Tucker’s Grave and the Falkland Inn
The major headline in our area for the last few months has been the sale of Tucker’s Grave, one of the most unique heritage pubs in the whole region, and a pub recognised as being of national importance. In the end the sale did not go through. Bath & Borders is pulling out all the stops to ensure that Tucker’s Grave continues to exist as a pub and that its unique, historic interior is not lost to posterity. With this in mind our pub preservation officer Tom Chapman is preparing an application to Mendip District Council for the pub to be registered as an asset of community value. As part of this a petition organised by the branch and held in June to canvass support for the pub. Please see main article by Tom.
Whilst all this has been going on, the Faulkland Inn, just a mile to the west of Tucker’s Grave along the A366, has shut up shop for reasons unknown. It was reported as closed and no longer trading in June. At the time of writing we have no idea what the future hold for this lovely village-centre pub but we hope it will not be closed for long.
Two new breweries
There have been two new arrivals on the brewery front in the branch area. We first encountered
Brotherhood brewery by chance at the Barge in Bradford-on-Avon back in May, but the business has in fact been operating since around October 2016 from a new brew house set up in a unit on the Northacre industrial estate on the edge of Westbury. Brotherhood, as its name suggests, is owned and operated by three brothers: Joe, Tom and David. They produce beers in both bottled form and cask, and have already established a presence across a wide area. The range consists of a core of three beers: No. 1 Session Pale Ale (available in bottle and cask), an American style 3.8% pale ale with a citrus and spice nose and a hint of grapefruit in the finish; No. 2 American Red (also available in bottle and cask), a more muscular American styled beer at 4.5% ABV, using Summit hops, possessing a combination of citrus, orange and tangerine flavours with a powerful kick of zesty grapefruit; and No.3 Craft Lager (bottle only), a 4.0% German style lager, mild, but with distinctive herbal flavours arising from the Tettnanger hops. Much of the above has been gleaned from the brewery’s website. We have yet to find out more about this new venture, so watch this space.
Meanwhile Ralph’s Ruin, the new micro-brewery at the Royal Oak, Twerton, is now up and running. Landlord and brewer Chris Powell started creating a series of test brews, all named simply Test Brew 1, Test Brew 2 etc in June, starting out with 4.2% ABV bitter. By late July he’d produced six of these with the fifth test beer, a 4.5% amber coloured, relatively traditional bitter being particularly favoured, and which may ultimately form the core of the range. The name Sirius (also known as the Dog Star), alluding to the canine origin of the brewery name, is being contemplated as the name for the beer.
Latest from Electric Bear
Electric Bear Brewery is keeping busy in the west of Bath. The team have taken delivery of some oak bourbon and port barrels so they can barrel age their recently brewed Imperial Coffee Stout – roll on winter! Latest collaborations have involved Duke’s Head, Highgate and Big Smoke Brew Co, Surbiton. The latter created a meaty 5.8% Oatmeal IPA brimming with Simcoe. Their new website is now live and now has an online shop for bottles, cans and beer related merchandise.
A special anniversary
Congratulations to Alan, Simon and Martin at Abbey Ales, which in 1997 brought brewing back to the city of Bath after so many decades, on reaching the grand old age of 20. Please see separate article by Trevor Cromie.
A whistle-stop history of breweries in Bath & Borders
The two recent openings of Brotherhood brewery in Westbury and Ralph’s Ruin at the Royal Oak in Twerton bring the total number of breweries currently in full-time or part-time production within Bath & Borders branch area to seventeen. The explosion of microbreweries across the whole area (across the whole country) is something that we would never have envisioned even as recently as five or six years ago, so perhaps now would be a good opportunity to share a brief history of the breweries that have graced the Bath & Borders area over the last 20 years.
It seems odd to reflect that the oldest brewery still going in our branch area now is Abbey Ales in Bath, which opened in 1997. (All the older establishments, Usher’s, Oakhill and Ash Vine, have all since closed.) Abbey Ales was soon followed by Milk Street in 1999, Wessex in 2001 and Blindman’s in 2002. Then came Box Steam in 2004, which started out in the wilds of north Wiltshire, before relocating to its current premises in Holt, whereupon it became operationally (I would think) the largest of our breweries. In the same year Westbury Ales opened in a tiny out-building at the Horse & Groom in Westbury, but closed after two years. Matthew’s opened in 2005 on an industrial estate in Timsbury. This is the brewery that was taken over by Glen Dawkins in 2010 and has since relocated to the Bristol area.
