Sunday, 28 October 2012

Just the one Mrs Wembley?

Well it might have been a case of  a few more than "Just the one"  for the character played by Joan Sims when she starred alongside Dennis Waterman in the 80's sitcom, "On the Up", but lunchtime today it really was "Just the one" for me.

I called into our local Wetherspoons to check out their beer festival, and all seemed  to be going well. I was down the town on my bike, so didn't want anything too heavy plus I knew that later on in the day I would be driving. Ok, I probably would have been alright on two pints, given the quite lengthy time interval between imbibing and getting behind the wheel, but I also had a lot of tidying up to do in the garden. This combined with the changing of the clocks back to GMT meant that time was of the essence; particularly as it would start getting dark at around 4.30pm. That decided it, this was definitely to be a quick visit to the pub with just the one beer!

Walking into Spoons my eye was caught by the Dutch offering Brouwerij't IJ IJBok. However at 6.0% that one was definitely out. Instead my attention was drawn to two offerings from Surrey Hills Brewery - Shere Drop and Greensand IPA. Now Surrey Hills aren't taking part in the festival, but their beers have featured  at our local Spoons a few times recently A week or so ago I enjoyed a pint of the 4.2% Shere Drop, which is the brewery's flagship beer, and  it  really was good. Knowing Surrey Hills excellent reputation, I therefore had no hesitation in plumping for the 4.6% Greensand IPA.

It was a wise choice, and I was rewarded with a stunning glass of beer. Despite the relatively modest strength for an IPA, this beer turned out to be a real hop monster delivering  an explosion of citrussy and resiny hops. It is certainly a beer well worth seeking out.The brewery's website reveals it to be a seasonal beer, but as it doesn't state which season, one can only presume autumn.

I stuck with my intention just to have the one; anything else after such a fantastic beer wouldn't have been half as good. After leaving the pub I had a ride around our local country park, before cycling home for an afternoon's labouring in the garden. I will, of course, be popping into Wetherspoons from time to time over the next fortnight just to see what else is on offer.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

In search of the Dark SIde

I have this moan every year round about this sort of time. Late Autumn is traditionally the season when many old ales make their appearance, and first and foremost amongst these, so far as I am concerned, is Harvey's delectable Old Ale. This delicious, dark 4.3% abv beer is one of my all time favourites, and I look forward to its reappearance every year.

Harvey's launch their Old Ale at the beginning of October, with a "Dancing in the Old Ceremony", in Lewes. The event starts with a service of Thanksgiving at a local church, before moving on to the brewery yard, where the beer is literally "danced in" by a troupe of local Morris men. The townsfolk, together with any visitors that happen to be around at the time, are then invited into the yard and regaled with plentiful samples of the first of the season's Old. Sounds great, and were that I were there, but unfortunately, as has seemed to be the case in previous years, I was unable to go owing to other commitments

Surely one wonders, I should have tracked down some Old by now?  Unfortunately not; despite the beer now being out for almost  a month,  I've still not managed to sample a drop!  Disappointed or what? The trouble is that whilst virtually all our local pubs serve Harvey's excellent Best Bitter (a beer that is definitely a "must stock" item in this part of the country), very few stock the brewery's seasonal ales. Part of this is due to the ties imposed by the likes of Punch and Enterprise on their tenants which, whilst allowing them to stock Harvey's Best, doesn't allow for the stocking of any other of the company's beers. A large part of it though is due to the conservatism of  many pub landlords, who just want to play it safe, and not look for any variety, or be so adventurous as to stock something slightly out of the ordinary. Old Ale is available in Harvey's own pubs and that's about it!

The same applies to other brewer's dark beer. The end of next week should also see the launch of another favourite dark ale of mine, namely Larkins Porter, which unfortunately is another beer that is hard to find. Full marks though to the excellent Royal Oak in Tunbridge Wells for being one of the few pubs I know that stock the beer on a regular basis. (I'll be along there soon, especially as they've got a beer festival coming up!).

 Hopefully the situation will change next Friday, when I'm due to visit the Brecknock Arms, just along from Frant station, which is our nearest Harvey's pub these days. With Bonfire Night drawing near, who knows they might have Harvey's Bonfire Boy on as well. meaning I'll strike it double lucky.

I had a glass of Old Man, from Longman Brewery at the Spa Valley Railway Festival last week, plus a pint of Devils Dyke Porter, brewed by the Southdowns Brewery, in the Beford, Tunbridge Wells, so it's not been a complete dark ale drought!

