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People power sees dramatic cut in beer tax

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A Swedish friend of mine says that in his country that a love child has many names.

The cutting of the beer in the budget http://www2.beerguild.co.uk/?p=3928 is indeed a momentous moment, which many people can rightly claim they have contributed to and claim as theirs.

But for me the biggest contribution was made by ordinary folk, beer drinkers who lobbied Parliament in December last year.

I wrote the following piece for use in What’s Brewing on the day of the lobby, it was my humble attempt to encapsulate the passion of their campaign.

“Remember this day 12/12/2012”, said CAMRA Chief Executive Mike Benner, “when we lobbied more than 300 MPs. You should be very proud.”

They came in their hundreds, from all parts of the United Kingdom. From the north, south, east and west more than 1,200 members journeyed to London to take part in CAMRA’s mass lobby of Parliament.

Some travelled by trains and boats and even one member by plane. South Herts member Ian Boyd had flown into London that morning from Taiwan to see his MP. And 10 coaches bought members from around the country to Emmanuel Hall in Westminster, where activists gathered before walking to Parliament to see their MP.

Some made placards and posters, there were licensees and brewers but most were ordinary CAMRA members, who had taken a day off work, to ensure that MPs get the message loud and clear that over the past 40 years there have been few threats to the UK pub industry as severe as the beer duty escalator.

Parliament witnessed the largest mass lobby in CAMRA’s 40 plus years, as more than 205 members had pre-arranged meetings with their MP and more than 300 MPs met with CAMRA members from their constituency.

One MP said CAMRA had created a real buzz in Parliament and it was the largest and best organised lobby of Parliament he had seen. Even Labour leader Ed Milliband wanted to get in on the act, as his office contacted CAMRA to find out if anyone from his Doncaster North constituency was attending the lobby.

North Oxfordshire branch chairman John Bellinger said the day was the “greatest opportunity, possibly ever, for ordinary people to have a positive effect on the decision makers of this country, to address this ridiculously unfair tax,

And John knows first-hand about the crippling effects of the tax. A former licensee, he used to run the Bell in Adderbury, Oxfordshire until April last year. He says the beer tax escalator contributed to exceptionally high costs making his business unviable.

“The Government needs to recognise the harm this policy is doing to well-run community pubs,” said John.

South Herts member Steve Bury had made arrangements to meet his MP, James Clappison. Steve said: “I know my MP supports the campaign to scrap the beer duty escalator, but I want to ask him to canvass other MPs to get them to support the Early Day Motion (EDM) 703.” The EDM call for a review of the economic and social impact of the beer duty escalator, which should report back to the Treasury before the 2013 Budget.

Rutland branch secretary Jon Whowell had travelled to London that day with three other members of the branch.

“We are only a small branch and I am really pleased with the turnout. I am really impressed by the organisation that has gone into this day,” said Jon.

Alexandra Bardwell came up from West Dorset to see her MP. “He is very supportive, but I wanted to be part of the big noise,” she said.

Reflecting on the undoubted success of the day CAMRA National Chairman Colin Valentine said: “Today is not the end, we must keep putting pressure on MPs, so they keep putting pressure on the Treasury. Let’s not be careful out there, let’s do it to them, before they do it to us.”

And they did it. Not only was the escalator scrapped but beer duty was cut by 1p.

And I am sure like good campaigners, CAMRA will not stop. Laurels are not for resting on. The selling of alcohol at below cost prices by supermarkets needs to be stopped.


Written by timhampson

March 20, 2013 at 5:08 pm

Posted in Budget, CAMRA, Uncategorized

We must end the myth of 24 hour pub opening

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If you listened to some politicians and elements of the media they would have you believe that all pubs in the UK were open 24 hours a day, leading to a breakdown in society as we know it.

Well it is not true, was never true and completely ignores the fact that the pub is probably the best, most controlled environment for people who want to have a drink.

New government figures released by Department for Culture, Media and Sport reveal of the more than 200,0000 places where alcohol can be legally sold in England and Wales less than four per cent have a 24 hours licence and most of these are supermarkets and hotels – and not pubs.

Of the 7,567 venues in England and Wales with a 24-hour licence, nearly eight out of 10 (78 per cent) are off-licences or hotels. According to the DCMS 4,200 were hotel bars, 1,700 supermarkets and stores, 950 pubs, bars and nightclubs, and 740 other premises types.

