Branch Reports

Branch Pub and Brewery Presentations 2018

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.

St. Leonards Tower 22.12.18

The Tower in St. Leonards had been the Branch Pub of the Year in 2015, 2016 and 2017, additionally making it to Sussex Pub of the Year in 2015. It was runner up in 2018 by the slimmest of margins, as it was recognised by the Branch as a welcoming pub continuing to offer an excellent standard of beer and cider at competitive prices. The presentation was made just before Christmas in a packed bar, the picture shows the Branch Chair handing over the award to licensee Louisa.

Albatross Club 13.11.18

It had been intended that a senior CAMRA person would present the Albatross Club in Bexhill with its certificate as runner up in the National Club of the Year competition for the previous year at the same time as the presentation of our Branch award for this year, but due illness this did not happen. So belatedly another date was fixed and in mid November, the Branch Chair made the presentation with the Area Organiser in attendance. The first picture shows chief steward Karen accepting the award from Peter the Branch Chair, to his left is CAMRA member and Club Vice Chair Martyn and next to him is Sussex Area Organiser Peter, holding the beer. The second picture shows a similar group with the AO replaced by Steve, an assistant club steward.

East Dean Tiger 30.10.18

At the end of October, another presentation as Country Pub of the Year was made to the Tiger Inn at East Dean; the pub has won this award for the third consecutive year. With an attractive range of six real ales on offer, including several LocAles, and real cider too, it has one of the best ranges of the rural pubs in the branch area and out does a good number of urban pubs too. The picture shows Branch Chair Peter Adams presenting the certificate to pub manager Rebecca Vasey at the end of October.

Hastings Dolphin 2.10.18

Another pub which is a previous winner of the Branch Pub of the Year award, having won it in both 2013 and 2014 is the Dolphin in Hastings Old Town; in 2018 it was voted Branch Community Pub of the Year. Branch members gathered at the pub at the beginning of October to present the award. The Dolphin is situated on the seafront at Rock-a-Nore, facing the fishing huts and is at the heart of both the Old Town and fishing communities. It is also a family run pub, Mark, Maureen, Laura, Louise and Frazer were all named on the certificate and the pictures show Peter, the Branch Chair, presenting the award to the family behind their bar.

Dark Star Brewery 29.9.18

The Sussex Branch Beer of the Year was awarded to Dark Star for one of its seasonal beers of the winter, Crème Brûlée. This is judged looking at beers’ averages on CAMRA’s National Beer Scoring System as assessed in pubs in the Branch area, with the same proviso as above, that it has been assessed at least ten times through the year by a minimum of four CAMRA members. The top Sussex beer which complies gets the award. At the end of September twenty one branch members, including six from the Sub Branch, joined a minicoach at various points, heading for Dark Star’s brewery in Partridge Green, West Sussex, the award to be made at Dark Star’s HopFest. We arrived earlier than most punters to receive a warm welcome from Managing Director James Cuthbertson who gave us free entry to the festival and some complimentary beer tokens. The musical acts were extremely loud, making those at the Eastbourne festival seem quite tame, however the warm sunny day meant those of us for whom this was not our scene could happily remain outside in the brewery yard. Between two of these acts, the Branch Chair, Vice Chair and the recently appointed Sub Branch Chair, Steve Obey, joined James on stage for the presentation. Having arrived early, we headed for home as the queues for beer and food were becoming lengthy, all having enjoyed an excellent day. One picture shows branch members inside looking a shade of green, a stage light caused this, rather than too much imbibing, while others show them enjoying the beer in the sun, the presentation and James proudly holding the certificate surrounded by members of the Branch.

White Rock Hotel 4.9.18

The White Rock Hotel Hastings has been the recipient of several branch awards since owners Laurence Bell and Catherine Parr took it on and made the decision that the ales in their bar would be exclusively from Sussex, (although Laurence admitted that they have occasionally strayed from this, but this can be quietly overlooked). It quickly established itself in the Good Beer Guide and since that first appearance in 2007 it has been in the Guide every year to date. In 2008 it was awarded Branch Pub of the Year and with its LocAle credentials and consistently good beer it achieved Branch LocAle Pub of the Year in 2013 and 2016. In 2018 it was awarded this for a third time, our pictures show the award being made to Laurence and with two local members looking on.