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Spa Valley Railway Beer Festival 2012

The Spa Valley Railway's second beer festival was a resounding success, with virtually all the beer sold during the three day event. Held at the heritage railway's Tunbridge Wells West base, with additional beers available at Groombridge and Eridge stations, and also on the trains, members of West Kent CAMRA at times were struggling to serve the thirsty punters quick enough, especially during the Saturday afternoon session. We coped admirably though, but by the time the bars closed at 9pm we'd hat to send out for more beer. Thankfully, Tonbridge Brewery, plus Tunbridge Well's Bitter End Off-Licence, came to our assistance, and we were able to obtain fresh supplies and get the beer tapped, spiled and conditioned ready for the following day.

Sunday was slightly less hectic, and I was able to take a train down the line to Groombridge and help out with at the bar there. Spa Valley hosted a Diesel Gala Day on the Saturday, which obviously proved a hit with railway enthusiasts, whilst on the Sunday their normal steam and diesel haulage applied. Food in the form of curry, lasagne and macaroni cheese was available at Groombridge, with an all-day barbecue in the large engine shed at Tunbridge Wells West station, where the majority of the beers were stillaged.

So what about the beers themselves I hear you ask? Well we stayed local with Kentish beers from Larkins, Kent Brewery, Old Dairy, Royal Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge and Westerham, plus Sussex beers from Dark Star, FILO, Hastings, Kissingate, Hepworths, Longman and WJ King. Included in amongst this lot  were some excellent "Green Hop" ales, an Old Ale (Longmans), a Smoked Ale (WJ King) plus a strong Audit Ale (Westerham). I don't think the results of the "Beer of the Festival" are in yet, but my three favourites were Dark Star Green-Hopped IPA - a stunning 6.5% beer, light in colour, but anything but light in taste and character; Westerham Audit Ale - a rich amber 6.2% ale, warming and just the thing to keep the cold and damp out on a grey October day; Old Dairy Fresh Top - the Rolvenden based brewery's take on a green-hopped ale, refreshing and not too strong at 4.0%, but dangerously drinkable, and one of the first beers to run out. (Incidentally, the same brewery's Silver Top Cream stout was also very good and proved a great hit with many of the punters.

None beery highlights were the band Rumours, who provided the entertainment on Saturday afternoon and evening, playing some excellent cover versions of late 60's and early 70's rock classics, including numbers by the Small Faces, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and Guns and Roses, plus the Goth Morris Men (and Women), who put a whole new twist on this traditional form of Old English Entertainment.

Will there be another festival next year? Well, I'll be very surprised if there isn't, but we'll need to up the beer order again. In the meantime, like all the other volunteers and organisers from both West Kent CAMRA and the Spa Valley Railway, I'm taking a well earned rest and waiting for the final figures and  competition results to be announced.

A special thanks to Simon for the photo's.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Prague Beer Gardens

I wasn’t aware that Prague had any beer gardens; certainly not in the accepted view of such establishments. However, having made my previous visit during a particularly cold December, there was certainly no reason for me trying to track any down beer. My original visit to the Czech capital took place in 1984, and was arranged under the auspices of the then state-owned, Czechoslovak Travel Agency, Cedok.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say we were that strictly supervised, under the care of the latter organisation, but our itinerary allowed precious free time in which to go off exploring on one’s own. Furthermore, back then I had never been to a European beer garden, Cxezh, German or otherwise so wasn't really on the lookout for such places.
It therefore came as something of a surprise that whilst researching places to visit for the trip we have recently returned from, I came across a site giving details of around half a dozen beer gardens within the city. As it happened, we only managed to visit two of them and certainly when compared to our experiences of beer gardens in Munich, we were less than impressed.  I don't know what tradition of out door drinking, if any, exists in what is now modern day Bohemia, compared to neighbouring Bavaria, where the tradition of going to the beer garden dates back a couple of hundred years. Certainly the two gardens we visited in Prague were, apart from the benches and tables laid out beneath the chestnut trees, nothing like their counterparts in Munich and Bavaria.  For a start the serving area in each of them was nothing more than a small kiosk, compared to the elaborate Ausschänke typical of Bavarian beer gardens. For the record, though here’s what we found. 

