Hop Presshops Hop Press Issue 34 front cover

Issue 34 – December 1992


A rough OCR of the original leaving out adverts & some sections such as the Crossword

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EDITORIAL Hop Press index

A couple of small items noticed this month makes me think that 1992 may represent something of a watershed in CAMRA's constant battle with the brewers.

The Brewers' Society publish a huge set of figures each year in their Statistical Handbook. These tables cover every aspect of the brewing industry – production, consumption, import/export, employment etc. Buried in this year's edition were some numbers of considerable interest.

As a proportion of all beer sales, lager sales decreased from 51.4% to 5 1.0%. Not much of a drop but it is the first time and if we look closer we find that draught lager fell most from 32.5% to 31.4% whilst Real Ale rose from 19.7% to 21.5%.

So has the lager revolution finally ground to a halt? Given the hugely disproportionate promotional advantages enjoyed by the poor British lagers, not even to hold their place shows that the public have finally realised that they have been conned.

I hope we can now look towards a brighter future where the ersatz British products eventually disappear entirely, leaving proper continental lagers as honourable competition for Britain's world class product – wonderful Real Ale.

Whilst browsing the statistics it is worth making a passing mention of one other change, a first time fall (1.2% to 1.0%) in sales of low alcohol beers and lagers. This is quite at odds with the rise in interest in healthy living and the rise in concern over alcohol use – why? The answer, I suggest, is that the public have finally rejected the totally unreasonable prices that the brewers put on these products.

Leaving the world of statistics, the other sign of the times, I believe, is to be found in the recent prominent newspaper advertisements for White Shield Worthington, brewed by Bass. White Shield has always been a bottle conditioned beer – one of only a select few – but it has never attracted any publicity push before.

The advertisements we are now seeing, from Britain's largest brewer, read like copy from a CAMRA publication: "If there's not a handpull in sight, don't despair ... " "Real ale in a bottle...".

A few years ago, it would have been unthinkable, politically impossible even, that Bass would have used a term coined by CAMRA (Real Ale), even in internal memos. Even more remarkable, the implication that a pub without handpumped beer is a disaster would have seemed very odd, coming from a company that owned hundreds of them!

Taken together, I do see these as straws in a very considerable wind. Others are current – Whitbread's adverts mocking the micro-breweries quaint beer names is one that comes to mind. Advertising men never bother to refer to rival products unless they take them very seriously.

The consumer's voice – the beer-drinker's voice – channelled through CAMRA's organisation, is now a force that cannot be ignored.

Hop Press index

Rob Whatley

In 1983, Grand Metropolitan, hired the Royal Albert Hall to present plans for the future of its managed pubs. Most were then under the Chef and Brewer banner but the 1500 pubs were transferred to the control of a new division, to be known as the Host Group. The £100 million investment plan split the pub estate into two, with more than half the outlets being transformed into so-called 'Open House' establishments. These were to offer: "something new in leisure" and were to be aimed specifically at those who shunned traditional pubs – women, families and, significantly, young drinkers. Each Open House, regardless of circumstances, was to be developed into one of just eight styles:

Pub 80: American style bar-lounges.
Pub 80 Plus: the same but more so!
Slots of Fun: offering all-day mechanical entertainment (before all day licenses).
Whole Food Health: fitness centres with their own gyms!
The Bar-cafe: intended to have a 'cosmopolitan' atmosphere. Barnaby's: fixed price family restaurants.
Drive-Inns: fast food restaurants for the motorist.
Big Apple: full of 'sophisticated fun'.
Mid-Atlantic: with, amongst other items, computerised puppets (we have all been in pubs where the staff make such innovations superfluous). The Mid-Atlantic promised: "the ultimate family leisure experience."

By the time Open Houses first hit Hampshire, towards the end of 1984, the more extreme plans seemed to have been diluted. The first two local pubs affected were the Mason's Arms at Swaythling, which became Masons, and the Maybush which became Tops. These were closely followed by the Swallow in Thornhill which, like Masons, lost its definite article and sprouted the essential extra 's'.

The openings attracted almost identical press advertising. Masons was first with: "Masons is sophisticated. Luxurious and different to anything you've seen before in Southampton". Two months later Swallows was: "... sophisticated. Luxurious and different to anything you've seen before ...", not of course if you had already been to Masons! The mention of: "... the spacious American styled lounge", show they were probably Pub 80 models.