Plain Ales followed 2008, starting out small-scale in the village of Chitterne in the middle of Salisbury Plain, before expanding and relocating to an industrial estate near Sutton Veny, just south of Warminster. Next came Willy Good Ales at Hartley Farm, Winsley, to the north of Bradford-on-Avon, one of the first micros on our area to concentrate on bottled beer production, and which opened in 2010. Devilfish, which opened in 2011 in a cowshed on a farm near Hemington (not far from Tucker’s Grave) may well have had the shortest existence of any of our breweries, closing the following year, but its flame burned brightly while it lasted.
Since then there’s been an almost exponential increase in the number of breweries across our area. In 2012 Bath Ales opened the Graze Bar & Chophouse in a smart new development by Bath Spa station with a gleaming in-house brewery. The same model was followed in the following year when the James Street Brewery opened its Brewhouse at the Bath Brew House, whilst also in 2013 the Three Daggers was established in its own purpose-built brew house at the pub of the same name in Edington, north of Westbury. In the same year K&A started operations at Wessex Brewery and later moved out of area to its own premises at Melksham. Then in the following year Twisted Brewing started up on Westbury Trading Estate and has been flourishing ever since.
In 2015 Electric Bear began operation in an industrial unit on the west side of Bath, whilst 2016 saw the opening of three new brewing operations, the small scale, and rather secretive Silent Brewing, at an unknown location in in the Peasedown St John area, the more ambitious Kettlesmith in Bradford-on-Avon and the small-scale bottled beer producer Albion in Bath. Brotherhood and Ralph’s Ruin are the latest to join an increasingly long list. (But a slightly scary thought is there may be other breweries out there that have yet to come to our attention.)
There’s one brewery that I’ve yet to mention. It was in operation for only a year or so and I wonder if in anyone else can remember it. It was tiny but beautifully appointed and opened in an out-building at the Dove at Corton, south of Warminster, in 1996. It was called Wylye Valley Brewery.
Re-openings in Bath
The Weston in Lower Weston has re-opened. This handsome Punch Tavern owned pub, which sits by the junction where the Upper Bristol Road splits between Newbridge Road and Newbridge Hill, had closed at the end of 2015, but following a small refurbishment, re-opened in May under a new landlord. The pub offers Sky and BT Sports, regular quizzes and other events and has a bar snack menu. Across town the King William IV at 54 Combe Road on Combe Down re-opened on Wednesday 2 August following a three month period of closure and an extensive internal refurbishment. Tucked away in a cul-de-sac this large, well-proportioned pub with its impressive porch opened in 1830 at a time when Bath stone was extensively mined in the local area. In the early days the long-closed Combe Down brewery, much of which is still standing, was located at the back of the pub. The new landlord, Jerry Grey, is keen to make the King William a community pub and, whilst not doing cooked meals, he’s happy for patrons to use the small room for takeaways. The new refurbishment has done away with the carpets exposing the original floorboards whilst the walls have been freshly painted to give a light, airy feel. The regular beers include Bass and St Austell Tribute.
Other news includes a major refurbishment of the Rose & Crown at Larkhall by Toby Brett, who has previously transformed a number of pubs in our branch area, including the Victoria Pub & Kitchen in western Bath and the Rose & Crown in Trowbridge. The Rose & Crown, formerly a Wadworth’s pub, has been considerably smartened up and now offers a range of two Butcombe beers and a guest. Meanwhile Lambretta’s bar in the city centre has re-opened following a minor refurbishment. A new laminate floor has been laid over the old floorboards and a new bar counter has been installed. Mysteriously all the hand pumps have been removed. We’ve no idea whether this will be permanent. The keg fonts included bath Ales Gem and some generic craft beers.
