensed sector and is the biggest awards event for the pub and brewing sectors. The evening was hosted by comedian Michael McIntyre.
Stuart Bateman, managing director of Batemans Brewery, says: "It's great to have won such an award when we are up against companies 10 times our size. The Publican made it clear that the reason for our win was due to us having taken the relationship between tenants and the brewery to a level far beyond that of any other brewery. This means our tenants feel they have our support and assistance, their businesses are more likely to do well in this tough climate, and more local pubs will be able to stay open and continue to be an integral part of the local community.
"This builds on the Pub Company trophy we were awarded in 2009. What is particularly pleasing about winning the Best Regional Brewer title is that it encompasses not only our pubs but the way we do business generally -- our customer service, our training, our CSR programmes, our innovation and excellence in our beer production and the special relationship we have with our customers who appreciate our personal approach."
The Publican judges said: "Batemans demonstrated innovation in its tenancy agreements and has launched a new code of practice which shows it has taken the traditional values of a regional brewer and set new standards for the industry."
The Publican trophy will be on show at the Wainfleet brewery once it has toured Bateman pubs.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

First Beer Twitter a great success

A Twitter session conducted for Cask Ale Week on Monday 29 March proved a great success. The session was run by CAMRA at two pubs in St Albans where I tasted and gave my views on five beers: Fuller's Discovery and London Pride, Wells Bombardier, Young's Special and Badger Tanglefoot.
More than 400 people logged on to the session and there was a lively debate about the merits of the beers.

Drinks giant attempts to quash small brewery

In a David and Goliath confrontation, the might of the French Champagne house Charles Heidsieck has cracked down on a tiny Kent brewery, Old Dairy, over the name of its Red Top beer.
Heidsieck, part of the global Remy Cointreau group, is claiming infringement of trademark on the grounds of confusion with a name they have registered. At Old Dairy, managing director Lionel Fretz is struggling to see the connection between beer and Champagne. "When we found out that Heidsieck had the name Red Top registered for Champagne, we never imagined there would be a problem. They are claiming the likelihood of confusion, which is absolutely ridiculous. They produce superb French Champagnes, we produce fine English ales. It's a totally different market and are in a different league when it comes to price. The only similarity I can see is they both appeal to discerning drinkers."
Old Dairy Brewery is based in an old dairy outside the small Kent village of Rolvenden and brews two beers: Red Top (3.8%) and Gold Top (4.5%).
The stand-off recalls the case brought by the American whiskey maker Jim Beam that attempted to block imports of the Irish stout Beamish on the grounds of product confusion.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

CAMRA slams Budget duty increase

CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, attacked the government's lack of regard for communuity pubs and responsible beer drinkers following a punitive increase in beer duty in today's Budget, with plans to increase duty above inflation for the next three years.
With close to six pubs a day closing, CAMRA fears these latest rises will mark the end for many more community pubs, with beer prices in pubs set to rise by up to 20p a pint. Instead of freezing beer duty and helpinn to protect community pubs, the Chancellor's last act before the general election is to impose a further duty hike that will lead to more pub closures, the campaign added. Beer duty has soared by an unprecedented 25% in the last two year.
Mike Benner, CAMRA's Chief Executive, said: "Today's Budget is a charter for the large supermarkets who irresponsibly promote alcohol as a loss leader at the expense of the nation's community pubs. We are totally at a loss to understand how a government that recognises the community value of pubs can impose such consistently draconian duty increases."
CAMRA also exppressed concern at the 10% above inflation increase in duty on cider and will demand government action to support and protect small cider producers.