Branch Pub, Brewery Presentations and Visits 2019
Albatross RAFA Club, Bexhill, 12.11.19
In mid November, branch members trod a familiar path as they assembled at the Albatross Club for two presentations, the first being our Branch Club of the Year, being awarded to the club for the ninth consecutive year. With its five handpumps and policy to sign in CAMRA members for a limited number of occasions it is without peer amongst the clubs in the branch area. The presentation was made to Head Bar Steward, Karen Pelham and Assistant Head Bar Steward, Peter Fell. Branch Chair Peter Adams echoed something Karen had said at a number of previous presentations, that despite the number of CAMRA awards they have received they never take them for granted, saying that we did not take them for granted either, they and their hard work are much appreciated by us. Sadly the previous Club Chairman, John Leahy, who had guided the club over the time that it rose to prominence in CAMRA circles, died between the time we decided to make award and the presentation itself; he is much missed. The assembled company confirmed their appreciation of him and his contribution. Following this award, Area Organiser Peter Page-Mitchell then explained that the next stage for a branch club of the year was to compete for the Sussex Pub of the Year and he was pleased to award this to the Club too.
Olde Smugglers Inn, Alfriston, 29.10.19
Branch members made their way to the Smugglers at the end of October for the presentation of the Rural Pub of the Year. Since Lisa Thompson took the pub on, the beer offer has improved and in the opinion of many, so has the pub in general. At the start of the year it was shortlisted as one the three pubs nominated in the Pub of the Year competition. Although it did not win, it was the only rural pub on the shortlist and this led to members voting for it as our Rural Pub of the Year. Vice Chair Phil opened proceedings by paying tribute to the progress the pub has made in Lisa’s time there, then Chair Peter explained how the pub had progressed from making it into the Good Beer Guide to the current award. Lisa replied, thanking the Branch for its recognition and support.
White Rock Hotel, Hastings, 3.9.19
Two presentations were made at the branch meeting at the beginning of September by Branch Chair Peter Adams. The first was made to Laurence, proprietor of the hotel, as it had been voted Branch LocAle Pub of the Year for the second successive year. This was partly in recognition of the policy adopted by Laurence and partner Catherine, since they took over the hotel and developed its bar, of only taking beers from Sussex, but also of the high standard of beer served. In reply Laurence thanked the Branch for its continued support. The second presentation was to one of the Branch’s own, webmaster, Peter Harrison. After seeing Branch Website awards made at the National Members’ Weekend in Dundee in April to the Branch Website of the Year and the Runner Up, out of the blue a certificate with no other information enclosed arrived in the post at Peter A’s house. It named our branch as a finalist in the Website of the Year competition. In awarding the certificate to Peter H, Peter A praised branch members who send material to him, without which we would not have received the award, but to ‘hear hears’ from members present, he added that it was the way Peter had developed the website, the speed and efficiency with which things are posted and his unfailingly keeping the website up to date that were such important factors.
George Hotel, Hailsham, 27.8.19
Following straight on from the visit to Boreham Street in late August, members moved on to Wetherspoon’s George Hotel, to award the pub Cider / Perry Pub of the Year. This was the third successive year the pub had won the award, but unlike the previous years when it was decided by a straight vote at a branch meeting, this time a more rigorous procedure was used. This was devised by Branch Cider Co-Ordinator, Phil Packham, who introduced the CAMRA Cider PotY points system for judging and in addition organised a tour of the four shortlisted pubs. All credit to the George which ran out winner under the new system too, under the guidance of former manager Mitch Lowe. We were delighted that the NBSS evidence showed that under new manager Tom Curley the standard had been maintained, and it was he who is pictured with Phil and Branch Chair Peter receiving the award, as by the time of the presentation, he had taken over managing the pub.
Bull's Head, Boreham Street, 27.8.19
On a balmy late August evening, branch members assembled in the garden of the Bull’s Head to present a certificate to landlord Mike, marking ten consecutive years in CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide. Branch Chair Peter praised the rescue job which Mike has done since he arrived at the pub, after the two previous proprietors had failed to make a go of the business. In particular how he had managed to make it a destination for the locals, obviously the case when one hears the conversation in the bar, and also a popular place to stop off for visitors, including those who choose to stay on the pub’s own campsite. Most importantly in the context of the GBG, the beer standard is excellent and consistent, with four active handpumps being more than we might expect in a pub in such a small village. Mike replied that involving the community in the pub was the key to what he had done, introducing various community events which have been well supported, and that visitors to the camp site regularly used the pub for food and drink. Our pictures show members relaxing in the garden beforehand and the presentation being made.
