Pubpaper 588 – New Year, New Tax, New Beer

Posted: 6th January 2011 by admin in Pub Paper, Writing

I hope this column finds you well after the celebrations over Christmas and New Year. As I write this, we are 12 hours into 2011 and I guess that a good number of you are still recovering from the the festivities. Firstly I’d like to make a correction to last issues column, after extensive sampling over the break, I’ve decided that Ossett Silver King is a better beer that its sister beer, Pale Gold. Both are very good beers, but the Silver King edges it in flavour, with a richer after taste.

This year is deigned to be the one where we start suffering from the measures to reduce the deficit. Petrol is up 3.5p / litre and beer is up about 7p per pint before brewery based increases from the larger producers kick in on top. This is the benefit of drinking beer from smaller producers, we don’t get the piggy back increases to alcohol duty changes. Even the small independent pubs are affected however, for when we ale drinkers go to such pubs, we often bring along people who drink more mainstream brands such as Guinness or Bulmers Cider. Both these brands are having wholesale price increases imposed of at least 5% in the very near future, which all pubs are forced to pass on to customers or absorb out of their profit margin. I’m not denying that smaller breweries increase their prices, but it is usually in response to higher costs. The mainstream brewers seem to do this on a annual basis as a method of increase turnover and profit margins at company level.

The break between Christmas and New Year saw me in the Lake District and taking the chance to sample a nice beer after an enjoyable 6.5 hour walk around the Coniston area taking in the Old Man among other hills. Popping into the Sun Inn greeted me with a range of 6 real ales, all of which are local, including brews from Coniston, Hawkshead and Barngates. I tried the Cumbrian Legendary Ale’s “Langdale”. A brewery with an immodest name, and neither should they be, its a damn fine pint, light and refreshing. It would have been nice to stay and sample more but a 2 hour drive home beckoned for the evening. Slightly closer to home, a quick visit to the fairly generic chain pub which is Lillibets in Liversedge saw a unexpected surprisingly good selection of 4 real ales including Black Sheep, Harviestoun “Bitter and Twisted” and Copper Dragon “Golden Pippin”, not worth going out of the way for, but it you are in the area then it worth popping into, especially if you have children and want a decent beer. Breaking my 5% ABV rule by accident at the Fox and Goose at Hebden Bridge saw excellent results with the Little Valley Python IPA (6% ABV) going down a treat with a pale colour and subtle taste which belies its strength.

An interesting report will emerge in the summer regarding the restrictive conditions placed upon future use of a pub when being sold by large pubco’s. This is normally excludes the use of the building as a pub or community club to stifle future competition. The report will hopefully outline legislation where the local authority can deem a pub to be an important community asset and allow more flexible use as part of allowing the sale of the pub to go ahead. My local community went too long without a pub due to the existing owners being too greedy, its not something I want to see affecting other communities.

This coming year I plan to include more feature articles, with interviews with pub landlords, brewers (hopefully with the brewing manager at Cains) and other links in the beer chain as well as bringing you the usual news and opinion you have been used to in the last 3 months. Lets hope the usual targets for criticism give me less reason to mention them and we see more new entrants into this deserving market both locally and nationally. I hope you have a good 2011 and enjoy yet more fine ale over the next 365 days.