Branch Reports

PoTY Trip 2017

On Saturday 13 May we had our annual minibus excursion to visit the Pubs of the Year (PoTY) of the other four Sussex Branches as our contribution to deciding the overall PoTY for Sussex, for which a standard and detailed CAMRA scoring system is provided, capturing the whole pub experience, not just the beer.

The minibus started at 9.30am from our PoTY, The Tower in St. Leonards, but not before an initial drink there, having persuaded the pub to open very early in honour of this special occasion. Others joined the minibus at Bexhill, Eastbourne and Lewes but had to remain thirsty until nearly 12.00 before we arrived at our first destination, The Inglenook Hotel in Pagham. Various beers were sampled, from the five on offer, all in very good condition. We also enjoyed a very pleasant lunch there, sitting outside in the sunshine. Quite unusual to find a hotel offering such a good range of real ale.

Next up was The Anchor Tap in Horsham, a Dark Star pub. The owner, Horsham Council, wanted very much for the building to be preserved as a pub, rather than being converted to another use as often happens. Consequently after many years as a shoe shop and coffee shop it was reverted back to its original use as a pub in Spring 2016 and now offers 6 hand pumps plus 10 keg taps. Our stay there was shorter but again several of their beers were tried, from the extensive offerings, detailed on the prominent board on the bar wall. However, we stuck to the cask offerings, again finding them all in fine condition.

Traveling back South, we next visited Anchored in Worthing, a micro pub just off the sea front. By now it was middle to late afternoon and we made our selections from the three or four ever changing local Sussex beers. Not surprisingly, for a Saturday afternoon, it was standing room only but we weren’t bothered as conversation flowed freely between everyone there. There is no bar as such but the owner, Nigel, provided a very efficient waiter service from the casks in the back room. Again the beers were in very good form.

Our final pub was the Brighton Beer Dispensary. There are 9 hand pumps, 6 for beer and the others for cider. In addition there are 9 keg taps. Another very good beer choice but this time national as well as local and for the location, very reasonably priced. All beers tried were pronounced in very good condition and it was with some regret that we finally left the last pub on our trip. Thanks to our guest Barry for taking the photo as we waited for the minibus.

Particular thanks goes to Bill for organising the day and the transport and also to our driver Brian. He not only managed to negotiate narrow side streets and drop us off outside most of the pubs (only exception being Horsham where we had to walk all of 100 yards through a pedestrian precinct) but also drove nearly 200 miles in the process. We now await the results from the other four Sussex Branches before learning the overall Sussex PoTY.

Battle Brewery open day and formal opening

The first official open day was Saturday 25th February. Very many people came to the brewery, to have a taste, chat and to buy the first production batches of Conquest and Abbey Pale. The pilot porter brew, that Greg was brewing during the day, is progressing well and should be ready for sampling early April. Keep an eye on the brewery site for info. The brewery is open every Saturday from 10.00 to 3.00, plus there is an on-line shop via their site, The two pictures are of Greg, the brewer, with Mac McCutcheon, CAMRA brewery liaison officer.

On Friday 3 March, Huw Merriman MP, Battle Mayor David Furness and Mac McCutcheon officially opened the brewery. Huw, David and Mac all enjoyed the samples on offer before Huw and Mac cut the black ribbon across the doors. David Furness said, "What a wonderful business to have in Battle, marking the history of our Town, with such a special product. The beer, both the Conquest and Abbey Pale brews are wonderful and I am sure will a first choice for customers when buying a truly great beer, with a wonderful provenance. I know that this Business will go from strength to strength and I wish the owners the very best of luck in the future".

Branch Awards

It would have been difficult, though not impossible, for another club to have been made Branch Club of the Year following the success of the Albatross RAFA Club of Bexhill in the national competition, (a feat well documented in previous issues of the Sussex Drinker), and given that it was such a clear winner in the previous branch competition. Sure enough it was the 2016 branch Club of the Year and went on again to win the Sussex and regional awards, congratulations once again to head bar steward, Karen Pelham, and her staff. The Club progressed through the Super-Regional round to reach the national top four once more. The presentations for the Branch, Sussex and Regional awards all took place on an evening in January 2017 at the Club. Behind the bar of the Club are left to right: Peter Page-Mitchell, Sussex Area Organiser; Chris Stringer, Regional Director; Karen Pelham, Head Steward; Jenny Phelan, Steward and Peter Adams, Branch Chair.

The other awards which provide a passport to Sussex competitions and maybe further were also won in 2016 by the 2015 winner. The Tower in St. Leonards won both the Branch Pub of the Year and Cider & Perry Pub of the Year. This pub is a favourite as it stocks up to six real ales, two from Dark Star and four ever changing from a good variety of breweries, including local ones, and sells them at competitive prices. Its cider credentials are good too, selling up to six in a good range of styles. In addition it has the feel of a traditional pub, but brought up to date by showing plenty of sport on multiple screens. The picture shows proprietor Louisa Gover behind her bar with Branch Chair Peter Adams at the presentation at the pub in June.

For the first time in 2016 the Branch awarded a runner’s up Pub of the Year certificate, with the Globe Inn Marsh, Rye gaining that spot well ahead of the third placed pub. This was the first CAMRA award for the Globe in its first year in the Good Beer Guide, apart from an appearance back in 1977 when the pub was very different. It is part of a small local pub chain, Ramblinns, with all its pubs are in south east Sussex or south west Kent. Two house beers are brewed for Ramblinns by Tonbridge Brewery and the Globe has three other local brews on offer. It is a creatively designed and furnished, food orientated pub with a unique open plan bar, with the beers complemented by a selection of real ciders. The picture shows the presentation being made to Julie and Thomas, representing Ramblinns.

