On the beer front, the outstanding success of GK's seasonal beer range, Black Baron, has come round again (nicely timed for National Mild Day). Very nice too, but so it should be at £2.05 a pint (Panton Arms).
The Fenland Brewery in Chatteris was started up in February by husband and wife team Rob and Liz Thomas. The regular beers FBB (4%) and Doctor's Orders (5%) are complemented by a range of seasonal beers. Welcoming Spring is Smokestack Lightning (4.2%), a full bodied easy-drinking mild. Always popular is Sparkling Wit (4.5%), a Belgian-style wheat beer for those warm Summer days. Sparkling Wit was awarded a Silver medal at this years Great British Wheat Beer Challenge. For the hottest Summer days the thirst-quenching Tall Tale Pale Ale (3.6%) is always a popular choice, while the complex and satisfying FractAle (4.5%) is currently selling like hot cakes.
No beer range would be complete without a Christmas offering, and the Fenland Brewery will be selling Rudolph's Rocket Fuel (5.5%) throughout December. A special brew for winter 1998 has already been brewed. Currently un-named, this barley wine, weighing in at over 8% abv is maturing in rum casks, specially imported from Barbados. Most recently, both Doctor's Orders and Sparkling Wit have been made available.as bottle conditioned beers.
The City of Cambridge Brewery has unveiled its second beer, the dark and delicious Jet Black (3.7%). Is it a mild? Is it a porter? Is it another triumph? It was formally launched in early November in time for CAMRA's Mild Day of Action on Saturday November 8th.
Talking of beautiful dark beers, Adnams Oyster stout (4.3%) will have been and gone by the time you read this. A recent tour of Southwold under the banner of the annual Fulbourn Char-a-banc Trip found it to be in superlative condition at The Sole Bay Inn. It wasn't bad at the Live and Let Live & the Cambridge Blue either. Now it's the turn of Adnams Old Ale (4.1%). Look out for it.
The legendary Ruddles brewery in Rutland has been sold to Morlands for a knock-down £4.8 million.
(Grand Met paid £14m for the brewery back in 1986).
The fear now of course is that Morland will close down the Rutland brewery and shift all production to their
recently-expanded plant in Abingdon.
[Follow-up; Morland sold to Greene King]
Talking of closures, Carlsberg-Tetley have announced that three of their remaining breweries - Wrexham, Alloa and Burton-on-Trent - are to be shut. This follows the collapse of their proposed merger with/takeover by Bass. There is hope that Bass will buy the Burton site as their own brewery adjoins it - knock down a wall and they've got a mega-brewery. Another player in the market is the American giant Anheuser Busch who are looking for a European base on which to hang their dubious range of products.