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Saturday 14th January
RAR 255
COVENTRY'S GBG

Meet at Greyhound, Sutton Stop, 12 noon
Sunday 5th February
HW 55
SNOWDROPS AT ALLESLEY

Meet at The Brooklands, Kingsbury Road, 12 noon.
Saturday 18th February
RAR 256
STATFORD TO WELFORD ON AVON

National Express 460 bus departs Pool Meadow Stand B 11:00am arrives Stratford 11:25am (X18 takes 1 hour 35 mins!!)

The No.27 bus leaves Welford at 3:16pm and arrives Stratford 3:29pm (opposite Maypole)
5:50pm arrives 6:12pm
6:09pm arrives 6:46pm

The X18 bus leaves B439 (Binton turn) at 3:19pm arrives Stratford at 3:56pm. This stop is supposedly 20 mins walk from Welford.
3:49pm arrives 4:26pm
4:24pm arrives 5:01pm
4:54pm arrives 5:31pm

The 6:30pm No. 460 National Express arrives Coventry 7:00pm
Saturday 18th March
RAR 257
WELFORD ON AVON TO BIDFORD ON AVON

National Express 460 bus departs Pool Meadow Stand B 11:00am arrives Stratford 11:25am

The 11:54am X18 bus from Stratford arrives B439 (Binton turn) at 12:07pm
Saturday 15th April
RAR 258
BIDFORD ON AVON TO HARVINGTON

National Express 460 bus departs Pool Meadow Stand B 11:00am arrives Stratford 11:25am

The 11:54am X18 bus from Stratford arrives Bidford 12:11pm
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OLD DRINK REDISCOVERED

A the end of September Chris Fry and I went to the Rugby Food and Drink Festival. I was most impressed and enjoyed eating and drinking my way round the stalls. Tom Norbury was there with his cider stall. He used to be at the Coventry Farmers Market when it was in Spon Street; I don't know whether he still is as I haven't been since the Market was moved into the Precinct. I don't even know if the Farmers Market still exists !
Anyway, back to the drink. I had known of Pum Jerkum for many years, as one of those traditional drinks that had ceased to exist, I had never seen of tasted any. Just as cider is the result of fermenting apple juice and perry is with pears, so plum jerkum is the result of fermenting plum juice. I arrived at Norbury's stall and lo and behold, there it was, in bottles. Of course, I hade to buy one and I can report that, in still form, it is similar to cider, but as you might expect, somewhat sweeter with a heavier body. Norbury's has a strength of 8 %. On the bottle label Norbury's say -
' Norbury's Black Bull Cider Company have been making and selling cider in Worcestershire since 1979. We had heard of a drink similar to cider, made in the Vale of Evesham, but using plums instead of apples. The drink was known as Plum Jerkum or ' Jerky '. It seems to have been popular up to the 1920s, but then to have fallen out of favour. Maybe this was because it was often made very ( too ? ) strong. " It as bin known to put some folk on their backs and to leave um feelin far from well nex mornin ". We have decided to revive this lost drink, using plums grown on our farm near Malvern. The result is a delicious, fairly strong, medium sweet drink that we are sure you will enjoy '.

So there you are - Look out for it the next time you see Norburys for sale.

RUGBY TAP

Also at the Festival we visited the Rugby Tap stall, where I had a conversation about their new micro pub. At present they have an off license on St Matthews Street but they have bought the shop next door to turn into a micro pub. It should be open in November and have a maximum capacity of 60 people. I shall get down there as soon as I can. Why does Rugby get all the good pubs ?
Interestingly, the local Wetherspoons also had a stall. Top marks to them for initiative. As well as selling food, they were advertising the new range of bottled beers, which they said were only to be available at ' selected ' Wetherspoons. I replied that our local was a very select Wetherspoons. Amongst the new range is Coopers Pale Ale from Australia which comes with its own yeast sediment, a ' real ale in a bottle '. Look out for it on the shelves of the City Arms.

OLD DRUNK REDISCOVERED

I should be spending some time on the Greek island of Nisyros in future, helping them with their footpaths, if all goes according to plan. This means that the Real Ale Rambles may wander about the month a little, to fit in with my Greek commitments. Next year I intend to make the theme of the rambles local foodstuffs, that is, foods that are manufactured in our area, such as Melton pork pies, Cadbury's chocolate, Coventry god cakes, Henley ices etc etc, with Rugby Food Festival thrown in for good measure. Sharon can let out your trousers afterwards if necessary ! PS Is there a Black Country pork scratchings trail ?

