Project William

by Steve Renshaw

According to the Good Beer Guide 2015, 170 new breweries have started up in the UK in the last 12 months. With almost 1,300 breweries operating in Britain, we have more breweries per head of population than any other country in the world. And still they come! Lincolnshire’s newest brewery, Horncastle Ales, was officially launched in July, too late to make the Guide.

The continued growth has been driven by small independent breweries which have been popping up all over the country. Many of the brewers are experimenting with the beers they brew, leading to even greater choice for drinkers.

However, with CAMRA research showing 31 pubs closing every week, it’s getting harder for small breweries to get their beers on the bar. Of course, one way of ensuring a market is to have your own pub. For example, Brewsters Brewery of Grantham owns the Marquis of Granby in the village of Granby, and Fulstow Brewery has the Gas Lamp Lounge on the ground floor of its Louth site. But buying a pub is beyond the means of many small businesses.

A groundbreaking £11.5 million scheme is, however, helping some small brewers achieve their dream. Project William, the brainchild of Leicester family brewer Everards, gives smaller brewers the opportunity to run pubs. Of the 28 pubs so far re-opened, 14 had closed and 13 were trading so poorly they were unsustainable. They are now being run very successfully and are making a healthy profit. Continue reading “Project William”

There’s a beer for most meals

by Wendy Margetts

If you ask most people about what they drink with a meal, I imagine the vast majority will reply wine – red or white depending on what they are eating. The wine industry has successfully created an association of wine and food, but wine has a higher alcohol content and less variety in flavour than beer, so the beer industry is fighting back.

The Beer Academy aims to educate people about beer, helping them understand, appreciate and enjoy beer sensibly. They offer a variety of courses, training and tasting courses to the trade and beer retailers. One of the courses they offer is that of beer sommelier, attendees are recognised for their significant knowledge of beer styles and beer and food matching, in fact Kathy and Tim Britton from Oldershaw Brewery in Grantham passed the beer sommelier qualification back in 2013.

Many people are already partial to a lager with their spicy curries, but many pubs and restaurants are now offering a beer menu to match their food menu, so you could be offered a smoked porter to go with your rib-eye steak or a fruit beer with your chocolate dessert. Beers come in a variety of styles and flavours that mean there is beer to go with most foods and situations.

The new campaign by The Beer Alliance plays on this nicely with a caption ‘There’s a Beer for That’, the new TV advert shows people from all walks of life enjoying beer with different meals, highlighting the fact that for a small island the UK really does have a diverse range of beers being brewed with diverse flavours. Continue reading “There’s a beer for most meals”

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”