Back to the Fur and Feather… I Mean Future

This year’s annual Fourtharch tour has a “Back to the Future” theme as Mogi returns to the location of the very first Fourtharch trip to recreate the group photograph taken on the exact spot outside the Fur & Feather in Norfolk on what will be 10 trips ago come September  – there might be some mishaps on the way and the photograph will possibly include  some extra faces added over the years…

2009: The Fir and Feather, Woodbastwick

DaveSteveGezGreat PaulMattMogiRich

The More Things Change, the More they Stay the Same

So, I was just about to publish Great Paul’s blog all about how the mighty Brains Brewery were stealing a style of writing from the smaller, newer, hipper Tiny Rebel Brewery, when I realised that the Brains version was a reproduction of their own advertising from the launch of their SA beer from 60 years ago. It got me thinking about how the world changes in some ways but stays the same in others. We now have a world whereby every town has it’s own local beers brewed in small batches by small breweries and those beers are often hard to find outside of the local area. Haven’t we been here before?

DaveSteveGezGreat PaulMattMogiRich

Black Sheep Brewery

As we count down to our 2018 annual trip, I reflect back to brewery tour #2 from our 2017 annual trip, acknowledging that we were fortunate enough to go on two brewery tours on one trip and you can read about our first tour, of Theakston’s Brewery here. Our second tour of the day was Black Sheep Brewery. You have to love a town with a population of about 1,200 that has two breweries, I love the fact that a town of that size has this sign:

The founding of Black Sheep Brewery is also a great story, with Theakson Brewery no longer under family control, Paul Theakston left them and eventually set up his own brewery. The original plan having set up in the former Lightfoot Brewery was to resurrect that name. Unfortunately for Paul, the name had already been trademarked and in fairness to Theakstons, Lightfoot is a nice pint. The next idea was to use something about sheep given their link to Masham and the Masham Sheep Brewery was considered as an option. It was Paul Theakston’s wife who suggested that since he’s the black sheep of the family, leaving the family brewery, that perhaps Black Sheep Brewery might work. It certainly did, the brewery is doing very well and producing some great beer!

What I enjoyed about the brewery tour (as well as the story of the founding of the brewery!) was the wonderful contrast between modern and traditional. Black Sheep is a modern brewery in the sense that it was only founded in 1992 but most of the equipment was bought up from breweries across the country and is traditional, set in an area with a history of brewing.

The tour starts in a modern room with a video of some of the history and information from a guide on the founding of the brewery and information about their wonderful range of beers. As you go around the brewery however, you see that the methods of brewing are traditional and use the local Yorkshire Square Method. The brewery shop and accompanying bar and restaurant and very modern and serve the range of Black Sheep Beer, which is largely traditional Yorkshire bitter. All in all, a great tour followed by an extensive sampling session!

For more photo’s, visit our Facebook page.

DaveSteveGezGreat PaulMattMogiRich

Just one month to go to our 10th annual trip!

September sees us return to Woodforde’s Brewery, the site of our first annual trip back in 2009. We take it in turns each year to chose a pub to take the rest of the group to and as the group has grown year on year, no one has had a second choice. On trip number 10, we are however revisiting a pub- Great Paul choose the Fur and Feather, site of Woodforde’s Brewery for our first trip. What we didn’t manage to do on that occasion was a tour of the brewery as they weren’t done on Saturdays back then. This year, Paul of Norfolk has chosen the Fat Cat in Norwich as the feature pub, which allows us to make it back to Woodforde’s and finally do that tour!

DaveSteveGezGreat PaulMattMogiRich

RIPub: The Barley and Rye

Always a sad story when we write an RIPub, most of them are older pubs than this but as soon as I heard about this closure I knew I had to write this. The first reason is a personal one- the Barley and Rye was a regular haunt for our monthly works drinks and I found out about its closure literally a couple of hours before I was due to go there! I got an e-mail about a change of venue to another pub, which I assumed was because the other pub had a beer garden and it was a sunny day but as I read further I found out that it was because the pub had closed.

The second reason that I wanted to write this is because with the new craft beer revolution there seems to be an idea that a place can’t fail. One of the things about the pub industry is that there is no magic formula to running a successful pub. There are definitely things you can do wrong that will make a place more likely to fail but it is also possible to appear to do things well and still not succeed. I liked the Barley and Rye- it had a great range of beer- most of it keg but with three cask lines and also a wide variety of craft in cans and bottles. In an ideal world I’d have liked more cask than keg but they had a variety of really good keg beers- I used to enjoy a Coast to Coast or a Whitstable Bay Stout.

What sadly became clear though was that it wasn’t getting the trade. Something that stood out for me was that fairly early on they only had one cask line in use because they didn’t have the turnover, which was a shame because the one line was well kept and was generally a good beer- Atlantic was a frequent one. I didn’t think they did a lot wrong and had there been a better early trade and word spread and cask was viable, would it have taken off?


