News Extra – May 2021

Here, in no particular order, are some items that arrived after the editorial deadline:


CHAMPION BOTTLED BEER OF BRITAIN
The competition, usually held at the BBC Good Food Show, was conducted virtually this year, the first time that CAMRA has organised such an event in this way. The bottles to taste were sent to the judges securely wrapped and numbered so that the essential aspect of it being a blind tasting was maintained.

The winner was a barley wine, A over T (9% ABV) from the Hogs Back Brewery from Tongham, Surrey. The runners up were both Imperial Russian Stouts. The silver went to Durham Brewery for their Temptation (10% ABV) and the bronze to an old favourite, Harvey’s Imperial Extra Double Stout (9% ABV).

Rupert Thompson, Hogs Back’s owner and managing director, commented, “We’re delighted that A over T, our ‘cask in a bottle’, is CAMRA’s Champion Bottled Beer this year. It’s very fitting that a strong ale wins the accolade after a year in which both brewers and pubs have had to call on our strength and resilience to get through. A over T’s loyal drinkers, including our friends from the local CAMRA branch, are always keen to try the newest vintage.”


If you would like to try the three winners plus three of the other finalists, CAMRA are making them available by mail order in a limited edition Good Beer Box at £35 for members or £40 for non-members. Go to https://shop1.camra.org.uk/product/beer-box-champion-bottled-beers/ for more information. Ordering one of the boxes will also give you a place at an on-line tasting to be held on 4 July, hosted by Christine Cryne and in the company of some of the winning brewers.


HAWTHORN LEISURE
Hawthorn operate almost 700 pubs (two in London), mostly community pubs on tenancy, plus a handful of convenience shops built on pub sites . It was reported in the Morning Advertiser in April that Hawthorn’s parent company, NewRiver REIT, had plans to have Hawthorn become an independent stock market listed company by means of an Initial Public Offering (IPO). Reports at the time were that Hawthorn were looking to use this as the base for expansion, having recently purchased 14 pubs from Everard’s. However, a more recent report in the Times suggests that NewRiver would be equally open to selling Hawthorn and one potential buyer (inevitably) is the RedCat Pub Company (see page 19). Hawthorn’s pubs are mostly freehold and are valued at around £200 million. It was reported that NewRiver were looking for funds to reduce their corporate debt.


CALORIE LABELLING
Further to what I say on page 18, this measure was included in the Queen’s Speech. The planned legislation will require pubs and restaurants to display calorie information for ‘non-prepacked food and soft drink items’ at the ‘point of choice for the customer’, which means both physical and on-line menus and food labels. The legislation will apply only to businesses with more than 250 employees and the intention is that it will come into effect in April 2022. The notion of labelling alcoholic drinks is not dead however. The Department of Health and Social Care still intend holding a consultation exercise. The trade however remains very much opposed.


MAGDALA TAVERN
Happily, after many delays and frustrations, Dick Morgan of Twickenham Green Taverns has finally been able to reopen this important Hampstead pub. We congratulate him on his patience over the last two years.