Mine's A Pint issue 24

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IN THIS ISSUE Pub & Brewery News Foresters Real Ale in Social Clubs Cider Update Pubcos




Beer Census Results Reading's first ever beer census in September was a great success. Marking the start of National Cask Ale Week, and following similar surveys in places like York, Derby and Norwich, we set out to find out how many different real ales were on sale in Reading on one day. How many do you think? 50? 80? Perhaps even 100?

In fact it was a whopping 155! That does include some pubs on the outskirts of Reading but it's a pretty amazing total. Of the 97 pubs visited, 73 different breweries were represented with Greene King (in 44 pubs) just pipping Fullers (42), with Sharps

and Wells & Youngs sharing third place (18). Top local brewery was Loddon in 6th place (in 14 pubs). The most commonly available ale was Fullers London Pride (in 27 pubs), followed by Sharps Doom Bar (17) and Greene King IPA (13). Prices ranged from £1.79 for a pint of Greene King in the Back of Beyond, up to £3.90 for Fullers 1845 in the Volunteer at Theale. The average price of a pint was £3.19. Other interesting stats were that real cider was available in 20 pubs, and a total of 55 LocAles were on sale. We couldn't have done it without a band of volunteer surveyors, so a big round of thanks to you all. Let's do it again next year! If you want to help out, or to contact us about anything else, e-mail me on

editor@readingcamra.org.uk Cheers. Adding up the results on census night

Phil Gill Editor


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Branch Diary Events are open to all unless specified. DECEMBER Wed 19: Christmas Party. 19.30 at Zero Degrees, 9 Bridge Street, Reading, RG1 2LR. Meal, brewery tour and tastings. Deposit required. Contact Dan on 07811 403701. JANUARY Thu 3: First Thursday of the Month social. 20.00 at Nags Head, 5 Russell Street, Reading, RG1 7XD. Fri 4: Curry Night. Meet 19.30 onwards for drinks at the Conservative Club, High Street, Southall, UB1 3HB, then restaurant at 21.00. Contact John Robinson on 0118 940 2787 / 0790 434 3187. Sat 12: Regional Pub Crawl in London. Start 12.00 at the Harp, 47 Chandos Place,

London, WC2N 4HS (Charing Cross Tube). Contact Sue on 07899 980307. Sat 19: Pub crawl to Henley and Marlow. Meet 12.00 at Little Angel, Remenham, RG9 2LS (just over the bridge from Henley). FEBRUARY Thu 7: First Thursday of the Month social. 20.00 at Fox & Hounds, 116 City Road, Tilehurst, RG31 5SB. See www.readingcamra.org.uk for updates. For details of an event with no contact listed, to suggest an event or to receive regular e-mail updates of the branch diary, contact Antony Willis: antony.willis@talk21.com 07960 389940

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Pub and Brewery News Henley This is out of our area but a couple of stories worth reporting. Firstly a new pub, the HENLEY BREW HOUSE, has opened in the old police station, and has a 5 barrel brewery called The Henley Brewing Company. We understand that John Roberts, a former brewing director at Fullers, is behind the venture. The first beers are Jail House (3.9% bitter), Temple Island (4.5% pale ale) and Scull Duggery (4.8% dark ale), with a spicy winter beer called Old Nick also planned.

Pub News Fox and Hounds

Caversham Two Bridges ale is back at the FOX AND HOUNDS on Gosbrook Road, with Hard Day's Pint as the house beer. See the Brewery News section for more details about the brewery and beers. The long term intention is to have 3 Two Bridges beers and 3 guests on here. The RED COW on Star Road is reported closed, to become a restaurant / takeaway. This sadly leaves Lower Caversham without a pub as we have lost in recent years the Golden Key (demolished for flats), the Millers Arms (demolished for an industrial estate), the Star (converted to a shop) and even the Conservative Club has closed down. Earley One of our surveyors has reported good beer quality (Otter Bitter and London Pride) at the GEORGE at Loddon Bridge. Emmer Green As reported in the Reading Post, the GARDENERS ARMS has been in trouble with its neighbours over noise and disruption. Greene King and local councillors say they are working with the licensee to ensure it remains a well-run pub.