Coventry Beer Festival

We visited on saturday 5th April and made a point of tasting all the local brews before sampling some exotic beers from further aafield including some fine porters and stouts

Albany Hotel, Albany Road

My negative comments about the Albany in the last issue of Pintsides were somewhat misplaced. The pub sells Jennings Cumberland Bitter of a good quality and the landlady, Liz, has plans for the pub. She does want to build the trade up and appeal to all customers, but at present is hampered by the fact that the lease expires in three years time. Given this fact, Marstons do not want to invest any resources in the pub until they know that they will have the place in the future. So, for the time being, Liz has to work with what she has got. Still, the beer is good, so its worth supporting Liz in her efforts.

Twisted Barrel Brewery

Chris and I went to the launch of a brand new Coventry brewery recently. This was the ' Twisted Barrel ' brewery from Tile Hill, who held their launch at Innspire and Beer Gonzo. The beers were impressive, all in bottle at present, and can be purchased from Innspire and Beer Gonzo, do try them, I am sure you won't be disappointed. Twisted Barrel is a very small operation at present but have ambitious plans to grow, so I wish them all success. I don't know, you wait for 75 years for a brewery and then four come along all together (Rainbow, Byatts, Hearsall and Twisted Barrel)
In fact, that weekend was quite a time for meeting brewers. On the Friday night, in Beer Gonzo, I met one of the lads from Slaughterhouse in Warwick. On the Saturday I went to the launch of Twisted Barrel at Innspire. Then on Sunday, whilst in the Arms, I met Alan Mellors of Merriman brewery in Litchborough and had a chat. I don't know, you can't move for brewers in this city theses days !

40 years of the Coventry Branch

The Coventry and Warwickshire Branch of CAMRA was founded some forty years ago now, when the elder statesmen amongst us were just youngsters. The early meetings were held in the upstairs rooms of pubs such as the Hare and Squirrel and the Albany; CAMRA was such a novel organisation at that time that meetings were packed. I remember one meeting at the Simple Simon in Warwick where the room was so crowded that I took minutes in the room next door.

I had joined CAMRA before the local branch was formed, after reading an article in the Coiventry Evening Telegraph about the fledgling organisation. This article bemoaned the disappearance of cask ales and featured the Case Is Altered at Fiveways. I had already noted that some beers were most drinkable whilst others were fizzy, sweet and most unpleasant. This is the distinction that CAMRA was drawing between cask and keg beers, although I must admit that my immediate stimulus for joining was because my favourite beer, Flowers, was being withdrawn from the Coventry area. As Flowers was a keg beer at that time, I must be the only person to have joined CAMRA because their favourite keg beer was disappearing. I soon found other favourites.

In the early years we were enthusiastic and campaigned to promote cask beers. We entered floats in Coventry Carnival, held social meetings and organised a beer festival; I believe the first one was 19-20 March 1976 at the Matrix Hall. this featured 12 breweries, most of which delivered to the local area, to show people what a range of beers they could be enjoying if it were not for the tied house system.There were no beer agencies then and very few microbreweries, but we did hire a transit to go as far as Donnington, Oxford and Litchborough and sometimes private cars were used. Some breweries sent two or more different beers, so we had 22 beers available. I remember one Scottish customer who started at one end of the stillage with the intention of drinking a pint of every beer. He got remarkably close to the end before his legs gave way and he had to be assisted from the hall. The Matrix Hall was a great venue, now sadly gone. I do have memories, or should that be nightmares, of doing our own catering, which involved buttering hundreds of bread rolls.

In those days CAMRA was not the household name it now is and we did, at a meeting at the Colin Campbell, have someone turn up with his camera expecting a discussion on photography. One important part of our early activities was the brewery visit. We thought it important to thoroughly acquaint ourselves with the varying production processes of different breweries, also to make contacts with the senior staff, but most important of all, to thoroughly familiarise ourselves with the variouis products. On one occasion we went to Marstons. This meant a trip round the brewery in the afternoon, refreshments later and then a pub crawl of Burton in the evening. Eventually we all piled onto the coach for the return journey. With the branch we had also taken the landlady of the Albany and various girlfriends. I shan't use any real names here, for fear of embarassing someone, but shall we say 'Dave' had taken his girlfied along, a very pretty girl, who we shall call 'Jill'. Naturally, on the return journey, a loo stop was made on the Litchfield bypass. The boys clambered into one field and, in the interests of decorum, Jill used another field. Dave was fast asleep. We all piled back into the coach and it roared off into the night. We had travelled a few miles before Dave awoke to ask where Jill was. With mounting horror we realised that she had been left behind in a field. The day was saved when, as we approached Swinfen roundabout, there was Jill, waving the bus down. With great presence of mind she had stopped a car, got it to overtake the bus and waited at the roundabout. Although I saw her at later CAMRA events, I never saw her with Dave again.