Letna Beer Garden - Located inside Letna Park, a popular and attractive city park above the west bank oo the Vltava River, overlooking Stare Mesto. Letna Beer Garden is a large shady area with lots of picnic tables, directly across from Letensky Zamecek, (Letna Chateau), with arguably the best view of Prague. The beer is Gambrinus 10, served in a plastic glass from a kiosk. There is also a restaurant to the rear of the beer garden.

We visited his particular beer garden during our first afternoon in Prague. Hungry and thirsty, in equal measure, after an early morning flight, we headed for Letna after checking into our hotel, dumping of our baggage and then catching the tram back into the centre of Prague. It was a lovely, late-September day, (having left a wet and windy England far behind us), and we were determined to make the most of the good weather. The beer garden took a bit more tacking down than we’d anticipated, but whilst the Gambrinus beer was cool, refreshing and very welcome, (despite being served in a plastic glass), there appeared to be nothing available in the way of food.

Undeterred, we grabbed a seat at one of the many tables on the edge of the terrace, over-looking Prague, where we were rewarded with a spectacular view of the city. Considering the warm sunny weather there weren’t that many people sitting out, but at least the place was mercifully free from tourists! After one beer though,our hunger was starting to get the better of us. We had eaten nothing since 5.30am, and only then had a quick sandwich prior to our flight. I had noticed quite a posh looking restaurant, with an outside terrace, towards the rear of the beer garden. We decided to investigate further, and found to our delight that the prices were quite reasonable. We grabbed a table, ordered a beer from the attractive Czech waitress - Pilsner Urquell, this time in a proper glass, and were soon tucking into a plate each of Czech-style sliced beef in goulash sauce, with bread dumplings as an accompaniment.

Lentni Zahradka Prazan - Situated close to the entrance to Stromovka Park. On tap are Unetice filtered 10 and unfiltered 12, traditional Pilsner-style beers from a well-regarded new brewery in Unetice, a small town just outside Prague. Plastic glasses again, unfortunately. Quite small and squeezed into a corner, opposite the exhibition centre.

At 6.30pm on a late September evening, we didn't really pick the ideal time to visit this one, but unfortunately our itinerary, plus the need for some last minute shopping,  precluded a daytime visit. Consequently it was starting to get dark. There were still quite a few people around, and the beer garden was situated quite close to the entrance to the park, so we weren't particularly worried about our safety. What was more off-putting was the sharp drop in temperature. We ordered ourselves a beer each from the small kiosk, but unfortunately, once again it was served in plastic glasses. The unfiltered Unetice 12 was certainly well-hopped, but the place had all the atmosphere as a seafront shelter on a wet Bank Holiday weekend, so after just the one beer we left for somewhere warmer and somewhere that served food.

Obviously our two brief visits only scratched the surface of Prague's beer garden scene, and given the time of year we didn't exactly see them in their best light. I'm sure that earlier in the year they are packed with people escaping the heat of the city, enjoying each others company, plus a beer or two. Not sure about the plastic glasses though!

I would, however be interested to learn of other people's experiences of beer gardens in the Czech Republic.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Rail-Ale Beer Festival Spa Valley Railway Tunbridge Wells

Next weekend sees my local CAMRA branch involved with the running of the Spa Valley Railway Beer and Cider Festival. The festival is a joint venture between the two organisations and combines the often shared enthusiasm that exists between lovers of steam trains and real ale. This will be the second such event for the railway and CAMRA, but the first that I have been involved with. Last year's festival was something of a learning curve, but was nevertheless a great success. We hope to build on what was learnt, so that this year's event is even better.

There  are 44 cask ales on offer. plus 8 traditional ciders. All the beers and the ciders are locally sourced from Kent and East Sussex plus one from Essex and one from Surrey. The majority of the beers will be racked and on sale at Tunbridge Wells West Station - Spa Valley's headquarters, but a small hand full will be available further down the line, at Groombridge and Eridge stations. Beer will also be available on the trains that run between the three stations. The festival runs from 5pm on Friday evening until 6.30pm on Sunday (19th to 21st October).

The Spa Valley Railway is a heritage railway, operating both steam and diesel trains that run for 5½ miles through the picturesque Kent and Sussex Weald between the mainline junction at Eridge and the spa town of Royal Tunbridge Wells, stopping off in between at Groombridge and High Rocks.  

