Had a fantastic night with our latest beer & food dinner at The Bull. Really chuffed with mine & David’s menu & the beer pairings that we chose.Here’s a taste of what was on offer…
The festival will feature beers brewed up and down the Northern line including the two brewpubs own beers brewed within short walks of Highgate & Woodside park stations respectively. Other brewers to be featured will include Brew by Numbers, Camden Brewery, Barnet Brewery, Islington Brewhouse & Kitchen, Southwark Brewery, By The Horns and more! Both pubs will have over 25 Northern line beers on each plus other draught beers, ciders & extensive bottle beer lists. Full beer lists to be announced shortly…
We can also confirm a very special collaboration with former Brewer of the Year Derek Prentice in anticipation of his new Northern Line home Wimbledon Brewery!
Both venues will be hosting meet the brewer events for the London Brewing Co brewers and more informal sessions with other brewers featured in the festival.
The Bull will be hosting a ‘Book & Beer Matching’ evening with previous Beer Writer of the Year Pete Brown who will pair Northern Line beers with passages from his own beer books including ‘Shakespeare’s Local’ on Thursday evening.
The Bull will also host a seven course beer and food matched dinner on Friday, keep an eye out on their website, Twitter & Facebook tickets are on sale and the menu will be released shortly!
Award winning beer writer Adrian Tierney-Jones will be hosting ‘Almost 1001 Northern Line beers’ at The Bohemia, a FREE tutored beer tasting and talk about London beer on Saturday afternoon at 3pm.
So pop the dates in your diary and travel the tube from the comfort of your own bar stool…
Award winning beer writer, cider oracle and good friend of mine Pete Brown has just launched his latest book idea on Unbound, a crowd funding site for authors.
Crowd funding appears to be the new black. Recently, online fine food box retailer Flavourly shunned investment from Dragons Den in favour of crowd funding and is racing towards its total already passing the Dens offer of investment. At the time of writing Camden Town Brewery have raised just shy of £1m of their £1.5m #hellsraiser Crowdcube target to build a new brewery. Last year restaurateur Gary Usher from Sticky Walnut took to Kickstarter to raise funds for his new venture Burnt Truffle promising investors meals, parties, aprons, a life size cut out-out of one of his chefs and more depending on their level of investment. The restaurant community on Twitter got behind him in a big way and saw the target of £100,000 met in time for deadline day. This was my first foray into crowd funding and I am eagerly awaiting the opportunity to enjoy a meal at Burnt Truffle knowing I made a small part of it happen.
I loved Pete’s first four beer books, and whilst there are a lot of facts, figures, dates and historical events dotted throughout them, it never feels hard work. It’s almost as though you are sitting in a pub enjoying a pint with Pete listening to him regale stories about breweries, beer, pubs and his travels. I am sure his latest beer book will have the same relaxed feel whilst it walks us through the four main ingredients in beer, extolling the virtues of each of them, describing their own unique effect of the flavour and feel of the pint in our hand.
Nobody has written a book quite like this about beer and I think it would be a great loss if we don’t ever get to see it in print. That’s why I have taken to crowd funding for the second time. Plus apparently I have access to Pete’s shed, which I can only assume is crammed full of beer where the pruning shears and old croquet set used to be…
£20 for a book with your name in that you helped into print. It’s a bargain.
Before I get started, please note: I love beer, I love talking about beer, I love other people talking about beer, I love seeing beer on TV, I love learning about beer, I love teaching people about beer.
Carlsberg don’t do craft beer video reviews, but if they did…
- They would read the label before turning the camera on.
- They would strive to know a little about the subject of beer before pondering aimlessly about what OG means.
- They would use a tasting glass instead of a pint glass or dimpled tankard filled to the brim in their attempt to find an aroma.
- They would have a vocabulary of words at their fingertips to describe flavours and aromas instead of repeating the same ones over and over and over and…
- They would know about the brewing process before making their own assumptions and passing them off as fact.
- They would not burp on camera.
- They would learn to use a simple video editing suite.
- They would be less than five minutes long.
Rant over. On a lighter note, if Carlsberg did Drum Rehearsals…
Alternatively, here, are some examples of the above traits.
Last night was the beery event of the year, especially if you like writing (or reading) about it, the annual awards dinner for the British Guild of Beer Writers #BGBW. For the third year running I helped choose the beers to pair with the stunning four course meal at the Jumeirah Carlton Tower alongside Tim Hampson and Sophie Atherton. Even if I do say so myself, it was the best yet. Working with Executive Chef Simon young over the past three years has been a joy, his inventive menus are great fun to pair beer with and he is always so accommodating if we have any ideas or changes to bring to the table.
A lot of prior planning goes in to the dinner each year and several meetings and tastings happen throughout the summer and autumn months, all organised by the lovely, very hard working, Fiona our events coordinator. Beer and food matching a menu for 220 people is no small feat, and there are several, self-imposed, rules.
- The first rule of #BGBW is that we don’t use sponsors beers
- The second rule of #BGBW is that we don’t use beers associated with ourselves or Guild committee members
- The third rule of #BGBW is that don’t repeat breweries too frequently.
So where to start… with the beer or the food? The first year I was involved, we took Simon’s menu and went away to find beers we thought would work. Last year we came up with some beers we really wanted and asked Simon to put dishes together to pair with those beers. This year was far more organic.
Firstly, Tim was really keen to have a canned beer to reflect the innovation in the burgeoning British beer scene. The novelty of everybody sitting down to a swanky dinner with a beautiful, brightly coloured can of beer in front of them worked a treat. At one of our earlier meetings we brought a selection of cans along and sat in the lobby of the hotel, listening to a harpist, whilst drinking them with Simon. We brainstormed flavours that would work with each beer until the chef came up with a dish we all agreed should work with one. A few weeks later we went back for a menu tasting, just to make sure!
Fourpure Session IPA has beautiful tropical fruit flavours which carried the lime leaf and lemongrass in Simon’s Thai fusion risotto, followed by citrus notes to lift the seafood and a balanced bitterness to lighten the rich risotto and bisque.
We also take care to consider an alternative dish, this year a salad of whipped goats cheese, pomegranate, rocket and roasted cauliflower paired brilliantly with Fourpures crisp, clean Pils.
For the main course Simon came up with two dishes that he loved, an exceptionally posh roast chicken with a delightful cauliflower cheese beignet or roast breast of guinea fowl, wild mushroom and celeriac Wellington, buttered spinach and red wine jus. At the tasting we had each brought a couple of beers we thought might work with one or both of the dishes, we eat, drank, sipped, tasted, deliberated, cogitated and digested. We also had the vegetarian vegetable tempura served with fried rice and sweet and sour sauce dish to consider…
Wolfie Smith, a beer from exciting upstart brewery By the Horns made it’s way to the table. It’s pithy bitterness lifting the crispy skin and bacon wrapped vegetables, the earthy malt backbone marrying the mushroom wellington and then the sweet malt and grassy hops leapt all over the sweet chilli and tempura vegetables, we had ourselves an all rounder.
At a beer dinner at The Bull in Highgate earlier in the year, myself and Tim had a pairing so perfect for pudding we were desperate for Simon to re-create the combination. The pairing had been put together for an Okell’s dinner by the talented Jo Miller and my head David Hook. the Aile smoked porter with chocolate lollipops and raspberry dipping coulis.
Simon brought us three different takes on those flavours to the tasting and we dutifully tried them all and the result, our decision, was possibly the pairing of the night. Aile is a smoked porter, not heavy and only 4.7%, the peated malt works some kind of magic with raspberry and the deep dark chocolate notes of this clever little beer are a perfect bedfellow for dark chocolate, add in a bit of spritz and the cloying sticky sweet caramel gently disappears ready for the next great gobful. Pure perfection indeed.
In previous years the meal has finished with petit fours, it has been sad to see the beautiful tiny morsels go to waste. Sophie was keen to get cheese to the table and as Simon talked passionately about small Sussex dairy Alsop and Walker, who produce a great range of cheese all from the same farm, we decided it was time to ring the changes. Deciding the logistics of pairing three different cheeses with three different beers was perhaps a step too far for an event of this size we set about finding one beer, one beer to pair them all. To my surprise the weighty golden barley wine, Headcracker, from Woodforde’s in Norfolk fitted the bill a treat.
For those who attended the dinner, I hope you enjoyed yourselves, many thanks to the breweries whose beer we enjoyed, and huge congratulations to all of the winners, especially Brewer of the Year, Mark Tranter from Burning Sky and Beer Writer(s) of the Year Boak & Bailey.
Cheers, or as they say at Okell’s sláinte.