Dolphin, Hastings, 13.8.19
A pub which branch members always enjoy visiting, this time in mid August to present two awards. Branch Vice Chair Phil got the ball rolling as he presented landlord Mark with the Community Pub of the Year award for the second consecutive year. Although most of our members are not regulars, we always feel part of the community when we are here. Branch Chair Peter then presented the certificate marking ten consecutive years in CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide, during which time it has been Branch Pub of the Year twice. The emphasis is on a family run pub; reflected in the pub requesting that all of Mark, Maureen, Laura, Louise and Frazer’s names are listed on the presentation certificate.
Hurst Arms, Eastbourne, 23.7.19
The Branch surprised Adrian and Andrea in late July when the Branch Chair had told them that he would appear to present the Pub of the Year Runners Up award one Tuesday evening. In the event they found their front bar full of CAMRA members, having expected just one person. A warm welcome on a warm summer evening found the beer in the good form, Harvey’s Dark Mild and Tom Paine proving particular popular, scoring Very Good and often better on the NBSS system. At the presentation we heard how Adrian and Andrea have revitalised the pub during their tenure, after the pub had been in the hands of a succession of temporary managers, usually selling just one beer, it now sells five in good form.
Kissingate Brewery, 6.7.19
For what proved to be a very popular brewery visit on a sunny July day, members of both Coastal and Sub Branch travelled by minibus to make the award of Sussex Beer of the Year 2018 for this branch to Gary and Bunny at Kissingate Brewery. This turned out to be the 30th CAMRA award for this outstanding brewery in less than ten years of brewing and which we observed that the previous 29 had been awarded for many different beers. As the pictures show it was a beautiful day complemented by excellent beer and likewise the buffet commissioned by us and prepared by Bunny. You can also see the Branch Treasurer jealously guarding the bread pudding!
The dark 6.8% beer, Black Eyed Susan, for which the award was won was the highest scoring beer on the NBSS system bar none, higher than beers from all over the country. As an added bonus, Roy Bray, the Brewery Liaison Officer from North Sussex Branch came up with the breweries 31st CAMRA award to round off the day, a silver award in the London & South East regional heat of the Champion Beer of Britain competition for Black Cherry Mild.
Tower, St. Leonards, 25.6.19
After a year as runner up, the Tower reclaimed its former position as Branch Pub of the Year for 2019. In warm weather at the end of June, in front of CAMRA members and an enthusiastic group of local pub regulars, Peter, Branch Chair made the presentation to landlady Louisa, congratulating her on yet another award. In reply Louisa praised her staff, assembled behind the bar for the presentation, as shown in our pictures, and thanked her regulars for their support of their pub.
Gun Brewery, 15.6.19
For the second year in a row, Gun’s Zamzama IPA, a 6.5% strong ale, came out top of the beers brewed in the branch area to be South East Sussex Beer of the Year 2018. This award is made by considering all the NBSS scores awarded in pubs in the branch area across the year, the highest placed beer with at least 10 scores and 4 scores gets the award. This means the beer is being judged as the best as drinkers find it in pubs through the year, rather than one particularly good batch or cask taking an award, for example at a beer festival. As the brewery is in the Sub Branch area and Steve, the Chair of the Sub Branch, is the Brewery Liaison Officer for Gun, he made the presentation with both Sub Branch and Coastal members present at a gathering at the brewery in mid June. The picture shows him with staff from the brewery.
Waterworks, Rye, 11.6.19
One of our newest pubs, the Waterworks, the first micropub to open in the Rye area, did not take long to gain its first CAMRA award. Up against strong competition, four pubs with exciting ranges of ciders and perries were on the shortlist for Cider & Perry Branch Pub of the Year, the Waterworks ran out runner up. Praising the relative newcomer for making an immediate impact on the local cider (and beer) scene, sourcing all of the ciders (and beers) locally, Phil Packham, Branch Cider Co-ordinator joined Branch Chair, Peter Adams, in making the presentation, with some of the pub’s enthusiastic locals lending their support, to the obvious delight of landlord David Roder.
When we were looking for a different location for our annual pub tour in June, branch member Dennis suggested Ramsgate as a town with a good variety of pubs and beer. He produced information and a programme for the day and was proved correct, as we all had an enjoyable tour of the town. The picture shows part of the group in the Royal Victoria Pavilion, the Ramsgate Wetherspoon’s, which we understand is the largest in the country.
Beer Festivals (Beer & Cider by the Sea), 21-26.5.19
A good number of members helped out at Beer & Cider by the Sea, a festival in marquees on Eastbourne seafront at the end of May, one of two festivals run by Eastbourne Borough Council Events Team in conjunction with the Branch. The other festival is the larger one indoors in the Devonshire Quarter in October.