Another memorable brewery visit was to Ruddles, in the days when they were still independant and brewing at Langham in Rutland. We spent the day gorging ourselve on Ruddles County and in the evening were being presented with a lecture in the Burnt Post by Maurice Lovatt, who was the head man at the Bass Museum in Burton. The coach returned to the Burnt Post and Maurice began talking to a full room of attentive listeners. As the evening went on more and more people left the room and didn't return. By the end of his lecture there were only a couple of people left in the room, and I guess they were unconcious. Poor old Maurice.

Then there was Wally Haydon. To call him a character would not do him justice, but under Wally the Earlsdon Cottage reached its peak. He was a constant contributor to the Coventry Evening Telegraph's letters pages. On one occassion the branch wrote to the Telegraph bemoaning the removal of handpulls from the City's bars, to be replaced by electrics. Wally replied that it was hardly surprising as electrics were easier to use, to maintain and they reduced wastage. I responded that if Wally had difficulty using handpulls he should contact his brewery, or one of the many landlords who didn't have any trouble with them. A week later I arranged to meet 'Mark' in the Cottage. I bought a pint and sat waiting for him. Mark entered and walked up to the bar. Wally pointed to him and said 'Fred Luckett, get out of my pub and never come back'. Mark duly slunk out, whilst I sat there and finished my pint, smiling to myself.

The branch's February weekends started early, in the mid 1970s I believe. One year, in What's Brewing, a small hotel in Dorchester had advertised cheap weekend breaks for groups, so the branch took it up on its offer for the February half term weekend. This was such a success that it became a permanent feature. The year that left the greatest impression on me was when we went to the Lamb at Axbridge. I spent the first evening enjoying the hospitality at the bar with another august branch member. So much so that the landlord gave us a bottle of Welsh whisky that he had bought for a local who no longer came into the pub, so he said that we might as well have it. We drank it there and then and retired to bed, somewhat inebriated. I awoke in the middle of the night desperately needing to go to the loo. I staggered towards it , stumbled, and fell right through the wardrobe, reducing it to a pile of firewood. I eventually made it to the loo, relieved myself, and got back into bed. When I awoke the next morning I certainly had a hangover, but more to my surprise my pillow, which had been white the evening before, had magically turned red! On further investigation I found that I had a hole in my head and the pillow was in fact covered in blood. So when I went down to breakfast I had to explain to the landlord that there was no longer a wardrobe in our room and I needed a new pillow, all of which was the fault of his Welsh whisky. He seemed to take it all in good humour. I have always thought that Axbridge was a very pleasant place, it would be good to return there one day: the last thing I heard of the Lamb it had become a Butcombe owned pub.

These roles were reversed when myself and the august member went to a meeting of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society together in Birmingham. As the whisky was free to members, this time it was my friend who over indulged. As we ascended the ramp to New Street Station, or at least attempted to, on the return journey, his legs gave way catastrophically. I couldn't carry him, so a nice pair of policemen offered to provide accommodation for him for the night in their cells. I was in no position to argue. I then had the unenviable task of returning to his wife in Coventry to say that 'You know X came drinking with me tonight. Well, he's in a police cell somewhere in Birmingham, sobering up' !

So the early days were certainly eventful. Since then we have seen pub swaps, the Beer Orders, the rise of microbreweries and micropubs, the arrival of Byatts in the city etc, etc. As I sit in the City Arms, wondering whether to go for an Old Peculier or a Phoenix Gold, I think back to the days when you had two choices in Coventry: to drink in an M&B pub or an Ansells one. My how things have changed and, on the whole, I think generally for the better.

