The Society for The Preservation of Beers from the Wood
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SPBW JUBILEE YEAR EVENTS
2013 has been a hectic year. We tried to have an anniversary event every
month & just about succeeded. Some of these were our regulars. The AGM in
March moved to a new venue –Ye Olde Watling a Nicholson’s pub, used by the
SPBW in the past. This pub was also one of 4 on the list for a city crawl
early in the year.
In August we had the usual beer and buffet at our 2013 London pub of the
year (presented in January) –Ye Olde Mitre. Wantz won the Tony Littler
trophy excelling at beer mat flipping and quiz.
The National Weekend was in Derby & Marston’s & Derventio were visited.
We had a few trips often joining up with West Riding branch. The wood
festival in Castleford at the Junction and the day trip to Macclesfield were
2 such. A few people also did the day trip to Stafford even though the
Titanic tour sank, and there was a day spent visiting Black Country brew
Memorials were made national events: Steve Quiller –by Kingston & ‘Arry
Hart & Mike Hall by Campden Hill & Peter Smith by Common & Aldbrickham.
There was a special commemoration at the Place of our birth the Rising Sun
in Epsom, and the anniversary dinner in December at the Magpie.
An original founder John Keble was pleased to meet us, and we him, and lots
of old memorabilia was unearthed and memories exchanged.
New products including jugs were commissioned and sold like hot cakes.
LONDON PUB CRAWL:
The first event of the year was a short pub tour of the area around Euston and Kings Cross stations. First off, the Bree Louise with its wide selection of beers served either by
handpump or by gravity. Then across to the Euston Tap with beers from various small breweries alongside numerous keg and bottled beers from around
the world. Also very close to Euston station is the Doric Arch, owned by Fullers and with a limited selection of guest ales. Finally a few of us made
it to the recently revamped Kings Cross station and upstairs from the main concourse to the Parcels Yard, a spacious pub also owned by Fullers which
appeared to showcase the brewery's entire range with a few guests to boot. Half a dozen or so London members were joined by a trio from BMAD branch.
LONDON PUB OF THE YEAR:
On 28 January, about 20 SPBW members climbed the winding staircase to the function room at Ye Olde Mitre, the
2013 SPBW London Pub of the Year. NEC Chairman Mike Hall presented our prestigious award to Eamon 'Scotty' and Kathy Scott, who run this fine
historic pub so well. Scotty felt genuinely to have won and those present were rewarded with a generous and tasty buffet. Guest beers for the evening
were Wadworth's 6X and Henry's IPA, both drawn from wooden casks. A highly enjoyable and convivial evening. If you've yet to visit the Mitre, put this
right at the earliest opportunity!
BEER & A CURRY:
The latest health-unconcious Sunday of self-abuse was held on 10 February. Three worthy pubs in Bow/Bethnal Green/Hackney - the Eleanor Arms, Camel and Hare were
tackled before descending on the ever-reliable Pride of Spitalfields, just off Brick Lane. Crouch Vale Brewers Gold was up to the usual high standards here. 10
members in all were in the PoS although a few opted out of the curry part - it was good to see a few new faces getting involved. Once again we can report no aggravation
with passing motorists or pub customers.
KINGSTON SOCIAL ORGANISED BY KINGSTON BRANCH:
SPBW 50th/ Kingston Steve Quiller Pub Crawl:
Steve Quiller Memorial Pub Walk
Kingston Branch organised this event on 16 February in memory of Steve (or ‘Q’), a branch member who died last year. Some 15 or so members came along
for part or all the day. Starting point was the Kings Tun, a typical Wetherspoon close to the rail station. A good selection of guest ales here, including two
from Surrey Hills and, from rather further afield the excellent Inveralmond Ossian. From here we made our way into the town centre and the market place where we
found the Druid’s Head, the oldest pub in town. Now owned by Greene King, it offers two guest beers (from the likes of Holdens and Coach House this
afternoon) alongside the usual Bury St Edmunds fare. The pub has been rather modernised inside but is comfortable enough and provides relief from shopping.
To get to the third pub we went down to the river and walked downstream along the towpath for a quarter mile until we reached Boaters, inevitably
right by the Thames. This is a spacious pub providing excellent views to admire while you sup your pint. Two more local ales from Sambrooks were to
be had and Hogs Back Hop and Dark Star Hophead were among the other choices.