Also, the team behind Reading's Allied Arms have taken over the QUEEN VICTORIA in Henley. The Victoria (as it used to be known) has had a chequered past but the plan is to totally change the decor, clientele and standards and run it much like the Allied Arms. There will be four cask ales, “none of which are going to be Brakspear”, and room for expansion as the business hopefully grows. Hurst The JOLLY FARMER has reopened after a large indoor and outdoor refurbishment. Indian, Chinese and traditional pub meals are on offer. Knowl Hill The OLD DEVIL was closed and being done up on our last visit, and our sources tell us that there should be new tenants there in January. Just down the road, the closed SEVEN STARS has received planning permission for conversion to three houses. Reading The ALEHOUSE in Broad Street will hold its winter beer festival between 31 January 4 February.

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licence and is due to reopen as a “gayfriendly, food-led venue”. An interesting licensing condition is that 70% of the open bar area must be taken up with tables and chairs and two door staff must be on duty after midnight. The manager previously ran the Granby at Cemetery Junction and promises a food offer varying according to the time of day. There's no mention of real ale but it's not ruled out either, so this is somewhere on which we'd like reports, please!

Retreat It's awards time for the RETREAT. Our cover stars from the last issue were awarded runner-up in our branch Cider Pub of the Year competition, and Bernie and Jane also picked up a certificate marking their ten years at the helm of the pub. Plus the Society for the Preservation of Beers from the Wood have chosen the Retreat as their Pub of the Decade. Unfortunately, having not been able to come to a sensible new lease agreement with their pubco, Bernie and Jane have now fixed their leaving date for 1 February.

The WISHING WELL on Oxford Road is reported shut with a metal door in place. Other reports suggest the licensee of the Red Cow in Caversham is to take over, but these are unconfirmed.

Further to the item last time about THE ROYAL opening in what was Gospoda (and formerly the Battle Inn) on Oxford Road, real ale has arrived. At the time of writing Sharps Doom Bar, Marstons Pedigree and Timothy Taylor Landlord were on offer. There are two screens and a pool table inside.

What was the OASIS on Baker Street has reopened as a community meeting place after having been taken over by the Carey Baptist Church next door. Church leaders are aiming to make it a place for people to relax and meet up with comedy and quiz nights, pool tables, games, table football and more. It all sounds great, but unfortunately there's no alcohol served. This seems rather at odds with the church's stated intention of “providing something that the whole community could enjoy”. Presumably the whole of the non-drinking part of the community.

Another update to an item in the last issue the BLAGRAVE ARMS received its late

Another “what was” - although not much of a loss – what was Dogma on Castle

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Street is now a club called EVISSA. No reports of real ale but we're not exactly holding our breath.

Inn on the Park

We hear reports that the old ORANGE TREE site opposite Broad Street Mall may become a furniture store. The CORN STORES on Forbury Road has reopened after a light refurbishment. Shurlock Row The application for a house next door to the SHURLOCK INN has been approved. This is meant to generate money to help the viability of the pub – the last one in the village. On a recent visit the three local ales were all in good condition. Tilehurst There are reports that the ROEBUCK may be being done up with a view to reopening – although as what, we don't know. It's reputed to be haunted by the ghost of an admiral who was burnt to death in a fire on the site in the 18th century. He is said to have gone looking for his faithful dog, which escaped out of the window while he himself perished in the inferno. On a more practical level, the site has planning permission for dozens of bedsits so we're interested to see what happens here. The PRINCE OF WALES has new tenants and the beer (Pedigree) is reported as good. Food is served up to 7pm on weekdays. Warren Row A visit to the SNOOTY FOX, which used to be the Old House, found two Rebellion beers and a cider from Cornish Orchards on sale. Woodley It's a belated welcome to Tom Ludbrook and his partner Vikki, who took over the INN ON THE PARK last April. Tom has been in the trade for 16 years and got in touch to tell us some more about the pub.

