The Beer Page


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Page updated 23/05/2017

Despite being brought up by two teetotal parents, I have over the years developed a taste for beers, in particular Real Ales in the UK although my travels abroad have opened my eyes to the incredible variety of styles and flavours of beers that can be found (if you take the time and trouble to search them out in favour of the national brands!)

This part of my website will be dedicated to the beers that I've sampled and enjoyed in the UK and around the world. Given the choice I always "let the train take the strain" and leave the car at home. Remember - Don't drink and drive, you might spill it!

Seriously though, my job driving trains has the bonus of concessionary rail travel which makes it very cheap and easy for me to get around the UK and Europe (although there are still ways of using the trains cheaply, particularly in Europe). My shiftwork and the company drugs/alcohol policy seriously restrict pub visits so I tend to wait until I've got a few days off then head away on a beer/railway trip, often including a festival of some sort. I try to write trip reports when I go away, adding short ones to the "News" page and longer ones to the "Reports" page. I'm slowly sorting through all my digital photographs and then I'll start scanning all my old prints and negatives - a huge job but photos will gradually be added to my Flickr page.


Despite Herefordshire being a county with only a few breweries, I now have one less than a mile away from my home! We've now also got a few decent pubs in and around the town in addition to the obligatory Wetherspoons (The Kings Fee) although beer choice can often be lacking in town. I'm glad to report that this at last changed in Ausgust 2013 thanks to the opening of Beer in Hand, an excellent micropub. The "back to basics" approach of cask dispense for the ales (some of which are now brewed at the landlord's own microbrewery), no fruit machines, no TV and no juke box has already won it many friends who want to sit and enojy theie beer along with some friendly chat. I don't apologise for the plug as I now think that it's the best pub in town and my first choice for a pint! There have been a couple of other new places open more recently including Hereford Beer House, a bottle shop with an excellent range of UK and worldwide bottles, complimented by a range of six keg beers to drink in or take away. The former Orange Tree pub has also returned to a convential pub after its stint as a restaurant, now called The Firefly and a sister pub to the one in Worcester. There's also another Wetherspoons in Ross on Wye (The Mail Rooms) and the Duke's Head in Leominster opened mid March 2011 but in my opinion you're far better off visiting some of the smaller village pubs dotted around the county like the Salutation in Weobley and Sun Inn in Leintwardine - pubs with character that deserve some support.

The Herefordshire breweries are:-

Arrow Brewery, Kington. A small brewery, previously located in nearby Bridge Street but set up behind the Wine Vaults pub by owner Deane Wright in 2005. The regular beer is Arrow Bitter (4.0%).

Butchers Arms, Woolhope. During 2016 the publican at the Butchers Arms set up a small microbrewery. The regular ale is Henry Hodges (3.7%)

Golden Valley Brewery, Peterchurch. Not to be confused with the former Golden Valley Ales, this new brewery went public in 2014 with several ales including Dore Pale Ale (4.0%).

Hereford Brewery, Hereford. Jim Kenyon has been brewing since 2000 behind the Victory pub but recently changed names from Spinning Dog to Hereford Brewery, part of a revamp of the business as well as proudly honouring the city name. Regular beers include Hereford Original (4.1%), Owd Bull (3.9%), Best Bitter (4.2%) and Celtic Gold (4.5%). Hereford Dark is also often available at the pub, rotating with a seasonal beer which includes my two favourites, Mutts Nuts (5.0%) and Oatmeal Stout (4.4%). Beers are bottled as well as distributed by cask.

KelPaul Brewery (cuckoo). Kelvin and Paul started brewing in 2015, at first as a cuckoo using Hereford Brewery and Mulberry Duck but they are in the process of setting up their own brewery.

Ledbury Real Ales, Ledbury. Brewing started in 2012 and they're now producing a good range of beers in addition to their three standards (Bitter, Gold and Dark).

Odyssey Brew Co, Whitbourne. Formerly the Willoughby Brewing Company but taken over in 2011 by Brew ON CIC who sadly never really got off the ground. After a period of lying dormant the brewery was taken on during the Summer of 2014 by Mitchell & Alison Evans, owners of Beer in Hand in Hereford. After a substantial clean and upgrade, Mitchell brewed his first beer in September 2014 and since then he's been brewing some very interesting beers full of flavour. The brewery is based in a restored barn on the picturesque National Trust "Brockhampton Estate" near the Worcestershire border but is not open to the public as they've also got a pub to run!

Saxon City Ales, Stoke Edith. One of Herefordshires smaller breweries started brewing in 2010. Owner Chris Strange set up a six barrel plant on his Hereford Casks premises but brewing is only occasional.

Shoes Brewery, Norton Canon. Owner Frank Goodwin started brewing at the Three Horseshoes pub in 1994 and most of the production is for the pub, including the rather potent Farriers Ale (15.5%)! Other beers are Canon Bitter (3.6%), Norton Ale (4.1%) and Peploe's Tipple (6.0%).

Simpsons Fine Ales, Eardisland. Another small brewery that appeared in 2013, Tim Simpson bought the White Swan pub in 2011 and two years later he was brewing his own beer. The four core ales are Golden Cock (3.7%), Red Leg (4.2%), Black Grouse (4.6%) and Old English (4.7%).