For the third year in a row I have been lucky enough to get involved with choosing the beers for The British Guild of Beer Writers annual awards dinner, each year I have had the pleasure of working with executive chef Simon Young and some of the best beer writers in the country. The event, to be held this year on Thursday 4th December, is attended by 220 leading beer writers, brewers and beer lovers at The Jumeirah Carlton Tower Hotel, Knightsbridge.
In my mind, despite some very useful guidelines, there are few absolute ‘rights and wrongs’ in beer and food matching as personal preference comes in to play an awful lot. Do you love your spice to be heated up with an IPA or do you prefer the mellowing notes of a wheat beer? Do fruit beers float your boat with chocolate or do you turn to the darkside and sink bottle of imperial stout? With a room full of 220 beer lovers there is certainly no shortage of opinions, so choosing the beers to pair with the four course meal can be a minefield… ‘you can’t please all of the people all of the time’ I remind myself. Thankfully, it really is a task which I relish, and this year alongside Tim Hampson (Chair of The British Guild of Beer Writers) and Sophie Atherton (Britain’s first female accredited Beer Sommelier) I think we have come up with some fantastic beer and food pairings.
The menu, as always, is adventurous for a banqueting meal. Simon likes to push the boat out and enjoys coming up with menus for us, helpfully tweaking his dishes to help the pairings shine. Hundreds of emails, several meetings, two beer tastings and one food tasting precede the final decision, it’s a tough job :)
I’m not going to spoil the surprise completely, so hopefully you’ll be there to enjoy the dinner, and to see the current Beer Writer of the Year, Will Hawkes, dish out the 2014 awards. I hope you enjoy the meal and the beers we’ve chosen. I know you’ll be enjoying the free beer from the sponsors bars from 6pm, but if you fancy a pint beforehand, I’ll see you at The Nags Head for an Adnams or two.
A robust porter brewed as a tribute to the those that once made London one of the most important brewing centers in the World. A modest 4.7%, but full of chocolate, caramel, biscuit, raisin and roast flavours with a rich complexity from the additional speciality Belgian & German malts. It’s also been packed with English hops to balance the sweet malty notes. Those Fuggles and Goldings add a smooth lingering bitterness and whilst it’s not a hop forward beer, there are some moreish earthy, spicy notes to draw you in and make you want another.
Up until the early 1800’s Highgate had a pub called the Old Black Dog, now the site of St Joseph’s on Highgate Hill, it was reportedly named after the popular pooch favoured by the cattle drovers who frequented the pub.
Our own popular pooch, Dylan, is a black lab cross with a white flash on his chest reminiscent of the fluffy white head on our Black Dog Porter. He too is full of character and draws everybody in as soon as they meet him.
Dylan, now a London Brewing Company pub dog, can be found regularly sauntering around The Bull, always looking for affection, not treats, usually in his favourite place “in the way”. He also frequents our sister pub, The Bohemia, and even oversaw delivery of the new brewery recently.
“There are pub dogs, then there is Dylan”
Adrian Tierney-Jones, Telegraph
Dylan is 8, he has been a pub dog since he was about 16 weeks old when we fostered him from Futures for Dogs, a rescue center in Kent. The above quote was written about him in a Telegraph review of my last pub The Thatchers Arms by the eminent, eloquent beer writer Adrian Tierney-Jones.
Futures for Dogs is a wonderful charity, fostering and re-homing dogs to give them a new life with loving families. They have huge costs, vet bills mainly, and every penny comes from donations. So from every pint of Black Dog Porter sold by London Brewing Co will donate 20p to Futures for Dogs in Dylans name. You will find this limited edition beer at The Bull and The Bohemia while stocks last!
If you have met Dylan I hope you will feel generous enough to support his rescue home by joining us for a pint, and if you are feeling exceptionally generous or can’t make it to the pub, you can donate via PayPal!
When London Brewing Company head brewer Rich White got the opportunity to brew a collaboration with Bill Dobson, he couldn’t wait to pick his Brains! The beer itself, a blueberry maple mild, is a real coming together of the breweries, brewers and their backgrounds. Brewed at The Bull in Highgate North London it combines the traditional Welsh Brains Dark recipe with maple syrup from American brewer Rich’s home county and the final flair of blueberry from Bill’s experimental side. In the kettle, the maple adds woody, earthy tones and the extra maple used in the casks brings sweetness and the signature maple aroma.
The beer will be launched on Thursday 25th September during cask ale week at The Bull in Highgate. It will be served with mini Blueberry Maple Pancakes (free from 7pm!) and a host of other beers from Brains as they take over the taps at our North London brew pub.https://thatchersbeerblog.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post-new.php
As well as the collaboration brew, S.A Gold, Frisco, Stars & Stripes, Atlantic White and Mexican Wave will also be on the bar from Brains. We are also sending a couple of casks back to Bill back to Cardiff… who knows, it might even make it out of the brewery!
The Bull, 13 North Hill, Highgate, London, N6 4AB
Brains Brewery Head Brewer: Bill Dobson @brainsbrewer
The first Cider vs Wine tournament to take place in London hits Highgate on Thursday 18th September.
The Bull in Highgate is hosting an evening of glorious food paired with a range of carefully selected wines and ciders in a follow-up to the first such battle, hosted by at my previous pub, The Thatchers Arms, in February 2013.
Back in 2013, cider beat wine 4:1. Can wine equal the score this time?
Tickets are £40 per head for a five course menu and include a cider and a wine with each course. Guests will be introduced to each course and asked to vote for their favourite food pairing after each dish has been served.
The five course menu devised by David Hook, head chef at The Bull, is listed below, whilst the paired drinks are being closely guarded by their ambassadors. If you want to know what drinks are being served you’ll have to come along on the night!
I will be showcasing ciders’ versatility with pairing events under my belt. Steve Parsons from Genesis Wines will be championing the grape, having previously beaten beer at a similar event, he’ll be choosing from the stunning arsenal of wines in their trade list.
The results of the previous battle, organised with DrinkBritain.com, where Henry Chevallier-Guild and Pete Brown championed cider, and Emily O’Hare and Dan Probert vouched for wine, were captured by Offshoot film students and can be seen on Youtube.and featured on Fiona Beckett’s matching website.
This is set to be a fantastic evening, full of great food and drink. Many will assume wine will triumph, but the underdog often carries an advantage… with a 4:1 win under its belt is cider the underdog anymore?
Butternut squash risotto, sage, parmesan
Pan seared scallop, Clonakilty black pudding,
pea & mint panna cotta, crispy capers
Braised, curried shoulder of mutton with turmeric, cumin & tomatoes,
plain rice, homemade naan
Classic lemon tart
Colston Basset Stilton with frozen grapes and fig chutney
If you have any dietary requirements please contact us directly before booking tickets.
For further info contact Mitch (email@example.com) or The Bull on 020 8341 0510.
The Bull, 13 North Hill, Highgate, London, N6 4AB
The Bull – www.thebullhighgate.co.uk
Genesis Wines – www.genesiswines.com
Cider vs Wine Video at The Thatchers Arms – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZWLIMjDrl0
Fiona Beckett’s Report – http://www.matchingfoodandwine.com/news/recent/is-cider-more-food-friendly-than-wine1
Only a few years ago matching a meal with beer was seen as experimental by some, now award winning beer writer Pete Brown is pairing the world’s most loved liquid with music, and to impressive effect!
I managed to see Pete’s short beery show at the fantastic Stoke Newington Literary Festival. Sitting down with six beers, two disguised and wrapped in brown paper, a peg and a packet of skittles in front of me, I wondered how this might work. Is there terroir with music and beer matching? Does the saxophone go with beers from it’s fatherland Belgium? Does country music sound better with a glass of beer from Georgia brewery Sweetwater? Why do guitars taste like hops? What the hell is that peg for?
Actually there is quite a bit of science behind it, and Pete has teamed up with Charles Spence, Professor of Experimental Psychology at Oxford University to research these links. Don’t worry though, this isn’t a lecture, our renowned raconteur Pete breezes through the science bit effortlessly and still manages to get the audience gasping and guffawing along with some crowd rousing tunes. Obviously the enjoyment is enhanced by the beautiful beers, and whats more there’s no need to feel guilty about your imbibing, you’re learning a little bit!
This weekend sees the start of London Beer City, a week long celebration of beer in the capital. What better way to kick things off than listening to Pete, and his eclectic taste in music, whilst drinking delicious beer.
We also have a beer festival at The Bull for London Beer City: 14th – 17th August ‘Beyond the Pale’
Thursday night 7pm – Meet our brewer. Join Rich for a tasting a selection of our beers including our one off black IPA fermented on dark cherries, Cherry Bomb. No tickets, just show up.
Friday 7:30pm – Beer & Food matching evening. A seven course tapas style meal paired with different beers from our festival – tickets essential – only £35 for all seven courses and beers.