It was a bit of a walk to our next destination through a maze of back streets to the Wych Elm on Elm Road. This is a traditional Fullers house
where the landlord has been in situ for 25 years or so and the beer quality is high. Some of the party were able to watch Oldham v Everton on the pub tv
but we were on the wrong evening for live jazz. Here we were joined by Rick Robinson, mine host of the Willoughby Arms, which was to be our final pub.
The Willoughby is Kingston branch’s HQ, a genuine back street community pub. Sport is big here and there are various tv screens in the larger bar. If
that’s not your thing, there is peaceful respite in the more traditional remainder of the pub, split into two drinking areas. Fuller’s London Pride
is always available, but there are always 3 or 4 guest beers as well, often from the likes of Surrey Hills. Rick dished out hot pasties to all those present and
the evening ended with much beery bonhomie.
The NEC returned to its roots for the 2013 AGM - Ye Olde Watling had been a regular SPBW meeting in the 1960s even before the NEC was formed and
became the NEC HQ from the early 70s until the mid-90s. Now owned by the Nicholson chain, the Watling offered 8 handpumped beers for the 35 or so
members who attended the meeting on 11 March. To save everyone from traipsing up and down stairs we had our own dedicated barman who took
orders, the beer being sent up by dumb waiter. The meeting was largely uncontroversial with last year's committee being re-elected. A raffle raised
£60 towards the cost of a buffet that could have been more substantial. With the business out of the way there was plenty of opportunity for socialising
COMMON & ALDBRICKHAM BRANCH MEMORIAL CRAWL:
The Peter Smith memorial crawl took place on Saturday March 9th.
SPBW HERITAGE PUB CRAWL:
On 11 April we had a ‘SPBW Heritage’ pub crawl from the City of London to Holborn. About 20 members representing 8 branches (including RACS and West
Riding) gathered at Ye Olde Watling. This ancient pub has SPBW connections back to the 1960s (see AGM report) and now offers a good range of ales. From
here, Williamson’s Tavern is just a couple of minutes round the corner. Like YoW this is part of the Nicholson chain and also had a good choice. Despite
being tucked away down an alley way, this is quite a spacious pub with two large bars and a function room downstairs.
Third pub was the Viaduct Tavern, another historic and well-preserved pub, which was used by the NEC for its meetings in the early 1980s. Then owned by
Allied it’s since been acquired by Fullers and offered the expected selection. There were a few dark mutterings about short measures here. Next
on the list was Ye Olde Mitre. Our current London Pub of the Year (the award has pride of place next to the bar in the back room) and a regular host to
social events, YOM was busy as ever but service was typically first class. Apart from the usual Fullers beers there were guest ales from Mighty Oak and
Gloucester Brewery. Most of the party opted to stay here for the duration but a few did sneak up the road to the Craft Beer Co in Leather Lane, which
has no previous SPBW connections, but does boast an impressive range of beers (draught and craft) and helpful and knowledgeable staff.
TONY LITTLER TROPHY 2013:
Wednesday April 24th Calthorpe Arms Grays Inn Road – Hosted by Campden Hill and won by Wantz who will be the hosts for next year.
MEET THE BREWERS NIGHT:
On the Friday of the May Bank holiday weekend Bmads branch arranged a meet the brewer tasting session at the Burnt Mill snooker & Social club in
Harlow. The club usually has at least three real ales on the bar, but this was augmented by 6 Brentwood beers on stillage. I still however managed to
try the Great Heck Angel from the bar – a pleasant hoppy light beer with a citrus taste of 3.7%.
Sophie the Brentwood brewer gave a talk about the brewery and the beers represented and RACS branch provided the food and organised a raffle. About
6 months ago Brentwood added the elephant school brewing plant to their site. This is so named because up to 1959 there was an elephant training
school in Brentwood. This new micro facility enables them to try out some new unusual brews. Three of these were represented at the tasting session.
Aussie Blonde at 4% uses Ella Australian hops and had a notable citrus/grapefruit taste. Red Riot (4.3%) uses red and rye malts and Bramling
Cross Hops and as a result is very malty/fruity red rye ale. The most unusual beer was the 8.3% after 8 which used roasted chocolate malt and
roasted coffee beans and had mint tea added at the end of the boil. A small amount of Green & Blacks cocoa powder is also added to each cask. The result
is a strong dark chocolate and mint tasting beer.