The DCMS also debunks another myth that a 24 licence means 24 hours of opening. It says “the possession of a 24-hour licence does not necessarily mean that the premises will choose to open for 24 hours”.

The great advantage of the current licensing system is that they offer pub operators flexibility – and this could be put at risk by the current review of licensing law.

The BBC ran the headline “Round-the-clock drinking licences at record level” (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11436311).

But again, what do DCMS figures show – there was a four per cent rise in the number of 24-hour licences, but in real terms this meant around 100 more shops and supermarkets were permitted to open around-the-clock and 100 more pubs and bars.  Well the BBC headline “Round-the-clock drinking licences at record level” was right in one respect, there was a small increase in the number of licenses issued, so I suppose they are at record levels. But the DCMS analysis of the increase has a different interpretation it says “the main premises types that have 24 hour licences to sell or supply alcohol – remained constant at 4,400 over the last couple of years”. Now that hardly sounds like an epidemic of 24 hours drinking.

If the pub industry does not fight its corner better – and do more to rubbish claims about there being a 24 hours pub culture, the current review of licensing laws could mean an end to pubs staying open to midnight or even 11pm. And if that did happen the chances are that even more people would choose to drink cheap alcohol bought from a supermarket than go out to the pub.

Go to http://www.culture.gov.uk/publications/7456.aspx for the latest licensing figures.

Written by timhampson

October 1, 2010 at 10:44 am

Search for best beer writer competition – entries close 8 October

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Have you got the words to be Beer Writer of the Year 2010 and win £1,000?

The British Guild of Beer Writers is giving beer communicators the chance to enter their work in six different categories, with one of the category winners to be named as the Beer Writer of the Year and receive the coveted Michael Jackson Gold Tankard Award*. http://www.beerwriters.co.uk/news.php?x=1&showarticle=1609

Cound you follow in the footsteps of Michael Jackson - the Beer Hunter and become beer writer of the year

The competition is open to writers, broadcasters, photographers, poets, illustrators, designers, webmasters and bloggers whose work has broadened the public’s knowledge of beer and pubs. Nominations and entries are being sought for six categories:

Molson Coors’ Award for Best Writing in National Publications – prize £1,000 & £500

For the very best writing or broadcasting aimed at a general audience, published in the national (and international) press, consumer magazines, books, national television and radio.

Adnams Award for Best Writing in Regional Publications – prize £1,000 & £500

For the very best writing or broadcasting aimed at a specific local or regional audience, published in local and regional newspapers, magazines, radio, television and CAMRA newsletters.

Wells & Young’s Awards for Best Writing for the Beer and Pub Trade – prize £1,000 & £500

For the very best writing or broadcasting aimed at the brewing and pub industry, published in trade and company newspapers, newsletters, magazines, reports and websites.

Brains SA Gold Award for Best Online Communication – £1,000 & £500

For the very best use of blogs, websites and social media, whether that be writing or use of other tools such as video or social networking.

Budweiser Budvar John White Travel Bursary – prize £1,000 plus trip to Czech Republic

For the very best travel-themed beer writing (or beer-themed travel writing) or broadcasting. Entries can be from national, local or regional media, books, trade publications or online.

Bishop’s Finger Award for Beer and Food Writing – prize £1,000

For the very best writing or broadcasting on the subject of matching beer with food (an area formerly dominated by wine). Entries can be from national, local or regional media, books, trade publications or online.

Winners to be announced at prestige beer banquet

The winners will be announced at the British Guild of Beer Writers annual awards dinner. The event is being held on 25 November at the Radisson Bloomsbury with the meal prepared by Michelin starred chef, Sriram Aylur, from the Quilon Restaurant in London – www.quilon.co.uk.

Sriram will showcase the food of India’s south-west coast and his passion for beer.  The cuisine is light and fragrant offering flavours that will complement and contrast a selection of beer pairings.

Sriram, who first made his name in India as executive chef of the Karavali restaurant in Bangalore, was ranked one of India’s top five chefs; he has since brought his enthusiasm for home-style, south Indian cuisine to London.

Sriram’s menu features a modern and stylish take on traditional flavours with a fabulous beer list to match. Sriram also stands tall on the global stage, each year preparing banquets for delegates at the Davos World Economic Forum.

The judges

Current Beer Writer of the Year Pete Brown has agreed to be chairman of the judges. Pete Brown is author of Man Walks into a Pub, Three Sheets to the Wind and Hops and Glory, and the annual Cask Report.