Being attached to a sports centre this is inevitably a sports bar, but has a good locals' trade too. Tom is a big believer in using local breweries to give a good variety and choice alongside national brands. There are monthly events which vary from discos to casino nights and also weekly events such as a quiz night on Mondays and meat raffle on Fridays. Brewery News Ascot The new Single Hop for December is a 4.6% ale called Phoenix. This is a UK variety that has good bitterness and an earthy, slightly floral, aroma. Other news is a one-off brew of Big Alligator – a 6% turbo charged version of the regular award winning golden ale. It's massively hopped with Cascade and Summit to give a big citrus grapefruit hit. Binghams At the SIBA South East Region competition in September, Binghams received these awards: • Space Hoppy IPA won Gold in Bottled Golden Ale category. • Coffee Stout won Silver in Speciality Beer (cask) category. • Ginger Doodle Stout won Bronze in Bottled Speciality Beer category. If you're very quick at picking up this copy of Mine's a Pint, you might be able to catch the brewery open day on 8 December. It'll be open from 12-6pm and free tasters and mini tours will be on offer.

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Loddon As an Oxfordshire brewery, Loddon fall under the Midlands region of SIBA. They have been winning awards at their regional competition too, which was held at the Robin Hood Beer Festival in Nottingham in October. • Russet was awarded Gold in the Bottled Speciality Beer category. • Hocus Pocus won Gold in the Bottled Porters, Milds, Old Ales and Stouts category • Ferrymann's Gold won Bronze in the Cask Best Bitters category. Two Bridges The big news here is the relaunch of the brewery. The brew kit had been unused for a while but was reactivated in the autumn. Kevin has taken on an assistant – also called Kevin! - and this has enabled brewing to happen more regularly. The pump clips and general artwork have also seen a rebranding. The intention is to have a range of 6 beers, ranging from Blond Berkshire Bevy (a 3.9% blonde beer to a new recipe) up to Across The Pond (a 5.0% American style IPA). Bitter, porter and golden ale should also feature. Two Cocks Work is currently underway to increase brewing capacity approximately four-fold. The two owners have now engaged a member of staff to support the brewery. West Berkshire Swift Pale Ale is now brewed all year round. The monthly ales for 2013 are planned to be themed on various “characters” from the local area as well as nationally. Most of the brewery's bottled beers are available in Waitrose branches in or close to Berkshire and we're told they're proving very popular.

Windsor and Eton As with Binghams, Windsor and Eton were also successful in the SIBA South East Region awards, with the wonderful Conqueror 1075 winning Best Bottled Premium Dark Beer. Meanwhile, Guardsman was voted beer of the festival at the Runnymede beer festival. The final beer in the Jubilee series is Canberra. The brewery explains the story… “On the day of the Coronation, BBC footage was flown non-stop to Canada on a Canberra jet plane. This was the first time that Canadians had been able to watch a (British) event on the same day that it had occurred. Long before the days of satellite or digital, this historic first was a major triumph.” Canberra is a rich chestnut coloured beer at 4.0% ABV, brewed with a balance of dark malts including Imperial, Chocolate, Dark Aromatic, and both Light and Dark Crystal malts. To recognise the link with both Australia and Canada, Windsor and Eton has used ingredients from both continents. Canberra has Galaxy hops from Australia, Nelson Sauvin from New Zealand and a touch of Canadian maple syrup. It's available on draught and should also be found in 500ml bottles (slightly stronger at 4.2% ABV). Zero Degrees This year's Christmas Bock should be available from the start of December. At the time of writing we don't know the full details but it's likely to be full of flavour and should weigh in at around about a hefty 8.5%. If you fancy something a little lighter, the new Golden Ale is available on a seasonal basis, and comes in at 5.0%.