Finally, just outside of Bath, a “pop-up pub” event was held at the Packhorse at Southstoke on Saturday 5th August to raise funds for an ambitious refurbishment. Contractors have been selected to carry out the refurbishment of this now-community-owned pub and work should already be underway. A car park for the pub has already been completed and it is hoped that in time it will be possible to face the concrete retaining wall with Bath stone. At the rear of the premises a new “pub-tough” turf is being laid for the beer garden. The design keeps the two ground floor bars mostly untouched in terms of their original features. There will, however, be an entirely new kitchen. The first floor will be converted to host two rooms and the indoor toilets. Toby Brett, who has been involved in many pub refurbishment projects in the Bath area (including the recent refurbishment of the Rose & Crown, mentioned above) is stepping back from his role as operation director but has kindly offered to stay involved in the Packhorse refurbishment as an expert advisor. Meanwhile Rob Clayton (of Clayton’s Kitchens) will be taking over as the operations director.
New bottle shop in Bath
Very much “stop-press”: a new bottle shop, BeerCraft of Bath opened in early August on Pulteney Bridge. One of our members looked round the door before opening and saw that finishing touches were being made to the bar. Craft beers should be available on tap.
Closing in Bath
The Hobgoblin pub, which sits at the meeting of St James’s Parade and Lower Borough Walls just off the city centre, closed at the end of July. Some external signs have been taken down but the interior looks untouched. A sign in one of windows says “Opening soon… public house, dining room, accommodation”. Meanwhile hundreds have taken to social media to support the long-established business, which had done so much to support the local live music scene. The landlords, husband and wife team Darren and Eszter Regester, who had run the pub since 2005, received notice that the lease was not to be renewed and given notice to quit the premises. The pub opened in around 1830, since when it has been known by four different names. Originally the Green Tree, the name changed in 1893 to the Talbot. In the early 1980s it was re-christened the Hot Tub Pub and around a decade later was renamed the Hobgoblin, taking its name from the Wychwood beer that would become the main staple of the beer range.
News from Bradford-on-Avon
There has been a change of landlord at the Barge. The pub closed briefly in early July when, we understand, the previous lease expired. There’s been a change in the beer range with Box Steam Tunnel Vision and Piston Broke and Otter Bitter and Otter Ale making up the regular range. This charming pub was extensively modernised and smartened up around five years ago and, when I’ve visited, always seems to have a good supply of customers. The Barge is situated in a busy and touristy location and backs on to the Kennet & Avon canal.
Two re-openings in and around Trowbridge
The Wiltshire Yeoman, a former Greene King pub on the northern outskirts of Trowbridge, has recently re-opened having been acquired by Butcombe. The Yeoman was originally an isolated farmhouse, but with the encroachment of new housing in the 1980s, found itself incorporated into the Broadmead housing estate and became a pub. It closed last September and locals became worried that it might close down for good. They rallied together and began a campaign, numbering 340 members, to save the pub. In the last few months Butcombe took over the Yeoman and in July landlords Nic and Petra Lee moved in. Meanwhile a new chef has been brought in and the new food menu, which includes Sunday roasts and barbecues, has been well received by locals. The pub has been smartened up and the garden rejuvenated. We wish the new landlords well for the future.
And it’s good to see that the Rising Sun at North Bradley, just south of Trowbridge, has re-opened. The pub was severely damaged when a truck crashed into its frontage in November 2014. Following a long and careful renovation the Rising Sun re-opened on Friday 12 May.
Twisted Brewing Quarterly Report
In June Andy Murray and the team at Twisted produced their first lager. The pale gold LOL (#Lager Out Loud) (4.8%) was a one-off and sold very quickly. Made with a lager yeast, and Hersbrucker and Saaz hops, and cold-filtered, LOL comes across somewhere between a German Helles and a Bavarian Pils. Meanwhile, following the success of its Summer 2017 T-shirt, Twisted have introduced a Summer 2018 model, which features all the brewery’s brand names, and crafted in Westbury by Monster Prints. Available in sizes M to 2XL at £8.95.
News from the Warminster and Frome area (including an upcoming beer festival)
Coming up we have the 10th annual beer festival at the Organ Inn, Warminster, on Friday 8 and Saturday 9 September: easily accessible by train and well worth a visit. This year, for the first time, we understand some craft beers may join the range of around 16 cask beers and over 10 ciders and perrys available either on the bar or in the festival.