Others followed and a pattern soon emerged. The pubs concerned were largish, modern and either on big housing estates or in town centres. Pluralities spread, with the Waterside at Hythe becoming Splashes, the Tom Tackle Buds and the Park Scullards. Further afield, the Beacon at Basingstoke became Clouds, Cody's Tree near Farnborough – a name with great historical content, commemorating the famous air pioneer – became the anodyne Dukes, whilst Sovereigns opened in Fareham.

About this time, the Hampton Park at Swaythling was renamed Tanners and in Winchester the Weeke Hotel re-lived the blitzkrieg for a few months as Blightys. These, however, were owned by Whitbread and only aping the Host Group.

These revamped pubs were undoubtedly initially popular, especially with younger drinkers but, all was not well. The families and women that the Host Group had hoped for were not attracted. In the past most pubs had a mixed clientele with all age groups and professions represented. These 'plural' pubs, however, were mainly frequented by just a single segment of society. Many of the natural civilizing influences of a community local were lost. Eventually the Host Group reaped the harvest that their central planning had sown.

The first major incident reported in the local press occurred at Masons in November 1985 when, following a disturbance, a car was deliberately driven at a group of customers in the car park. Other incidents followed at the Swaythling pub, climaxing in the death of a customer after a late drinking session in 1987. A man was subsequently jailed for manslaughter.

An unlucky sequence of incidents, unrelated to the changes at the pub, perhaps? Look at what happened at the other pubs.

A plan to obtain a late license for Splashes resulted in 37 people writing to New Forest District Council to object. Residents complained of customers vomiting and urinating in their gardens, breaking windows and vandalising gates and fences. Incidents continued and at the annual licensing meeting in 1990 the police reported that the pub had: "... again occupied too much police time and work ...". One incident required the attention of 32 officers.

In 1986 a neighbour of Swallows had his rates reduced following complaints of noise and of customers using his garden as a short cut, leaving behind their litter. He got a second reduction later, telling the tribunal: "I have lived there for three years, but it has got a lot worse recently."

Tops, near the Ordnance Survey headquarters, was re-opened by its oldest customer who said: "It's a great pity, but we're gradually losing our old style pubs ...". He saved further embarrassment by adding: "...but don't get me wrong – the new bar is beautiful and you have to move with the times". The times are, of course, carefully planned by the marketing departments of the major brewers. 27 police officers were soon making their way towards this pub after a man was said to be waving a bayonet about in the doorway. In 1988, an LSD spiked drink was blamed for a customer's attack on a policeman.

In 1986 it was the Park Tavern, in Pound Tree Road Southampton, which became Scullards. This was a bar-cafe refurbishment but again violence soon followed when the bar manager's nose was broken by a sixteen year old drinker. There were other problems elsewhere in Hampshire.

After the Beacon, on Basingstoke's South Ham estate, became Clouds the Echo reported that: "... the police and borough council received a stream of complaints...". Police were called to deal with 33 incidents between May 1985 and January 1986. In February 1986 the pub lost its licence, a decision upheld on appeal. The Judge remarked that the decision was not an adverse reflection on the licensee or the Host Group but was the result of the pub being a victim of its success! A year and £70,000 later it re-opened as the Beacon. The licensee said: "There's not a plastic plant or a bit of chrome left in the place. Instead we've a dartboard and dominoes".

Sovereigns at Fareham did not fare so well. In March 1987 an objector to the licence said: "Since its inception the pub has attracted a class of clientele who are, to say the least, a nuisance ...". The presiding justice, in turning down the renewal of the licence, said: "When it was originally granted it was said the licence would be for the benefit of the shoppers in the town centre. They did not foresee it would become a magnet for young people in the late evening. We are satisfied that customers from the pub have caused damage, used foul and abusive language, urinated and generally caused disturbance in Palmerston Avenue. We are satisfied in the interests of the public that the licence is not desirable." The pub later re-opened for lunchtime trade only but has now been closed for a number of years.

In May 1989 Dukes in Farnborough made the television news after a major disturbance which led to four people being taken to hospital and ten men appearing in court.

These are only the major events, a list of all the incidents reported in the local press about these pubs would be very lengthy. Although disturbances at pubs are not exactly rare, these pubs do seem to have attracted more than their fair share. As a comparison, taking the first nine pubs on the Southampton licensing lists, we find that although one has a record somewhat similar to the 'plural' pubs, the other eight only merit two reports. One was broken window, the other a stolen wallet.