Last month I had the pleasure of visiting SA Brains Brewery in Cardiff after being invited down to brew a beer with them on their Craft Brewery. The theme for this year is ‘Best of British’ so I decided to set about researching lost styles of British Beer. I came across Mum, Mumm or Mumme a heavily herbed strong bitter wheat beer which lost favour around the start of the 19th century. Originally a German style of beer, it was said to be ‘as strong as six horses’ becoming popular in Britain from at least the 1660’s (according to Zythophile).
After to speaking to Brains Head brewer Bill Dobson we decided to use some poetic license and create a beer inspired by the original Mumm’s but perhaps more popular with the modern palate. Originally they were dark, strong wheat beers and could be aged for up to two years with “ten new-laid eggs, not cracked or broken,
are to be put into the hogshead, which is then to be stopped close, and not tapped for two years“. Mumm’s the Word is a wheat beer which has been heavily herbed, it is lighter in colour and ABV to it’s historic counterparts so it should be an enjoyable and refreshing white ale, perfect for summer! Oh, we didn’t put any eggs in either… sorry.
Arriving at the brewery in Cardiff the night before brewing, the scale of the main brewery really struck me. Unfortunately it’s not the prettiest of buildings, but when Brains outgrew their original town centre home they moved in to the old Bass site behind the central train station. Bass were brewing on a mammoth scale here before they moved all of their operations to Burton-on-Trent and whilst Brains brew a lot of beer it does feel a little like they’re wearing their big brothers hand-me downs. Some parts of the building aren’t used, vast rooms full of old open fermenters the size of swimming pools lay dormant. The shiny new 15 barrel ‘craft brewery’ has been built in place of an old disused mash tun, it’s right in the heart of the rest of brewery taking advantage of the hot liquor supply, the existing malt mill, substantial lab and of course the break room, well stocked with Bill’s homemade jam.
After mashing in an enjoying a few slices of toast and jam we set about the scientific calculation of how much of each herb to use. Bill presented a selection of infused liquids which we proceeded to mix with each other and the warm wort until we were happy. Finally we decided on elderflower, nettles, pennyroyal, raspberry leaf, peppermint, cloves, black pepper and fresh pine shoots harvested locally. To complement them we chose a new British hop, Beata, said to have aromas of honey, dried apricots and almond, the latter being less obvious.
I have yet to taste the final result, but it arrives at my new pub, The Bull in Highgate, ready for our medieval shindig ‘Swearing on the Horns‘ this Friday! It will also be available to Brains pubs from July 9th.
Having just returned from Bristol where I presented on the opportunities of pairing cider with food at the Cider Trends Summit I thought I would put a few thoughts (on the summit and food pairing) down here…
[jump to food pairing]
The Publicans Morning Advertiser put a fantastic event together. I particularity enjoyed hearing from Michael Gillane, Heinken UK, about the state of the cider market at present. Bruce Jack, Orpens Cider, on his diversion from the wine industry in to Irish and South African craft cider and Pete Brown on ‘the most exciting cider market in the world’, aka North America.
The biggest lesson I hope that the UK cider industry takes away from the summit, and something that was echoed throughout the day, is that consumers, retailers, publicans and writers all want more transparency and more information around the cider we are drinking. We would love to know the apple varieties used and the juice content and we want more information on cider styles and flavour profiles. Education and innovation are going to be vital if this cider boom is going to have longevity instead of slipping away to make way for the next fad.
Talking to a room of nearly 200 cider professionals about the opportunities for pairing cider with food was a daunting task, thankfully I had the wonderful advantage of feeding and plying them with cider. Although I have tried and tested the three pairings I was very grateful to see that the majority of the room agreed with me. You can see what people had to say on Twitter via the hashtag #cidertrends.
Cider and Food Pairing
The fruity, appley flavours of cider naturally compliment pork. Similarly those flavours work with cheese whilst the acidity cleanses the palate. but cider is far more versatile with food than these steroetypes allow us to believe. Here are the three pairings I chose for the cider summit.
First up was Orchard Pig’s Charmer with Fish and Chips. A wonderful match thanks to the hint of citrus that comes through from the cider working brilliantly with the fish, the light tannic finish mimicking the vinegar and finally the sweetness and fizz taking the chip to new heights before washing the palate reading for that next mouthful of greasy potato magic.
Next I chose Thatchers Vintage to go with a Lamb Rogan Josh. This is a big, bold cider which is needed to stand up to the flavours in such a rich dish. Sweetness in ciders works brilliantly with spices, mellowing them and allowing the fruity notes to bring the spices to the fore almost like a liquid mango chutney.
Finally, the showstopper. Something that many of the delegates hadn’t tried before. A 2008 vintage Canadian ice cider from Domaine Pinnacle. Inspired by ice wines, it is made from the juice of apples left on the trees to freeze during the harsh Quebec winters. With around 80 apples in each bottle, this is rich, sticky, decadent, delightful and, in my opinion, worth every penny of the £25 a bottle price tag. The incredible balance to the sweetness and acidty make it a perfect partner for blue cheese. The cider has a little funk to it mirroring the stinky cheese, the sticky sweetness removes any requirement for chutney and the crisp clean acidic finish means that neither the cheese, nor the cider, become too cloying. Currently available in a handful of Marks & Spencers stores, although hopefully it’s distribution will grow.
Food pairing with any drink is far from an exact science and the fun is all in the experimentation, but if you are going to experiment it’s worth having a few basic rules in mind…
- Match intensity of the drink with the food
– cuts through fatty or oily food
– complements acidic food
– complements salty food
(although not with tannin present!)
– coupled with acidity it mellows spice
– sweet & sweet, great with desserts
- Tannin & Oak
– tannin also contrasts & cuts fatty & oily food
– full bodied ciders and rich, bold food
– oaky cider with smoky food
I’ll also be hosting a session on cider and food pairing in association with Thatchers (and a few other ciders) at Imbibe Live on Wednesday 2nd July at 1pm in the Taste Zone.
I am delighted to announce that I will soon be working for the London Brewing Company. I will be taking over the reins at The Bull, their wonderful brewpub in Highgate, from owner Dan Fox. London Brewing Company is expanding and their second brewpub, The Bohemia, opens next week. This is exactly the opportunity I was looking for upon leaving The Thatchers. They’re both stunning pubs and I am really proud to be joining such an exciting company and to be part of it’s growth.
The Bull is already a much loved, vibrant and thriving ‘country pub’ in North London. There is a brilliant team behind it, serving some of the best food and beer in the area. Rest assured I’ll be continuing the great line up as well as stepping up the events. Look out for more food pairing dinners, tasting events and maybe even our first beer festival too…
I don’t get my feet under the bar for a few weeks yet, but look forward to welcoming old friends and colleagues and all the existing regulars at The Bull once I do.
Having never been one to sit around, after leaving the Thatchers I answered a call for help from Mauldons Brewery. Their trusty drayman ‘Dainsy’ had retired, and left without a replacement they asked if I might mind a few days on the road until they got sorted. Always happy to see the beer industry from a different perspective I happily obliged. Over the past month I have spent about ten days helping Mauldons. During this time I have also been working on my next career move (more news on this very soon!).
I’m not quite sure what I was expecting, but despite visiting up to a dozen pubs every day, the life of a drayman is quite a lonely one. A brief bit of banter with the brewery staff before setting off on my rounds might be the highlight of my morning whilst day dreaming of a pint back at the Mauldons Brewery Tap in Sudbury at the end of my long day. I hadn’t quite anticipated how little a driver might speak to each customer. Whilst most were friendly, there isn’t a lot of time at each pub when you know you have 250 miles and a dozen drops to cover in a day. That said the offer of tea or coffee and a quick chat was always welcome and I must admit I now feel very guilty for not offering a cuppa more often in the past!
I have travelled from the brewery in Sudbury to Lowestoft, Harwich, Colchester, Southend, Billericay, Watford, St Albans, Cambridge, Peterborough and everywhere in between. There are some cracking pubs out there, and a few odd ones, it has been a great reminder of how diverse this industry is. There always seems to be a pub to suit every person and every occasion and there are certainly a handful that I will be seeking out for a beer or a spot of lunch in the future.
Perhaps the most surprising customers were the ones who didn’t offer any help. Surprising partly because their awkward cellar drops can be tackled in less than half the time with two people, but mainly because they happily presented me with a signature and a wodge of cash without ever having seen the beer. As a publican I find this strange and certainly wouldn’t have let a new drayman in my cellar unsupervised let alone have blindly signed and paid for the delivery!
The early starts, manual labour and high mileage are tiring. The life of a publican isn’t an easy one either, but this has been completely alien to me and totally wiped me out. One night, after three consecutive days on the road I was busily inspecting the inside of my eyelids by half past eight and stayed in slumber for a full twelve hours!
