Friday, 30 October 2009

Wychwood Brewery Updated

We've just updated Wychwood Brewery on our database here with images and tasting notes.

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Thursday, 22 October 2009

Government must overrule OFT decision on pub company ties

Pub company ties must be referred to the Competition Commission urgently

CAMRA, The Campaign for Real Ale, has criticised the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) for failing to protect consumers by taking no action following the consumer group's super-complaint submitted in July and has called on the Government to refer unfair tie arrangements in the pub sector to the Competition Commission.

In this morning's response to CAMRA's super-complaint, the OFT has said that consumers benefit from a good deal of competition and choice in the pubs sector, but CAMRA has challenged this at a time when prices are rising and seven pubs are closing every day.

CAMRA's super-complaint followed the hard-hitting report from the parliamentary Business and Enterprise Select Committee (BEC) which called for urgent action to re-balance the relationship between pub-owning companies and their lessees in the interest of consumers.

Mike Benner, CAMRA's Chief Executive said, "We do not accept that there is sufficient competition between pubs or adequate consumer benefit from competition and choice within this sector. The OFT decision fails to address the legitimate concerns raised both in our super-complaint and the BEC report and does nothing to address the imbalance in the landlord/ lessee partnership which is leading to higher prices, less choice and weak investment in pubs."

Mr Benner added, "It is difficult to see how the OFT can argue that competition is working well in the pubs sector when demand is falling, yet prices are rising. Urgent action is now required by Government to stem the flow of pub closures, build a sustainable future and ensure that consumers get a fair share of the benefit from tied agreements as demanded by competition law."

Mike Benner said, "There simply cannot be effective competition between all pubs when many pub landlords are placed at a huge disadvantage, by paying wholesale beer prices that can be around 50p a pint greater than their free of tie competitors."

The OFT has found that higher prices exist for some products in tied pubs, but claims that these are marginal, with a pint of lager costing drinkers 8p more in a tied pub compared to a free house. CAMRA, however, claims that this fails to fully consider that higher prices in tied pubs lead to artificially higher prices in other local pubs through lack of effective price competition and contends that today's cash-strapped drinkers would not regard an 8p premium as marginal.

CAMRA is urging Lord Mandelson to overrule the OFT by referring anti-competitive and unfair tie arrangements of the large pub operating companies to the Competition Commission for an urgent investigation. In taking this decision Lord Mandelson will help secure a sustainable future for Britain's pubs and a fair deal for Britain's 14 million pub-goers.

CAMRA is also calling on the Government to take immediate legislative steps to protect pub landlords and therefore consumers from unfair and anti-competitive contract terms.

CAMRA has called for a policy framework to support community pubs which benefit society following the publication of 'Pubs and Places' by the Institute for Public Policy Research (ippr) in March.

Dr. Rick Muir, author of 'Pubs and Places', said, "Pubs play a key role in community life by providing a friendly and safe environment for people to socialise with friends, family and their wider community. The positive social contribution of many pubs is under threat as a result of high rents and high tied beer prices imposed unfairly by large pub owning companies. Pub landlords are rightly very concerned that unfair tie arrangements are having a serious impact on their ability to compete by reducing prices and improving facilities. The relationship between large pub owning companies and pub landlords needs urgent rebalancing and both the Government and Competition Authorities have their roles to play. In addition a new Government policy framework is required to support, incentivise and reward well-run community pubs."

In calling for referral to the Competition Commission, The BEC report stated the disappointment of the Select Committee that the OFT has previously failed to act on this matter and had refused to acknowledge the current problems in the market. The report said, on the point that the market is working, that "if pubcos push too hard and are too greedy they will fail. But on the way bad companies will inflict real damage on their direct customers, the lessees, and on their indirect customers, ordinary drinkers."

Mr. Benner added, "The Business and Enterprise Select Committee have been proven correct in the view they expressed early this year that an OFT investigation would not be satisfactory and that the Government should now assume responsibility."