It is very rare for a licence to be revoked as a result of complaints from local residents or the police. For it to happen to two of these pubs is surely more than a coincidence. In many incidents the licensees have been absolved of any blame and much of the trouble has occurred off the licensed premises. However, Host Group should have realised that aiming a pub just at young people was bound to lead to trouble.

So what is the current state of these pubs? The upheavals in the industry following the Monopolies and Mergers Report has meant that the pubs have undergone many changes of ownership. Splashes reverted to being the Waterside before being sold by Grand Metropolitan. It was then reopened as the Highlander Rock Cafe. Masons is closed at the time of writing, Tops and Dukes have reverted to their former names. Swallows has recently re-opened but the signs have not yet altered. Scullards, like many other city centre pubs, was sold off but it has been boarded up now for over a year. Buds retains its name, but it never suffered from the complaints and incidents of the other pubs.

Thus, the unloved plurals are disappearing. In an interview at the time of their launch, the managing director, Tony FitzSimons, said in "The Publican": "The concepts are not based on any definitive research. We researched consumer trends in the leisure industry and have distilled and refined conclusions on our experiences and business judgements."

It would be nice to think that the big brewers have learnt from this experience and will in future plan pubs for the community rather than just one section of it. We shall see.

EDITOR'S POSTBAG Hop Press index

Our last edition contained a number of articles relating to Marston's activities. These have prompted this letter from the landlady of the West End Brewery.

Dear Sir,

These are difficult times for licensees, tenants and managers alike. Your articles are not only unhelpful but inaccurate.

To infer that managers do not take an interest in their business, is an insult to all managers who work long hours in order to make their houses successful. Implying a vested interest in keeping their pubs empty is ludicrous since salaries are directly linked to turnover.

We all have an interest in making our houses prosper by creating an atmosphere which is friendly but it is also important to run an efficient business and above all to produce a good pint. Marston's quality checks on managers should result in a consistently good product.

If managed houses have to present a corporate design – could you say what it is? Managed houses in this area are diverse in character and there are some very idiosyncratic landlords (and landladies).

There have been recent changes at the brewery, mostly designed to bring them into line with the competition. However these are not always to the customers' disadvantage. For example, I hope to extend the range of beers of this pub to include three cask conditioned ales and a better choice of lagers.

I feel that Marstons have been much maligned by your articles and the function of a Marston's manager misunderstood. Take the larger breweries to task if you must – where corporate image is all, their managers mere numbers on a computer print-out – breweries that also sell off low performing houses and raise their tenant's rents without compunction.

Marstons still strives to remain a small independent brewery and I hope that will always be the case. Come into a managed house some time, you might be pleasantly surprised!

Sandra Pearson (landlady)
West End Brewery
West End, Southampton.

Mrs Pearson puts some pretty trenchant points and it is up to our readers to assess them.

The one point I think we should stress is that it is precisely because we are so fervently in favour of Marstons as a fine independent brewer that we are so alert to all of their actions. Some of these actions, we believe, do show movement towards the methods and ethics of the big corporations. Where this is so we raise the alarm!

We welcome further correspondence on this topic or any other subject connected with the licensed trade, beer or breweries. We will endeavour to publish all that is legal and decent – Editor.

Glass size regulations: Hop Press index

In our last edition the editorial featured the coming changes in the Weights and Measures legislation. The comment below, from CAMRA's What's Brewing, amplifies the story.

Handpumps safe brewers admit

BREWERS are unlikely to remove handpumps because of new legislation requiring full pint measure, the Brewers' Society has admitted.

When the Government announced it would implement Section 43 of the Weights and Measures Act which rules that a pint measure of beer can no longer include the head, brewers protested that it would cost them more than £530 million to implement.

Complying with the new legislation meant installing meter dispense and buying new oversized glasses, the brewers claimed.

But Brewers' Society spokesman Mike Ripley said last month: "The brewers in general would not favour taking out traditional handpumps."

The legislation will not be in force until April 1994. Natural wastage will account for most glass replacement costs which, with the rejection .of meters, means compliance' costs will be small

Mike Ripley maintained that a number of problems otill lay ahead. He singled out the training and education of bar staff in serving freeflow beer into new lined glasses.

PLANNING A PINT Hop Press index

Mark Deas

So where will you be drinking in the year 2000?