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Small Beer A roundup of news and information....... Beer Duty and Pub Closures We did it! We got to 100,000 signatures on the e-petition against the beer duty escalator, and triggered a parliamentary debate. Now a lot of good points were raised in the debate, although it has to be said that most of our local MPs were nowhere to be seen at the time. This is part of an ongoing campaign against the duty escalator, and the next stage is a mass lobby of parliament on 12 December. Any why is the campaign necessary? New figures are out showing how 18 pubs now close across the nation each week (March-September 2012 report). That's up from 12 a week in the last report (September 2011-March 2012). LocAle Update

By the time this magazine is out 2012 will be almost over, and we turn our attention to which pubs to accredit as official LocAle outlets for 2013. Just like an entry in the Good Beer Guide, accreditation doesn't “roll over”; instead we start again from scratch.

last issue. To be accredited, a pub has to endeavour to serve a LocAle at all times. Reports over the last year have given us a good idea of a shortlist for 2013 but, if you know of a pub that serves a LocAle, be sure to let us know so that it's not missed out. Great British Beer Festival GBBF returns to London Olympia in 2013 and it's time to put the dates in your diary: Tuesday 13 – Saturday 17 August. Thursday is, of course, Hat Day. Go to www.gbbf.org.uk for more information. Tickets will go on sale around April / May. CAMRA's National AGM This organisation that you joined … have you ever thought about how it decides its policies and what it wants to do? The reality is that “it” doesn't decide at all – you, the members, do, and you do it at the national AGM. That's where policy is discussed, issues are debated and decisions taken. Plus there's also a great social side and a very good members-only bar. In 2013 the AGM is being held in Norwich from 19-21 April. Norwich is a wonderful city with many fine pubs and well worth a visit in its own right. But why not make this the year that you go to the AGM as well? Pre-registration is now open at www.camraagm.org.uk, where you can also find out more about the weekend, or see the advert in this issue.

As a reminder, a LocAle is a real ale brewed within 30 miles of Kings Meadow, Reading – there was a list of eligible breweries in the

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Continued overleaf...

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Small Beer Continued... Winter The Liverpool One shopping centre is hosting Britain's first complete ice bar this winter. Made entirely of ice, including the bar, chairs and tables, it's open until 13 January. Visitors will only be able to enter it for a maximum of 30 minutes at a time. We're imagining it's spirits only, as even Cask Marque might find the beer too cold in a bar made of ice. Supermarkets You might know that a quirk in the law means that planning permission isn't needed to turn a pub into a shop. Britain's supermarkets have certainly cottoned onto this in recent years – for instance locally we've lost the Westside in Reading to Tesco and the Star in Caversham to the Co-op – but is it a big problem nationally? A new survey gives the answer. 136 CAMRA branches responded (almost three quarters of the total) and identified 207 conversions of pubs to supermarkets since the start of 2010. By far the main offender is Tesco (130), with Sainsbury on 22 and Co-op on 14. Other store operators play this game much less, with Asda on 5, and Costcutter, OneStop and Aldi all on 4 each. The survey also identified 51 pubs under active threat of conversion. Interestingly, in Scotland, where planning permission is required for this change, there have been hardly any conversions. The All Party Parliamentary Save the Pub Group has called on the major supermarket chains to stop this "predatory purchasing" of pubs and has called on the government to change what it sees as a loophole in planning law.

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Foresters As you may now know, Trish Durkan left the Foresters Arms in Brunswick Street a few weeks back and has moved to Portugal. After two years working behind the Forester’s bar Trish took over the licence in March 2010. She inherited a pub that had become a Good Beer Guide regular but was in need of some TLC. Over the next 30-odd months she regained and retained Good Beer Guide status comfortably, with beer scores that were up there with the best in our branch; indeed the Foresters was on the 2012 Reading & Mid Berks CAMRA Pub of the Year award shortlist. A small backstreet pub being judged amongst the best five in our branch is certainly not to be sniffed at! It was also a regular on the Ale Trail which introduced a number of new people to this hidden gem.