When driving all day it is inevitable that the odd road user will disrupt your karma from time to time. The key is to get back in to character, happy and smiling ready to deliver beer by the time you next get out of the van. I only had two disagreements whilst out on the road, one was with a customer loosely described above and one was with a telegraph pole in Finningham opposite the White Horse, I am not proud of either! However, overall I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as a drayman and hope I remember how welcome those coffees were next time I am receiving a beer delivery.
Last weekend I had the pleasure of a rather unusual theatre visit. Eastern Angles production of ‘River Lane‘ was performed in a transformed disused shopping centre unit at Serpentine Green in Peterborough. Whilst it is a professional production; staging, directing etc, the cast and many of the crew were volunteers, local people inspired to join in with Eastern Angles’ ‘Forty Years On‘ project and become part of this community play.
River Lane is written by Tony Ramsay and is set in the heart of Peterborough. It tells the story of three young friends who think they’re going to change the world. We jump from medieval times to the sixties and present day as the time streams cleverly cross throughout the show. The lead character Tom eventually returns to Peterborough after forty years and is amazed by the scale of the change. Some of these changes are cleverly portrayed through the loss of pubs. The Bull and Dolphin, a popular haunt in the sixties with a nightclub ‘The Spinning Wheel’ out the back where Desmond Decker once played is now a failed pizza joint and his other favourite, The White Lion, is now a Mexican chain restaurant.
Peterborough’s population has tripled since the sixties when The Peterborough Development Corporation was formed and it was designated a new town. Even with a swell in numbers in the city it seems that the pubs still haven’t stood the test of time. Pubs are closing around the country for all sorts of reasons, but it all boils down to one thing, we just don’t use them like we used to.
Pubs are a great centre for communities and as we slowly lose these centres we are in danger of fragmenting those communities. Eastern Angles and The Forty Years on Project has created new communities, including the 100 or so people who have been part of The River Lane production. The play itself is brilliantly written, staged and performed. It is a heart warming tale with an incredible uplifting ensemble at the end. River Lane is on until the 18th May, you can book online, if you are local to Peterborough it is a must see show!
And I nearly forgot to mention… the bar serves Adnams Solestar, Lighthouse & Spindrift!
Myself and my parents, Janet and Tony, took on The Thatchers Arms, Mount Bures over seven years ago in November 2006. We have had an incredible journey, met some amazing people, made some wonderful friends and built a business we are extremely proud of.
However it is time to move on, and it appears we’ll be doing this by the end of April. The Thatchers has given me the opportunity to explore my passions and develop my skills with food and drink pairing and with writing. In order to progress with either of these I really feel I need to move on from the beautiful rural location of The Thatchers. The time is right for me to look to my next challenge, whatever or wherever that might be it is certain to still involve beer and pubs! Meanwhile Mum and Dad are looking forward to retirement on their narrowboat ‘Aylmer’.
Many of you may know the pub has been on the market for a while. Putting The Thatchers up for sale was not a decision we took lightly at the time, but it is one we have had time to come to terms with and we hope our loyal customers and friends understand. We aren’t leaving because we don’t love it any more, or because we’re fed up. We simply feel that The Thatchers is ready for it’s next step, a new chapter. There’s a rich history and a host of loving landlords and landlady’s, it’s time for us to hand over to the next set of guardians Stuart & Debbie.
We look forward to getting a chance to say goodbye to you all before the end of the month and we’ll be having a leaving party on Friday 25th April, we hope you can make it! There will be live music from ‘Old Gun Young Bullets‘ and nibbles from 9pm.
If you want to follow what I get up to next then keep an eye on this blog or follow me on twitter. If you want to know what happens in the next chapter of the pubs life then you can keep in touch on The Thatchers’ Facebook or Twitter pages.
Many thanks for your business and your support over the years. Best wishes from Mitch, Tony, Janet and of course Sarah and Dylan x
Please accept our apologies if you hearing this news on our blog and not from us in person.
One of the best selling things on the menu at The Thatchers is our pie of the day. We make proper pies, pastry all the way around, usually a shortcrust base and a flaky top. They’re filled with something different everyday, sometimes a classic like steak and kidney or chicken, ham & leek and sometimes more adventurous venison & beetroot or coq au vin. Thanks to our love of pies, a little luck, and a tip off from a good friend of my sisters I was recently lucky enough to spend a day filming with Heston Blumenthal for his latest series ‘Great British Food‘. The first episode on fish & chips (catch up on 4oD) was on last night which has made me even more eager to see the pie episode which I was invited along for, sadly we’ll have to wait until the new year. It was an incredible experience and after the show is screened I may write some more about the day… until then I’m sworn to secrecy!
Before you get too excited about the title of this blog though, I should mention that I have never eaten a badger pie, we have never made one at The Thatchers, and neither (to my knowledge) has Heston. However, Badger Brewery – Hall and Woodhouse have launched a competition “What’s the big pie-dea?” and with all this pie action happening simultaneously it felt like somebody was telling me to write a blog.
Badger aren’t local to East Anglia, but when I’m down on the south coast I love nothing more than popping into the Black Rabbit in Arundel for a pint of Hopping Hare or Tanglefoot. Badger Brewery’s Collectors Edition ale which they produced last year is absolutely stunning and I can’t believe I have managed to leave a bottle of it in my cellar to age for over a year! (It may not last much longer…) Apologies though, I digress. I really wanted to write this blog to bring your attention to their rather generous little competition from a rather talented little brewery…
You could win a prize package that includes having your pie professionally produced and launched as a ‘special’ in selected Hall & Woodhouse public houses next autumn; a two-night beach break for two at The Lulworth Cove Inn, including breakfast and dinner on both nights and exclusive sampling of the winning pie; a VIP brewery tour with Head Brewer, Toby Heasman with lunch at their Visitor Centre; a Badger Countryside Sett gift box; and £200 travel and subsistence. Not bad eh! Oh and the rest of the finalists will win a Badger Countryside Sett gift box and £50 worth of Hall & Woodhouse vouchers.
What’s your big pie-dea then?
December rolls around again, the countdown to Christmas begins and households around the globe start meticulously planning one big glorious day of family, friendship and festive food. Once you’ve agreed which in-laws to invite, ordered the turkey, put the sprouts on to make sure they’re ready for the big day, got stuck in traffic at Bluewater/Lakeside/Westfield Stratford [delete as appropriate] and finally spent a small fortune buying gifts from Amazon & eBay there is just one more important job to do, choose the booze.
Christmas is a special time of year and deserves something special to toast with family and friends. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with the traditional bucks fizz for breakfast, midday pint at the local, lashings of red wine with dinner followed by a wee tot of whisky or glug of port before a nap on the sofa, but there are some lovely alternatives and I’d like to share my thoughts…
Breakfast, brunch, elevenses
If you want to start off slowly then how about Wild Beer Co. Cool as a Cucumber [available from The Thatchers £7], only 2.9% this 750ml bottle is perfect for cracking open before the sun is over the yardarm and for sharing. It is utterly delicious with smoked fish, especially salmon, an ideal breakfast beer.
Feeling slightly more indulgent? Then try a Champagne beer, one of the best known Belgian examples Deus Brut des Flanders [available online from Beer Ritz £19.03] also goes beautifully with smoked salmon and ensures a real decadent start to the day.
There are a few British ‘Champagne beer’ alternatives, and we sell two of them at The Thatchers. First up Adnams Solebay Celebratory beer [£15.25 from The Thatchers], first brewed in 2009 to celebrate 350 years of brewing at Solebay, hazy gold with a luscious white head, Solebay has Nelson Sauvin hops and a touch of lavender and it is matured for 6 months before bottling, this is a delicate and delightful beer. My final choice is Wild Beer Co. Ninkasi [£13.00 from The Thatchers], named after the Greek goddess of beer this also has New Zealand Nelson Sauvin hops with the addition of Somerset apple juice, wild yeast and finished with Champagne yeast, this would be equally at home with a cheeseboard at the end of the day.
Join us at The Thachers from 12pm – 2pm for a Christmas drink and a few mince pies, we’ll have mulled wine or cider and the usual Crouch Vale Brewers Gold and Adnams Southwold as well as hopefully some Tally Ho if you don’t drink it all on Christmas Eve!
Lunch, dinner (or tea if your from further North)
I know I’m going to have to work hard to tempt you from a big bold French or Aussie red, but have you considered drinking beer with Christmas dinner? I don’t mean cans of cheap supermarket fizz or even traditional brown bitter, but something rich and elegant packed with flavour… A Belgian ale? A full bodied stout? Perhaps even an American IPA. Aside from being less alcoholic than most wines leaving you room for another few drinks later, choosing an example of each from our cellar I’ll see if I can convince you.
