Friday, 17 April 2015

Election night at the Finborough

On election night we'll be open all night at the Finborough, with a late licence covering us right through until 6am the next day.

The event in conjunction with PoliticalBetting.com, Britain's most read political blog. Here's the announcement over on that site.

I've been a reader of PoliticalBetting since it started back in 2004. I'm pleased to be hosting this and looking forward to seeing the results come in from the most unpredictable British election for many, many years.

For licensing reasons entry will be by advance ticket only. If you'd like to attend drop me an email to finborougharms@gmail.com.


Hastings Brewery tap takeover at the Finborough Arms - Saturday 25th April

Co-founder Pete will join us to present nine very different beers - pale ales, brown ales, stout, IPA, rye IPA and saison - from this tiny Sussex brewery’s innovative “handmade” series. Click here for more details.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

The Chesham Brewery Shop

On Monday I took a ten mile walk from Rickmansworth station to Chesham along the Chess Valley. Both towns are served by the Metropolitan Line. It's probably the best country yomp you can do without leaving the London Underground network.

The early section is far from pretty, but once you pass over the M25 you're quickly in a beautiful valley. Diversions are possible to the perfect villages of Latimer and Chenies. In the middle you can choose to stick to the official route by the river or take a higher path, skirting Little Chalfont, taking in views of the valley below.

The walk finishes in Chesham. Despite some unattractive urban sprawl as you enter it, the market square and high street give a sense of the history of this Buckinghamshire market town. In the 19th century Chesham was known for its "four Bs": Baptists, boots, brushes and beer.

These days there aren't any breweries in the town, although there are a handful of micros within a few miles. Red Squirrel is just across the border in Hertfordshire, but has firmly established itself as local favourite after opening the Brewery Shop in 2013. This bottle shop and micropub sits on the market square. You'll struggle to miss it if you head through the town and toward the station after completing the walk.

Both interior and exterior are stark, but both the barman and the regulars are welcoming. Beer starts at £2.25 a pint for Red Squirrel's own brews, and guest beers from the likes of Magic Rock and Anarchy are only a little more. I chose a Red Squirrel Czech Pilsner and pulled up a stool. A cold beer was what I was looking for after my walk. Although this one had a strange off-flavour - an almost smoky character - it grew on me and I had three pints.

Monday was my second visit the Chesham Brewery Shop. The first time was in autumn, when I talked to a chap who had just been turfed out of another local pub for punching himself in the face. He'd taken a swing for someone else but managed to connect with his own left cheek. Unlucky. He turned out to be an accomplished, if somewhat fidgety, raconteur. Sadly my friend wasn't about on Monday, but a couple of dedicated beer enthusiasts were at the bar, alongside two or three older gents who clearly keep the place ticking over on midweek afternoons. We were joined by the landlord of a big pub across the road, who told me a very uncompromising story from his time as a sniper in the South African army of the 1980s.

These days all my favourite pub visits are at the end of hikes. There's nothing like a well-earned pint and a bit of company after the relative solitude of country footpaths.


Here's a leaflet for the Chess Valley Walk. You won't need an OS map if you print this out. It's a very unchallenging route and you can do it in your trainers. If it takes you longer than three and a half hours you really are lollybagging. Red Squirrel's website is here. The Brewery Shop in Chesham opens at noon and closes at 8pm Monday-Thursday, 9pm Friday and Saturday and at 6pm on Sunday. They're opening another, much bigger brewery shop and taproom in Berkhamstead in May.


Hastings Brewery tap takeover at the Finborough Arms - Saturday 25th April

Co-founder Pete will join us to present nine very different beers - pale ales, brown ales, stout, IPA, rye IPA and saison - from this tiny Sussex brewery’s innovative “handmade” series. Click here for more details.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Keystone Crescent

Despite having spent all but one of the last five days on the sauce, I'm not inspired to write anything here. In the meantime, here's a picture I tweeted while wandering through the city. A lot of people seemed to enjoy it. I've since learned that there's a private, all-night drinking club in one of those houses. It doesn't sound like my type of thing. I'm a pub man, after all.




Hastings Brewery tap takeover at the Finborough Arms - Saturday 25th April

Co-founder Pete will join us to present nine very different beers - pale ales, brown ales, stout, IPA, rye IPA and saison - from this tiny Sussex brewery’s innovative “handmade” series. Click here for more details.

Friday, 10 April 2015

The London Beer Shop, Nunhead

Barely a week goes by when I don't take a trip out of London. Walks on the South Downs or among the Chilterns are favourite pastimes, and I often travel much further. Nevertheless, outer London remains a mystery. Lately I've decided to put that right. I'm setting foot in places that were previously viewed only through the window of a train.

Yesterday we ventured down to Peckham, finishing the day in the adjacent area of Nunhead. This Surrey locality was swallowed up by the County of London in 1889. The village centre retains a roughly triangular green of sorts, blighted by the demoralising street furniture of which local authorities are so fond. There are pubs on all three of its corners, but we were there to visit The London Beer Shop.

This charming and relaxed micropub and bottle shop opened in December. It offered us a friendly welcome, four cask ales, two real ciders, a range of bottled beers and great music. I liked everything about it and commend it to you without reservation.