An evening that will live long in my memory is the MacMillan Cancer Support charity evening held to commemorate the life of CAMRA committee member and Foresters regular Gill Ford. It was fantastic event, with plenty of cheer and (most importantly!) money raised. It was a real privilege to be there and Trish’s organization of the event was first class. Trish was keen to find out from her customers how to make improvements. Amongst these was the introduction of a local ale always on sale, which was a welcome sight for CAMRA members too. The back room was spruced up and the garden was overhauled, making it a great place to catch the summer sunshine with a beer in hand. A recipe for success you say? Well, not until you bring the Pub Co (in this case Admiral) into the equation. After driving her to distraction, Trish decided it was time to move on with her young son to a less fraught climate. So it’s a sad farewell from us but we wish Trish all the best on her new adventure. The high standards she set at this community local in her short time in charge will be a challenge to match. Quinten Taylor

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A charming 14th Century Country Inn between Maidenhead and Reading. The Inn serves a host of regularly changing Real Ales. The beautifully refurbished Restaurant overlooks the garden and the Inglenook fire provides a warm and cosy setting.

Forthcoming Events Christmas Menus now available. Party Nights, sit down meals, Xmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Eve 25th January International Food Fair 22nd February Beatles Tribute Band

The Inn has 22 en-suite bedrooms - standard, superior and suites. One room is adapted for the disabled. Free wifi available throughout.

The Bird in Hand, Bath Road, Knowl Hill, Twyford, Berks RG10 9UP

Call: 01628 826622 / 2781 Email: info@birdinhand.co.uk Visit: www.birdinhand.co.uk

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Real Ale in Social Clubs Social clubs account for almost one in five pints of cask ale sold in the UK (Cask Ale report 2010/11), so are not to be underestimated in terms of their importance to the cask ale industry. CAMRA campaigns nationally for good quality real ale in clubs through our dedicated clubs committee, as well as locally by means of our 200 plus branches. Clubs come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from large rugby or cricket clubs, to political party affiliated social clubs and independent working men's clubs, to small village bowls clubs and snooker clubs. And a great many of these serve good real ale. By law, private members’ clubs cannot admit the general public. If they permit non-members, this must be in accordance with the club’s rulebook and agreed by its committee. Nevertheless, the Good Beer Guide (GBG) lists many good clubs selling excellent beer at reasonable prices, at which CAMRA members are made very welcome. In order for a club to be eligible for the GBG its rulebook must allow that CAMRA members or those carrying the GBG are legally allowed to drink in the club. There may be a small charge made to admit non-members.

Each year CAMRA presents a “Club of the Year” (COTY) award to the club judged to have shown the most commitment to quality real ale in the previous 12 months. The Reading and Mid-Berks Branch local COTY was awarded to Wargrave Snooker Club – which is also in the GBG – at this year’s Reading Beer and Cider Festival in May. Winners of local COTY awards are entered into the regional round of Club of the Year, and any clubs winning the regional round will be entered into the national competition. The National Club of the Year 2013 will be announced early next year and is always worth a visit. The current national COTY winner is Questors Grapevine Club, inside the Questors Theatre, Ealing. The club is staffed solely by volunteers and was voted the winner after a panel of judges were impressed by the Club’s focus on supporting local breweries and dedication to promoting quality real ale to a wide audience. The club places an emphasis on sourcing locally, with breweries such as Twickenham, Windsor & Eton and Rebellion regularly featuring. Why not check out the Good Beer Guide for clubs near you? You might find a welcoming, tasty, and good value pint just down the road in a club you never thought to visit before or didn’t even know existed! And if you do, be sure to let us know about it so that we can spread the word. In the next issue of Mine’s a Pint we’ll provide you with information on the clubs in the Reading and Mid-Berks area, and where you can find real ale in local clubs. Joe Cuthbertson