The public house is undergoing a period of radical and rapid transition, more so than for many years. Yet the drinkers, the pub customers, (you!) are having absolutely no say in this process.

Now, in its twenty-first year, CAMRA could be excused for being in a reflective mood, looking back on its achievements. The battle to have real ale widely available was largely won some years ago (although it is really only a truce, we have constantly to keep the brewers from backsliding). However, during its growth, CAMRA has expanded its campaigning to ever wider fronts, addressing such issues as quality, choice, price, opening hours and the pub itself. All of these battles are still being fought but the issue that will most confront all drinkers as the century ends is the very survival of the public house itself. After all, what is the point in having a wide range of real ales to drink if there is nowhere decent to drink them?

The immediate catalyst for change has been the Monopolies and Mergers Commission's Report on the Supply of Beer. Whilst noble in intention, its conclusions were flawed and these flaws were then disastrously magnified by the Government's half-hearted implementation. Although many threats to the pub were apparent before the report, it was this that finally condemned all pubs to play by the brewery accountants' rules. The MMC had hoped that their suggestions would compel the big brewers to reduce their tied estates by selling off pubs as free houses. This was supposed both to increase customer choice and, by increasing competition, to bring lower prices. The actual results have been almost the opposite – the big brewers, by a number of deals amongst themselves, now have a bigger grip on the beer market than ever before. Moreover, all brewers have been forced to survey their pub estates with ruthless financial eyes. The disastrous result has increasingly been boarded-up pubs and sacked landlords. This is only the start, one conservative estimate predicts some 5,000 pub closures by the end of the decade.

The argument that a pub is uneconomic is not absolute, it depends entirely on whose rules you play by. If the Local Planning Authority allows the pub a 'change of use' to residential or commercial status then a perfectly good pub may suddenly become 'uneconomic' as a brewery accountant calculates a return on its development potential. That this may be the last pub in the village or the only unspoilt local in a city area does not enter into his sums. Certainly if the pub is owned by National Natsbrew plc, who starve it of investment and tie it to bland Natsbrew plc beers, then the pub's books (and future) may look bleak. Big brewers are usually very reluctant to sell these pubs licensed; could it be because in the hands of enterprising landlords, selling good beer, these pubs often achieve popularity and profits that the original owners find embarrassing. Witness the Waterloo in Freemantle (Hop Back brewery) and the Flower Pots at Cheriton (Free House) as two local examples.

The family running the Flower Pots, previously a pub starved of investment and restricted by Whitbread beers, bought the freehold. They have enlarged and enhanced the pub – particularly the public bar, an anachronism Whitbread would probably say – brought in a range of well kept small brewery beers and now even have planning permission to build their own brewery. The result is anything but an uneconomic pub! The Waterloo is a traditional town street local, also ex-Whitbread, now based just on good individualistic beer and conversation – a recipe we are also told has no future. It is certainly busier now than many contrived 'theme pubs'.

Compare these with a couple of pubs where free enterprise was not given a chance – the Sun Inn, Southampton and the South Western, Winchester. The Sun Inn was a unique wooden 'prefab' pub at the bottom of Southampton High Street. It was erected as an emergency measure to replace a pub destroyed in the blitz; that it survives to this day says something about the quality of wood available then! Planning permission was granted for redevelopment to offices. Where are these new offices? The City Council has granted permission for so many offices that it is uneconomic (the word does not just apply to pubs) to develop the site. Now we are left with dereliction where once there was an historic pub.

The South Western, a busy Marston's pub next to Winchester railway station, was bought and closed by Hampshire County Council. The council paid double market price – to provide new accommodation for the local NALGO branch (who were not even consulted on the proposal!). A cynic might suggest this was the 'face saving' option after the public outcry at the original suggestion that the pub should be bulldozed to improve the view from, or perhaps of, the new County Records Office. Either way another popular pub has been lost.

The two most likely outcomes for the pub failing the 'profitability test' are closure or refurbishment. It is hard to say which is worse. Closure will usually lead to redevelopment. Idyllic rural pubs tend to go for residential use, town pubs become offices, building societies or even take-away restaurants. Of course, this is all done with no real mechanism for public consultation. Even planning permission is not always required since pubs do not have a specific use category, they are lumped in with restaurants, pizza houses and the like.

