Are we at the ‘Bitter’ end?

Why on earth are some of the big breweries rebranding their Bitter style beers as ‘Amber’, or ‘Amber Ale’? Bitter is a classic style to be respected and revered. Why are they ’embarrassed’ to mention the word ‘Bitter’ in their marketing? FFS!

For example: Marston’s Pedigree Bitter is now Pedigree Amber Ale! Shepherd Neame Spitfire Premium Bitter, rebranded as Kentish Spitfire Amber Ale! And shock, horror, Robinson’s Unicorn Bitter is now described as Robinson’s Unicorn Golden Ale!

Below are some of my favourite Bitters. A quartet of delicious ales. Can you imagine them being renamed Amber! Southwold Amber? Young’s Amber Ale? They just wouldn’t sound right in my opinion. Agreed?

Yes, I know ‘Bitter ‘ is deemed by some as an old codgers tipple. However, that appears to be becoming a dated opinion. Many less mature discerning ale drinkers I know, love a ‘Bitter’ branded beer. Especially the younger age range, who love their hop forward ales.


This town ain’t big enough for the both of us!

Those of you old enough to remember the seventies, may recall a song by Sparks. The title of the song has been headlined above.

I thought of the 1974, no.2 hit, when an announcement by JD Wetherspoon, revealed they are to flog the Brun Lea in Burnley, along with 15 other pubs.

The local newspaper headlined it as shock news. Really? It’s more of a disappointing revelation, in my humble and candid opinion.

So, allow me to reveal some of the main reasons why I think the Brun Lea has been jettisoned by the pub chain giant.

Firstly, a relatively small town like Burnley was always likely to be targeted for any Tim Martin ‘hit list’. The reason for this being that there are two ‘Spoons sites within a close proximity of each other – and one had to be culled.

So why the Brun Lea and not the other site, namely, the Boot Inn?

Location may have been a contributory factor. The Boot Inn has a prime town centre position. The Brun Lea is a short distance away from the main town centre area.

Profits at JD Wetherspoon have also fallen by 19% in the six months to the end of January. Unfortunately, it appears that the Brun Lea has been identified, along with 15 other sites, as part of a commercial exercise to steady the ‘financial ship’.

Personally, I’m of the opinion that there was only one reason for the imminent closure: it had become a victim of commercial unviability. And it wasn’t feasible to sustain two sites in the same town centre.

Indeed, ‘the town wasn’t big enough for the two of them’.

False dawn on investment?

In June of last year, Heineken unveiled plans for a £44 million investment in 500 of its 2,900 pubs.

However, it doesn’t appear that a pub they closed 15 months ago, is part of their present investment plans.

The Park View, Burnley, remains a shuttered-up eyesore. It is situated directly across from Burnley Football Club’s, Turf Moor stadium.

I suspect they may have failed to find a prospective tenant, who is willing to agree with the terms of the lease: high cost entry; inflated rent; unfair price for the purchase of beer?

Okay, I know there is a whiff of cynicism here. However, it’s frustrating that it shows little sign of reopening.

The artists impression looked very impressive. I also ‘applaud’ Star Pubs and Bars(leased pub business of Heineken) for naming the pub, ‘The Kilby Tavern’, after the popular and much respected former Clarets chairman, Barry Kilby.

Alas, it still remains a blot on the highway. Presently included in the depressing pub closure statistics.

Much had been promised in a press release nine months ago. They said on their sales website : “an amazing venue and iconic site. Providing the new operator with a unique opportunity to significantly enhance this business opportunity .” However, this boast has so far proved a delusion of capitalism.

Briggsy’s beers of the week.(w/e 20th Jan.)

SEVEN BRO7HERS BREWERY Marshmallow Stout (4%): Sampled at the Hare and Hounds, Padiham, East Lancs.

Almost jet black in presentation. Tight, beige head. Vanilla and milky chocolate aroma. Toasted marshmallow, vanilla, creamy chocolate and sugary sweet flavours. Roasted grains and more sugary sweetness in the finish. A rich tasting and stunning stout, in excellent condition. 🍻👏👏👏

Cheshire Brewhouse, Jester Pale Ale(4%): Another stunning bottled beer from @TheCheshireBrew sampled at the weekend. Delicious single hop pale ale . Juicy, bittersweet tropical fruit and subtle floral flavours. Long, dry and increasingly tangy finish. Bags of character for a low ABV ale.🍻👍👏 #Briggsonbeer

‘Elephant in the room’!

I am sure regular pub visitors will have recently witnessed a rallying call by local MP’s, demanding action by the government to help stem the flow of pub closures. A call also supported by the BBPA( British Beer and Pubs Association) and the powers that be, at CAMRA HQ in St Albans.

Now, it is all very commendable by all parties concerned, outlining some of the reasons for pub closures: crippling beer duty, high business rates, VAT, the smoking ban and cheap supermarket alcohol being highlighted as major contributory factors, for the demise of the British pub.

However, why do politicians, influential pub bodies and campaigners, always appear to swerve the real ‘elephant in the room’ – the prickly and contentious issue of the Pubco tie. Surely, the flawed business model and unscrupulous antics of some of the largest companies, are a major reason for the beloved British pub having to call last orders. Agreed?

The likes of Enterprise Inns(Ei Group PLC) and Punch, embarked on a huge financial investment; borrowing enormous amounts of money to pay for 1000’s of pubs they had purchased. Problem was they were reluctant to invest in them. Especially those that had endured many years of neglect.

How are pubs expected to thrive when the tied tenant is having to pay over the odds for their beer? The pub company buys beer at a discount rate then inflates the price to the tenant by a margin of anything up to an eye-watering 100%. So, the beer is more expensive than the independently owned pubs.

The rent they pay is linked to turnover. More beer sold, more rent to pay. Hard graft and devotion to duty is not rewarded – it appears to be penalised.

Four Enterprise pubs in Norwich in just seven days have recently announced they will not be renewing their leases. Three due to steep rent increases. And the fourth saying they were denied a lease renewal. One, the Gibraltar Gardens, has closed because the tenants could not afford the 100% rent hike in January.

Is it any wonder tenancies do not last very long; resulting in more pub closures. The pubco business model clearly doesn’t work. The amount of pubs Enterprise and Punch dispose of clearly proves this. Asset stripping in order to reduce their mountainous level of debt. Flogging pubs for alternative use to supermarkets and developers.

Pubs that could have been saved. Now closed because of bad management by some pubco bosses, who clearly didn’t have much of an idea of how to run a pub. The systematic asset-stripping of communities the length and breadth of the nation.

Hopefully, the influential powers that be, mentioned at the outset of this article, appreciate and understand my concern at their reluctance to include the ‘elephant in the room’ when highlighting the major reasons for pub closures.

Two exceptional beers.

Duvel Tripel Hop Citra:

Outstandingly ballsy & flavoursome beer from Duvel. Lemony & spicy aroma. Floral, lemon , peppery spice & subtle juicy tropical fruit flavours. Fruity,dry, bittersweet finish. Inherent booziness!One from a Belgian beer selection from @BeerwulfWebshop 🍻

Northern Whisper Soft Mick:

A delicious and flavoursome bottled beer from this fledgling brewery.

Dark golden presentation. Aroma of pink grapefruit leads to more juicy pink grapefruit, mango and orange flavours. Pleasant citrusy hop finish. The sorachi ace hops certainly played their part! Outstanding depth of flavour for a 3.8% Golden Ale.