In the south of the branch we’ve had a few pub closure, re-openings and refurbishments. The Nag’s Head in Warminster, which closed around a year ago, has become an Indian restaurant – and not without a little hint of irony in the name – called the Naga. In Frome the freehold of the Packhorse, which has also been closed for quite a while, has recently sold at auction for £245,000. In the centre of Frome the Old Bath Arms has undergone a refurbishment whilst the Wheatsheaves, we understand but have yet really to establish, has changed its name to what is in effect its address, which in theory would be 23 Bath Street.
On main road between Frome and Warminster the White Hart at Corsley remains closed, its future uncertain. Shutters have now been put up at the pub. Meanwhile the Bell at Rode closed suddenly in around early July for the third time in two years with no reasons given and no indication of what the future holds. The pub sits right on the busy A361 at the entrance to the village. Thoroughly refurbished around five years ago and possessed of the one of largest pub car parks around, the Bell has considerable potential for both local and passing trade. The quality of the food under the recently departed landlords had been very good; it’s a bit of a mystery why they left.
On a more positive note the Frome Flyer, a roadhouse off the Frome bypass, has re-opened following a major refurbishment. There’s been a change in the beer line up with 6X and Hobgoblin now the mainstays.
Castle Combe Brewery merging with Flying Monk
The directors of Flying Monk and Castle Combe breweries have agreed to a merger of their operations from 1 July 2017. In a press statement Flying Monk chairman Iain Morrison commented how that in an increasingly competitive cask ale market the joining of two breweries would strengthen the financial position of the joint business. Neither brewery is actually situated in the Bath & Borders branch area but their beers have a strong presence across the whole region. The Castle Combe brewery site at Preston, near Lyneham, recently visited by Bath & Borders, will have closed in early July, with all brewing taking place at the Flying Monk facilities at Hullavington, near Malmesbury. The new business will trade as the Flying Monk Brewery incorporating the Castle Combe Brewery whilst the beer brands will retain their existing names and recipes. Martin Hender, director of Castle Combe, is joining the combined business as an equal shareholder and will be assuming overall responsibility for trade sales. Meanwhile the combined business has embarked on obtaining the industry standard SALSA certification, which benchmarks the brewery to established standards. New procedures are being introduced to ensure all the staff are trained to meet the highest standards required for the production of cask conditioned beer.
Wickwar buys Moles Ales and the Cascade pub estate
Wickwar Wessex Brewing has announced its intention to acquire the Melksham based brewery Moles and the six pubs that make up the Cascade estate. Meanwhile Tolchard Drinks will be taking on the Cascade wholesale drinks business. Moles, one of the first microbreweries to be established in the area, was founded Roger and Laura Catte, but after around 30 years of running the business they have decided to retire. We understand that Wickwar have acquired the portfolio of Moles brands. We wish Roger and Laura a long and happy retirement.
Sometimes it takes a while for news from the furthest reaches of our area to catch up with us. The Panborough Inn, which lies on the Somerset Levels around midway between Wells and Wedmore, is a case in point. It had closed in or before October 2014 but in April 2016 it re-opened under a new owner and landlord. The pub is normally is open for business from Wednesday to Saturday from 10am to 10pm. Lunch is served from 12 to 2 and dinner from 5 to around 8:30. The pub is set up with two main areas, one clearly a bar, the other a restaurant (although it has the feel of a café, with gingham table cloths and curtains, and homemade cakes and scones under glass covers on the counter). The range consists of two poly-pins on the bar, one containing Cheddar Potholder, the other Orchard Pig Explorer. All the other beers, lagers and ciders (and they seem to have a fairly wide range of around 40 of them behind the bar) are bottled. The outdoor decking area and garden, attractive features dating from before the pub’s closure in 2014, have been retained. On the food-front the pub opens at 10am for coffee, tea and homemade cakes whilst good simple pub food served lunch times and evenings. There is also a games room with a pool table and a skittle alley, which the new owners are intending to enlarge. Meanwhile the pub holds folk evenings on alternate Fridays. The Panborough Inn is conveniently close to Westhay Moor National Nature Reserve and also not too far away from Wookey Hole. Meanwhile there is a camp site nearby. Finally I’m grateful to our member-in-the-area, Dave Debner, who took his mum out for lunch there and found all this out.