Congratulations to Elgood's for Black Dog Mild winning the award of Champion Beer of the Peterborough Beer Festival.
In August Charles Wells announced they were selling off about 30 of their 300 pubs to buy "better" ones. The Old English Pub Company has bought five. Unusually for the industry, CW are giving tenants the chance to buy their pubs - at least three have taken up the offer so far.
Nethergate has been ringing the changes: Goldengate production was suspended for a while so that Ian Hornsey's assistant could make Autumn Ale (4.3%), using Bramling Cross hops and tasting very different from Ian's beers, as a project to complete a brewing course. The brewery's pub, The Cambridge Blue (Gwydir Street, Cambridge) used this opportunity to replace Goldengate by Augustinian Ale (4.8%) [described in ALE 291]. Ian has dropped Old Growler from 5.5% to 5% as he found it difficult to brew to 5.5% without sugar additives.
Greene King is closing its maltings saying it couldn't afford the necessary investment. This leaves only Bass and Wolverhampton & Dudley breweries with their own maltings. GK is also going to subcontract bottling. Its tenanted pubs arm, GK Pub Partners, reckons its biggest market growth segment is the 35-45 age group and it's apparently experimenting with "retail concepts". One, called Yards (as in Grosvenor Yard in Newmarket & Baker's Yard, East Rd., Cambridge), is described as "loosely branded community pubs in secondary town sites" (quoted in The Publican, 19/10/98). There's also a community Ale House theme, also for secondary town sites (apparently marketing-speak for those just outside town centres). The first one opened in St Ives last December. The third concept is Country Food. One imagines that such innovation took months of thought by marketing experts. They're aiming to increase to 800 pubs.
Meanwhile the brewing arm is withdrawing its bland nitrokeg Wexford after three years in favour of a "smooth ale" called XS plus nitrokeg IPA & Abbot. Caffrey's will also be available. However they've also introduced a new real ale called Triumph (4.3%) and initial reports of it are favourable. It uses Fuggles, Goldings, Northdown and Bramling Cross hops. The logo is that of the motorbike, as part of a joint promotion. It seems it's targeted against Fullers London Pride and is replacing Rayments, which is no loss. It's already available in the Champion of the Thames (King St.) and the Bird In Hand (Newmarket Rd.), Cambridge, for instance.
A new bottled beer called Celebration Ale (4.6%) was launched at the Ipswich Beer Festival in September, commemorating 175 years of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. 8.5p per bottle goes to the RNLI. Yet another new beer is Strong Suffolk Ale, to be available from mid-November to the end of January. It's a cask version of the bottled Strong Suffolk Vintage Ale (6.0%) [described in ALE 291]. Finally there'll also be a bicentenary ale next year.
Charles Wells, Adnams and JW Lees have launched a 36-pint home delivery service at £49.99 each, in association with CAMRA [see the advert in the November edition of What's Brewing].
Scottish Courage is creating a residential community pub chain called WJ&J Sanderson of 150 pubs in the next two years. Unusually, each pub will keep its name and be for people within walking distance.
Tolly Cobbold closed its Cliff Brewery building in 1995 and is now looking for a partner to turn it into a leisure venture. The hope is that the old steam engine, coppers, mash tuns etc. will be preserved.
The Worth Brewery, Keighley is selling a beer called Presidential Toss, a Dark Old Ale, with the logo of a certain President's head and the legend "A mouth full of a drink. LET IT LOOSE!"