Avoiding closure is only half the battle for the hapless pub. It must also escape the attentions of the brewery designer and the ultimate fate of being 'themeised'. The factors that make any pub popular are its individual characteristics which add up to create its own unique ambience. This is anathema to the smart alec corporate men from National Natsbrew plc who decide that what the public want is a single theme. This they apply across the board to multitudes of pubs irrespective of those pubs' characteristics. The end result is a chain of "Little Chef" or "Happy Eater" pubs.

It is also questionable, I would suggest, that these pubs are always the most profitable. They may generate high turnover but this is not the same thing. Take Whitbread's TGI Friday chain as an example of the "nineties leisure experience." Turnover may be high (the prices help toward that) but the training costs alone are said to be £100,000 even before an outlet is opened. The Reading example is believed to have cost £2 million to open! How long and at what prices will it have to trade to get that back – will it be before the theme becomes old hat and the pub needs another image? The more radical the theme, the more quickly it fades, look at the short life of the extremely tasteless warfare theme at the former Weeke Hotel. It is unlikely that the overall rate of return would match that of a good estate pub.

So what is the alternative? Obviously you cannot just leave pubs to fall down. They all need a lick of paint now and again but you can treat each pub as an entity and base refurbishment on the pub's strengths and characteristics. The licensing bench, which must approve all alterations to pubs, could do more. It is supposed to represent the community's interests but there is little evidence of this in practice.

CAMRA runs a Pub Design Competition to promote sympathetic and skilled refurbishment but it is little consolation to the Hampshire drinker to learn that most of the awards go to breweries in the north. However, there has been success in this area. Marston won a national CAMRA award in 1989 for a very good enlargement of the Junction Inn, St. Denys, without feeling the need for the 'enhancements' of neon and plastic. They have also done a good job at the recently re-opened King Alfred in Winchester. Whilst the raw material was not as good as at the Junction, it is nevertheless a valiant attempt; augmenting the commercial viability of the pub by increasing its size yet retaining and enhancing the existing bars' characters.

Doubtless you can think of one or two other tolerable local pub re-designs to add to these suggestions but not many I would guess. Pub design during the 1980's was pretty grim and if the brewery accountant has his way then things are unlikely to improve. So what can be done about it? The solution is the same one that faced CAMRA back in the early 1970's. The drinker must vote with his feet (that means you again!). The pubs which survive will be the ones with the customers but where a pub cannot achieve a large trade due to its location, size or whatever then the local planning authority and licensing bench must be persuaded to take public interest into account before writing them off. They are both there to serve the community and (should be) susceptible to well argued viewpoints from local people and interest groups.

The pub needs to be moved up the local planning authority agenda. This CAMRA branch has already urged two Councils, Test Valley and Eastleigh, to afford more protection to pubs in their Local Plans. Only nine pubs in Eastleigh Borough are considered to have sufficient architectural quality to merit Listed Building status and none of these are in Eastleigh town. This is a sad indictment of both the town's architecture and of the gutless local planning authority.

Whitbread have estimated that the pub-goer presently has an average walk of five minutes to the nearest pub. By the end of the century they estimate that this will have increased to 13 minutes (in large part by their efforts).

In 2000 AD, how long will you need to walk to find a pub worth drinking in?

NEW BREW NEWS Hop Press index

Rob Whatley

Yet another new local brewery has started production. The Hog's Back Brewery, half a mile into Surrey at Tongham, produced its first brew in August. The beer is a 1044 OG (about 4½%) best bitter, Traditional English Ale. Well within the County we are eagerly awaiting another new brewery to open next year at Cheriton, following planning permission to construct a brew-house at the Flower Pots.

Established earlier this year, the Hampshire Brewery, in Andover, now has a second beer, Arthur Pendragon Strong Ale, with an OG of 1047. This complements the hoppy, 1037 OG King Alfred's Hampshire Bitter which is appearing in an increasing number of local pubs.

Salisbury brewers Gibbs Mew were recently subjected to a takeover bid from New Zealand entrepreneur Sir Ron Brierley. There always appeared to be little chance of the bid succeeding, despite poor recent results, as 61 per cent of shares are family controlled. The bid failed in October when the drinks distribution company UK D was purchased for £2.3 million as a 'poison pill'. Bishop's Tipple's success in the Barley Wine category of the Champion Beer of Britain competition at the Great British Beer Festival will not have done the company any harm and recently a new beer, Deacon SPA (OG 1050) has been launched.