The railway is easy to reach by public transport. Tunbridge Wells West is a short walk, via the town's famous Pantiles area, down from Tunbridge Wells mainline station. Alternatively, visitors can travel on Southern services from London Bridge, or East Croydon to Eridge, on the Uckfield line. Once at the railway, visitors can buy a £10 ticket that will allow them to travel back and forth between Tunbridge Wells and Eridge all day. Alternatively, return tickets to intermediate stations, such as High Rock and Groombridge can also be purchased.  Saturday will see trains hauled by heritage diesel units, whilst Sunday sees steam haulage

Food, in the form of  lasagne, chili con carne, curry, will be available at Groombridge station with a barbecue at Tunbridge Wells West. In addition, sandwiches, snacks and other refreshments will be available on the train and at stations along the line. 

For more information regarding the beer festival, plus the full beer list click on the link here. For an account of the branch's previous trip on the Spa Valley Railway, plus a short history of the line, click here.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Prague 2012

Well it’s been just over a week now since my return from Prague. I’ve lots to report and I'm pleased to say that it's nearly all good as well. Whilst this was my third visit to the Czech capital, it was my son’s first trip there and I can safely say he enjoyed it every bit as much as I did. 

So where to start? Beer wise it was all good, with some excellent brews available at prices we can only dream of here in the UK. Even in the centre of Prague one was only paying the equivalent of £1.25 – £1.50 for a half litre, working out at £1.40 – £1.70 a pint. The beer was all good, but some obviously better than others, and what I especially liked was the thick creamy head it came with. Now that’s saying something for a southerner! Memorable examples were found in the beer hall at U Medvidku, right in the centre of town, where both the light and dark versions of Budvar were served in this fashion. The food was also extremely good, very reasonably priced and served in generous portions. To the left of the beer hall is a separate room where one can sit at the bar and enjoy specialities of the house, including an un-filtered 6.1% beer, called 1466, which was quite bitter in taste, and also  the 5.2% Oldgott Barrique, a dark amber lager produced in a small  brewery on the premises, alongside a strong 12.% bottled beer called X-Beer 33. U Medvidku certainly got our thumbs up, providing one timed ones visit to miss the parties of visiting Americans! 

We also liked Baranicka Rychta in Mala Strana, situated in a cul-de-sac just up from the American Embassy. On a warm September afternoon we sat out on the terrace outside amusing ourselves watching tourists walking up the hill, only to find their way barred by a metal gate! The pub served excellent Svijany beer  from the town of the same name in northern Bohemia, and we also enjoyed  the traditional Czech delicacy of deep-fried cheese with  bramboracky potato cake for our lunch. The interior was every bit as traditional as well, and despite its location  in the exclusive embassy district, was very reasonably priced and with friendly staff to boot.

We were pleased to find our hotel, whilst some distance outside the centre of Prague (well five stops on Metro Line C), was just three tram stops away from the Richter Brewery Pub. This pub was a proper Czech local, but despite speaking no Czech we were made very welcome, and as no English language menus were available were provided with one in German, which at least ensured we could order some food and know what we were getting! The house pilsner was very well hopped, and again served with that thick creamy head. There was also a stronger, 6.3% beer available The food too was tasty, filling and reasonably priced and we ended up making two visits in total on those nights we didn’t fancy venturing into the city centre.
As well as Evan Rail's excellent CAMRA Guide, now becoming slightly out of date, and pages printed off from Ron Pattison’s European Beer Guide, we used a really good contemporary site confusingly called  Prague Beer Garden, but whilst it does contain a section on the city's handful of beer gardens, is much more  a good pub guide to Prague. This directed us to several places which we would not have found otherwise, including the cosy Prazsky Most u Valsu restaurant and brew-pub, right in the centre of the Old Town. We dined here on our first night in the city, sampling both the light and the dark beers, brewed downstairs. Interestingly, the portion of the pub underground was much more extensive than that above, and seemed a popular hangout for students and young people.

No trip to Prague, of course is complete without a visit to U Fleku, the world's oldest surviving brew-pub. This legendary establishment needs no introduction to beer lovers the world over, but unfortunately has become a victim of its own success in recent times, and is now something of a tourist trap. That said, it still produces its world-classic, house-brewed dark lager, sweet and chocolaty in taste and decidedly moreish. I first visited U Fleku on a still, warm October evening, back in 1984, whilst on a CAMRA organised trip to what was then Czechoslovakia. Back then the clientele sitting out in the rear courtyard were mainly young people, with a large proportion of them probably students. Today, most  customers are tourists, but with the weather again being kind, we were able to escape the crowded bar immediately to the left of the entrance hall, and once again enjoy the relative tranquillity of the courtyard.