DaveSteveGezGreat PaulMattMogiRich

Save CO2, Drink Cask!!

I’m starting to realise just how little research journalists seem to do. I keep reading about a possible beer shortage due to a lack of CO2 and people coming up with different drink options. The one they seem to forget is cask ale- there seems to be a perception that all beer has CO2 in it, while those of us that prefer our beer without fizz haven’t noticed a shortage at all. The one that particularly got to me was the BBC’s Dead Ringers topical comedy show that actually suggested Nigel Farage wouldn’t have been able to get a pint of London Pride because of a CO2 shortage…

Bit of a rant but as a beer website I feel we have a duty to educate the world about beer! There are some really great craft ales out there but for now at least, cask is king for us and we are glad it’s not affected by the CO2 shortage!

DaveSteveGezGreat PaulMattMogiRich




Dewi Bearing covers the 2018 Champions League final form Portugal

 Cider with Ronaldo
[To be read in a Cardiff accent]
Hello Playmates as Arthur Askey used to say, I was in Portugal back in May to report on the Champions league final in Kiev and I tell you what folks my hotel room on the Algarve with balcony and wide screen TV was so good that I decided to cover the game right from there! The only thing missing was beer,  so while I left the TV warming up I headed down to the local Minipreço to stock up for the match. Now I don’t actually take seriously anything that fourtharch founder members Great Paul and Mogi usually tells me but they were absolutely spot on about the choice of beer in Portuguese supermarkets that is Superbock, Superbock or Superbock – no proper British beer at all! I did manage to find one can of San Miguel hidden away on the top shelf but just as I was considering wine as a possible alternative my luck was suddenly in. At the very end of the beer (or Superbock) isle I discovered a very healthy display of English Ciders. Look out Mr Bearing, I thought as I recalled the time I picked up one of those industrial size plastic containers of homemade cider from a farm in Somerset back in the 60s – one swig of that and suddenly the whole lot was gone. I lost two days and even forgot I was married… so it wasn’t all bad. The fine people of Portugal have acquired a real taste for English Cider of late that these days is more of a pleasant soft drink compared to the Scrumpy of years ago. If there were any hallucinations to be had while drinking the stuff watching the game such as the world appearing in slow motion and turning upside down well that was provided by Ronaldo’s pace and the spectacular bicycle goal scored by Cardiff’s very own Christian Bale. I finished off the evening up on the 6th floor hotel bar with a couple of those Emoji cocktails. You know the ones with garden mint in them and that with the cider earlier on may have been responsible for a very strange dream I experienced involving Ronaldo and the Wurzels all singing “I am a Cider drinker” that was originally set to the tune of Una Paloma Blanca the song we all came back singing from our Spanish Holidays in the 1970s – funny what goes around comes around init? British beer is never going to break into the Portuguese market so come on CAMRA instead of wasting time debating the “L” word [that’s Lager to you and me] let’s all get behind the cider boys and blow an even bigger hole in the Portuguese Superbock shelves and fill it with Somerset’s finest – probably brewed in Dublin. Real Madrid beat Liverpool 3-1 by the way as for me I cannot seem to get the image of Ronaldo, the Wurzels and that cider song out of my head – I think my grandson calls it an “Earth worm” See you next time folks.
[ASSISTANT CONTENT MANAGER’S NOTE: Why are we employing this man?]
DaveSteveGezGreat PaulMattMogiRich

Is there a right time of year to drink different types of beer?

I’ve been inspired by the changeable UK weather to talk about whether there is a right time year to drink different beers. Conventional wisdom is that you drink darker maltier beers in the winter and lighter hoppier beer in the summer when it’s warmer. I do understand the logic that you might want something more refreshing and thirst quenching when it’s hot and you might want something maltier and warming when it’s colder.

Personally though, I like a good beer and I like the styles that I like regardless of the time of year. One of the challenges I find as beer drinker starts around this time of year- it’s June, so the start of the Northern Hemisphere summer- is that there does tend to be a prevalence of golden ales and blondes. I like to drink a variety of beer styles but I find I struggle more in the summer than I do in the winter. I think this comes from two things, partially that the styles I tend to favour are “winter” beers- I like red ales, traditional bitters, stouts and porters, all of which are harder to find in the summer. Part of it though is that I’m convinced that there are less “winter” beers in the summer than there are “summer” beers in the winter. It is anecdotal but in my experience you can usually find a hoppier beer like a golden ale or an IPA in the winter but you can’t always get a red ale or a cask stout in the summer.

The one concession that I will make to all of this is that is a temperature point where I will move across to something lighter and more refreshing- it has to be said that that point is quite high- somewhere in the region of high thirties Celsius or nineties Fahrenheit.  At that point is it time for something thirst quenching and I’m likely to wanting a hells or a pilsner. Are there too few malty beers in the summer or am I just bitter?

DaveSteveGezGreat PaulMattMogiRich

So Do We Have to Support Fosters Now?