St Stefanus [6.5% £3.75] is a rich golden Belgian ale, drink it with the yeast in to enhance the herbal bitterness, it’s delicate enough not to overpower the turkey with enough sweetness to pair with the cranberry sauce and those herbal earthy notes will wash a plate full of sprouts down delightfully.
The Kernel Export Stout [7.2% £4.80] is jet black with a caramel head. The unctuous black beer will work wonderfully with thyme roasted root vegetables and rich gravy, and if you’ve chosen duck or beef for your table it will quite simply steal the show.
Lagunitas IPA [6.2% £3.90] is hazy orange with buckets of bitterness balanced by sweet malt and fruity hops. This Californian IPA typifies the style and cleanses the palate after each mouthful making sure you’re always eager for the next bite or final helping of seconds.
Christmas pudding, after dinner, Eastenders Christmas special
If you really want to make sure you fall asleep before hell breaks loose in the Queen Vic then you’re going to enjoy this little selection. Big bold fruity drinks to enjoy with your Christmas Pudding, cheeseboard or on their own if you already had one too many stuffing balls.
Wild Beer Co. Wildebeest [11% £4.80] is an Imperial Stout laced with Cocoa nibs, coffee & vanilla. It’s hearty, sweet and sticky, you won’t even need any Christmas pudding, perhaps just a jug of brandy cream on the side.
If you usually prefer your dessert wine to your barley wine though, perhaps you’ll enjoy the drink I am most looking forward to at my Christmas table. Domaine Pinnacle Ice Cider [12% £25 from selected Marks & Spencer stores including Bluewater]. I have been lucky enough to try a tiny taste of this before due to the generosity of Worlds Best Cider author Pete Brown. It is rich, complex, sweet, fruity and sticky with a delicate acidity to balance it all out. This really is the cream of the crop when it comes to cider. The juice of around 80 apples is crammed in to each 375ml bottle, the Canadian producers recommend it with rich blue cheeses or even fois gras. You may balk at the price tag, but you’re not supposed to swig this in a pint glass over ice, think of it more as a rival to ice wine or a fine Sauternes and it’s pretty good value for money.
Give the gift of Christmas beer…
Throughout December we are offering 20% discount on off sales when you buy three bottles of beer, wine or cider and we’ll even chuck in a handy gift box making a great present.
Many of the drinks above are available and the trio of 750ml beers [Wild Beer Co Cool as a Cucumber, Ninkasi & Adnams Solebay] comes in at under £30, our three Christmas dinner recommendations [St Stefanus, Kernel Export Stout, Lagunitas IPA] are under a tenner or choose a trio of local ales for around £8.50.
Saturday 2nd November 7pm
We are very lucky to have the affable Mr Pete Brown (current Beer Writer of the Year) back for another visit, this time to launch his latest book. A slight departure from his usual literary subject of beer, ‘Worlds Best Cider’ was produced in conjunction with photographer Bill Bradshaw. They have traveled the globe in search of the story of cider, from an honest thirst quencher for farm workers to it’s place on the table as a rival to beer, wine and even champagne.
Joining Pete will be eighth generation Aspall cyder maker Henry Chevallier Guild. Over the course of roughly an hour our two witty hosts will regale stories of cider ‘the misunderstood drink’ and guide us through a tasting of several ciders paired with nibbles.
Pete & Henry will be on hand afterwards to answer any questions and you will of course be able to buy copies of the book and get them signed!
We hope to have the following ciders during our tasting, although don’t be surprised if we change the line-up, it can sometimes be difficult to guarantee supply from smaller producers…
Tickets are £7.50 and bookings are essential
The Kernel Brewery – London Sour 3.3% ABV
“Sour beer?” I hear you say in a Peter Kay “Garlic. Bread?” or “Cheese. Cake?” tone of voice…
Well, it IS the future, I’ve tasted it.
Actually, strictly that’s not true. I have tasted it, and in my opinion it’s delicious. However, sour beer has been around for years, so it’s not technically ‘the future’, although it is currently enjoying a small revival thanks to both beer drinkers and small breweries happy to experiment. Admittedly a beer with sour characteristics is often showing signs of off flavours, it maybe be past it’s best, infected or just poorly made. Intentionally sour beers are difficult to produce, the uncertainty of the effects of wild yeast strains or bacteria mean that a great deal of skill and experience is required, the beers are often aged and blended in order to produce a consistent product. Until recently it has been predominantly Belgian breweries making sour beers, Lambic, Gueze and Flanders Red Ales brewed by established breweries such as Rodenbach with years of experience and tradition behind them. One notable style of sour beer from outside of Belgium is Berliner Weisse, a sour wheat beer around 3% ABV dating back to the !6th century and historically brewed in Northern Germany, typically Berlin. At it’s peak around the 19th century it was the most popular alcoholic drink in Berlin being produced by over 700 breweries. Whether drunk on its own, mixed with other beers or drunk with added fruit syrups, Berliner Weisse can be an acquired taste.
One of my favourite UK breweries, The Kernel, from Bermondsey in London has recently widened it’s repertoire with a selection of sour beers. Their London Sour – Berliner Weisse is very much in keeping with it’s German cousins. When I asked brewer Evin O’Rourdan about pairing his beer with food the succinct and tongue in cheek response was simply “I like it with everything. I often pair it with other beers. Makes them more palatable“.
A pale hazy beer with a thin white lacy head. The initial aroma is surprisingly clean, crisp citrus with only a gentle undertone of the typical farmyard or ‘horse-blanket’ nose associated with sour beers. The first sip is puckeringly sour, sharp and tart like a barrel aged farmhouse cider. Almost no bitterness but a lovely gentle spritz to scrub the palette. On it’s own this beer isn’t going to be for everybody, but pair it with seafood, especially ceviche and it’s an entirely different experience. Alternatively add a drop of blackcurrant, cassis or even Chambord and the beer is transformed, the sweetness from the fruit dulls the aggressive sourness and you’re left with something reminiscent of a delicious Belgian fruit beer, sweet and sour, the beautiful beer equivalent of yin and yang.
The Kernel Berliner Weisse is currently on sale at The Thatchers, there is only a limited amount though, so if you want to taste the future, you better get down here, sharpish.
This Saturday as part of our Septembaaaaarfest Mitch is hosting a seven course Beer and Food matched menu. Diners will be guided through the courses on the freshly prepared tasting menu and through the beers which have been chosen to compliment each dish.
The evening starts at 7.30pm (first course served at 8pm) and costs just £30 for all seven courses including a 1/3 of a pint of beer with each course. Bookings are essential so we know numbers to cater for. We are also able to cater for vegetarians or any dietary requirements providing we know in advance.
Spoiler alert – If you’d rather keep the evening a surprise don’t look down!
‘Bone Soup’ Beef Consommé
Scallop & Marsh Pig Chorizo Beignet with Tartare Sauce
Wild Beer Co Epic Saison
Roast Okra Creole (V)
Gilthead Bream, Red Onion & Chilli Ceviche
The Kernel London Sour Berliner Weisse
Salt Beef, Cornichon & Sour Dough Bap with Skinny Fries
Milestone Black Pearl Oyster Stout
Banana Sticky Toffee Pudding with Rum Soaked Raisins
Tutt’s Clump Rum Barrel Cider
East Anglian Cheeseboard
Piraat Belgian IPA
The Good Pub Guide has suggested that it is a good thing that 4000 pubs are expected to close this year stating “These are pubs at the bottom of the pecking order, the bad pubs. It’s high time they closed their doors.” I believe this is a naive and misleading statement. Each and every pub services a different element of it’s community or offers a different environment depending on our mood. Sometimes we may want a gourmet meal, other occasions call for good home cooked food or somewhere we can afford to take the whole family. Sometimes we want a good choice of beer, somewhere to watch the football or a refuge from the hustle and bustle of daily life, the after work pint or late evening nightcap. Each of these pubs is different, has different standards, staff and styles of service, none are ‘bad’, just different.
I’m not quite sure what was meant by “bottom of the pecking order”. There may be some pubs who could benefit from small improvements in the standard of their beer, food or service, but leaving them to close and letting people lose their jobs and part of their community is not the answer. Help is. Training, business support, investment, reduced VAT for hospitality businesses or for ‘community assets’, all of these could be supported by breweries, pubcos and the government. Meanwhile it would be especially helpful if the guide which is supposed to champion our pubs could stop berating the struggling ones or charging them £200 a time to be featured in a book where “only the very best pubs make the grade”.