That was until the wretched accordion player turned up! Actually he wasn't as bad as the waiter who persistently tried to foist  Becherovka shots onto us. Matthew thought I was being rude by refusing, until I pointed out the price of these seemingly "free" liqueurs on the menu; 79 Kc, more than double the price of the beer! The pushy waiter and the erstwhile musician eventually took the hint and went off to pester some other group of tourists, leaving us alone to enjoy a couple of glasses of the excellent beer (only 0.4l glasses though!). 

I said at the beginning of this post that it was nearly all good, and indeed it was. Our one slightly sour note wasn't really even that sour thinking back, but was probably just an unfortunate mix-up. One night finding  U Medvidku packed with the aforementioned parties of tourists, we walked along to U Bubenicku, an old fashioned, but very atmospheric Czech beer hall, a short distance away in Myslikova, and listed on the Prague Beer Garden website.  They had Pilsner Urquell plus the dark Kozel Tmavy on tap, and after managing to secure a table we sat down to enjoy our beer and order some food. The pork Schnitzel with mashed potato I ordered was excellent and very filling, but it took quite a long time to arrive. I didn't mind as the dark Kozel in particular was especially good. It was also interesting just watching the comings and goings. The problem came when we asked for the bill and found we had been charged for four beers each, rather than three. We believe this came about because more than one waitress had been working the tables and, unlike all the other pubs we visited, the staff weren't following the Czech (and German) custom of recording the number of beers served by means of  ticks on a beer mat.

We sorted it out quite amicably in the end, but I couldn't help my suspicion that this was a deliberate ploy to get a bit extra out of the tourists. That said I would still go back there as the place had a terrific atmosphere and, like I said, the beer and food were both excellent.

To sum up, the beer scene in Prague has improved even more since my last visit in December 2009. With a bit of homework and some forward planning, it is possible to drink and dine very well, and at very reasonable prices, in a capital city that is a major tourist destination for over 12 million visitors a year! I've got a few more tales to tale and experiences to relate, so keep watching these pages.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

In Search of Craft

"A man who is tired of London is tired of life." So said Samuel Johnson, and whilst I could never quite tire of our capital city (I was, after all born there), I'd certainly had enough of the place on Friday evening. I had been up in town for a trade show at Excel in London's Docklands, and after leaving around 4pm decided to investigate a few of London's burgeoning "craft bars" before making my way home.

First on my list was the aptly name Craft Beer Company, in Leather Lane, just off the Grey's Inn Road. I had read about this place after it first opened its doors and had checked out its website prior to my visit. Even so I was quite un-prepared for the number of hand pumps that greeted me as I entered. I didn't count them, but there must have been round about a dozen. There was an equally large number of keg fonts dispensing "craft keg". I was rather thirsty following several hours spent looking round the trade show, so kicked off with a pint of Redemption Hopspur at 4.2%. Alongside the Redemption beer were several offerings from Dark Star, plus an inordinately large number of beers from Blue Monkey Brewery. On keg there were beers from Camden, Kernel,  Danish brewery Mikkeller, who brew Craft's house lager, plus several others that I'd never heard of.

The barman had earlier offered me a taste of the craft keg beers, should I wish to buy one, but  the pub was starting to fill up quite rapidly, mainly with what appeared to be a student crowd (where do they get the money from?), even though it was only just after 5 o'clock. I had been on my feet most of the day and really wanted to sit down, so decided to make my excuses and leave, in search of the next possible pub/bar on my list, namely the Old Red Cow. This was about 15 minutes walk away, through the rain, on the other side of Smithfiield Meat Market, in Long Lane.

If I had thought that Craft Beer was packed then the Old red Cow was doubly so. It is quite a small pub, even with its "keg only" lounge upstairs. I manged to push my way through to the bar, where I found three cask beers on sale, alongside nine keg offerings from an American-style, back bar row of taps. The cask beers were all from Ilkley Brewery. I sampled two of them; the light, 3.3% Victorian Dinner Ale, plus the much stronger 5.5% Green Goddess Belgian Green-Hopped Ale. Both were very good, but the place was absolutely heaving, and still more people were trying to squeeze in. There was precious little room to stand, let alone anywhere to sit, and anyway the clientele, in the main, were  "City nob-heads" aka Merchant Bankers, (yes the rhyming slang is appropriate!). It was definitely, yet again, time to move on, but not before I had noticed, with some amusement that the the bar staff were recommending anyone wanting lager, to try the Goldbraeu from Stiegl, a brewery from Salzburg, who are the largest privately-owned brewery in Austria. I  visited the brewery myself, along with Brauwelt, billed as Europe's largest beer experience, back in late 2006, during a short break in Mozart's home town.