Our pictures show the equipment being set up, some of the workers taking a break in the sun, early arrivals settling down to their beer on the Saturday morning, the beer bar and branch members behind it.
Two Sawyers, Pett, 14.5.19
It was decided to make a new pub award from 2018, the Champion Pub in the National Beer Scoring Scheme. To qualify the pub has to have been assessed at least ten times in the year and by at least four different scorers and from those pubs, then the pub with the highest weighted average score gets the award. With neither branch chair or vice chair available, It was Area Organiser Peter Page-Mitchell who made the presentation to landlord Marc at the pub, saying that it was a tribute to the consistent high standard of beer served at the Two Sawyers. Our pictures show Peter (left) with Mark and the certificate awarded.
PoTY Trip 4.5.19
On Saturday 8 branch members set off for the annual trip to visit the 5 pubs of the year, as voted for by the other Sussex branches. The first 3 on the minibus had contrived a breakfast bacon roll plus a quick pint at the Tower in St. Leonards, before the trip started. Several other members were collected on the way through Bexhill and Eastbourne, finally arriving at the first pub, the Kings Head in East Hoathly, the PoTY of our sub-branch North East Sussex. Such was the efficiency of our driver, Bob, that we arrived before the pub opened and we had to endure a ten minute wait before the serious business of the day could start. We were welcomed by the landlord, who explained the various beers on offer. Unfortunately, beers were being changed on 2 of the pumps, so the choice was somewhat restricted. After being joined by another of our members and sampling various beers, we departed for Lewes, to pick up yet another member, from our sub-branch.
Our next stop was the White Horse at Maplehurst, a pub that we have visited at least twice in recent years, being testament to its high regard in the North Sussex Branch. We received a warm welcome and made our preferred selections from the many and varied beers available. We also had lunch there, so staying somewhat longer and providing the opportunity to indulge in more than the mandatory single beer. All the beers tried were in very good condition and everyone was very happy with their food. Unfortunately, it was rather too cold to dine outside but we were comfortably accommodated in the pubs’ conservatory. Judging by the amount of other customers both eating and drinking, this pub remains very popular.
The next pub visited was the Hornet in Chichester. This micro pub is the first in the city and despite being open for only 18 months or so has clearly gained a very good reputation, very quickly, from the West Sussex branch. Unusually, it benefits from an additional upstairs room, meaning that there is more customer space, away from the cosy bar. An interesting incentive advertised in the bar is the 100 club. A free T-shirt is provided to anyone sampling that many beers there. Unfortunately, our stay time precluded completion of this task but it’s a good reason to return. There was an interesting variety of beers on offer, all of which were very good and reasonably priced.
Moving East, our next visit was another micro pub, the Green Man Ale and Cider House in Tarring. This is the second consecutive year that the Arun and Adur branch have chosen this as their PoTY. We were welcomed by the owner and made our selections from the various beers on offer. Judging by the amount of customers there, this pub remains very popular and clearly many of the customers know each other but there was no indication of cliquiness.
The final pub visited was Brighton Bierhaus, PoTY of Brighton and Southdowns branch. Being mid to late afternoon on a Saturday, it was understandably quite busy yet we were served quickly and the prices were reasonable. There was a decent choice of both cask and keg beer but we stuck to the cask, all of which was in good form. Our presence probably doubled the average customer age but it was good to see the popularity of beer amongst all ages.
By now it was time to head home. It had been a long but very worthwhile day, visiting pubs that otherwise we probably wouldn’t see very often. Our grateful thanks to Bob, our driver, for his excellent navigation and time keeping, which maximised our drinking time and enjoyment. Also to Bill for organising the transport and to Howard and Peter for the photos.
Lamb Inn, Eastbourne, 23.4.19
At the Branch A.G.M. at the end of April, Paul Bangs retired as Branch NBSS Co-Ordinator; his contribution has gone far beyond South and North East Sussex and we owe him much gratitude. He was presented with a framed certificate to mark this gratitude by Branch Chair, Peter Adams, as seen in the picture. This is the tribute he paid to Paul.
