The Road to The Wool House #3 – New Space, New Ideas, New Identity

Whilst the beers will be familiar to Dancing Man’s current customers, the plans for The Wool House are to create a different space to The Platform Tavern. When I spoke to Aidan back in September of last year, he described The Platform Tavern as being a cosy and comfortable pub. The Wool House on the other hand, has been planned more as a brewery and an event space.

In talking about the plans for The Wool House, Aidan was keen to make it clear that they wanted to show off the building to as many people as possible, providing a space for all kinds of people, young and old.

It is hoped that The Wool House will build on the good reputation already developed by the Dancing Man Brewery and Platform Tavern team. It will also give people another reason to visit the quay area of Southampton. In my conversation with Aidan in September, he said that some people won’t visit The Platform Tavern, as it’s too small and often busy.

I’ll admit myself, that I have often wanted to visit on my way back home on a Friday evening. I haven’t because its often busy. (I also prefer pub drinking in the afternoon with a book or some comics, but the point stands, I’m put off visiting in the evening because of how busy it can get).

 

From the start of the project, the plans for the expansion of the Dancing Man Brewery were always centered around the local community. It was this that helped secure support from the council and the Bridging the Gap fund.

It would have been easy to find a bigger premises on the outskirts of the city, but they wanted to be located in the center of town. It’s hoped that the new venture will help to improve the quality of beer on offer in the town quay area. They also plan on working with local businesses, improving the local economy.

Amongst the local businesses who have already benefited from The Wool House are the builders firm employed for the project, the architect, and those within the Council and English Heritage who worked on approving the plans for the building. Along with those jobs created by the building of the new brewpub, there are also those which have been created by the need to run the new location. A general manager, shift managers, bar staff, waiting staff, kitchen staff and extra brewing staff will have all been employed by the time the doors open to the public on the 27th February. Depending on the success of the business, it’s possible that further expansion of the workforce will occur.

On my last visit to The Wool House the building was far from finished, yet the building had a very industrial feel to it. This is apt, given the building’s long history in which it has seen many uses. The additions to the interior also have a history befitting of making new use out of old things.

The bars use wood reclaimed from old railway carriages, and allegedly, Kentucky Racecourse. According to Stewart , this is what the seller on ebay claimed. Whether it’s true or not is unknown, but for the benefit of a good story, lets assume that it is. The downstairs bar also features a section made from an old snooker table, minus the wood and the felt. The downstairs floor has been made with the wood of barrels from a Scottish distillery, and the wooden pillars (part of the building’s structure for it’s 800 year old lifespan), have been carbon dated as being 1000 years old.

With the brewery installed, the downstairs area feels a lot smaller than it previously did. The spiral staircase and pulley system take up a lot of the downstairs spare now that the brewery and bar have been installed into the back half of the building. In many ways, it feels like the ground floor of The Wool House has the potential to feel smaller than The Platform.

The upper floor on the other hand, seems like it will be much more spacious. A mezzanine level has been added which includes offices, a green room for bands, and a balcony on which bands can perform. The addition of this balcony means that space isn’t lost when making room for the band, a problem encountered at The Platform Tavern.

Leading onto next week’s installment, in which I shall be covering the beer plans, I shall finish by saying that when I entered The Wool House I was hit with an aroma of hot wort. It’s an aroma I expect will become even more common as industry and productivity returns yet again to The Wool House. Eventually The Wool House will be used for something else, continuing it’s long and varied history. For now though, it’s purpose is beer, and being a space for people to come together. It’s a venue I believe that many people will enjoy, whether they are beer drinkers or not.

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The Friday Pint 2015 #4 – B³ 3

Regular readers of this blog will know that for the past few years, I have been part of the Birmingham Beer Bash team. For those of you who may have missed the announcements on Twitter and Facebook, there will be another Beer Bash this year.

As in previous years, this year’s Bash will take place at The Bond in Digbeth, over the last weekend in July (Thursday 23rd to Saturday 25th). This year’s trade session will be on the Thursday evening, with four public sessions over the course of Friday and Saturday.

Whilst I have seen some of the plans and breweries we hope to get for you, I will as always, be leaving the reveal of those details to the official channels, so go and follow those Twitter and Facebook feeds. You’ll also be able to find information about this year’s event, as it gets released at http://birminghambeerbash.co.uk/

Tickets haven’t been released yet, but you can still book your hotel. Get ready, and prepare to hover that finger over the F5 button waiting for the tickets to go on sale.

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The Road to The Wool House #2 – Securing the building, planning and delays.