I digress; the steady driving rain meant it wasn't the sort of evening to be walking around outside, so a short trip on the Underground brought me to London Bridge where I knew there was a cluster of good pubs. Making my way through Borough Market, where many of the stalls were starting to pack up for the day, I arrived at the Market Porter; always a good bet for something out of the usual on the cask front. Alarm bells started to ring when I saw the throngs of people standing on the pavement opposite the pub, sheltering under the high glass canopy of the neighbouring market, plastic (yes plastic) glasses of beer clutched in their hands. I managed to get into the pub, but it looked far too much of a struggle to get to the bar, so I didn't even bother trying. (I did see a notice explaining the use of plastic glasses for those who wished to drink outside, which is fair enough, given the size of the crowds the pub seems to attract).

Plan B was to make my way a bit further along to the Rake, although I was even less optimistic I'd be able to get served in there. I was therefore pleasantly surprised to find it quite easy to reach the bar, as most of the people were standing outside on the covered decking. People rave about the Rake, and beer-wise I can understand why, but to me it always seems like drinking in a porta-kabin rather than a pub. Still, I had no complaints about the beer I had, Hackney Hopster 4.3% from the quite recently established London Fields Brewery,  and reasonably priced at £3.60 a pint. Also on sale was Oakham Inferno, one other cask ale that I couldn't get close enough to the bar to recognise, plus a variety of imported keg beers that I did manage to recognise, including Rogue Dead Guy Ale, plus Oktoberfest Bier from Hofbraeu.

I have drunk, and enjoyed, both these beers in bottled form before, so wasn't tempted to try them on draught; in actual fact I decided to call it a day. Although I obviously prefer to enjoy a pint or two amongst friends, I don't mind drinking on my own, providing it's quiet and I can find a corner to sit in and watch the world go by or, if they aren't busy, stand at the bar and engage the bar staff in conversation. When pubs are rammed full though,the whole experience is far less enjoyable and I find myself rushing my drink (probably as I am subconsciously in a hurry to leave). Friday evening as no exception, so I made my way back to London Bridge station and caught the next train home.

This article started out about being tired of London; tired of crowds would be more appropriate. It was also about trying some of London's Craft Beer Bars. That I accomplished in part, but what I didn't accomplish was to actually try any craft beers. Perhaps I did though, in the form of the offerings I had from Redemption, Ilkley and London Fields. To me they were well-crafted, representing the best that small, dynamic,innovative and up and coming brewers have to offer. They were cask and not keg, and whilst I know I'm biased, to me that makes them better!

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Waverley TBS

 Shock news to me that beer wholesaler Waverley TBS have gone into administration, but judging by some of the comments on the Morning Advertiser's article it seems that those in the trade have seen this coming for some time.

When my wife and I first took over our real-ale off-licence, The Beer Seller, as Waverley TBS were then known, went out of their way to assist us. We had a visit from their local rep who arranged for all our beer lines to  be replaced, foc. We also received lots of point of sale, plus other promotional material. The company ran promotions on cask ale every month, which were often geared to the season or to sporting events and other occasions. On a more personal note, much to my wife's disapproval, I acquired numerous items of beer-related clothing such as T-shirts, rugby shirts etc as a result of buying multiple casks. Their tele-sales girls were always courteous and extremely helpful, and their draymen were invariably reliable and largely on time, (they would always call and let me know if they were likely to be late).

Personally I am sad to learn this news, and feel very sorry for anyone whose job might be under threat as a result of this action. It is nearly six years since I last dealt with the company and there have been a lot of changes since then. They had already acquired their new moniker, (Waverley The Beer Seller), having been bought by Scottish & Newcastle from former owners, Bulmers, but the changes introduced by the new regime had not really begun to take effect by the time we came to sell our business. Judging by some of the comments on the Morning Advertiser site, it seems Waverley stopped being a specialised supplier, catering to a niche market, and instead went headlong into a battle with other major distributors trying to compete on well-known and widely distributed brands.

As I said earlier, I have been out of the trade for too long now to have my ear to the ground and really know what is going on, but I can't help thinking that this news spells, in its own way, yet another nail in the coffin of the great institution that is the British pub!