The Branch has much to be grateful for to Paul who has been our NBSS coordinator since the system began, presenting statistics which are calculated to discount people’s bias in either direction over favourite or least favoured pubs. His thoroughness in contacting other branches in the early days to find out how they overcame this problem led to his presenting us with options and recommending a way forward which we were pleased to adopt and is still in use today. It is fitting to pay tribute to his efforts, not only on behalf of our branch which helped us become the first branch in the county to have 100% of its pubs surveyed and completed on WhatPub, but in helping other branches too on both WhatPub and with NBSS data. Also at WhatPub’s national inception his work as an ‘average’ branch member grappling with the then new database helped the developers improve its user friendliness and has led to the healthy state our pub database is in today. Paul has never been an ‘average’ branch member, but a dedicated worker for the Campaign who has given so much productive time. In Peter’s eight years as Chair, this is only the third such certificate which has been presented, which clearly demonstrates that he is truly an above average branch member.
King's Head, East Hoathly, 20.3.19
North East Sussex Sub Branch awarded the King’s Head both Pub of the Year and Cider/Perry Pub of the Year in a double presentation in March. A group of South East Sussex members joined those from the Sub Branch at the pub. Proprietors Bob and Tracey and barman Owen (right) are pictured with Sub Branch Chair Steve with the two certificates marking the awards.
Coopers Arms, Crowborough 1.2.19
The Cooper’s was allocated a place in the Good Beer Guide by South East Sussex Branch in 2009. Following this it maintained its high standard of beer for the following decade which covered the time that the Sub Branch took over GBG selections for its area. So it fell to Sub Branch Chair, Steve, to make the presentation of a certificate to mark this achievement which was made at the Pub’s ‘Dark and Delicious’ beer festival at the start of February. Snow on the ground did not prevent some Coastal area members joining the group for the presentation and in enjoying the festival. Our picture shows landlord Dave and his wife Judith accepting the certificate from Steve.
Jenny Lind, Hastings 15.1.19
At the first branch gathering of the year, Peter Page-Mitchell, Sussex Area Organiser and branch member, was presented with the Branch Campaigner of the Year Award for 2018. It was his idea to set out to visit and score beers in as many different branch pubs as possible in 2018, a challenge which another member took up. Although in the final analysis Peter did not manage the most pubs, he received the award for originating the idea which played a significant part in ensuring that a record number of different branch pubs received a ‘CAMRA visit’ during the year, which in turn helped the branch in keeping WhatPub as up to date as possible. Unfortunately we do not have a pictorial record of this presentation.
Battle Organic Cider 10.1.19
A small group of South East Sussex Branch members was invited to Battle Organic Cider’s premises which is located in the next parish, the small village of Mountfield. We were treated to a variety of tastings and had an interesting talk about their story to date and the different ciders made and the way they are blended. The cider makers are two brothers, Matt and Jeremy Eldridge, with over a decade of experience of using traditional methods. They take local organically grown apples to press, leaving the pressed juice to ferment naturally, in French oak wine barrels. Nothing is added, there are no artificial flavourings, agents, sweeteners nor yeast. Instead, the cider is ‘wild yeast’ fermented, then racked and returned to the barrel to mature before blending to create the best flavour.
The Eldridge’s started making cider in Battle in September 2016 with a very small batch (100 litres) created for the local medieval fayre, but they soon realised that the high quality of the fruit plus the traditional approach to production was more popular than expected, the whole batch was sold out within a few hours. They quickly scaled up the idea, in 2017 they purchased two wine barrels, and diversified to create ‘Early Press’ cider. This makes quick work of the first apples of the season, which are typically the Discoveries and Grenadiers. They press in August, and the fermentation progresses faster than autumn ciders as the weather is still warmer, meaning the cider is ready to drink as early as October; because the sugar levels in the fruit are lower, it has less alcohol.
In 2017 they started in earnest, producing 1100 litres, which sold out in three months, since then they have grown once more, with 5000 litres produced in 2018, moving premises, acquired more barrels and bottling for the first time. Their ‘Elstar’ cider, which uses up to nine different mid to late season varieties of apple and ferments slowly over the winter was nominated for an award as a finalist at the National Fruit Show Cider Competition 2018. At Christmas they branched out to create a seasonal ‘MerryToffee Apple’ mulled’ cider, the visiting branch members had a sample of this excellent winter warmer at 6.3% ABV.
The brothers commented that many people are used to commercial ciders, which can contain as little as 35% apple juice, so we find that when they taste 100% juice products they are amazed at the complexity and depth of flavour, even those who are initially sceptical. They are now selling in local pubs, clubs, the nearby Battle Brewery Bar, several restaurants, village shops, garden centres and delicatessens throughout the area. 2018’s production target was 6000 litres, this year they aim for 16000 litres and increasing from that in future.
The pictures show tasting in progress with Branch Cider Rep, Phil Packham, in mid swig; the full group with brothers Matt far left, Jeremy far right and other groupings amongst the barrels.