Interesting times for CAMRA with the recent changes to it’s articles. I’m not sure what to make of it. CAMRA was founded when real ale was struggling because it was kept poorly and people were turning to more reliable but crap creamflow beers. Times have changed and keg beer is in a very different place now- craft breweries are brewing some really good keg stuff. I’ve spoken to a number of craft brewers and keep getting the same story about the shelf life of cask and the difficulties of transportation and the greater risk you have to take as business to make cask. I understand that and  anecdotally I see more good beer on draft and less creamflow and less Fosters. I know now of a number of local bars and brewery shops where I can reliably get a wide range of really good keg beer that I’m happy to drink without being overly concerned that those places don’t have cask.

All of which being said, I still struggle to entirely back the changes made by CAMRA. It comes down to two things for me, where do you draw the line as to what is good beer and what is CAMRA for. I understand that we are now in times where there is a variety of good beer and not all of it is cask. I just don’t know how we define that- how do we now say that CAMRA will support a great craft beer but not Fosters, if we say it’s beer not lager that CAMRA stands for, where does that leave a craft pilsner. It then opens up questions of what CAMRA is all about, the line was drawn that it would be about cask and not keg. I find it hard to come to terms with the idea that the Campaign for Real Ale could campaign for other beer. I’m not saying that cask is the be all and end all and the there shouldn’t be other beer but that doesn’t mean that CAMRA has to be the voice of it.

Maybe there is room out there for another organisation that stands for all beers- I think there should be representation somewhere to promote quality Belgian beers, really crisps pilsners and the fantastic range of craft beer that exists now. Perhaps that organisation could represent all pub goers and drinkers regardless of what they drink but for me CAMRA needs to support the cask beer that it was founded to promote.

DaveSteveGezGreat PaulMattMogiRich

Dewi Bearing covers the Six Nations final weekend from the Three Arches

St Patrick’s Day – with no Guinness
[To be read in a Cardiff accent]
A lot of people in the past have accused me of covering sports events sat on a bar stool, watching all the action on the pub tele in the Cardiff Arms. Well to prove them all wrong I decided instead to cover this year’s Six Nations final weekend from the Three Arches.  It’s got nothing to do with the fact that the Cardiff Arms has now been turned into a block of flats – honestly nobody tells me anything. I used to pitch or pop my sports news stories directly through the door at the Echo years but I am dammed if I can find the building these days what with all the rigmarole going on in the centre of Cardiff. I was over the moon to be asked by the blokes at the Fourtharch to pitch some beer related sports- stories even though one of them is a professional sports journalist – still it’s a bit of work for me like, innit?
The 2018 Six Nations final weekend was the perfect storm for the Irish boys, having already won the championship they were set to seal the Grand Slam up against a floundering England team. With all this occurring on St Patrick’s Day it definitely called out for a pint of Guinness, the Emerald Isle’s greatest export outside of Dana. Now I knows my eyesight isn’t what it used to be but as I took a dekko along what could still be the longest bar in Cardiff, the closest I could see to any evidence of the black stuff was the landlord who is the spitting image of Paddy McGuinness! He tells me that Guinness is now no longer sold in any Brains pubs at all, I don’t know about you, but not having Guinness in a pub on St Patricks Day and for the Six Nations final weekend is like holding a Peter’s Pies convention without Peter or his …………well, you knows what I means. It’s not all bad news though cause the ex-missus will only drink Guinness in pubs, that means there’s no fear of her turning up in the Arches. The mother- in-law was the same if Mackeson was not on offer in the Moorlands, comes to think of it most of the women I knew only ever drank the black gold. Continue down this road Mr Brains and we could be returning to men-only bars – hold that thought as my grandson Farquhar always says.
Back to the sport now and I noticed before even a ball was kicked the England team couch Edward Jones was caught on film calling Wales a “Sh&t Country” something that is normally referred straight away to the race relations board but it’s always open season for us Welsh so we tends to answer back with our actions as the Welsh boys did in the final game of the tournament purposely winning by only one point handing France a bonus that sent England into second from bottom and in effect giving them the wooden spoon – not such a sh&t country Mr Jones but certainly a sh&t placing.
The Italian boys have really got something to play for next year with a possible 5th position in the table and well done to them for putting on a great performance up against a strong Scotland team. Years ago I could have covered that game from my favourite Italian Café up in Brynmawr, win or lose old man Guarno would have loved seeing his Italian boys make up the six nations – god rest his soul.
I stayed in the middle bar for a few pints for the England/Ireland game and if ever you hear Welsh supporters joyfully cheering when Wales are not playing you can be assured that it’s because England is losing, so it’s congratulations to the Irish boys for providing us with an entertaining well-deserved grand slam tournament and as me old Mucker Dickie Davies used to say “They will be knocking back the Guinness in Dublin tonight” – not in Brains’ pubs they won’t.