There were also 3 regular Brentwood beers served in the “marquee”. Brentwood Maple mild is a 3.6% mild flavoured with Maple syrup. Burton Ale (4.8%) uses
Burtonised water –this means that Magnesium & Calcium Sulphate is added to replicate the hard water in the Burton area and to enhance the bitterness, a
process aided also by East Kent Goldings hops. The last beer was Brentwood Blonde, (3.8%), a spring seasonal made with Slovenian Hops.
The SPBW quiz night at the Eleanor Arms (Bow, east London) on 9 May was a great success. Organised by pub landlord Frankie Colclough – an SPBW member
and supporter himself – the event drew 3 SPBW teams and 3 teams of other customers. The theme of the quiz was beer, other drinks and drinking and
perhaps it was no surprise that the SPBW teams filled the medal positions. Wantz branch followed up its Tony Littler Trophy win two weeks earlier by
coming first and winning a bag full of bottled beers. The quiz was followed by a raffle and this, combined with quiz entry fees, netted a tidy sum for
the SPBW’s coffers, helped by product sales and the recruitment of a new member. The Eleanor Arms (460 Old Ford Road, E3 5JP) is a superb community
local serving well kept Shepherd Neame beers and is highly recommended.
Saturday June 29th.
On the last week in July, we visited Kent, the land of the hop. Our main port of call was the Golding Hop in Plaxtol, which boasted a sign of beer
from the wood. Sadly the Wooden Wadworth’s Henrys I PA had all gone, but there was another Wadworth beer and a couple of Adnams from metal stillage,
and a couple of traditional ciders. The rural setting is idyllic on a nice summer’s day, so we were able to recline outside. The service is
eccentrically brusque, although less euphemistic descriptions may well apply.
The next stop was the Old Red House in Ightam Common which had a large number of real ales, and both a busy and a quiet indoor section, as well as
a little outside seating. I can say that the Hopdaemon & the Wickwar beers were very good.
The Black Horse and Hoodens was a disappointment, with please do not notices everywhere, including plastered around the otherwise pleasant rather wild
garden. The only marked beer was Doom bar, and the groans solicited the information that the unmarked hand pump was Sunchaser, apparently from
Cornwall. Coastal Sunchaser is 6% and this one tasted more like Everards strength.
The Duke of Wellington at Birling had 2 large indoor rooms and another large outside patio area. Drops included Old Dairy, Westerham & Harvey’s –all
The Nevill Bull at Birling had Kent pale & Harvey’s best, and another pleasant outside area in the unseasonal summer sun. The Nevill family have
owned land in Birling since 1435. For those of you currently watching the White Queen on BBC1, Richard Nevill “Warwick the Kingmaker” was one family
member. The pub formerly the Bull was renamed to commemorate Lt Michael Nevill, who died in WW II in 1943.
Finally the Vigo Inn at Fairseat had some Goody beer –Very goody in fact from Heaven. This had a quaint wood panelled small bar area, and another
huge outside area, with a pleasant country vista. This Inn is 400 years old and set in a 5 acre space.
EALING BEER FESTIVAL:
The Ealing beer festival was held in Walpole park again on Wed July 3rd – Saturday July 6th.
Saturday 27 July Wantz branch trip to Macclesfield.
COMMON AND ALDBRICKHAM 50th. ANNIVERSARY EVENT:
A good selection of country pubs.
THE MACCLESFIELD MEANDER:
Continuing our loop around the southern part of town we found the Wharf on Brook Street. This is a highly dangerous pub: on the annual Special Branch canal week in
May we enjoyed a good evening session here but I fell over later and cracked a couple of ribs – not recommended. I’m sure the Wharf’s ales can’t
have been to blame mind you. On this return visit, scanning the beer choice I was somewhat perturbed to find the likes of East London Brewing Orchid and Redemption Trinity;
both fine beers but almost from my back yard and not what I go to Cheshire for! Happily there were tasty and local-ish options from Phoenix and Pictish (and Tetley; not
sure how many WR members went for this. This is a superb community pub with a young and enthusiastic guvnor. Time to return to the town centre where our last 3 pubs were
quite close together on Sunderland Street. The Jolly Sailor is a former Robinson pub where Castle Rock Harvest Pale and Everard Tiger were the best options. The barman
was still reeling from having 30 Yorkshiremen in his pub so the rest of us must have been light relief. Another traditional multi-room pub, in contrast with the Snow
Goose across the road. This is owned by Macclesfield’s Storm brewery and is done out as an Alpine ski bar (yes, you read that right!). There are drinking areas on
3 levels and a large outside patio. On the ground floor there is an eccentric range of furniture including 2 pianos. Look out also for the hand pulls which serve as taps
in the toilets. The party was breaking up by now and I enjoyed a pint and pie alone here before moving back across the road to the Treacle Tap. This is a fairly new pub
on the scene, in modern cafe style, with 3 draught beers plus plenty of ‘craft’ and bottled options. Local brews from Marble and Buxton usually feature here
and it was a good place to end the day’s entertainment; just a few minutes from the station as well.