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Cider Update If you think of cider and perry you often think of the west country, and it's true that cider has a strong tradition in those parts. But CAMRA's National Cider and Perry Pub of the Year isn't from the west country. It might surprise you to know that it can found a little closer to home, in Oxfordshire. In Wantage, to be precise, where the Royal Oak in Newbury Street is the proud holder of this year's title. Owned and run by landlord Paul Hexter and his wife Frankie since taking over the premises in 1983, the Royal Oak is a multi award winning street corner pub famed for its extensive drinks selection. It stocks an impressive 15 ciders and perries at any one time, the majority of which are sourced from the local area. Aside from the pub’s excellent range, judges praised the owners for their support of local producers and dedication to promoting the real cider industry to customers. On hearing of his success, Paul Hexter, the licensee of the Royal Oak, said: “We’re always extending our cider and

perry range as we enjoy supporting and learning more about local cider producers and sharing that information with customers. We are thrilled to be in the position of receiving such an award, especially at a time when the real cider industry is growing, with some producers expanding out of all proportion.” Sarah Newson from CAMRA's Cider and Perry Committee, who coordinated the competition, said: “The Royal Oak is a prime example of what can be achieved with a passionate and dedicated licensee at the helm, and it's unsurprising the pub has also won numerous awards for the quality of its real ale. In terms of product selection and knowledge of UK cider and perry producers shown by the bar staff, the pub is the perfect gateway to learning more about the nation's historic cider making craft. It's also somewhat of a haven for locals, with the pub placing a big emphasis on promoting local producers. That's just another reason why it's the best cider pub in Britain!”

The owners of the Royal Oak with Andrea Briers and Sarah Newson of CAMRA's National Cider and Perry Committee.

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Pomona Award Home Cooked Traditional Pub Food Breakfast and Lunch 10am - 3pm Dinner 6 - 9.30pm Sunday Roast £6.95 (£5.00 seniors, NUS and CAMRA members)

Available 12.30 -3pm

Dr Andrew Lea receives the 2012 Pomona from Andrea Briers, Chair of CAMRA's Cider and Perry Committee, and Paul Scrivens, CAMRA National Director.

Beer Garden Pool Table Open Fire Family Friendly

Dr Andrew Lea is the winner of CAMRA’s Pomona Award for 2012, an accolade named after the Roman Goddess of apples, and awarded annually to the individual or organisation that has done the most to promote real cider and perry over the previous 12 months, or for ongoing work championing the industry. Dr Lea, from south Oxfordshire, has been vitally important to the recent growth of the cider industry by showing great support for new producers starting out in commercial cider making. He started his career at the Long Ashton Research Centre, near Bristol, and remains one of the leading authorities in the science behind cider and perry making. Some readers may remember his talk about the science of cider at the Retreat last spring. Andrea Briers, Chairman of CAMRA’s Cider and Perry Committee, said: “I am delighted to be able to recognise Andrew Lea's work within the cider industry by presenting him with our Pomona Award. His unwavering support and help to new cider and perry producers has been invaluable.”

Buy direct on 01672 541407 ramsburybrewery.com

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In the top UK Country Pubs for Food 2012. ‘Independent on Sunday’



4 real ales & an extensive wine list Home cooked food from platters, sandwiches, pub classics & daily changing specials from the board • Traditional Sunday Roasts • • 2 course weekly lunch menu £10• Warm & welcoming with log fires and country cottage garden. Small & large parties, menus designed to suit from buffets to three course menus. For information or bookings call Alison or Kier on 01491 671 234 The Red Lion, Aldworth Road, Upper Basildon, Berks RG8 8NG

www.theredlionupperbasildon.co.uk 3 West Berkshire Ales 5 Guest Ales Real Cider, Perry and Mead

Local CAMRA Cider Pub of the Year 2012 Pub quiz first Monday of the month

2 Broad Street Reading, RG1 2BH

01189 508119 the-alehouse-reading.co.uk enquiries@thealehousereading.com

A Community pub in the e heart of Reading e Follow us on twitter @AlehouseReading

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Consul R.I.P

A beautiful country pub with a relaxed atmosphere, the interior is decorated in warm, earthy tones, with exposed beams and a stunning bar.