Salisbury neighbours, the Hop Back Brewery also had success at the National Festival with Summer Lightning winning the strong bitter category for a second time. This despite the recent upheaval of transferring the majority of brewing to an enlarged site outside the city at Downton. A new medium gravity bitter has been spotted.

Abingdon brewers Morlands have also recently defeated a takeover bid from Suffolk based predator, Greene King. This is especially good news for local drinkers as the brewers of the acclaimed Old Speckled Hen have purchased a number of pubs in our area from Grand Metropolitan. These include the Crown in Shirley and the Queen of Clubs in the city centre.

Sadly it is farewell to Gales Light Mild. This delicate beer was considered by some of us as Gale's best product, clearly not a view shared by all, as production was down to only two barrels a week. The dark mild is still being brewed so if you want to see it continue the solution is simple – go out and drink some!

Finally, the strangest takeover news for a long time must be from Wiltshire Brewery. The loss-making brewery has agreed a change of control and will be managed by the Indian United Breweries Group, makers of the Kingfisher lager found in so many curry houses. Brewing and management operations will eventually move to a new site in Buckingham. UB's stake will enable Wiltshire to double its pub estate but whether any new ones will be in our area is not yet certain.

Hop Press index

Pat O'Neill

After the Monopolies and Mergers Commission produced its renowned report, The Supply of Beer, one of the cardinal points of the resulting legislation was the regulation allowing guest beers.

CAMRA gave this part of the legislation a particular welcome because it was worded almost exactly as one of our submissions to the original MMC enquiry. The Beer Orders of May 1990 stated that a tenant of one of a national brewer could buy "one cask-conditioned beer from a supplier of their choice".

The major brewers reacted quickly to the legislation with a number of stratagems designed to thwart its operation.

At the crudest level there were direct threats to tenants – promised re-decoration might be postponed if a 'guest' appeared, a rent review might be brought forward – the possibilities for coercion are virtually endless. Even the bravest of tenants has to think twice when confronted by such blackmail, always verbal and unprovable.

Whilst these clandestine pressures were quite wide-spread, if anecdotal evidence is to be believed, the brewers' public response was in a different direction. The big brewers quickly established trading agreements amongst themselves and with some independents to set up their own 'guest beer lists'. These were used in two ways to prevent tenants using their legal rights.

The first ploy was to persuade a landlord that if he took a beer from the brewery list then he had exercised his option and could not buy another from elsewhere. The second approach, to landlords who did go to an outside supplier, was to then refuse to supply any of the 'in-house guest beers'. CAMRA believed that both actions were illegal and after discussions with both the Department of Trade and Industry and the Office of Fair Trading, we have been vindicated.

Trade and Industry Minister Neil Hamilton has now stated categorically that tenants are free to buy from an outside supplier under any circumstances. The Office of Fair Trading have amplified this in a letter to CAMRA: "If a tenant takes supplies of the so-called guest beer he remains entitled buy a brand of draught cask-conditioned beer from someone else," it states. The OFT further points out that another section of the legislation makes it an offence for a brewer to refuse to supply a beer without good cause.

If any tenants are still being told otherwise then the OFT would be prepared to take the case up as breach of the Beer Orders.

If any reader would like more information or has any information, please contact the editor, we are very interested in any details of brewery pressure to out-flank the Beer Orders.

PUB NEWS Hop Press index

Rob Whatley

We start this edition of Pub News with an apology. In the last edition we stated that Lymington's Red Lion had been re-named Champagne Charlie's. Those of you who have wandered down the High Street recently will have realised that in fact it was the Fighting Cocks that changed its name. The Red Lion is still alive and well, as witnessed by its inclusion for the first time in the new 1993 edition of the Good Beer Guide. If you still. need convincing try popping in for a pint of Ringwood Best Bitter, Pedigree or 6X.

Also in the High Street, the Angel has been refurbished, whilst Pier 68 (formally the Old Bank House) which was gutted by fire last Christmas, has re-opened as an Italian restaurant, II Cambio. The Ship Inn on the quayside now features five shower cubicles which can be used (at a pound a time) by sailors who wish to get ship-shape for a pint after a day on the ocean. For early arrivals, breakfasts are available from 8am.

It is all change at Ashley with both pubs changing hands. The Ashley Hotel, run for the last eight years by Susan George, the former wife of footballer Charlie George, is now under the control of Peter and Janet Heaton. Pedigree and Boddingtons were on offer at the time of our visit. At the nearby Woodpecker a good range currently includes Ringwood Bitter, Brakspears Bitter and Strong Country Bitter. Rob and Teresa Walker are the new licensees there.

