The best pub in Lincolnshire

by Steve Renshaw

Which is the best pub in Lincolnshire? If I asked a thousand people, I’d probably get hundreds of different answers. Pub-goers are very loyal, so many would vote for their local. Others might plump for a chocolate-box inn out in the countryside. Or, perhaps, a lively town-centre bar.

The problem is that there are so many different types of pub that it’s difficult to choose. Is it the best pub for atmosphere? Is it the pub with the friendliest landlord? Is it the pub with the best food? Or the best beer garden? Continue reading “The best pub in Lincolnshire”

“I can’t do fractions!”

by Steve Renshaw

Recently, I went to an award-winning pub/restaurant for a celebration lunch. We arrived early so I could enjoy a pint before the meal. We had a tab, so I didn’t notice the prices until we got home and I looked at the bill. My pint cost £3.30 – about average for this part of the country – but my wife’s half of the same beer was £1.80. So, had we bought two halves, they would have cost 30p more than a pint.

This year’s CAMRA National Annual General Meeting passed a motion noting the “distasteful” practice that some pubs operate in charging consumers more for a half pint than the proportional cost of a pint. Although this is not illegal, the membership instructed CAMRA’s National Executive to mount a campaign against the practice. Continue reading ““I can’t do fractions!””

Don’t blame the brewery!

by Steve Renshaw

Saving pubs from closure. Yes, I’ve written on the subject before, but it has hit the headlines again.

Across the country, the net rate of pub closures is currently 29 per week. “So what?”, you might ask. Well if you say that to the campaigners trying to save the Monson Arms or the Ivy Tavern, you might get a robust response. Recent research suggests that 75% of pub-goers believe that a well-run pub is as important to community life as a post office, local shop or community centre.

I was recently asked to comment on the radio about the proposed sale of the Nags Head in Helpringham near Sleaford. A group of villagers is campaigning to keep the Nags open and run it as a co-operative pub. It’s a very worthy aim and but it’s not a project to be taken lightly.

Organisations such as the Plunkett Foundation and Pub is the Hub can give advice on setting up a co-operative pub and sign-post sources of financial assistance. Outright purchase of a pub may not be the only option. As with the Cherry Tree at Cherry Willingham, locals may be able to lease the pub from the owner. Continue reading “Don’t blame the brewery!”

Australian for beer?

by Steve Renshaw

Last November, my wife and I had the holiday of a lifetime in Australia. We saw lots of iconic sights: Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Opera House, the Great Barrier Reef and kangaroos. But one Aussie icon we didn’t come across was Foster’s Lager.

If the advertisers are to be believed, everyone we met should have been drinking the “amber nectar”. However, Foster’s Lager does not enjoy widespread popularity in Australia and, since the early 2000s, the Foster’s Group has tended to promote Carlton Draught and Victoria Bitter.

Foster’s latest ad campaign over here mentions the brand’s heritage. And, yes, it is true that it was first brewed by William and Ralph Foster in Melbourne in 1888.

Early brewing in Australia was based on English methods of top fermentation. However, in the latter part of the 19th century, the new lager style from Germany became popular because the brewing process was better suited to the climate. The Foster brothers moved to Australia from New York in 1886 with a German brewer and a refrigeration engineer. They built a modern brewery and produced their lager, which was well received. Continue reading “Australian for beer?”

On the trail of the Red Lion

by Steve Renshaw

If you saw a sign saying that Red Lion was the most common pub name, you might think, “That’s interesting, I’ll remember it in case it comes up in a quiz.”

But when Cathy Price, from Preston in Lancashire, read it in the Red Lion in Hawkshead on Grand National day in 2011, she had a different idea. She imagined hundreds of them dotted across the country and came up with the idea of visiting them all.

There are around 625 Red Lions – with 29 pubs across the UK closing each week, it’s impossible to give an accurate target – and Cathy is now into the last hundred. So far, she’s driven around 35,000 miles on her epic quest, and at every pub she poses for a photograph and enjoys a drink.

On her travels, Cathy has gathered a huge collection of souvenirs, including beer mats, T-shirts, glasses and menus. One of the more unusual objects she has come across is a stuffed lion in the Red Lion at Bobbington in Staffordshire. Continue reading “On the trail of the Red Lion”

The black stuff

by Steve Renshaw

I was delighted to read Caroline Wilson’s “Never tried…Real ale” article in the New Year’s Day edition of the Echo. CAMRA has been extolling the virtues of cask-conditioned beer since the early 1970s, but we’re not stuck in a time warp. We celebrate the variety of wonderful ales that are available these days, and it’s great to see younger drinkers of both sexes appreciating them.

At this time of year, ale drinkers often look for something a little darker and stronger to ward off the cold of a winter’s evening. And one of the classic dark beer styles is stout.

Stouts evolved from porter, a London style that turned the brewing industry upside down early in the 18th century. It was a dark brown beer that was originally a blend of brown ale, pale ale and “stale” or well-matured ale. It acquired its name as a result of its popularity among London’s street-market workers. (For much of the 20th century, porter was extinct as a style, but it’s been revived as part of Britain’s ongoing beer revolution.)

At the time, a generic term for the strongest beer in a brewery was stout.  Eventually the name stout porter was shortened to stout. There are numerous kinds of stout but the best known is the Irish dry stout, popularised by Guinness. Continue reading “The black stuff”