He will be supported by:

Niki Segnit – Author of this year’s breakthrough cook book The Flavour Thesaurus, a compendium of flavours with recommendations on how to pair them. Heston Blumenthal calls it ‘An original and inspiring resource’ and it’s basically selling copies as fast as Bloomsbury can reprint them.

Harry White – A brewer of thirty years standing, formerly Global Director for Technical Compliance with Molson Coors, recently retired, past president of the Institute of Brewing and Distilling, author of several papers covering technical aspects of brewing.

Sarah Bridge – Leisure correspondent at the Mail on Sunday, has written extensively about business issues in leisure retail including the beer and pub industry.

How to enter

To enter the British Guild of Beer Writers Annual Awards send four copies (photocopies or printouts from PDFs accepted) of each entry, published or broadcast in the last 12 months up to 30 September 2010 – stating where it has been published. Authors of books need to send four copies of the book.

Website and bloggers entries – please send web address and URLs of the pages you want the judges to read.

Entrants can enter as many categories as they want, but they are limited to a maximum of six entries within each category. Remember, quality is more important than quantity so send one good entry in a category rather than six mediocre ones.

The entry should be accompanied by a letter stating which category or categories are being entered.

Entries should be sent by 8 October to – Beer Writers Competition, c/o  Seal Communications, Commercial Street, Birmingham, B1 1RH

Contact Seal: Nigel Pipkin 0121 616 5800 E: Birmingham@seal.uk.com

Entrants are asked to nominate which category they would like their work to be entered into but the judges reserve the right to consider work for other categories.

Editors, publishers and other third parties can nominate entrants to the competition.

Entrants do not have to be members of the British Guild of Beer Writers – they just have to communicate about beer or beer culture, new products or the ingredients and brewing of beer.

There is no limitation on the number of categories that an individual may enter.

Entries can only be returned if accompanied with a self-addressed, stamped envelope or packaging.

*Michael Jackson (27 March 1942 – 30 August 2007) who was also known as the beer hunter, dedicated more than 30 years to discovering, recording and then sharing the world’s finest beers in his many books, articles and TV programmes. He was the first Chairman of the British Guild of Beer Writers.

Pictured from left: Budweiser Budvar’s Ian Moss presents current Beer Writer of the Year Pete Brown with the Budweiser Budvar John White Travel Bursary.

Guidelines for entrants can be found at http://www.beerwriters.co.uk/news.php?awards=1&showarticle=23

To book a place at the awards dinner – ticket price is £70 per person or £56 for BGBW individual members.

For more information contact Angie Armitage, at angie@cask-marque.co.uk or on 01206 752212

For more information on the British Guild of Beer Writers Awards contact Tim Hampson Tel: 07768 614283 – Email: tim@infopub.co.uk. Blog: https://beerandpubs.wordpress.com


Written by timhampson

September 24, 2010 at 12:54 pm

Turtley Corn Mill, Avowick is the cream of Devon

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A former chicken hatchery has been transformed into a fine pub

You do not have to be driven to the Turtley Corn Mill in an open topped car on a still warm, end of summer’s day, but it helps as is it is a glorious, exhilarating ride though the undulating Devon countryside from the city of Exeter.

The mill wheel remains as a tribute to its former life

The location is idyllic; the original mill is set in six acres of grounds bordered by the River Glazebrook, in Avonwick, South Brent. It has its own small lake complete with an island, perfect for sunny days, idle wandering, the watching of quacking ducks and people playing lawn chess.

Check mate?

Once the site sounded to the clucking and chirping of fowl as for many years it was a chicken hatchery before becoming a pub in the 1970’s. The former mill was transformed by a radical refurbishment in 2005, which has introduced oak and slate floors, bookcases, old furniture and loads of local pictures. However, the old mill wheel remains as a striking reminder of the building’s previous existence. Inside, the style is light and fresh with no music, fruit machines or pool tables, just newspapers to read, books to browse, good food and great local beers.

There is plenty of space in the garden for drinking

My friend opted for a cream topped hot chocolate. I preferred a glass of Otter Bitter from a farm based brewery in East Devon’s Blackdown Hills. The Otter Brewery was set up in 1990 by the McCaig family. Its eco-systems should make most people green with envy. It has a semi-underground eco-cellar built with clay blocks and a sedum roof. And the effluent safely flows out into its own reed bed. I have a particular liking for a bottled beer Otter brewed for sale in the US, Hoppy Otter at 6.8 per cent ABV, which I do not think was ever sold in the UK. However, for me the really great British beers are brewed at about 3.6 per cent ABV. It needs real skill to get so much taste into something we often call in an understated way “ordinary bitter”. There is nothing ordinary about Otter’s Bitter, it is complex and full of ripe fruit notes. With my lunch, I had a glass of St Austell’s IPA, it went well with the local haddock fillet fried in a real ale batter. Well I know it is not a proper IPA, but it is an easy drinking malty –and toffee flavoured beer balanced by some refreshing citrus hops.