Planners have been kept busy recently by unauthorised advertising in the New Forest. The internally illuminated Heineken sign must be removed from the Bolton's Bench Inn at Lyndhurst. Meanwhile the Cat and Fiddle at Hinton has not learnt from its previous tangle with the planners and have strung up an obtrusive banner along a fence outside the pub, this they have now been asked to remove. Mike Stilton, council head of development control for the area, said that they relied to a large extent on the public letting them know when such things occur. So next time you see a new grotesque sign or advertisement spring up which you suspect may not have planning permission, ask the local council planning office.

Moving east to the Waterside, the Flying Boat is still up for sale. The starting price in September 1991 was £250,000, by this February it had dropped to £195,000 and then strangely (election euphoria?) increased to £197,000. By July it was back down to £187,000 or offer. With its isolated position and the current economic climate it could stay on the market for some time yet.

We were sorry to hear of the sad death of Margaret Longman who had run the Pilgrim at Marchwood with her husband Ron since 1976. She had been battling against cancer but despite this, continued to work at the picturesque pub which is a long standing Good Beer Guide entry.

Across Southampton Water its good to see the Red Lion at Netley, which has been closed for a couple of years, featured in the Whitbread Pub Partnerships advertisements. We hope it opens again soon.

One pub that has re-opened after a couple of years in cold storage, is the Railway, opposite Botley station. It has been substantially altered and decorated on a railway theme. Although it is good to see any pub back in action the emphasis on food is rather overpowering with, on a Sunday lunchtime, every table laid out with place-mats and cutlery. Whilst the location of the pub means that it has to attract customers from afar, Marstons should not entirely forget those who just want to call into a pub for a drink. In the centre of Botley a more traditional Marston's pub, the Brewery Bar, has reopened after refurbishment. Behind the pumps are Nobby and Sheila Knowlton, whom many will remember from a decade or so ago at the Junction in St. Denys.

Another Marston's pub with the emphasis on food, is the Queen's Head at Fishers' Pond which has re-opened, following what is almost complete rebuilding. Certainly it will be difficult to miss as Marston's application for planning permission was for: "Five floor mounted floodlights, one illuminated board sign, six wall lights, two non-illuminated board signs, four gold letter wall signs and one externally illuminated wall sign...".

Next door, the Fishers' Pond itself, which had the dubious distinction of being the first 'Roast Inn' in- the country, is now a 'Brewers' Fayre', 18 other Roast Inns have been purchased by Devenish – is this the end of the Roast Inn? Another eating chain which may be on the way out are the Berni Inns. Whitbread bought them from Grand Metropolitan a couple of years ago and most of the local examples are now under different banners. When it opened, the Berni located in the grandeur of the Hedge End Retail Park was simply called The Berni Inn, now it is being advertised as The New Berni Classic at The Mill Tavern. One last throw at a re-launch of the outworn Berni name?

Staying in the east of our area, both the pubs in Durley have had a change in licensee in recent months. Michael Jarvis is now at the Farmer's Home, which is advertising the availability of beer from Ringwood, whilst in the centre of the village, Stephen Hill, at the Robin Hood is already very much part of the local community. Banks's Mild as well as Marston's Bitter and Pedigree are on the pumps.

The White Horse at Ashton and the Rising Sun at Swanmore are now run by Devenish, following their lease of a number of pubs from Whitbread. The range of beers is unlikely to change greatly and may even be more restricted. The Royal Oak at Fritham and the Horse and Groom at Woodgreen are two other pubs included in the package. In Fritham, at least, the beer range, which used to include Ringwood, has been cut back to 100% Whitbread products – allegedly this is a condition of Whitbread's lease which seems to make a total mockery of the MMC regulations.

Whitbread seem to be trying to rectify one of their previous errors in Eastleigh. The advertisement announcing the re-opening of the Golden Hind after refurbishment states that: "The lounge bar can be hired for private functions, business meetings etc.". Is this the same pub which had a large room with a skittle alley which was also used for private functions and business meetings etc. before Whitbread knocked down the walls to bring it into the main body of the pub in 1986?

Also in Eastleigh the Good Companions is now displaying, on a rather poorly painted sign, the name Tuxedo Junction. The only comfort is that few of the more absurd name changes survive for more than a few years.