The bidding process for The Wool House was won at the end of the Summer of 2013. Over the course of the summer, the building had been used on a temporary basis by Element Arts, who used it as a space to display art, and put on a number of workshops, activities and events that drew over 10,000 visitors to The Wool House. In December of 2013 a separate group, calling themselves Wool House for the Community started a campaign to stop the Wool House from becoming a brewpub, and to keep it as a community arts centre.

The Southern Daily Echo news article on the Campaign’s demonstration outside The Wool House in December of 2013 (http://www.dailyecho.co.uk/news/10882055.Groups_campaign_against_pub_plan_for_historic_building/) gained many comments, both in support of and against both points of view. If people wanted to express their views on the proposed use of the building officially though, the Wool House for the Community group had a petition set up that they could sign.

The petition (http://www.southampton.gov.uk/moderngov/mgEPetitionDisplay.aspx?ID=55) signed by 414 people by the time it closed in mid January 2014, was met with a response in support of the brewery’s plans. In their response, the council highlighted The Wool House’s long and varied history, and also pointed out that they were already developing a number of arts spaces, including the new Arts Centre to be opened in 2016.

Whilst it certainly drew attention to the Wool House project, the campaign didn’t affect the date that had been set for the committee to make the final decision on whether or not the plans would be going ahead. The application for planning approval was received by the council in mid January 2014. In mid April, after three months in which the public and local residents were given the chance to express their viewpoints, the planning committee unanimously gave their approval to the project.

On the morning of the 23rd April, the news was broke that approval had been given for the Brewery to start converting the building into a brewpub. At this point, it was hoped that the new venue would be up and running around mid-August, certainly in time for the Southampton Boat Show in mid September. Health and Safety and structural issues however meant that building didn’t even start until August.

Whilst the initial plans and timescale may have been a bit overambitious, Aidan admitted when I spoke to him in early September that better decisions were being made due to the delays. Back then, it was still hoped that The Wool House would be opened before the end of the year.

During my visit to The Wool House in late January, Stewart Cross, owner and Landlord of The Platform Tavern, restated what Aidan had said. It was somewhat underestimated how long converting The Wool House would be. As a Grade 1 listed building, any changes had to be approved.

In addition to this, further delays were added by the delivery of the kitchen and lift, which were held up by Christmas. When I was at The Wool House last, neither the kitchen or lift had yet to be installed, but both were due to come in the next week.

All that being said though, the brew kit is in, and brewing commenced on it on Tuesday 27th January 2015. In a couple of weeks time, this series will look at that beer and the others you’ll be able to drink when The Wool House opens on the 27th February.

Next time on The Road To The Wool House: New Space, New Ideas, New Identity

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The Friday Pint 2015 #3 – The Road to The Wool House

It’s finally almost here. After many delays, The Wool House finally has an opening date. If you don’t already know when it is, go and read the first part of my series that will be posted weekly leading up to opening day.

I paid a visit to The Platform Tavern earlier this week, and ended up drinking three and a half pints of Dancing Man’s USA IPA. It was certainly much better than passing through Reading during the evening rush hour, and just so happened to become my new favourite Dancing Man beer (surpassing Pole Axed).

In between now and opening week I’ll be rather busy, what with regular work, overtime at work, and a trip over to America to see my fiancée. I will however be trying to keep up with the weekly Friday Pint posts, as well as The Wool House series.

I’ll be back next week with the second part of The Wool House series, and a new Friday Pint. Until then though, have a great weekend.

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The Road To The Wool House #1 – Finding a location

Three years ago, a small one brewer’s barrel sized brewery was installed into a pub in Southampton. A year later, and plans were afoot to find a new location to expand its brewing operations into. Now, as I write, the project is entering its final stages, with the final touches being made to get The Wool House finished for opening, which is now scheduled for Friday 27th February.

 

Not long after the first beers started pouring in The Platform Tavern, it became clear that the pub wasn’t big enough for the Dancing Man Brewery. One of the requirements of finding a new premises was that Head Brewer Aidan Lavin didn’t want to expand onto an industrial estate. The plan was for a bigger brewpub, that would also provide a city centre space for people to enjoy.

Originally, three buildings were looked at. Tower House, literally a stones throw away, was considered too close to The Platform Tavern. The Old Bond Store, just off East Street, was considered to be too small and not practical. Finally, The Wool House, which was considered to be too big, and thought to require too much work.

Tower House can be seen in the foreground, with The Platform Tavern (the red building) in the background.

It was Simon Letts, head of the local council, that persuaded the Dancing Man Brewery team to reconsider.