OFT gives all clear to beer-tie supply

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) have decided that pub companies which force licensees to buy beer through their landlord are not doing anything wrong.

Britain's pub groups will welcome today's decision but the ruling will be a blow to the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) which used its power as a designated consumer watchdog to make a 'super-complaint' to the OFT over 'tied arrangements' in July.

Read the full article from Times Online

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Friday, 16 October 2009

Wye Valley Brewery takes top spot at SIBA Awards

The Wye Valley Brewery has been named the overall winner at this year's SIBA Brewing Business Awards. The independent brewer's association singled out the beer producer and fledgling pub operator for a range of inititaives that illustrated an "impressive commitment to marketing and selling great beer".

Best Sponsorship went to Freedom Brewery for its partnering of a three-day summer festival with Heart FM.

Best Support for an Off-Trade Customer award was won by Titanic Brewery for their work with Morrisons to create a range of products to match the seasons and help the supermarket to reinforce its reputation as the first retailer to market with fresh, seasonal produce.

The full list of winners can be found on the SIBA brewing business awards page

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Wednesday, 14 October 2009

West Yorkshire: Britain’s brewing capital

Real ale is enjoying a renaissance and West Yorkshire has been christened as Britain’s brewing capital. A recent report from the Campaign for Real Ale showed there were now 34 breweries in the county.

From venerable brewers like Keighley’s Timothy Taylor’s, now in its 151st year to newcomers like Salamander brewery at Dudley Hill, things are looking good.

Read the full article from The Bradford Telegraph and Argus

See more real ale newa and views at

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

S&N to close Newcastle Brown Ale brewery

Scottish & Newcastle will stop brewing the world-famous beer at the Federation Brewery, Gateshead, by the middle of next year. All operations will be transferred to the John Smith's Brewery, in Tadcaster.

S&N bosses blamed the economic downturn for the decision which marks the end of a 82-year tradition of brewing the ale - affectionately nicknamed Dog - in the region.

Read the full article Here

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The question is 'can they still call it Newcastle Brown Ale'?

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

CyclopsBeer info now showing on aletalk

We're now displaying CyclopsBeer tasting notes for the beers in our database.

An example of a beer with these tasting notes can be seen when viewing Wye Valley's Hereford Pale Ale

Cyclops was developed by a group of industry bodies to help to de-mystify beer.

The principals are simple:

1. Describe the beer in what it looks like, smells like and tastes like using no more than 3 words for each area

2. Make sure the terms used are aimed at the average drinker.

3. When describing the taste use terms such as fruity, strong, refreshing. Only use specific flavour terms such as orange, chocolate, toffee if they can definitely be picked up on the beer.

4. Then scores (out of five) are allocated for Bitter and Sweet depending upon the bitterness units, present gravity and most importantly what it tastes like.

Cyclops is now being widely used by beer buyers to help distinguish between beers and will increasingly become as well used as the 1-10 and A-E of the wine world.

To learn more about Cyclops visit their website Here

To look for a beer on our database, try the aletalk search

For all the latest and best UK real ale news and views, visit

Monday, 5 October 2009

'From zero to hero' new report confirms cask ale's renaissance

400,000 new drinkers in 2008
Volume growth in a declining overall beer market
Distribution in 3,000 new pubs last year
More breweries trading than at any time in the past 60 years

That these statistics can be used to describe cask ale will come as a surprise to anyone who witnessed the category's near-demise around five years ago and confirm its journey from 'zero to hero', as published today in The Cask Report - Britain's National Drink.

Pete Brown, the report's author, said, "Turnaround stories don't get much better than cask beer's. In a shrinking on-trade beer market, cask is the only category to show growth, albeit modest, of 1% in the first half of 2009. Its share of the on-trade beer market now stands at 13.5%, up from 11% in 2007. But what's most important for Britain's licensees is that there's compelling evidence to show that cask beer can offer them a 'lifeline' out of the recession

Read the full press release Here

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