Still in the borough, we noted in the last edition that the Tabby Cat at Chandler's Ford had opened its upstairs function room as a non-alcohol bar for teenagers. Sadly it is now full of pool tables for use by pub customers only, depriving local youngsters of a much needed venue.

On the bright side, two similar ventures have opened elsewhere. In Alresford the Peaceful Home is providing its upstairs room for Tonix, a non-alcoholic bar for teenagers. The bar has come about after pressure from the local community, including the Parish Council, an inter-church committee and local youngsters, who ran a jumble sale to help establish the venue. Meanwhile in Winchester the Railway Inn has its skittle alley open for those aged over 14. We wish them every success.

Staying in Winchester there has been a lot of activity in the more famous ale houses. The King Alfred has re-opened after substantial refurbishment. Former licensee, John Vye, has moved along the coast to Sussex and has been replaced by Barry and Di who were formerly at Southampton's Pensioners Arms. Customers' views on the alterations have been mixed although we like it – why not visit it yourself and give us your opinion. What we certainly do not like, on the other hand, is Marston's insistence on fitting pumps with 'tight sparklers' in their newly refurbished houses. A beer like Pedigree is ruined by being served in a Yorkshire fashion, apart from the short measures involved. On Romsey Road, the St. James Tavern is to be expanded, taking in adjoining property. Let us hope the unique atmosphere engendered by the unusual shape of the pub is not lost as a result. The First Inn Last Out has been substantially altered and now has a horse racing theme. The beer range is much improved with guest ales supplementing the original Courage offering. The Guildhall Tavern has also undergone extensive refurbishment and nearby the Louisiana is still open, despite being in receivership and having had many complaints from its neighbours!

The Theatre Bar also faces potential changes as the management committee has put the running of the bar out to tender. CAMRA is monitoring events. Let us hope it continues for many years to come, like the Exchange which celebrated its second century in July. Steve and Lyn Sankey have done a fine job in upholding the traditions of this historic house since taking over in 1987. Here's to the next 200 years.

Moving west, one of our most picturesque houses, the picture postcard Crown at King's Somborne is now under the management of Stephen and Christine Tee, who previously worked behind the bar of the Old George at Fair Oak. The Dog and Crook at nearby Braishfield has undergone refurbishment.

North of Winchester, Marilyn and Terry Westcott are the new tenants for Gibbs Mew at the Running Horse in Littleton and the Plough Inn, at Itchen Abbas, has made its lounge bar and restaurant into no smoking areas.

Fumes of a another kind caused a stink in Bursledon where neighbours of the recently opened Brewers' Fayre Windover Manor have complained that the smell from the pub's kitchen is wafting into their gardens and houses. At least with the level of aroma from the products of the Cheltenham Brewery there is little chance that they will be affected by any trace of beer fumes.

Meanwhile activity continues in the Southampton's dockland watering holes. The Frog and Frigate has re-opened with Gibbs Mew beers and guest ales on offer. Dixies in Bernard Street closed briefly but is now open again. The Old Oriental is up for sale (for half a million!) after the controlling company encountered financial difficulties. Just around the corner, Parker's Hotel is now the Captain's Corner.

Southampton pubs recently refurbished include the Millers' Pond at Sholing, the Gordon Arms at Portswood and further along the road, the Red Lion, which is now under new management as Talking Heads. The former Royal Oak in Lodge Road is now Scholars and is aimed at the student market. Under new management is the Humble Plumb at Bitterne.

Finally we bid farewell to the long serving Silvia and Bill Reynard of the Englishman in Shirley. Let us hope we get some real ale into this Marston's house now that it has been taken over by Alan and Angie Pickett, who were previously in charge at the nearby Bald Faced Stag.

Hop Press index

Whitbread have recently been promoting Flowers Original with a television advertisement which has not been greeted with total warmth by CAMRA members, even though such an extensive promotion of a real ale is something that we would have never thought to see a few years ago.

The Flowers Brewery was founded in Stratford upon Avon in 1831. It was closed by Whitbread after takeover in 1968 and the company's pubs were from then on supplied with brews from Cheltenham.

In the early 1980's Whitbread launched Flowers Original, brewed in Cheltenham.

As the advertisement so truly says: "Flowers Original, don't be fooled by the name."

Hop Press issue number 34 – December 1992

Editor: Pat O'Neill
1 Surbiton Road
SO50 4HY
01703 642246

© CAMRA Ltd. 1992