Branch Reports

Branch Pub, Brewery Presentations and Visits 2019

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.

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.