The Wool House is a fascinating building with a local and varied history. I wanted a use that would both bring the building to life but also add something to the City. A fully functioning brewpub seemed to fit the bill. So I arranged a meeting with the Dancing Man Brewery team to encourage them to reconsider putting in a proposal.” – Councillor Simon Letts, E-mail correspondence, 6th September 2014.

As well as convincing the Dancing Man Brewery team to apply for the use of the building, Simon Letts also made them aware of the “Bridging The Gap” scheme. A government fund administered by the Solent LEP, which provides funding to local businesses to encourage growth in the local economy.

Despite clearly having support from within the council, the Dancing Man Brewery team still needed to go through the official processes of bidding for the use of the building. A number of other bids were made, including one which would have seen the building become an Indian restaurant if successful. It was the Brewery’s pitch of production and employment that won the bidding process in the end.

We had a number of bids but thought the Brewery with its proposal to make something and employ people was the best on offer.” – Councillor Simon Letts, E-mail correspondence, 6th September 2014.

With the building effectively theirs, all that was left was to get through the rigmarole of planning and building and open The Wool House up to the public. With so many people involved however, that would turn out to be easier said than done.

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The Friday Pint 2015 #2 – Lessons in electricty

Hello Reader.

I said last week I’d be trying to write something every Friday, and indeed, here I am, keeping up that promise.

I could write about my trip to the local ‘Spoons. It’s what this week’s post would have been if I had actually bothered to check my notebook was charged before leaving the flat. As it was, I found myself in a Wetherspoons, with only my phone to distract me from the weekday lunchtime crowd that were in there. I also visited the ‘Spoons in Windsor, which was much more expensive. I’m pretty sure the beer I had was off as well. I seem to recall enjoying Hanlon’s Port Stout in the past. This time however, it was bad enough that I left most of it and just walked out.

I didn’t walk down to Windsor to visit the ‘Spoons though. I walked down to get some beer from the Windsor and Eton Brewery. I left with a two litre bottle of Brew 882 (Seattle Porter), along with two Magna Cartas, a Kohinoor, and a Conqueror 1075.

The Brew 882 was very drinkable, and was mostly gone by the end of Wednesday night. I currently have a Magna Carta in my glass as I write. With some sips, it tastes a lot like a mature hard cheese, with hints of fruitiness. There is a specific cheese it reminds me of, yet as ever, my memory fails me as to what it is. With other sips, the liquorice shines through. Both flavours compliment the gouda I’m eating with the beer very well.

As I write this sentence, the time is 23:10. I think my work is done here.

I shall return next week. Until then, have a great weekend.

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The Friday Pint 3 #16 – A kind of review of the year, whilst I can actually be bothered.

Hello readers.

It is, once again, that time of year where a lot of beer bloggers submit their nominations for the Golden Pints. I’m not going to pretend and say I think it’s all below me. I just can’t be bothered to go back over my year and put that much effort into thinking. It’s an attitude that has had an effect on the blog over the course of the year. There have been a number of posts that have been written, and then just sat there, not being posted, I may refer to some of those occasions in this post.

Going back to the subject of Golden Pints, I was pleasantly surprised by Hobgoblin Gold when I tried it this year (the second and third bottles confirmed it was a beer I’d be fine drinking again). Whilst I love Hobgoblin (the beer, not the marketing), I’ve often struggled with some of Wychwood’s other beers. I ended up pouring most of a bottle of Bah Humbug down the sink yesterday for example.

This year’s Friday Pint theme was supposed to be local beers. Living as I do now, in Slough, my choice of breweries was somewhat less than it was when I lived in Chiswick. That being said though, I did manage to visit Windsor and Eton, Binghams in Twyford and Rebellion in Marlow.

Of those three, it is only Rebellion that I wouldn’t rush to return to. Bingham Brewery produce a wonderful range of stouts (my personal favourite being the Vanilla Stout), and Windsor and Eton win through being closest, and also producing Conqueror Black IPA.

Meanwhile, closer to my hometown of Southampton, two breweries were preparing to move to new locations.

Vibrant Forest had been operating out of their location on Jacobs Gutter Lane near Totton for a few years. Their rise in popularity amongst their customers meant they needed to move to a new location and expand. The brewery is now based on an industrial estate just outside of Lymington, and has a small shop and bar. It’s open to the public on Fridays between 12pm and 6pm, and Saturdays between 11am and 3pm.

Dancing Man Brewery also found themselves wanting to expand to meet the demand of their customers. The start of the year saw opponents to the plans to convert The Wool House into a brewpub and restaurant submit a petition to the city council, which was responded to in support of the brewery.

