Global Megabrewers

by Steve Renshaw

The world is becoming more and more interconnected as a result of massively increased trade and cultural exchange. Whether you like it or not, globalisation means that the biggest companies are no longer national firms but multinational corporations. Nowhere is this more evident than in the brewing industry.

I was reminded of this recently, when reading the business news. Heineken, the world’s second biggest brewer in terms of volume, was reported to have rebuffed a takeover bid from SABMiller. Heineken owns breweries in more than 70 countries. In addition to Heineken lager, the Dutch megabrewer’s portfolio includes Amstel, Sagres, Birra Moretti, Murphy’s and many other brands. SABMiller’s brands include Miller Lite, Fosters, Grolsch, Peroni and Pilsner Urquell.

In 2013, Heineken and SABMiller each produced over 30 billion pints of beer. However, these figures are dwarfed by the almost 70 billion pints produced by the world’s biggest megabrewer, AB InBev. The Belgian-Brazilian company employs over 150,000 people in 24 countries, and its portfolio of over 200 brands includes Budweiser, Corona, Stella Artois, Beck’s and Leffe.

So what do these three giant companies produce in this country? Well, although SABMiller’s headquarters are in London, the company has no brewing facilities in the UK. Continue reading “Global Megabrewers”

A village with no pub

by Steve Renshaw

Nocton was one of the villages we considered when we were looking to settle in the Lincoln area. Situated seven miles south-east of the city, Nocton is a leafy hamlet of traditional stone cottages with pantile roofing. There’s a handsome church, a village green and ducks on the beck. A classic Lincolnshire village, you might say. But, apart from a small post office, there are no shops and, crucially, no pub.

In the years since then, I’ve passed the sign on the Sleaford road pointing towards Nocton but, with no pub there, I’ve had no reason to visit the village again. And then, earlier this year, we received an e-mail from Nocton Club, asking us to let CAMRA members know about a St George’s Beer Festival that they were holding.

As the Club didn’t appear on our database, I did some Googling. The history of the village is inextricably linked with Nocton Hall and the associated estate. The fenland of the Nocton Estate was drained in the 18th century and became prime agricultural land.

In 1936, the Estate was bought by Frank Smith, founder of Smith’s Potato Crisps. Most of the cottages in the villages of Nocton and Dunston were owned by the Estate and occupied by its workers. The company encouraged and supported social activities, including sports clubs, fetes, dances and staff dinners. Particular attention was paid to the development of the social amenities, and large halls were provided in Nocton and Dunston. Continue reading “A village with no pub”

Gone for a Burton

by Steve Renshaw

Having read about Draught Bass in Greg Richards’ column last month, I decided it was time for a visit to the National Brewery Centre in Burton upon Trent. This was formerly the Bass Museum and it provides a fascinating insight into how Burton became the brewing capital of Britain.

The Staffordshire town has over one thousand years of brewing history. From the earliest times, the water from the wells in and around Burton was recognised as being ideal for brewing. The sulphate-rich water brings out the hoppy flavours and helps the beer to clear. Brewers across the world “Burtonise” their water by adding sulphates, often in the form of gypsum, to produce pale ales and bitters.

By the mid-18th century brewing had become a significant industry in Burton but expansion was limited by poor transport links. This changed in 1699 when Parliament passed The Trent Navigation Act. This resulted in Burton becoming the centre of one of Britain’s largest canal networks.

By the 1860s, Burton had become “Beeropolis”. The centre of the town was full of breweries and was criss-crossed by railway tracks linking them to the main lines. Over half the men in Burton worked in the brewing industry. Continue reading “Gone for a Burton”

Good Beer, Bad Beer

by Steve Renshaw

CAMRA members from Lincoln and Grantham recently met up in Newark to visit some of the town’s hostelries. All the pubs we visited were great and most of the beers we sampled were very good. But there were exceptions. One beer I tried looked and tasted like it had been drawn from the River Trent. I took it back to the bar and it was exchanged for one that wasn’t much better.

I’m sure that if we’d been keg beer drinkers, we’d have had no complaints about anything we were served. That’s the problem with real ale – the quality of the same beer served in different pubs can vary dramatically.

CAMRA members can use the National Beer Scoring Scheme to assess the quality of the real ale, each time they visit a pub. The scores range from “Perfect” to “Undrinkable”. Yes, I know it sounds a bit geeky, but it helps us to monitor the performance of pubs. And the data is very important when it comes to choosing entries for the Good Beer Guide.

Drinking beer goes back thousands of years but, somewhere along the line, humans discovered that beer could be carbonated by sealing it in a container and letting the “spirits” of fermentation go about their business. But fermentation is an unpredictable process and beer was prone to spoiling. Continue reading “Good Beer, Bad Beer”

Dog and Bone takes county crown

Lincoln CAMRA’s top pub, the Dog and Bone on John Street, has gone one better, with the award of Lincolnshire Pub of the Year for 2014. Judges from the Campaign for Real Ale visited the winning pubs from each of the CAMRA branches in the county and assessed the quality of the beer, the atmosphere, service, community focus and value for money.

The other pubs is the competition were:

  • Half Moon, Willingham by Stow.
  • Malt Shovel, Scunthorpe.
  • Nobody Inn, Grantham.
  • Brown Cow, Louth.
  • Nottingham House, Cleethorpes.

Lincoln CAMRA secretary, Steve Renshaw, said, “I recently described the Dog and Bone as Lincoln’s best kept secret but, with these awards, landlords Chris and Sarah Sorrell are now getting the recognition they deserve.”

One of the changes Chris and Sarah made since taking over the pub in February 2013 was to convert an outside storage shed into a cosy drinking area. The Kennel, as it is called, can be used for private functions or by community groups. Activities based at the pub include a walking group, jam sessions, art exhibitions and cook-offs. And, recently, a craft and chat group has started. Members meet on a monthly basis to discuss ideas and share techniques. So far, they have covered sewing machines, brooch making and felt making; the next session will involve tie-dying.

The Dog and Bone now goes forward to the East Midlands round of the competition, where it will be up against the best pubs from Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Rutland.

Pint of the usual?

by Greg Richards

In this age rich with new breweries and more guest beers than the most devoted beer-hunter can keep up with, there are still plenty of drinkers that prefer to stick to “a pint of the usual”. Many go for trusted brands, established beers that have been around as long as they can remember. But how many of these beers are actually the same brews they used to be?

Look at Bass, a beer that many pub-goers will recognise. The Bass red triangle was the first trademark to be registered in the UK. While it still appears on the pump-clip, what’s going on behind the label has changed drastically. The brewery was set up in Burton-upon-Trent in 1777 by William Bass and, by 1877, it was the largest in the world, with an annual output of one million barrels.

In the early 20th century , Bass acquired a number of other breweries and their pubs. The Strugglers Inn used to be tied to the Bass estate and, when the current landlady Anna took over, Bass was a permanent fixture. Now it only appears about once a week. “It’s a nice drink but not the beer it was,” according to the landlady.

In 2000, Bass brewing operations were bought by Interbrew (now AB InBev), the company behind Stella Artois, Becks and Budweiser. While Bass is still brewed in Burton-upon-Trent, it’s now produced by Marston’s and is currently a 4.4% ABV beer, having previously been brewed to 4% and 4.3%. Where a barrel used to have to settle in the pub cellar for over a week prior to serving, it can now be ready in two and half days. Some would say that’s progress, but such changes can’t happen without altering the beer itself. Continue reading “Pint of the usual?”