Swan Brewery, Leominster. Former Wye Valley brewer Jimmy Swan set up his own brewery in 2016 on an industrial estate in Leominster. The regualr beer is Swan Gold (4.0%)

Wobbly Brewing Company, Hereford. This offshoot from a stainless steel fabrication company decided to build their own brewery and have continued to fabricate brew kits for several customers as well as brewing their own beer. Their core range is Wobbly Welder (4.8%), Wobbly Wife (4.1%) and Wobbly Bob's Chocolate Porter (6.0%)

Wye Valley Brewery, Stoke Lacy. Pete Amor founded the Wye Valley Brewery in Canon Pyon in 1985 but it was soon relocated to the Barrels pub in Hereford (previously the Lamb Inn). The brewery has expanded into a regional and is now no longer in Hereford having outgrown the Barrels! The move to Stoke Lacy in 2002 also saw Pete’s son Vernon take over as managing director. The brewery now has six pubs - the Barrels, the Britannia and the Vaga Tavern in Hereford, the Rose & Lion in Bromyard and two over the border, the Morgan in Malvern and the Pelican in Gloucester. The core ales Butty Bach (4.5%), HPA (4.0%) and Wye Valley Bitter (3.7%) are joined by monthly specials and the Dorothy Goodbody's range including the tasty Wholesome Stout (4.6%). In addition to this, the beers can be found in pubs all over the county as well as in bottles.

R.I.P.

Numerous breweries have come and gone over the years including:-

Bridge Street Brewery, Kington - Closed in 2006.

Canon Pyon Brewery, Canon Pyon - Closed in 1985.

Dunn Plowman Brewery, Kington - Closed in 2008.

Frome Valley Brewery, Bishops Frome - Closed in 2002.

Fromes Hill Brewery, Fromes Hill - Closed in 2000.

Golden Valley Ales, Peterchurch - Closed in 2012.

Herefordshire Ales, Hereford - Closed in 1986.

Jolly Roger Hereford Brewery, Hereford - Closed in 1993.

Jones The Brewer, Whitney-On-Wye - Closed in 2015.

Ledbury Brewing Company, Ledbury - Closed in 2000.

Marches Ales, Dormington - Closed in 2007.

Mayfields Brewery, Leominster - Closed in 2015.

Mulberry Duck Brewing Company, Wellington - Closed in 2016.

SP Sporting Ales, Stoke Prior - Closed in 2001.

Solstice Brewing Company, Kington - Closed in 1995.

Tate Brewery, Bodenham - Closed in 1987.

Weobley Organic Beers, Weobley - Closed in 2007.

Wild's Brewery, Weobley - Closed in 2007.

Willoughby Brewing Company, Whitbourne - Closed in 2010.

Woodhampton Brewing Company, Aymestrey - Closed in 2002.

The situation is currently changing but Hereford CAMRA produce an excellent pub guide and also have branch website with current pub & brewery news.

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As I'm now resident in Leicester it's only right that I also include information on my new local area. As Leicester is much bigger than Hereford there's not surprisingly a much bigger range of real ale pubs in and around the city as well as plenty in the local area so I'll just briefly mention a few of my regular haunts then list the local breweries:-

The Blue Boar

The Criterion, now owned by Market Harborough Brewery.

Broood

The Kings Head

West End Brewpub

The Leicestershire breweries currently total 18 as follows:-

Beardy Monkey Brewery, Melton Mowbray.

Belvoir Brewery, Melton Mowbray.

Charnwood Brewery, Loughborough

Dow Bridge Brewery, Catthorpe

Elliswood Brewery, Hinckley

Everards Brewery, Enderby

Framework Brewery, Leicester

Gas Dog Brewery, Melton Mowbray

Golden Duck Brewery, Appleby Magna

Langton Brewery, Thorpe Langton

Long Lane Brewery, Coalville

D. O'Brien Brewery, Whetstone

Parish Brewery, Burrough On The Hill

Pig Pub Brewing Co, Claybrooke Magna

Q Brewery, Queniborough

Shardlow Brewing Company, Shardlow

Très Bien Brewery, Tur Langton

West End Brewery, Leicester

Wicked Hathern Brewery (cuckoo in Staffordshire)

While a keen supporter of local breweries, I also enjoy visiting other breweries and the occasional beer festival when on my travels, although this drops off in the Summer months in favour of trips abroad (not as many dark beers around in the UK during the Summer anyway). My three favourite European countries for beers are probably Austria, Germany and Belgium although the beer scene is fast improving in many others too.

I tend to compile brewery/beer lists before my trips, except when travelling to Germany where I don't need to thanks to Steve Thomas's excellent "Good Beer Guide Germany". I now use Google maps to pinpoint the gen on my lists and this info is normally added at the end of my trip reports. One exception is Austria where I compiled a complete list for the country including maps and I am very pleased with the result as it's helped navigate me to several places that I'd never have found otherwise. In a perfect world I'd love to publish it but as with most things, it's a case of finding the time - not always easy when working variable shifts. In the meantime, if you'd like a copy of my Austrian Beer Guide or if you have queries about any other countries that I may be able to help with, then please e-mail me. The only thing I ask for in return is for information which may help me to update or improve my lists.


When is a barrel not a barrel? Something that had always confused me were the various barrel and cask sizes so I ended up doing a bit of research into the historical names and sizes:-

Pin (4.5 gallons = 36 pints),

Firkin (9 gallons = 72 pints, often referred to as a nine and the common size for a cask),

Kilderkin (18 gallons = 144 pints, often referred to as an eighteeen and getting difficult to lift!),

Barrel (36 gallons = 288 pints and the size used to define brewing capacity),

Hogshead (54 gallons = 576 pints),

Butt (108 gallons = 1152 pints),

Tun (216 gallons = 2304 pints)

And just to make things difficult, some microbreweries now also offer polypins of 18 pints as well as 36 pints so make sure you know your pin size!


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© Neil Aitken 07/06/2007