The Bar Man - An untimely ale-ment

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Our book of the month for the reading group in January was Sue Townsend’s ‘The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year’. No sooner had the bar wife finished it than she took to her bed for several days. A strange case of life imitating art.

Perhaps next month’s book should be ‘How to Cook You Husband Perfect Meals’. As it turned out she soon recovered, and as it happens her cooking skills are close to perfection as it is.

It was a shame though, that her sojourn between the sheets should have coincided with our CAMRA meeting at the Stuart House Hotel, partly because it is within walking distance and, for once instead of driving, she could have sampled some of Dave’s excellent ale, but also as there was an opportunity to meet a new local brewer, John Nash from Two Rivers brewery which is located in Denver, near the Jenyns Arms.

John started brewing in 2012 and currently produces only bottled beers, although cask ale is possibly on the horizon.

Generally brewers can be divided into two types; the ones where the brewery is organised chaos and the production of beer resembles alchemy and those which are more like a laboratory with science being the guiding principle.

John is very much in the scientific camp, where the taste of a beer is designed and then the ideal ingredients sourced and the brewing process tweaked to give the desired outcome. It is difficult to be totally objective when the samples we tried were tiny and from plastic cups, but the four beers he brought along were certainly distinctive.

Currently the bottle conditioned ales are on sale in shops in the south of our area. Check out the shop at the Chalk and Cheese in Shouldham or Dent’s Farm Shop on the A10.

If you do go to Shouldham you will see the sad sight of the local pub, the King’s Arms boarded up and for sale. Some of the local residents have pulled together to form SOKA (Save Our King’s Arms) and are exploring the possibility of organising a community buyout of the pub.

The first meeting was due to be held on the 11th January where Andy Shaw from CAMRA HQ was coming along to share his considerable expertise. Unfortunately due to previous commitments (Skolars v Broncos London Rugby League Challenge game) I could not attend, but I am happy to put anyone who is interested in touch with Phil who has been the driving force behind the group.

On the national scene, CAMRA has been campaigning for a long time for publicans to be given a fair deal by the giant pub owning companies (Pubcos). There are many problems, but put simply, the Pubcos charge high rents which are increased if the turnover of the business increases, whilst at the same time tying landlords to buying beer and other stock from a limited number of suppliers at high prices.

The Government has finally run out of patience with the industry’s attempts at self-regulation and Vince Cable has announced that legislation will be introduced to protect landlords.

As noted by Henry Bellingham in his contribution to the debate, much of the credit for this should go to CAMRA.