The UK is still recovering from massive global economic problems. VAT is at 20%, employment costs, utilities and beer prices are all rising seemingly above inflation and many are declaring ‘the end is nigh’ for the Great British pub. I believe that rural pubs are particularly badly affected with many villages having lost their pub in recent years. As well as ‘leisure pound’ spending being down and on trade booze sales being far cheaper, rural pubs face difficulties due to their sparsely populated catchment areas, increased awareness of drink driving (thank goodness) and cultural changes in our drinking habits all ultimately resulting in lower footfall and lower turnover.
Whilst I can’t pretend that trading conditions are easy at the moment I am very happy to say it isn’t all doom and gloom. We have had a great summer at The Thatchers and I have witnessed several other rural pubs bucking the trend recently. This is down to hard work, events, different ideas, adapting and changing the offer to suit the customers needs. One notable success was a pub beer festival I just about managed to sneak out to over the busy Bank Holiday weekend.
The Edwardstone White Horse is serviced by a single track road in rural Suffolk. It is not easy to find and not exactly on the way to anywhere either. As well as the essentials, good beer, food and company they have an on-site brewery, where I have brewed with Tom Norton, a campsite with great amenities some rather impressive green credentials. Their Eddyfest is now well established, and well attended by many of our regulars too, but for me this weekend was my first visit.
The makeshift car-parking field was packed, the field next door crammed full of campers and the beer garden and day to day car park transformed for the weekend with a huge beer tent, over 60 beers and two stages for live music. The atmosphere was incredible, happy smiley people everywhere, a buzz of conversation and excitement. The back to back live music using the two stages was brilliant and kept the attention of the crowd. The food offering was better than you may expect from a festival, good quality burgers and a decent chilli to name just two. Putting on events like this is hard work, and can require a reasonable amount of investment. However, pubs don’t have to start big, they can build on the success of each event making it bigger and better month on month or year on year.
The pub trade has changed, long gone are the days of opening the doors and waiting for a flood of drinkers to descend after work before you sit back and count the till at closing time. As our culture and habits change so must the Great British pub. I don’t believe their is a single publican who doesn’t believe this, but perhaps there are some who could do with some help adapting before they are forced to close and lose their homes while we lose another piece of our history forever.
Our next beer festival runs for five days from the 18th – 22nd September and includes International Talk Like a Pirate Day, yes it IS a real thing…
We decided it would a fun theme that had legs (albeit wooden ones). There will be some swashbuckling surprises and some lovely grog for your land lubbers to enjoy. the beers will have a pirate theme but we’ll still be keeping the standards high so you get the best beer for your hard earned pieces of eight…
So far we have Adnams Ghostship, Oakham Scarlet Macaw, Gadds Black Pearl Oyster Stout, Colchester Brewery Jack Spitty’s Smugglers Ale and a few others in mind, but the full list is still a work in progress and will be announced at the beginning of September. Meanwhile if you have any suggestions we’d love to hear them.
We are hoping to have a folk night including some Sea Shanty singing, live music from Tequila Mockingbird who had their live debut at our last festival, a beer and food matching evening and more…
Including a charity cinema evening, a screening of the Sound of Music for you all to dress up and sing along to! Watch this space for more details.
Some of you may be aware that we have been shortlisted for the 2013 Footprint Awards ‘Community Vote’. The Footprint Awards represent ‘the annual celebration of the work that organisations in the Foodservice industry are doing to in some way redress the balance for the benefit of themselves, their community and the industry at large. It is a celebration of initiative and innovation, of commercial imagination and endeavor’. Finalists for the Community Vote were first nominated by the general public, then voted for by peers and customers to reach the final shortlist of ten. I believe our commitment to local producers and low food miles as well as our use of sustainable fish especially our ‘Fish Fight Friday Specials’ stood us in good stead. The winner was announced at a glitzy awards ceremony in London on 23rd May, sadly we weren’t there as it was the start of our Beer Festival… we didn’t win, but came an extremely respectable runner up! [more info]
Co-incidentally around the time we found out about being shortlisted for the Community Vote Adnams announced their new beer ‘Fat Sprat’ which supports The Marine Conservation Society. So we decided that it would make a fabulous addition to our festival line up in celebration of our achievement. Fat Sprat will be on sale from the bar for the duration of our beer festival, it’s a 3.8% amber summer beer with grapefruit and spicy notes from the Columbus, English Goldings, Cascade & Chinook hops. It’s fantastic with fish like our line caught beer battered fish and chips or many of our sustainable fish specials.
If you want to know more about sustainable fish then have a look at Hugh’s Fish Fight, if you want to know who wins the Community Vote and the rest of the Footprint Awards follow them on Twitter tomorrow night, and if you want to support the environment and The Marine Conservation Society come along to our beer festival and enjoy some delicious sustainable fish with a crisp fresh pint of Fat Sprat (or any one of the other lovely beers we have on during the festival).
In true awards ceremony style I’d like to finish with a few thank you’s… Firstly all of our local suppliers, too many to mention individually, but a special thank you goes to Michelle at Direct Seafoods of Colchester who sources the best sustainable fish for our menu and specials. Secondly our chefs who continue to support our ethos putting innovative new dishes and great local suppliers on the menu. Thirdly the rest of our staff and our customers who support us and the local produce we use.
I’ve been busy brainstorming with the chefs for our next Beer & Food Matching evening on Saturday 25th May. I have learnt a lot recently, especially from my recent bout of moonlighting at Galvin Cafe a Vin, I have to say it is one of my favourite menus so far…
We kick off at The Thatchers at 7.30pm for a seven course menu, we’ve chosen a different beer to pair with each course, all for £30 a head (including beers!). Bookings are essential and can be made by email or on 01787 227460
The menu may change slightly due to availability of beers or produce, but currently we are looking at the following*…
Home Smoked Duck, Mango, Blackberry & Gem Lettuce with Raspberry Vinaigrette
Williams Bros Roisin (Teyberry Beer)
Southern Fried Chicken with Fennel Coleslaw
Brooklyn Lager (Vienna Lager)
Cumin Roasted Local Asparagus with Pearl Barley & Spiced Raisin Salad
Wild Beer Co Bliss (Apricot Saison)
Beef Rendang Curry with Jasmine Rice
Williams Bros Joker IPA (American IPA)
Farmer Bills Grown Up Chocolate Ice Cream Float
Harviestoun Old Engine Oil (Porter)
Banana Bread & Butter Pudding with Wheat Beer Caramel
Tryst Zetland Wheat (Amber Wheat Beer)
British Smoked Cheeseboard
Arran Dark (Heavy)
*we are happy to arrange alternatives for vegetarians or any other dietary requirements as long as we have prior notice.
So the 2013 Budget has been announced, not only has the Beer Duty Escalator been scrapped, but duty on a pint has actually been decreased by 1p, the first reduction in beer duty since 1973, hooray! CAMRA, among many others, have been campaigning to stop this punitive tax for some time, I have written to both George Osborne and my MP Bernard Jenkin on the matter.
A few weeks ago got the opportunity to put my point of view directly to Mr Jenkin as he poured pints behind my bar. It is a great relief that all the hard work of those campaigning has not been in vein, a huge heartfelt ‘thank you’ goes out to Mr Osborne and the current Government for listening to the plight of the pub and believing in us.
We campaigned for the escalator to be stopped because we believe less duty per pint will in fact increase sales and in turn provide greater duty revenue. We believe the increased sales will increase jobs in the industry, in particular with younger persons, currently the worst affected by unemployment. This will also help to reduce the strain on the Government in terms of unemployment benefits. We also believe that by encouraging customers to drink beer in a social, monitored environment such as the pub instead of drinking often stronger alcoholic drinks at home we can help to reduce alcohol abuse and related crime rates. The budget wasn’t good news for the whole of the alcohol industry, cider, wine & spirits all saw rises in duty, so was the beer duty reduction just for the headlines? I don’t believe so, higher taxation & pricing on higher ABV drinks will hopefully encourage more drinkers to opt for beer, better for our health & a boost to our British brewing industry.
Since the Duty Escalator was introduced in 2008 beer duty increased by 42% leaving brewers and publicans squeezing their margins each year to keep the cost of a pint down for our customers. However, according to CAMRA, 5800 pubs have closed since 2008 proving that this isn’t sustainable. Is a 1p reduction in duty going to change things overnight or even follow through to a 1p reduction at the till? Possibly not, but this is a glint of hope for an industry recovery, offering a small amount of breathing space, a chance to stem the closures. Here is an opportunity to regain our profit margin to help pay for the other increased costs we have seen over the past five years including general food prices, brewers increases, energy rises, fuel duty hikes, increased minimum wage and holiday pay for staff, higher business rates and the whopping 20% VAT rate.