Back in the early 1980s Macclesfield was one of the best towns in the country for beer, just about all its pubs serving real ale and breweries such as Boddington, Robinson, Marston and Tetley well represented. As these beers were just about unobtainable in London it’s no wonder that Wantz branch enjoyed a few trips to this Cheshire town in that era. And so, as part of the 50th Anniversary celebrations, we decided to go back for a day.
As it happened, on 27 July only 2 branch members were able to make the trip north. We were however, joined by a few others from London, a few more from Cheshire and a
coach load from West Riding, making over 50 SPBW gathered together. First pub was the Waters Green Tavern, handy for the rail and coach stations. Some of stayed here on
one of those early trips and I recall it as a fairly down market Ansells pub. These days it’s hardly up-market but Ansells is long gone and the pub offers up to 8
hand pumped beers. Beers from Buxton, Phoenix, Magic Rock, Barnsley and Oakham were among the attractions and the couple I tried were in fine condition. The WGT is
basically a one-bar establishment in an L-shape, with a pool room at the back where some of our number tried their skills. The pub was soon full as West Riding people
arrived and all too soon it was time to leave for the next pub.
Quite a few decided to take a small detour to visit the Castle, a National Inventory pub just up the hill which had a few decent beers on offer. However, the next ‘official’ pub of the day was a few minutes’ walk away through some back streets and
past the Silk Museum (silk being Macc’s prime traditional industry). We had worked up a decent thirst by the time we reached the Park Tavern on Park Lane. This
recently-modernised pub is owned by Bollington Brewery, based just a few miles north. 5 or 6 Bollington beers plus a couple ciders were the choice and the beers I
tried were certainly most tasty.
An oddity here is the Cinema Club which screens current release movies in an upstairs room.T ime to negotiate a few more back
doubles in this residential area of town to get to the Macc on Mill Green. Another newly-refurbished pub, formerly the Three Crowns, this is a free house and my instant
choice was Macclesfield bitter from the local Redwillow brewery; I’ve yet to try a Redwillow beer I’ve not been highly impressed by. The Macc is a large,
multi-room pub and we sat in the large back room where there is a table skittles board, not to mention a small patio area with two large wooden casks for tables.
Unfortunately, technical problems meant that no food was available, but the landlord helpfully pointed out nearby takeaway establishments to hungry members.
Continuing our loop around the southern part of town we found the Wharf on Brook Street. This is a highly dangerous pub: on the annual Special Branch canal week in May
we enjoyed a good evening session here but I fell over later and cracked a couple of ribs – not recommended. I’m sure the Wharf’s ales can’t
have been to blame mind you. On this return visit, scanning the beer choice I was somewhat perturbed to find the likes of East London Brewing Orchid and Redemption
Trinity; both fine beers but almost from my back yard and not what I go to Cheshire for!
Happily there were tasty and local-ish options from Phoenix and Pictish (and Tetley; not sure how many WR members went for this. This is a superb community pub with a
young and enthusiastic guvnor. Time to return to the town centre where our last 3 pubs were quite close together on Sunderland Street.
The Jolly Sailor is a former Robinson pub where Castle Rock Harvest Pale and Everard Tiger were the best options. The barman was still reeling from having 30
Yorkshiremen in his pub so the rest of us must have been light relief. Another traditional multi-room pub, in contrast with the Snow Goose across the road.
This is owned by Macclesfield’s Storm brewery and is done out as an Alpine ski bar (yes, you read that right!). There are drinking areas on 3 levels and a
large outside patio. On the ground floor there is an eccentric range of furniture including 2 pianos.
Look out also for the hand pulls which serve as taps in the toilets. The party was breaking up by now and I enjoyed a pint and pie alone here before moving back across
the road to the Treacle Tap. This is a fairly new pub on the scene, in modern cafe style, with 3 draught beers plus plenty of ‘craft’ and bottled options.