Many fine walks surround the pub

After lunch we took a 15 minute walk alongside the river, joined by fellow customers trying to wear dogs and children out. Then back to the car and shunning the A38 we took the winding b-roads back into Exeter. http://www.turtleycornmill.com/

Written by timhampson

September 13, 2010 at 5:49 pm

Join the search for the Welsh John Barleycorn as Hay on Wye become Beer on Wye

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The town of Hay on Wye on the English and Welsh border is world renowned for its literary festival. But now it is having a rival ale and beer books weekend – 24-26 September – at Kilvert’s pub in Bear Street.

Organiser Ed Davies says he has arranged for some of the country’s best beer writers to come and talk about their work.

Hops and Glory author and beer writer of the year Pete Brown will describe his three month journey from Burton Trent to India in the company of a cask of IPA.

You get two pints for the price one when Adrian Tierney-Jones (1001 Beer You must Try Before you Die) and myself (The Beer Book) debate which are best – ales from North Wales or the South.

Melissa Cole will take the “beard out of beer” and lead a tasting for the ladies and a beer and food matching. And if all of this is not enough, Zak Avery, author of 500 Beers, will describe some of his favourite brews.

From the Wye Valley Brewery Peter and Vernon Amor (brewers of Dorothy Goodbody’s Wholesome Stout) will be giving readings from the Dorothy Goodbody stories and Breconshire Brewery’s head brewer Buster Grant will talk about the future of beer in the Principality.

Should you tire of the beer, there will be talks and readings by several local authors and poets. And if you want something that goes with a bang the Sealed Knot’s Hay Garrison will be firing their muskets. More than 50 different Welsh ales will be available at the festival.

Tweet it, blog it, tell people about it. Go to www.thehaybrewery.co.uk/festival for more information.

Wadworth goes green

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Fresh, green, plump and full of citrus zest, fresh green hops.

For the last 18 years, at the start of England’s hop harvesting season, a van has left the Wadworth brewery in Devizes to drive to a hop garden in Herefordshire. Its mission is to collect a vital ingredient for the Wiltshire brewery’s Malt & Hops seasonal beer– fresh green hops. The quest means an early start for someone from the brewery, as the hops have to be harvested and transported back to the brewery in time to be put into the first brew of the day.

Wadworth head brewer Brian Yorston has been making the run for the last three years, continuing a tradition started by his predecessor Trevor Holmes. “We think we were the first brewery in Britain, to produce a green-hopped beer,” said Brian.

Hops are normally dried before use – reducing the water content from 70 per cent to 10 – importantly they are analysed so the brewer knows more about their aromatic or bittering characteristics.

Brian Yorton assesses the hops as they grow on the bine.
But fresh hops beer are undried, crisp and full of the season’s flavours and are something of a flavour lottery when added to a beer.

This year I had the privilege of travelling with him to collect the hops – an aroma variety called Early Choice a member of the Fuggles family of hops. Brian is looking for enough hops to brew 270 barrels of beer –some were picked yesterday and lightly dried, while the rest was picked this morning as the dew lay heavy on the hills, which surrounds the Newham Farm hop garden, owned by Ian Ibbotson. Suddenly summer seems to be ending and autumn is rushing in. “We use the same mash each year, and the same quantity of hops but what the beer will be like will be a complete surprise,” said Brian.

Inside the hop back, the ripe hops are spread out before they are covered by boiling wort. Brewing beer in this way is hard physical work.

“I have no idea what the beer will taste like,” confides Brian. I do not know what the alpha content of the hops is.”

The amount of alpha present in a hop is what contributes aroma to the hops. Analysis of the hops to find its alpha levels will take five days, but waiting for an analysis of the hops to return from the laboratory, will be too late for the hops to be used and still be fresh and green.

“You can look at it, you can smell it, but that only hints at the surprise to come,” says Brian.