All of the increases have left us less than competitive against supermarkets and peoples sofas where alcohol consumption often isn’t in a social environment and isn’t monitored or regulated by a responsible licensee. Many of our customers, also feeling the pinch, have understandably taken the cheaper option, especially when deals for 4 litres of 7.5% cider at £5 can be found in off licenses. How can we compete with more than the weekly recommended number of alcohol units for a fiver!
The abolition of the duty escalator is a step in the right direction, the start of something good for pubs. We still have a lot of obstacles to overcome and hopefully this budget is a sign that we will gain more Government support to help us though them. Somehow we need to stop supermarkets offering such irresponsible deals and close the gap between pricing in the pub and the retail giants. Personally I don’t believe minimum pricing is the answer, a reduction in VAT for hospitality is. If we can hold true to our forecasts for increased duty revenue following the scrapping of the escalator perhaps they’ll listen to us when we say the same will happen if VAT for hospitality is reduced too…
Want to know more about Jacques Borel’s VAT reduction campaign? We pulled together as an industry over the escalator, if we can do it again over the next 12 months who knows what we can achieve. Who’s in?
Inspired by Pete Brown’s latest book ‘Shakespeare’s Local’, I decided to make the small detour to Southwark on my latest trip to London in order to visit the main subject of the book The George Inn. At a recent book reading at The Thatchers Arms Pete asked who had visited The George, I was sad to be in the minority who hadn’t.
As I made my way through the streets between London Bridge Station and The George I find myself recalling portions of the book, Borough has always been a hive of activity, the entrance to the city of London and the last stop before leaving. The constant hustle and bustle, locals, tourists, commuters, students, cars, busses, trains, Boris bikes all whizzing past with the dull whirring blades of a helicopter hovering over the borough, nothing has changed. The smells of a dozen cultures pour out of cafes and restaurants. The Shard looms dominantly overhead keeping a watchful eye on its new Kingdom while tourists flock with cameras to capture the glassy protrusion. Round the corner on to Borough High Street and just up ahead, a small sign ‘The George’. I turn into the courtyard with its balistrades and benches and the whirring and whizzing stops, replaced by the hum of conversation, the sounds of a dozen languages instead of the smells of their cultures. Men and women, old and young, drinking wine and beer, coffee and soft drinks, a bar snack, a meal, The George services them all just as it always has.
I write this as I sup a pint of their eponymous ale, not bad, pretty good actually, nothing to write home about in itself, but it shouldn’t be, the pub is the star, afterall it has been here since… well it’s complicated, you’ll need to read Pete’s book to find that out.
Ok, so this isn’t about beer, but it was a fantastic evening and we’d love to share the results with you. At the beginning of February, in conjunction with Susanna Forbes from Drinkbritain.com, we hosted what we believe to be the first cider vs wine & food matching battle. Diners were treated to a five course meal and enjoyed a wine & a cider with each course. Each match was voted for ‘Ready Steady Cook’ style with different coloured cards.
Cider was represented by Henry Chevallier-Guild, eighth-generation cider producer at Aspall, and Pete Brown Beer Writer of the Year and author of Shakespeare’s Local. In the wine corner, River Café Sommelier and the 2012 Best Sommelier of the Year, Emily O’Hare, teamed up with the Dan Probert, manager of Adnams Cellar & Kitchen store in Holt, Norfolk.
Whilst cider had a 4:1 victory, it was a lot closer than it may seem with one course only having 1 vote in it! Offshoot Films Film Club members Ashley and Dominic produced a short video of the evening which captures the great atmosphere and the results. If you’d like to see the full menu then scroll to the bottom of the page… enjoy.
And a very special thank you goes to Aspall for donating the welcome drink of Cuvée Chevallier and Billecart Salmon Champagne for supplyling their Rosé Champagne free of charge.
See some other accounts of the evenings events:
- A ‘Storify’ of the live tweets from the evening
- Dan Proberts account on Adnams.co.uk
- Susanna Forbes account on Drinkbritain.com
- The East Anglian Daily Times
MENU & SCORES
Brocolli & Parmesan Soup with Homemade Chilli Foccaccia
17 Vallobera Rioja Blanco, Rueda, Spain; £7.99, Adnams
44 El Gaitero, Spain; £1.55 33cl; Slurp.co.uk, Waitrose
Mackerel Fillet with a Fennel, Mint & Parsley Salsa & a Pont Neuf Potato
43 Gougenheim Torrentes 2011, Mendoza, Argentina; £6.99, Adnams
18 Aspall Premier Cru, Suffolk; £2.59/50cl; Aspall, Adnams, Waitrose
Slow Roast Blythburgh Pork Belly with a Homemade Duck, Pork & Sage Sausage & Tomato & Mixed Bean Cassoulet
30 Quinto do Crasto, Crasto Tinto 2010, Douro Valley, Portugal; £9.49; Adnams
31 Henney’s Vintage 2011, Herefordshire; £2.09/50cl; BeersofEurope.co.uk
Eddy’s Sour Cherry Cheesecake
21 Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé NV Champagne, France; £52.99; Berry Bros & Rudd, selected independents
32 Aspall Imperial Cyder, Suffolk; £3.08/50cl; Aspall, BeersofEurope.co.uk
5 Cheesecake; 3 Abstentions
Suffolk Gold & Binham Blue Cheeses with chutney & biscuits
3 Gonzales Byass ‘Vina AB’ Amontillado, Jerez, Spain; £13.59; Adnams
58 Once Upon a Tree Blenheim Superb 2011; Herefordshire; £16/37.5cl; Once Upon a Tree
Dear Bernard Jenkin,
As a publican within your constituency I wrote to you and to George Osborne prior to the last budget regarding the Alcohol Duty Escalator. I received a short response from the treasury stating that the contents of my letter had been registered with no further action or correspondence. I also received a short dismissive letter from your office stating that neither a reduction in duty, a halt to the duty escalator or a reduction in VAT for the hospitality industry were on your agenda.
Since that time the planned 2% above inflation rise in duty has happened and business within the pub industry has not grown any easier. There are many factors affecting trading in these tough economic times with the crippling Alcohol Duty being a major contributor. We pay more alcohol duty per unit of alcohol than any country in the EU. I would like to suggest that this punitive taxation is not helping to increase treasury revenue as despite the increased sum of duty per unit you are losing vast amounts of VAT. This is partially because supermarkets are selling alcohol cheaply, many bulk buy deals are still under or around the 40p per unit price proposed for minimum pricing. A 40p per unit price should net the government coffers around 8p in VAT, however as they are selling below price it will be affecting their profits and in turn reducing their overall tax bill. The vast difference in price between the below cost alcohol sold in the supermarkets and the responsibly served drinks in pubs means more people are choosing to drink at home in these auspicious times.
As the average price of a pint in a pub is around the £3 mark, and the average pint (at 4% ABV) contains 2.3 units, the average unit of alcohol is being retailed up and down the country at £1.30 in pubs. This results in 22p per unit in VAT nearly 3 times that of the supermarket prices. Pubs also have a higher staff ratio than supermarkets meaning that if there are busier pubs we will be employing more staff per unit of alcohol served. This not only helps to decrease unemployment and reduce our vast benefits bill but will actually increase Government revenue through increased contributions to NI and income tax.
Standard Government reasons behind the duty escalator are two fold, firstly revenue, which I have just covered and shown to have flawed logic. The second reason that is flouted is for health benefits. As I have already discussed the increased duty and other pressures on pubs have made the safe, supervised drinking environment too expensive. We now have more and people drinking at home, drinking on the streets, drinking without any supervision. This can only lead to more health problems and more alcohol related crime. The money they were spending in the pub now gets them almost three times more booze to drink at home. Pubs are still closing at an alarming rate, forced out of business by the high prices they are required to charge to cover the ever increasing overheads.
I write this letter as the petition to scrap the Duty Escalator nears 100,000 signatures prompting a discussion in parliament. I write hoping that you take my points on board, that the 100,000 signatures we have collected result in more than a dismissed 20 minute backbench debate. Not only do pubs have the potential to raise vast amounts of tax revenue but we’ll do it while responsibly serving and monitoring those who drink within our establishments. We’ll do it while creating jobs, creating communities, creating entrepreneurs. We’ll do it while raising hundreds of thousand pounds for charity and while becoming a home from home for people from all walks of life, we are the backbone of your ‘Big Society’. We are well equipped to serve rural areas and the elderly generation ensuring that the community spirit brought about over the past year with the Jubilee and our summer of sport lives on.
In truth there are actually three things which will help pubs and in return help tax revenue. Abolition of the duty escalator and reduction in duty, reduction in VAT for hospitality businesses, as has happened across Europe with positive effects, and a minimum price on alcohol of at least 60p forcing supermarkets to sell alcohol more responsibly and above cost.