Battle Brewery Tap 11.8.18

Still the newest brewery in the South East Sussex Branch area, in mid August twenty one branch members assembled in the spacious bar area, which is under the same roof as the brewery, for a lunchtime visit. After a complimentary welcome pint kindly provided by the Greg and his colleague Rob and a buffet lunch brought in by our members for the occasion, Greg correctly guessed that those present would know all about the brewing process, members being brewery visiting veterans. So the company settled down to hear his eloquent and interesting account of the story so far.

The brewery has already moved from a neighbouring farm where it originated, expanding in the process, and a decision has to be made as to whether the two couples running the operation can give more time to allow it to expand further. Certainly there is plenty of local enthusiasm for their products, a testament to this was the invitation received by the brewery to provide the bar that evening at a special concert given by the band, Keane, the members of which were once at school together in Battle. So CAMRA’s visit was probably not the highlight of the brewery’s day.

In fact Greg was very pleased to welcome us to the brewery; he has been grateful for the support CAMRA has given. While many of the group were making their first visit to the brewery, most were not unfamiliar with the beers which had already graced Eastbourne Beer Festival 2017, Sussex CAMRA Branches Festival and Beer and Cider by the Sea in 2018. At each event they went down well with CAMRA members and public alike. So after a few questions and a vote of thanks from the Branch Chair, members settled down for the early afternoon to further pints at the competitive standard brewery tap price of £3, after which it was time to leave the brewery to prepare for its big evening.

The pictures show various branch members paying full attention to Greg’s talk, Greg on his malted perch and nearly everybody paying attention later in the talk.

Standard Inn Rye 10.7.18

The Branch Pub of the Year for 2018 is the Standard Inn in Rye, a small but enthusiastic group of nine branch members made the journey down the extension to the main line for the first ever branch pub of the year award in the town, a town in which all agreed there is an improving range of real ale pubs. The Standard dates from the fifteenth century, it was sympathetically re-vamped and re-opened by owners Tim Brown and Rajh Siva in November 2014. It now sells four cask ales including house beer ‘Standard Farmer Ale’, a beer from Old Dairy Brewery unique to this pub, the others are a selection of beers from Three Legs, there is invariably a range of beer styles on offer. Recently Rajh left the business for pastures new and when we arrived for the presentation in July, it appeared that Tim had too, but a phone call soon brought him to the bar and all enjoyed a selection of the ales as the presentation was made.

PoTY Trip 19.5.18

Eleven members of South East Sussex Branch from the Coastal Area set off variously from St. Leonards, (following a customary quick half in the Tower courtesy of the special of the early opening), Bexhill and Eastbourne in a minibus for Lewes where they met three North East Sub Branch members at the Brewers Arms, the Brighton and South Downs P.o.t.Y.. Misinformed by the local WhatPub website about the times for food being served, it was fortunate that it was early for lunch. A notable beer was Mad Squirrel’s Hoodwink, a chocolate white stout, which seems to be a new fashion amongst certain brewers and attracted a following, but at 5.3% ABV at 11:30, people restricted themselves to halves or went for something not so strong.

Most travellers had been to the Brewers Arms before, but fewer had experienced our next stop, the North Sussex P.o.t.Y. in Maplehurst, the White Horse, although it turned out that it was once the local of John from the Sub Branch. We had a warm welcome; all ordered lunch and sat outside. The pub is proud of its numerous awards from the local branch, including a mention of the long serving proprietors. The pictures show ‘the team’, (minus the Branch Chair), before entering the pub and then relaxing in the sun in the garden awaiting lunch.

The next pub was Western Sussex Branch’s P.o.t.Y., a micropub, the Crab Pot in Selsey, a rather longer journey being involved. But the service and welcome was excellent, the proprietor giving us a detailed run down of the three beers available Being less than a year since opening, the interior had a fresh feel, while a small yard out the back was the preferred location for quaffing of some of the group.