Local brews from Marble and Buxton usually feature here and it was a good place to end the day’s entertainment; just a few minutes from the station as well.
Our visit to Chiltern brewery on 12 September attracted 24 members for what proved to be an enjoyable day out. The brewery is based in a former farm in the tiny
village of Terrick. On arrival we were each given a glass of Beechwood bitter from the wood (the first time this beer had been so casked). After a brief look at the
surprisingly small brew house (but not the fermenting room, which is out of bounds to visitors) we sat down for a tutored sampling of two Chiltern cask beers plus a
commemorative 7.2% ruby ale. This was accompanied by locally produced cheese, biscuits bread & fruit cake, all of which were very tasty. Like many small breweries,
Chiltern lean heavily on retails sales and many of us spent some of our hard earned cash in the brewery shop.
Chiltern was one of the earliest of the new generation of small and micro-breweries, having been set up in 1980 and the cask beers are distributed mostly around the
Chilterns area. The brewery runs the Farmer’s Bar at the King’s Head in the centre of Aylesbury (see PiH 121), where beer from the wood is usually available.
The King’s Head dates from 1455 and is now owned by the National Trust. Needless to say, our party ended up here, sitting in the spacious courtyard and enjoying
the range of three Chiltern beers; a guest ale from Arbor and a draught cider were other options.
Between times we had ventured out of the town centre for a few pints at the Hop Pole on Bicester Road. This is the home of the Aylesbury brewery, a sister set up to the
Vale Brewery in Brill and most of us had a look at the small set up at the back of the pub and the adjoining shop. Only one Aylesbury beer was available along with other
6 or so others.
PILGRIMAGE TO THE RISING SUN:
This event, on 17 October was much enlivened by the surprise and most welcome arrival of Founder Member John Keeble, who had been kindly ferried up from Sussex by his
wife. John was in good form, and had some interesting old SPBW artefacts with him. It was a most convivial evening attended by 20 or so members. Well-kept beers from
Youngs, Sambrook and St Austell helped to wash down a tasty buffet. The Rising Sun is no more than 10 minutes walk from Epsom station and is worth a visit.
MIKE HALL MEMORIAL PUB CRAWL:
Mike’s 67th birthday would have been 25 November and that evening some 15 members got together to commemorate him in a selection of pubs in his ‘native’
west London. Starting point was the Moon Under Water in Hounslow, a typical Wetherspoon pub offering a few autumn and winter ales. Next stop was the excellent Red Lion,
Isleworth (down Linkfield Road, behind the rail station). This is a traditional, large community pub with an old-style public bar. Monday is jazz night here and an
excellent band were performing – shame we had to move on. The Red Lion offers 8 or 9 beers from a variety of breweries, friendly service and is highly recommended.
Another bus journey took us to Brentford and the Magpie & Crown in the High Street. The future of this genuine free house was in doubt a few years back but all is
well now. Indeed, the beer range seems to have been expanded; breweries such as Marble and Thornbridge were represented on our visit. Our final destination was the
Express in Kew Bridge Road. This was the first ever SPBW London Pub of the Year back in 1980 and I doubt that it’s changed much since then. If you go in the bar to
the left of the entrance look out for the SPBW mirror behind the door. As well as the staples of Bass and Young’s ordinary, Twickenham Naked Ladies was available
– until it was found to be ‘past it’ – happily the duff pints were changed with no problems. We all raised our glasses to Mike’s memory
to round off and enjoyable evening.
PIG’S EAR GATHERING:
/Wednesday 4 December No lack of beers from the wood at the Pig’s ear fest in Hackney. Cambridge Moonshine (with a 7.2% SPBW Anniversary Ale), Moncada,
Felstar and XT (4 different beers) all provided beer in wooden casks. On 4 December a good few SPBW gathered to try these and many more ales from a fine selection,
including a good few from the numerous local breweries.
London, Friday December 6th 2013. Two days after the Pig’s Ear gathering, 32 members gathered at the Magpie, London EC2, for the final anniversary event
of the year. No beers from the wood but there was an Adnams ‘oak-aged’ Christmas ale. We enjoyed an excellent 3 course meal washed down by some free beer
(one from the pub, one from SPBW as part of the cost). Toasts to absent friends were made and a few ‘veteran’ members offered some reminiscences. Everyone
seemed to enjoy themselves and it was a good way to end a busy year.