And what of this year’s harvest – as I smell it I am assailed by wonderful fresh citrus aromas and a zesty tangerine flavours. To brew the beer he uses 500lb of the hops together with 6,500kg of Optic malt – comprising 98.5 per cent pale ale and 1.5 per cent crystal. We taste the hot, sweet wort as it runs out of the mash tun. It is sweet and sticky, with an overwhelming nose of rich Horlicks. Then we try the hopped wort as it comes from the cooler. The tart bitterness of the hops has subdued much of the sweeter flavours.

But what will the beer taste like? I will find out on 16 September, when this year’s Malt & Hops is tasted for the first time.

“Last year’s was very bitter – said Brian, “It is quite different every year he says as he promises to see if he has any previous brews left so we will be able to do a comparison.

But with rich, ripe barley delivering sweet malt, hopefully balanced by the tart, zesty hops it should be a winner.

Malt & Hops, at 4.5 per cent ABV, is available in bottle and on draught.


Written by timhampson

September 2, 2010 at 3:49 pm

Weltenberg Kloster – is this the most beautiful location for a brewery in the world?

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Many come to enjoy the Kloster's garden

I first visited this brewery when researching for The Beer Book, published by Dorling Kindersley.

For people from the UK, Weltenberg is not immediately on the beer tourist trail. However for people in Bavaria it is a popular and much loved destination.

Can there be a more dramatic or magnificent location for a brewery in the world? Located on a bend in the Danube, the beautifully decorated baroque Benedictine abbey is literally hewn from the 150 million year old Jurassic limestone rock, which forms high towering cliffs on either side of the river, running from its source in Germany’s Black Forest on its way to the Black Sea.

In a courtyard, where giant chestnut trees grow, the church of the Weltenburger Monastery and Kloster brewery stand side by side.

The brewery stands close to the monastery

Weltenberg was founded in the 7th century by two monks, Eustasic and Agilus followers of St Columban – one of the patron saints of brewing. Manuscripts in the monastery’s library show that beer has been brewed here for over 1,000 years, with production only being halted from 1803-1846.

But though the site is old and redolent with tradition, there is nothing old about the brewery, which is a modern, automated, hi-tech brewery able to brew both bottom and top fermenting beers using water drawn from the brewery’s own well.

The Kloster’s brewmaster is Anton Miller, at 25 years of age he is looking forward to a long career at the brewery. His predecessor worked at the brewery for 49 years.

Inside the brewery everything is scrubbed, polished and scrupulously clean and even the stainless steel mash and lauter tuns which were installed in 1982 look as shiny as the day they were commissioned.

“We might be the oldest brewery in the world, but we use the newest techniques,” said Anton. “Quality beer needs the equipment and ingredients,” he said.

The commitment to quality certainly seems to be paying off as the Weltenburger Kloster has added to its growing list of awards after Barock Dunkel took the Gold Medal in the dark lagers category at the World Beer Cup 2008 in San Diego, USA.

Anton says that the Dunkel, which has been brewed for more than 150 years, is the beer the monks usually choose to drink. However, while fasting for 40 days and 40 nights during Lent they prefer the stronger Asam Bock. “It is their liquid bread,” he said.

Anton prides himself on the brewery’s close links with local Bavarian farmers – every June he visits the barley fields to choose the grain which will be malted in Bamberg. The sweet and spicy Perle Hallertau hops, which are used in pellet form, come from three farms near Munich.

The brewery produces seven beers – Weissbier Hell, Urtyp Hell, Barock Hell, and Pils, are top fermented at 8C for seven days; and Weissbier Dunkel, Barock Dunkel, and Asam Bock, are bottom fermented at 22C for four days.

Deep beneath the ground, under 40m of limestone rock, can be found the brewery’s lager store.  Here the Dunkel is stored at zero centigrade and sometimes lower for at least three months. A process that slowly releases the Barock Dunkel’s aromatic, malty flavours and well-balanced richness.

Visitors to the brewery can enjoy this beer, which is pumped directly into its own bar.

The brewery’s beer garden is open throughout the year and is renowned not just for its beer, but also its extensive menu of Bavarian dishes including Klosterwurst, a spicy home made sausage, suckling pig and boiled beef.

The brewery is open to visitors at weekends. Nearby, there are many fine walks and cycle tracks and the best way to arrive at the brewery is said to be by river from nearby Kelheim.

Is this the most beautiful location for a brewery in the world?

Weltenburger Kloster

Asamstrase 32, 93309 Kelheim, Germany


Written by timhampson

September 1, 2010 at 10:15 am