GOOD BEER GUIDE PUBS

In January the Real Ale Ramblers conducted their annual trip around all of the Good Beer Guide pubs in Coventry. Twelve of us met up at the Greyhound at Sutton Stop, where there was the usual wide range of ales and the usual busy atmosphere. Unfortunately I went for a half of Tower Brewery Bitter, which wasn't exactly to my taste. In this case it was Tower Brewery at fault, not the Greyhound, I felt.
From here it was a trip on the 703 bus to the Boat in Shilton Lane. As I showed my ' twerly ' pass to the driver he said, ' You can't use your Dad's pass you know '. I protested my age ( 64 ), but he was such a nice young man ! We got to the Boat and I had a half of Church End Fallen Angel, a regular beer at the pub and quite excellent. A few of the lads had the taster, that is three third pint glasses with different ales in them and a small pot of peanuts, all for £ 3.00. A good choice, but since I knew it would be a long day, I stuck to my half.
From the Boat we caught the bus into town. We would have stopped at the Rose and Woodbine in North Street, but as it has recently changed hands it has been withdrawn fron the Good Beer Guide. So instead we continued on to Whitefriars Old Ale House, where we were confronted with an extremely disappointing choice of beers and the pub was empty as well. Not a good sign.
Things looked up when we moved on to the Establishment, where we had a good pint of Byatts. I was given a loyalty card; buy nine pints of Byatts and get the tenth one free. I decided not to do them all staright away. This was a much more pleasant experience than my previous visit and as I observed, whilst drinking in the Establishment you could beleive you were in a real city.
Next we walked through the precinct to the Town Wall Tavern, which was as welcoming as ever. Then up Hill Street to the Gatehouse, where we saw a beer from the new Long Itch brewery. Chris and I tried a sample and decided it was not for us: too thin; so I went for another Church End beer. Martin had laid on a large saucepan of stew for us, which was greatly appreciated.
After numerous bowls of stew we moved on to the Old Windmill, where I indulged in a pint of Old Peculier. I noted that they were advertising large pork pies with pickles for sharing. In fact Harry Minton and his mates from the Nursery were eating one at the time. I was also given another loyalty card, this time drink five pints and get the sixth one free. I decided that five pints of Old Peculier in one go was a bit much, so I've saved that pleasure for another date.

We now made the walk along Spon Street to the Broomfield Tavern, which was busy and welcoming. The customers were drowning their sorrows after Coventry rugby teams latest defeat. I had a half of Church End Goats Milk

Next up was the Hearsall Tavern and more Church End enjoyed in the usual press of customers at this pub, before we retreated to the Nursery Tavern for a little peace and quiet and another half, this time a Salopian beer. After ths we were just left with the last pub of the trip, the City Arms in Earlsdon, where I had a few rounds with the other seven who had finished the trip. I decided to leave the 8.5% pale ale they were selling until the following day, as discretion was probably the best policy by that stage of the evening !

You probably noticed the mention of loyalty cards during our trip, at the Establishment and the Old Windmill. I believe they are also used at the Gatehouse and Nursery, whilst Wetherspoons have their own scheme that only applies to CAMRA members. This may be a sign of the poor state of trade in January and February, or of the poor state of trade in general, but it does seem to be a growing trend. What other pubs have loyalty schemes ?

A GRAND DAY OUT


A week after the Real Ale Ramble four of us spent a Saturday night in the City Centre. This in itself was something of a novelty as until recently I would have said that there was no point in going into town of an evening. We started at the Stag in Bishop Street as it has recently re-opened as a foreign beer bar. The pub is a bit spartan inside and could do with some colour on the walls, but there is a good range of bottles, including Rodenbach Grand Cru, McChouffe, Boons Kriek etc and there are lots of tall fonts dispensing the likes of Duval, Palm and Vedett Wit. There is also Everards Tiger if you want real ale. We spent a couple of hours working our way through their range before making the short walk along Lamb Street to the Artisan in Hill Street.

Artisan has a gorgeous little bar, I think it is the best little bar in Coventry. Unfortunately it only stocks one ale and that was Speckled Hen on our visit, whilst I have seen Greene King Abbott in the past. They say that they only stock ' popular ' beers; popular appears to mean mass produced and not very good beers. I would like to see Church End or Byatts in here. The Artisan also has the advantage of being near to the Gatehouse, Old Windmill and Stag, although the choice of beers does pale in comparison..

Next we went to the Old Windmill as they serve pork pies. A pint of Old Peculier with a pork pie and pickles is my idea of paradise, although they do not serve the pork pies warm with mushy peas, as you would get up north, rather the southern stylet of cold pork pies with pickled onions and sweet pickle.

After this we had to decide where to break the journey on the way back to Earlsdon. We popped into the Aardvark and guess what, we found a proper pub with Byatts Coventry Bitter; good too. So we now know where to stop on the long walk from Town to Earlsdon.

Next up we checked out the Albany and walked straight out again.It is a pity that this once great pub has reached such a low ebb. The end of the day was spent in the City Arms telling all our friends of our discoveries. A stroll around this end of the City Centre really is getting to be like being in a real city, Now that we have places like the Establishment, Artisan and Old Windmill they should be promoted to make Coventry a destination for tourism,

 

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