Please take a stand on behalf of all of the pubs & pub goers in your constituency; please take these points to parliament. I ask this of you as a resident, a business owner and a parish Councillor within your constituency. On behalf of my neighbours, my staff, my colleagues within the industry and my parish I hope you are listening.
Dear George Osborne,
When you failed to mention the Great British Industry of brewing whilst promising to support other industries such as medicine & Aerospace I had a feeling that I wouldn’t like the rest of what you had to say. The brewing & pub industries employ around 600,000 tax paying people (numbers courtesy of Brew Wales blog) producing & serving a truly unique British product which is served responsibly in over 52,000 business rate paying establishments. These jobs & establishments alone have the capacity to provide massive amounts of cash for the government coffers, especially when you consider the VAT & Duty paid on the alcohol produced & sold as well as NI, Employee Tax, Small Business & Corporation Taxes & Business Rates. By continuing to severely & irreparably damage this industry on an annual basis you will inevitably, if not already, be reducing your income significantly.
Your rapid fire announcement of the continuation of the duty escalator was cowardly and clearly intended once again to fool most of the general public. By saying “No change on alcohol duty set out by my predecessor” many will have barely heard you and only understood “no change”. You labored over cartoon characters Wallace & Grommit for longer than you did the crippling 2%+ inflation rise is Duty on Alcohol that you are imposing for yet another year.
You may make noises about health, alcohol abuse and misuse, but do you really think that supermarkets and off licenses will be affected in the same way as pubs? Each year the gap widens between the price a responsibly served pint costs in a supervised environment like a pub and the cheap can or bottle of imported spirits that is available without monitoring in supermarkets. People who are misusing alcohol do not do so in a pub, they do so from the comfort of their own sofa with the ease and affordability of home deliveries meaning they can continue to buy alcohol even if they can’t walk.
The Great British Pub is at the heart of its community, creating jobs not only for staff, but also local suppliers and brewers, pubs also raise vast quantities of cash for charities each and every year and act as a social hub where people meet, talk, make friends and embody the spirit of The Big Community you keep trying to persuade us you are in favour of.
After over 100 MP’s signed a petition to scrap the Duty Escalator I was approaching the budget this year with slight optimism, how foolish. Thanks again for the stab in the back to two Great British institutions, the pub & the brewery. A can of beer in the supermarket costs 50p, a pint in a pub around £3. Have you actually spent more than a few nano seconds thinking about which would you prefer 20% VAT from?
Incidentally I have signed the e-petition to Stop the Duty escalator, I have encouraged my peers & customers to do the same and I have written to my MP previously with the same issues and a plea to reduce VAT for the hospitality sector to 5% if not only for the Olympics. People within the media and the beer industry with far more clout than myself have also been campaigning for the above issues. Not once do I feel that myself or any of the rest of the industry have been listened to properly, and I cannot understand why such a rich part of our countries history is being treated with such disdain from each and every Government over recent years.
I’m sure most of my fellow licensees alongside industry employees, brewers & pub operators would join me in wishing you and your cowardly cabinet barred from every pub in the country until you start to support us with reduced Duty, VAT or business rates, anything truly would be a start.
The Thatchers Arms
p.s. My chef baked this lovely loaf of bread for you, lets say it represents the ever tightening pressures you place on my margins and my business in which I employ nearly 20 people. and pay over £1k a week in VAT alone.
Update: I received the carefully considered and thoughtful response below on the 26th March, 5 days after sending a copy to the Treasury
Dear Mr Adams
I am writing on behalf of Her Majesty’s Government to thank you for your email of 21 March.
Ministers are always keen to receive feedback from people up and down the country, so it is very good of you to take the time to write and to let them have your views. Please rest assured that the contents of your letter have been registered by the Treasury.
Thank you, once again, for taking the trouble to write to us with your views.
Yours sincerely Miss HM Lewinson Correspondence and Information Rights Unit HM Treasury
Friday October 28th 7:30 for 8pm
Which is the best match for your meal, beer or wine? At the Thatchers Arms, Mount Bures, we are hosting a Beer vs Wine & Food matching evening to find out. We are lucky enough to have Saturday Kitchen’s Tim Atkin & Beer Writers Adrian Tierney Jones & Melissa Cole to help us decide over a five course menu. Each of the courses will be served with a wine and a beer. The experts will talk us through their choices and leave it to the guests to decide.
The five courses costing £30 including beer & wine are kindly supported by Adnams & Slurp.co.uk with the food being supported by Direct Seafoods & John Colemans Butchers, All of the proceeds will be going to the charity of the winners choice. The five course Set Menu will be prepared by the Chefs at The Thatchers Arms and includes Venison Carpaccio, Home Smoked Mackerel, Sri Lankan Curry, Lemon Tart & Petit Fours. Vegetarian alternatives are available on request.
The evening is taking place after speculation on Twitter instigated by Dave Bailey & Neil Bowness that the very British product beer doesn’t get a fair share of TV coverage on shows like Saturday Kitchen. Wine is always matched with food when sometimes beer can do just as good or an even better job of pairing with the flavours in foods. Tim leapt to the defence of wine on Twitter agreeing to help host the evening convinced that wine is more often than not a much better partner to food. Adrian & Melissa, beer aficionados, both with books on the subject are keen to help beer receive it’s fair share of media coverage and will be choosing the beers to pair with the menu.
There are limited spaces available for the event, booking is essential.
Contact The Thatchers on 01787 227460 to book your seat.
Four years ago, I was getting ready to launch a very ambitious beer festival back at The Thatchers Arms in Mount Bures. It co-incided with the Royal Wedding and was running over twelve days and two four day bank holiday weekends. The theme, London Brewers. We had ten different London beers on at any one time (as well as a host of locals ones) and, if I remember rightly, got through around 2500 pints of London beers from brewers such as Redemption, Windsor & Eton, Brodies, Kernel, Fullers, H’apenny, Meantime & Twickenham.
Back in 2011 the fledgling London beer scene was just starting to get exciting, it took very careful planning to get a varied beer list from the then small number of brewers in the city. It was one of the first events outside London that The Londons Brewers Alliance helped with. Back then I particularly remember having Kernel, ON CASK (cheers to
@TheHappyBat for delivering it!) and a firkin of Fullers Past Masters Double Stout. Pete Brown hosted a book & beer matching talk pairing Man Walks into a Pub with Meantime Pale Ale and Three Sheets to the Wind with Kernel Amarillo Pale Ale, a brilliant evening.
After the first six days we were out of beer. Three months of planning to get these breweries together to deliver to the rural Essex/Suffolk borders and the village with 100 chimney pots drank me dry! Thanks to some very helpful and enthusiastic brewres we got our second delivery organised and up to Mount Bures in record time and we carried on for another weekend of beery goodness.
Scroll forward almost exactly four years and I have moved on to The Bull in Highgate, we are just finalising The Northern Line Beer Festival, with over 80 breweries now in the city we wouldn’t have room to do them justice, so we narrowed it down to brewers within a mile of Northern Line stations. We have over 40 beers from 12 breweries being served across two pubs, and Pete Brown is back to host another book & beer matching talk, just like old times!
The London beer scene is currently bursting at the seams with exciting beers, breweries and events, what a treat to be part of it.
A good marketing campaign doesn’t always have a good product behind it. The point of marketing something is to make it attractive to buyers, so a good marketeer might create a campaign which helps a product ‘punch above it’s weight’.
That said, I believe the best marketing campaigns always seem to be the ones where the passion for the product of the people behind it shines through, and that comes from having a great product to get excited about. Ultimately if a product is marketed well and the quality of that product stands up to the campaign the efforts put in should return results which stand the test of time.
[Marketing Agencies Association ‘Best of the Best’ 2014 was the ‘We are David Bailey’ campaign by Cheil UK for Samsung. Some of you may recognise a certain beery David Bailey in the crowd]
We have been in the midst of a beer revolution, or evolution depending on your viewpoint, for several years, and now we have a huge variety of really great beer all around us. Some of this beer is in specialist wholesalers and bars, some in supermarkets and chain pubs, but how do we choose what to drink? There are awards which celebrate the wonderful liquid and the efforts of the brewers and retailers, but until now there hasn’t been an awards dedicated to the efforts of the people who tell the story of the beer and make us want to buy it.
The beer industry saw the first increases in volume last year since 2005. This wouldn’t be possible without some innovative and memorable marketing campaigns across the industry. We’re not just talking TV advertising here, marketing covers a vast array of mediums including social media, branding, merchandise and more.
I am honoured to be working alongside Pete Brown, James Cuthburtson & Jo Miller as a judge in the inaugural Beer Marketing Awards as we celebrate the best beer marketing campaigns of 2014. There are categories to suit everybody regardless of size, and entries are still being considered until the end of January. This isn’t about who has the biggest bells and whistles or budget, it’s about the story.
How have you told yours?