Hastings Brewery tap takeover at the Finborough Arms - Saturday 25th April

Co-founder Pete will join us to present nine very different beers - pale ales, brown ales, stout, IPA, rye IPA and saison - from this tiny Sussex brewery’s innovative “handmade” series. Click here for more details.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Shock demolition of Kilburn boozer


The destruction of this pub in Kilburn is pretty shocking. Let's hope the offenders are punished.

I feel particularly sorry for the lad who left his pint on the table. He might have been coming back for that, you know. As anyone who has worked in a pub knows, if you don't confirm with every person within a mile radius that a seemingly abandoned drink is really "dead", there's sure to be hell on ages later when some aggy dickhead returns and says you nicked his pint.


Hastings Brewery tap takeover at the Finborough Arms - Saturday 25th April

Co-founder Pete will join us to present nine very different beers - pale ales, brown ales, stout, IPA, rye IPA and saison - from this tiny Sussex brewery’s innovative “handmade” series. Click here for more details.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Ridley's

Ridley's Hartford End Brewery, Essex. Closed 2005.
I enjoyed reading this article on Paul Bailey's blog about Ridley's of Essex. I'll confess I had no idea the family brewery near Chelmsford closed as recently as 10 years ago. That was around the time I was really developing an interest in beer. I wish I'd visited it, as Paul did.

I appreciate there's a proliferation of microbrewery "tap rooms" in railway arches to "hit up" these days. I did the Bermondsey Beer Mile once last summer and quite enjoyed it. But there's nothing like visiting an historic brewery in a beautiful setting. I pass by the gem that is Harvey's of Lewes a few times a year - usually after walks on the South Downs - and did the brewery tour there back in 2008.

Paul's reminded me that I'd like to visit a few more of the old regional breweries. There aren't many left now, and there'll be even fewer in another 10 years.


Hastings Brewery tap takeover at the Finborough Arms - Saturday 25th April

Co-founder Pete will join us to present nine very different beers - pale ales, brown ales, stout, IPA, rye IPA and saison - from this tiny Sussex brewery’s innovative “handmade” series. Click here for more details.


Sunday, 5 April 2015

Mr Galloway

In case you haven't seen this already: the owner of a recently opened brewpub in Bradford has provoked the ire of George Galloway. The New Statesman has the story and the juiciest tweets. Mr Galloway was, of course, MP for the constituency of Bradford West until last week when the election was called. He's confident he'll be returned again, and has promised (not threatened - promised) to visit retribution upon the business, claiming it has been a "constant source of complaints" to him during the six weeks since it opened.

George Galloway is a tee-totaller. He was raised as a Roman Catholic but now keeps his private religious observances to himself.  What we do know is that he has form on adopting an anti-drinking and anti-pub stance when attempting to court certain voters in Bradford. During his successful 2012 by-election campaign he said of his Labour opponent:
"I’m a better Pakistani than he [Mr Hussain] will ever be. God knows who’s a Muslim and who is not. And a man that’s never out of the pub shouldn’t be going around telling people you should vote for him because he’s a Muslim" (source: The Telegraph, 30th March 2012)
I think we're going to see more of this sort of thing. We know that due to demographic changes pubs are less popular, particularly in certain areas where such changes have been most pronounced. Perhaps it won't be long before licensed businesses find they aren't welcome at all in those same neighbourhoods. Mr Galloway's reply to a tweet by anti-pubco campaigner Mark Dodds is most revealing of his attitude on this point:


If you live in Bradford West you can, of course, prove Mr Galloway wrong. Support your local pubs, including Bradford Brewery.



Hastings Brewery tap takeover at the Finborough Arms - Saturday 25th April

Co-founder Pete will join us to present nine very different beers - pale ales, brown ales, stout, IPA, rye IPA and saison - from this tiny Sussex brewery’s innovative “handmade” series. Click here for more details.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Taylor Walker

You might be aware that the Spirit Group of managed pubs has adopted the Taylor Walker brand in recent years. East London brewery Taylor Walker closed down in 1960, so really this is just an echo of the past. I have no problem with that.

What I do find a little sad is that, despite the fact they sell some great beer across their estate, in their marketing they choose to emphasise other things that should by all rights be considered ancillary. Take this advert for a very tasty looking burger outside one of their sites: apparently it should be "washed down" with a Coca-Cola, not a pint. Taylor Walker pubs also proudly display Costa Coffee signage thanks to a link up with the owner of that brand, Whitbread plc. Of course, Whitbread is another ex-brewer.

I can see why, in the face of shifting demographics and changing habits, corporate pub chains worry about the business they're losing to coffee shops and juice bars and the like. I wish it wasn't so, but as I said in Monday's post, our pub drinking culture has been and will continue to be marginalised.

I just can't help thinking pubs are fighting a losing battle when they begin to concentrate on the things other hospitality businesses do better at the expense of the one thing we do best: draught beer. That's why I got into this business.


Hastings Brewery tap takeover at the Finborough Arms - Saturday 25th April

Co-founder Pete will join us to present nine very different beers - pale ales, brown ales, stout, IPA, rye IPA and saison - from this tiny Sussex brewery’s innovative “handmade” series. Click here for more details.