Real Fire in Winter • Real Ales High quality home cooked food Fine Wines • Car Park • Childrens Play Area • Well behaved dogs welcome Opening Hours Monday to Thursday: 12 - 3pm & 6 - 11pm Friday to Saturday: 12 - 11pm Sunday: 12 - 9pm

The Street, Shurlock Row, Berkshire, RG10 0PS

Tel: 0118 934 9094

www.shurlockinn.com We recently received some sad news from Hook Norton Brewery. Consul, who had been the brewery's lead shire horse for 18 years, passed away on Saturday 29 September at the age of 27.

Award Winning Real Cider made by hand with apples mainly from within West Berkshire Available in 275ml and 500ml bottles, 3, 5, 10 and 20 litre bag in box, 5 gallon poly-barrel and 9 gallon non-pressurized plastic barrel to go on bar hand pump. Fittings to attach a bag in box to a hand pump line also available.

Tel: 0118 974 4649 or 07836 296996 sales@tuttsclumpcider.co.uk www.tuttsclumpcider.co.uk

Consul was a working dray horse and had delivered Hook Norton beer to his local pubs no fewer than 1,500 times. More unusual jobs in his career included pulling Father Christmas on his sleigh, along with several wedding carriages and a funeral carriage. Consul will be best known to many of us for his appearances at the Reading Beer and Cider Festival, where the dray is a well-loved feature of the Sunday Family Day. Here Consul is seen a few years ago with his colleague Major. We send our best wishes to Roger Hughes, drayman, and all others at the brewery who will be feeling the loss of Consul.

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Caption Competition What do you think Katrina and Sarah are saying here? Let us know by e-mailing

editor@readingcamra.org.uk Prizes? Who said anything about prizes? You can get your name in print though.

Traditional Cask Ales Bar Meals from £4.95 Lunchtime specials from £6.25 (noon - 2.30pm) Sunday Lunch from £7.50

Saturday 8th December 2nd Anniversary Party with live music from Boss Caine (8.30pm)

Davids Street, Hurst, Reading, West Berkshire RG10 0TH

Tel: 0118 9341881

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Jolly Farmer Hurst

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The Dead Weight Around the Landlord’s Neck

Since the Beer Orders in the late 1980s (before my 18th birthday), around half of Britain’s pubs have been in the control of a relatively small number of companies. Together, Enterprise Inns, Punch Taverns and Admiral Taverns own over 12,000 pubs. The effect of this ownership has been to cause a furious row about their effects on the pub trade, going right to the heart of Government. For the casual consumer concerned purely about choice, on the face of it, the pubco era has been good. Instead of massproduced, bland ale with no choice, the end of the breweries’ grip was hastened by the independent brewers (through SIBA) doing a deal to access the market through a major distribution deal. Alongside the CAMRA-led introduction of Progressive Beer Duty, this has catalysed the craft beer trade in the UK. But the good news stops here. These new companies had to get capital – which meant borrowings of many billions of pounds, now debt. And with the downturn in property prices, the chickens have really come home to roost. Enterprise survived – just – a big financial wobble in 2009. Punch and Admiral are both in trouble right now, with refinancing ordered by the banks. In the case of Admiral, that’s Lloyds, owned by you and me, who own 49% of the ailing pubco. And as I type, five of its 7 Reading pubs are advertised as ‘To Let’ on its website. Formed largely by acquiring pubs Enterprise no longer wanted, Admiral is a prime example of a company whose aim is not development of the pub trade but development of a different kind: property asset management.