Another first was the North East Sussex Sub Branch’s awarding its Pub of the Year to the King’s Head, East Hoathly. On the same evening the proprietors Robert and Tracie were also awarded a certificate to mark ten consecutive years in the Good Beer Guide with the publication of the 2017 edition. The pub is the brewery tap of the adjacent 1648 Brewery, but serves a guest beer as well. The building started life as the village school, but has been an inn since 1765. The first picture is John Packer, Chair of the Sub Branch, left, with Robert and Tracie. The second includes the gathered Camra members.

No stranger to CAMRA awards, the White Rock Hotel, Hastings was Branch Pub of the Year in 2008, shortly after gaining its place in the Good Beer Guide, which it has maintained to date. Since then it was awarded LocAle Branch Pub of the Year in 2013 and 2014 and won the same in 2016. Owners Laurence and Lauren Bell started out with a policy of only stocking Sussex ales and this has continued from when the bar was given a complete make over and four handpumps to this day. There is always a range of beer styles available in this hotel bar which is attractively situated on the sea front, overlooking the renovated pier. The first picture shows Branch Vice Chair, Phil Cozens (left) with Laurence behind his bar, the second also includes the various Camra members present.

The CAMRA Branch was split down the middle in determining its Community Pub of the Year Award, and even when a run off was held between the top two pubs, the vote remained tied.

One of these, the Crown in Eastbourne’s Old Town, had previously won the 2015 LocAle Pub of the Year in its first year in the Good Beer Guide. Proprietors Andrew and Joanna Plumbley run a pub with a large and loyal following from the local population. It is a cosy pub in the winter with two log fires and for the summer boasts the largest pub garden in Eastbourne. Its beer offering unusually in the area features four easily recognisable bitters, each with its loyal following amongst the regulars, these are supplemented by one or two guest beers, which are further augmented at beer festival time, which happens three times a year. Pictured is landlord Andrew (left) with the Branch Vice Chair.

The other winning pub is a community rural pub, in complete contrast, with attractive views across the adjacent Rother Valley. The Halt at Salehurst is also a previous CAMRA award winner, having been voted Country Pub of the Year in 2013 to the credit of proprietors Karen Collier-Keywood, Gail Augarde and Andrew Augarde who on the occasion of the 2016 presentation were also awarded a certificate for ten consecutive years in the Good Beer Guide. There are four handpumps of which one is dedicated to cider, while the beers show a strong local bias. This pub is also popular with locals, but with a smaller catchment than the Crown, attracts a loyal following of walkers and other visitors from a wider community.

With both winner and runner up of the main competition being town pubs, this meant a Country Pub of the Year award was made to the Tiger at East Dean, the first award the Branch has made to this pub. Another brewery tap, this time for the Beachy Head brewery from the same village, the pub also features beers from larger neighbouring breweries, Harvey’s and Long Man, as well as other occasional guests. The pub is attractively set in one corner of the village green and in good weather patrons spill out across the grass. The picture shows branch committee member Paul Bangs making the award with proprietor Rebecca Vasey.

Eastbourne Beer Festival 2016

The fourteenth Eastbourne beer festival was held at the Winter Garden from the 6th to 8th October, it could well be the last for a while in the current format, as the redevelopment of the Devonshire Park means that the Winter Garden will be closed from October 2017 and that when it reopens a substantial part of the accommodation usually used will no longer exist.

The total number of tickets sold was 3837, with Friday and Saturday evenings sold out as usual, but room for people to buy tickets on the door for Saturday lunchtime and Thursday evening. 11882 pints of beer were consumed and 2200 pints of cider and perry, a drop in the former but an increase in the latter.

Three awards are voted for by those attending. The Beer of the Festival was Bad Kitty, by Brass Castle, a brewery from Malton in North Yorkshire making its debut at this year’s festival. The Beer of the Festival from a Sussex Microbrewery was Bricks and Porter from Kiln Brewery of Burgess Hill, another brewery making its debut this year. The third award, for the best beer brewed outside Sussex, went to Oakham Brewery for its Green Devil IPA.

CAMRA holds an annual Champion Beer of Britain competition. Members nationwide vote for their favourite beers in a number of different categories. When the votes are totalled up, the top beers in each region are tasted by panels of judges at various beer festivals. The top two go through to the next round from where the winners are tasted in the final at The Great British Beer Festival in August. Two categories’ tasting heats were held at Eastbourne, Best Bitters and Speciality / Unusual Beers. The top Best Bitters were West Berkshire Brewery’s, Good Old Boy with joint runners up Sixpenny Brewery’s, 6D Best Bitter and Surrey Hills Brewery’s, Shere Drop in a dead heat. The top Speciality / Unusual Beers were Canterbury Brewers’, Foundry Red Rye and runners up Bingham’s Brewery’s, Vanilla Stout, (Winner of Champion Beer of Britain 2016).

We were surprised and pleased to host a group of American brewers and other interested persons at one of the sessions. They were on a tour of UK breweries and brewpubs and with a gap in their schedule, decided that a visit to our festival would be the best use of their time. Good to report that they declared themselves most satisfied with their decision. The photograph shows the group from America with festival organisers Phil Cozens and Peter Adams.

There is a chance that a date for a festival next year in September may become available, before the Winter Garden closes for the redevelopment programme. If not a different venue will mean a different type of festival, likely to be smaller, which will definitely have to happen for 2018.