A shorter journey took us to another micropub, the Green Man in Worthing, the P.o.t.Y. of Arun and Adur. Larger than the previous micropub, meaning that all could join the friendly locals in taking seats, the locals included the Arun and Adur Branch Chair, Peter Barlow, who happened to be in the pub. Five beers were available, although one finished during the fourteen pint order. Our pictures show the assembled company enjoying their beer.

The longest journey of the day took us through Crowborough, where the North East Sussex members returned home, to the King’s Arms in Rotherfield, the North East Sussex Sub Branch P.o.t.Y.. The pub was busy with the majority of customers making the most the beautiful weather in the extensive garden. Three beers were on offer, most of the group choosing for the Proper Job and taking advantage of the relatively empty internal accommodation. Our pictures show the serious business of assessing pubs taking place.

Thanks are due to Branch Treasurer Bill who organised our schedule and also booked the transport and also to John our driver from Empress Coaches who made it all run smoothly. The sunny weather also contributed to our enjoyment of an excellent day out, thanks to all the members who spent the day assessing the pubs. The result of the combined scores by the Coastal Area members was the White Horse, Maplehurst coming out top and the Crab Pot, Selsey as runner up. At present the Sub Branch results await the completion of the scoring of the Coastal Area’s Pub of the Year, which was not visited on this trip.

Gun Brewery 28.4.18

The Gun Brewery, located at Gun Hill in the North East Sussex Sub Branch area was visited by the Branch at the end of April, where we were joined by members of Western Sussex Branch. On a dry day our hosts fired up the barbecue, treating us to a sausage lunch and plenty of beer, including samples of the two award winners. Steve Obey, CAMRA’s Brewery Liaison Officer for Gun, presented the Sussex Microbrewery Beer of the Festival from Eastbourne 2017. The popularity of Gun beers at the festival was reflected in the fact that five of their casks were on the stillage and that the festival drinkers, CAMRA members or not, voted for the award. Steve rightly praised the quality of the beers and the winning beer, Imperial Whisky Stout, in particular. In return, Mark of the brewery said that they were delighted to host a CAMRA group and were grateful for the support that CAMRA had always given them. The second award, presented by the Branch Chair, Peter Adams, was for the South East Sussex Branch Beer of the Year for 2017, the champion beer being Zamzama IPA. This is awarded to the beer brewed and drunk in the Branch area with the highest average score on CAMRA’s National Beer Scoring System, with the proviso that it has been assessed at least ten times through the year by a minimum of four CAMRA members. This means that it is an award based on people’s experiences in pubs, where most real ale is consumed. In accepting the two awards for the brewery, Mark valued each highly, but was particularly pleased with the latter for the reason that it reflected people’s opinion of the beer throughout the year. The first picture shows, left to right: Toby and Mark from the brewery, Peter, Branch Chair; Pete from the brewery and Steve, Brewery Liaison Officer. The other pictures show the two awards being made and scenes in the brewery yard on the day.

Albatross Club 24.4.18

Regular readers will know that the Albatross RAFA Club in Bexhill is a multiple award winner with both CAMRA’s National Club of the Year and Runners Up titles to its credit. These are the result of a process which begins with its being awarded Branch Club of the Year, which once again it achieved for 2018. The first picture shows Branch Chair, Peter Adams, at the Branch A.G.M. held at the Club in April, making the award to Karen Pelham, Club Head Steward, before a packed branch gathering. The next stage in the CAMRA competition is the Sussex Club of the Year, judged between the six Sussex branches’ nominated clubs. The Albatross progressed to this award and the second picture shows Peter Page-Mitchell, Sussex CAMRA Area Organiser, making the award at the same meeting.

George Hotel, Hailsham. 27.3.18

For the second year in succession, the George Hotel in Hailsham is the South East Sussex Cider & Perry Pub of the Year. Up to four real ciders are offered which are all cooled. In its fourth successive year in the Good Beer Guide, this Wetherspoon’s pub also enjoys recognition through CAMRA’s LocAle scheme, consistently offering local ale. At a branch social gathering in March the manager was presented with a certificate to mark the award. Pictured are, left to right: Branch Vice Chair, Phil Cozens, who presided; Mitch Lowe, manager of George Hotel with the certificate and in attendance, Phil Packham, the Branch Cider Representative.