ALE Spring 2003 No. 309

Industry News

National Winter Ales Festival in Burton-upon-Trent

Congratulations to Nethergate Brewery (Clare, Suffolk): Old Growler was voted Supreme CAMRA Champion Winter Beer of Britain 2003. The 5% ABV porter is described in the Good Beer Guide as a "complex and satisfying porter, smooth and distinctive. Sweetness, roast malt and fruit feature in the palate, with bitter chocolate lingering. The finish is powerfully hoppy".

The silver prize went to Horndean-based Gales with their superb Festival, and the Bronze award went to Wentworth brewery from Rotherham for their Oat Meal Stout.

Local brewery news

Milton Brewery's first pub, the Coalheavers Arms in Peterborough, now has a Web site: Refurbishment of their second pub, in Hackney Downs, is progressing.

Meanwhile the brewing side is flourishing, with recent awards also including Champion Beer of East Anglia 2002 for Pegasus, SIBA's Champion Mild for Minotaur and Cyclops was the beer of the festival at a local beer festival.

Cap'n Grumpy's seems to have ceased brewing altogether, having left the Ship at Brandon Creek a few months ago and been brewing at Iceni for a while.

Early start for JDW

The JD Wetherspoon pub chain has been successful in obtaining licences to serve alcohol from 10am for about half its 629 pubs. Many of the pubs already opened then for breakfast and coffee, in a bid to rival the likes of Starbucks. Meanwhile it's still opening new pubs but also selling off a few - mainly ones bought from other pubcos.

Another sign of things to come is that some JDW pubs now charge entry in late evenings. For instance the new Lloyds No. 1 in Croydon is charging as a condition of licence: 2 after 11pm Sun-Thu; 4 after 9pm Fri-Sat.

Real Bud

In a startling ruling, the House of Lords has decided Czech brewer Budejovicky Budvar has the rights to the "Bud" trademark in the UK, not the giant US Anheuser-Busch company, the world's largest brewer. The UK is the only country where both Anheuser-Busch and Budvar can sell their beer products using the "Budweiser" brand.

(In Cambridge, draught Budweiser Budvar is available in the Free Press.)


Charles Wells' Banana Bread Beer (4.5%) returned this February as a seasonal beer, after an award-winning tryout last year. It's described as "a dark-golden coloured ale which hugs the palate with great intensity. Its malty aroma is complemented by the gentle nose of Banana".

One media accolade was from the Michael "Beer Hunter" Jackson in The Independent: it has a "... fruity roughness of winter barley and toffeeish sweetness of crystal malt... hugely tempting aroma of bananas; creamy head, firm silky body."

Banana Bread Beer won the Beer of the Festival Award at CAMRA's London Drinker Beer Festival in March 2002.

A key point is that it's targeted as attracting female drinkers, previously a hard audience to reach for real ale. A further point is its use of fair-trade ingredients.


The March What's Brewing reports that the Laurel pubco is tweaking its Hogshead branded pubs even more, having already cut beer choice drastically. Now staff known as "hoggers" will wait on tables to serve alcopops and shots and the logo will change from a barrel to a hog's head. Real ale choice will be cut down to just Fuller's London Pride and Caledonian Deuchars IPA (already widely available in other pub chains).

Return of M&B

Six Continents (formerly Bass) has split off its pubs & restaurants division (2100 freehold sites) as Mitchells & Butlers, keeping its hotels. M&B was established in 1898 and taken over in 1961.

(An aside: the Moody Blues tried to get sponsorship from their local brewer M&B by choosing the name "M&B 5" but the deal never came through.)

Guinness alternative

Lord Iveagh, the head of the Guinness dynasty, has launched a stout bearing an uncanny resemblance to the `black stuff'. He's never worked for the family business, preferring farming on his estate on the Norfolk/Suffolk border.

He is quoted in the London Evening Standard as saying: "There is nothing like a bit of choice. I love Guinness as it has an excellent recipe and therefore my alliegance will now be split between Guinness and the new brew."

(Perhaps if he tried some of the excellent stouts produced in the area he would discover what 'the black stuff' should taste like - Stout-drinking Ed.)

Elveden Stout will be produced and sold from a micro-brewery on the estate.

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