Big brewers supporting small ones

News from the “Morning Advertiser” that Charles Wells pub company are to open a speciality beer pub in their home town of Bedford made me think about the big brewery business model.

In a period when small producers and local produce are cool, and big brands just aren’t, more and more of those big brands will want a piece of the smaller ones. In the past, they’d have taken over smaller brands, incorporated them, and eventually done away with them altogether. Now, it makes more sense to keep them intact, but at arms length.

McDonalds aren’t hiding the fact that they own a share of Pret a Manger, the posh high street sandwich chain (itself now also a big brand). They just don’t publicise it much. It’s insurance for them in case the bottom falls out of the little brown beef pattie market, and also protects them from accusations of being low-class, or peddlers of only unhealthy food. They’re hedging their bets.

Charles Wells Pub Company, a part of the growing Wells and Youngs’ empire, are helping the parent company to cover itself here, too. People can’t accuse it of crushing competition, or reducing variety if it keeps opening pubs selling boutique beers – beers, of course, which don’t directly challenge it in the marketplace.

Market forces might be working out in the favour of the British drinker: if customers want choice and the products of smaller breweries, the big breweries are going to get in on the act and help out.

Weltenburger Kloster

weltenburger_bottle.jpgFantastic news, which I somehow missed last month: Weltenburger Kloster beer now has a distributor in the UK, according the Tom Cannavan over at Beer Pages.

Weltenburger’s beers were some of the most consistently interesting and excellent we tasted on our recent trip to Bavaria. The Asam Bock really is as good as Tom says, although I was even more excited at the typo on the menu which suggested a double bock with tea (“Assam Bock”). A future brewing experiment…?

The Barock Dunkel, too, is very different to many other German dark beers, and really seems to earn the “dark” title.

Nice pubs near stations #1: Victoria Station, London

UPDATE APRIL 2012: These days, if you’re at Victoria, you’re fifteen minutes’ walk from Cask, arguably London’s best pub.

I thought it would be good to start collecting information about nice pubs near stations. There’s nothing more frustrating than having an hour to kill at a station and no idea where to head for a decent brew, so I hope this is of some use.

First up, Victoria Station, London. If you only have 20 minutes or so, your best choice is probably the Wetherspoons in the station itself. Head outside the station and it doesn’t look particularly hopeful. However, there are some excellent pubs in the vicinity, if you know where to look.

5 minutes walk away
This will get you as far as the Jugged Hare on Vauxhall Bridge Road, an excellent Fullers Ale and Pie House. Alternatively, you could head for the Cardinal, a Sam Smiths pub near Westminster Cathedral, but it’s only five minutes if you know exactly where you’re going…

10 minutes walk away
The Horse and Groom is a charming Shepherd’s Neame pub tucked away in a Belgravia Mews. Listen to the locals discuss the price of diamonds.

15 minutes walk away
Head down Buckingham Palace Rd (away from the Palace) and eventually you get to the Rising Sun, a Young’s pub on Ebury Bridge Rd. Last time I went, they did tasty cheap pizza as well as most of the Young’s range.

Alternatively, head into deepest Belgravia for the Star Tavern. This is a great Fullers pub with a decent menu, hidden behind the Austrian embassy.

Google Map link to all these pubs.

Boak

Was Wellington a fan of IPA?

wellington.jpgOn June 12 1841, The Times ran a story about how the duke of Wellington was greeted by the staff and management of the famous India pale ale brewery at Wapping.

On Monday last (says a correspondent) during the aquatic procession of the Trinity Board on the river, the firm of Hodgson and Abbot, pale ale brewers in Wapping, adopted a novel mode of complimenting the Duke of Wellington, Master of the Trinity-house, as he passed their premises on his way to Deptford to be sworn in according to the annual custom for the ensuing year. The river frontage was decorated with flags and banners from the corners of which hung bottles of India pale ale.

Later:

A Party of Conservative gentlemen in the drawing-room [of the brewery]… drank the health of his Grace when the shallop in which he was seated was opposite the window… in Herculean glasses of strong pale ale, each holding a bottle and a half, and his grace appeared much pleased with the compliment, and bowed to the gentlemen assembled.

Those glasses sound cool. How strong was the strong ale…?

Kannenbeer

kannenbier.jpg

This advertisement from 1905 is for beer in stoneware jugs. The distributors, based in South Tottenham, London, promised to deliver a minimum of six jugs to your house in their Own Vans. I love that they claim “Ladies prefer it”, and that the “medical profession” supports it.

I also find myself eager to try their Extra Nourishing Stout.