Publicans have long reported sharp practices by their pubco masters. In 2009 I surveyed Reading’s publicans and was given evidence of appalling business practice by pubco lessees in Reading, but was shown one thing in particular: the inflated prices charged for drink by the pubco, enforced through the tie. On average, a barrel of ale was inflated by 40% on top of the free of tie price, with one variety of Mexican bottled lager costing almost 70% more. No wonder the tie is considered by many as little more than an extortion racket that in any other trade would have long since been outlawed; no wonder a huge number of groups, from CAMRA to the Federation of Small Businesses, trade unions and beyond, back the right for landlords to be given the option of a free-of-tie lease. One publican told me that they offered to double the rent to the pubco in order to go free of tie. It’s a telling indicator of the scale of the racket that the pubco wouldn’t even entertain that. From 2009, the Business Select Committee in the House of Commons has issued four successive reports about the operations of the pubcos which are nothing short of damning. Documenting numerous abuses of lessees, they have called for the Competition Commission to act to limit the monopoly power, and to make it compulsory to offer a free of tie option. The defence for the pubcos was led by the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), the umbrella body representing the pubcos, linked to any beer-loving MP’s favourite, the All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group.

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To challenge that lobbying route, the All-Party Save the Pub Group was set up, and is chaired by Greg Mulholland MP. I have worked closely with Greg on this issue since 2009, and we have both been outspoken in calling on Government to act. After damning report number four in Summer 2011, the Coalition Government had its chance – and it ducked it. An enormous Freedom of Information request demonstrated in considerable detail how the BBPA played civil servants and industry groups like a piano in order to hoodwink Ministers that there was no problem after all – and the pubcos could regulate themselves without offering landlords a free-of-tie option. Minister Ed Davey was rightly and sharply condemned by all parties – including many of his own Lib Dems. He was then promoted. Since then, though, there’s been some sign of a change of tack. Subsequent Ministers have instructed an evidence-based review of whether self-regulation of pubcos is working. The pubcos themselves, by arguing over the new arbitration service which has found against them on both cases heard so far, haven’t helped their cause.

Warm Fires

A Traditional Country Pub

Large Car Park

5 Real Ales available Fuller’s London Pride and Courage Best with three ever-changing guests

Food Served Lunchtimes & Evenings

Sunday Roasts 12 - 3pm by our chef Murdo Macsween Crib Night Monday • Quiz Night Thursdays

Events 16th Dec - Resident band ‘Jive Live’ New Years Eve - Live music from 9pm with Kindling Spirits (small entrance fee)

61 High Street, Twyford RG10 9AJ

With the economy and deficit as they are, arguably CAMRA nationally should be making this campaign a priority even above beer duty. It is one the Campaign can win. Gareth Epps

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Tel: 01189 340376

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Contact Us Useful contact details for this magazine, CAMRA and other important things… Mine's a Pint Circulation: 2,500. Outlets: Over 70 across the region. A UNIQUE, TRADITIONAL BAR

Editor: Phil Gill editor@readingcamra.org.uk 0771 455 0293 81 Addison Road, Reading, RG1 8EG

Serving London Pride permanently with weekly changing guest ales Bar Food Served

For advertising enquiries please contact Jane Michelson or Chris Shilling: 01778 420888 / 421550 jane@shillingmedia.co.uk

Monday - Friday noon until 2pm

Friday Fish Supp er only £7.5


Hog Roast Specialists Ring for details

Regular Jazz Nights

Reading & Mid Berkshire CAMRA www.readingcamra.org.uk

Next two events: 13th Dec and 17th Jan

Marquee available for events

Branch contact: Katrina Fletcher contact@readingcamra.org.uk 0779 401 9437

Arborfield Road,Shinfield, Reading,Berkshire,RG2 9EA Tel: 0118 9884130

Social Secretary: Antony Willis antony.willis@talk21.com 07960 389940

Local Trading Standards Reading Borough Council: www.reading.gov.uk 0118 937 3737 West Berkshire Council: www.westberks.gov.uk 01635 519930 Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead: www.rbwm.gov.uk 01628 683800 Wokingham Borough Council: www.wokingham.gov.uk 0118 974 6400 The next issue of Mine's a Pint will be published in March. Please feel free to submit copy or ideas by mid February. The opinions expressed in Mine's a Pint are not necessarily those of the editor or the Campaign for Real Ale. © Campaign for Real Ale 2012.

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