2014 was a year of many delays for the Wool House project, a factor which head brewer Aidan Lavin believes has led to better decisions being made, which will ultimately result in a better experience for people once the Wool House opens next year.

(A more indepth look at The Wool House and the road to it will be appearing in the run up to opening).

Even closer to home, my brother got married back in May, and I messed up the beer I brewed by sticking too many high alpha hops in too early, resulting in a beer too bitter for even my tastes.

I didn’t get as much chance to do much homebrewing this year. My Nelson Sauvin based sour is now bottled, and I have a beer on the go at the moment, in which I have used everything up. Hopefully it will turn out fine.

As for next year, I’ve got a wedding to save for, along with all the other costs that go with it. As such I’ll be spending a lot less money on beer (I’ll also have less time, what with all the overtime I’ll be trying to do). All this is perfectly fine though, as I have two shelves worth of beer (and still a couple of boxes) I need to drink most of before I leave.

Given that the majority of it is beers that should have aged well, next year is going to be a treat.

I’ll be back soon with more writing. Until then though, have a great weekend.

 

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The Friday Pint 3 #15 – Things and Stuff

*dusts off keyboard*

Is this thing still on?

Hello?

Is there anyone still out there?

It seems like I’ve been away for longer than I thought. Partly because I’ve been busy, and partly because, admittedly, every time I’ve had an opportunity to write, I’ve opted to lay on the settee watching Television shows instead.

I’ve certainly been drinking a fair amount of beer, with a couple of good bottle sessions in between my last post and this one. I’ve also discovered, in the process of trying to sort my old bedroom out, that I have a lot more bottles than I thought I had.

There will be posts from me soon. I haven’t completely been idle these past few weeks. I’ve been working on a few posts that I’ll be completing and scheduling in the next few weeks. These will focus on the development and then the opening of The Wool House.

On the subject of the Dancing Man Brewery, The Platform Tavern has its Winter Beers festival on this weekend. I’ll be there tomorrow, hoping that some of the fine beers on the lists are still available.

I will be back soon, hopefully sooner this time.

Until then, have a great weekend.

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#THB20

Today (Tomorrow in the UK, due to the 29th August 1994 being a Bank Holiday) sees the 20th anniversary of the release of Manic Street Preachers’ third album, The Holy Bible. This week, in a break from the beery posts, a short little post on the album, and my relationship with it in the time I’ve known it… 

Over the course of my recent life I have often considered what my top five albums are. The albums that I’d take with me if I had to leave behind all the others. The list has changed over time, as new albums are released and old albums heard for the first time. The list has also changed due to changing tastes personally. One album that has remained in that top five list throughout though, is Manic Street Preachers’ The Holy Bible.

Much has been written elsewhere about the darkness of the album, and the troubles within the band in the period surrounding it’s recording and promotion. As with any record surrounded by tragic circumstances (Rhythm guitarist and primary lyricist on the album, Richey Edwards, went missing in February 1995. In November 2008, he was officially declared “presumed dead”) there is an element of listening to the album with a certain degree of hindsight. With songs like 4st 7lb, Faster and Die In The Summertime, The Holy Bible can be seen as a deeply personal album. That said though, it does still have it’s moments of political and historical influence in songs such as Ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforonedaywoulditsworldfallapart, Revol, and The Intense Humming Of Evil.

I bought my first copy of The Holy Bible in either 1998 or 1999. I’d became aware of the band during their Everything Must Go era, and became more interested in them when my then crush also had an interest in them (This was during the This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours) era. In an attempt to earn cool points, as seems the thing to do when you’re young and have no idea such things don’t work, I bought all of the albums from Generation Terrorists to Everything Must Go.

The other three albums I clicked with instantly, there were songs I could get stuck in my head for days after hearing. The Holy Bible though proved to be a somewhat more difficult listen.

I can’t remember when it clicked, but at some point, it did. I have no idea how many times I have listened to the album, yet on a personal level, it has served many purposes over the half of my lifespan with which I have owned the album. From the low, melancholic moments, where it has offered escape through headphones, to the angry, fuck you world moments, courtesy of Faster being blasted into my ears, drowing out the sounds of whichever group of people are annoying me, to the reflective mood of This Is Yesterday, The Holy Bible has been an album that I’ve grown up with, and will continue to be a part of my life.

I’ve often felt that a life in which nothing makes you feel something isn’t worth living. Some people are moved by words, some by images, others by sounds, smells or touch. Not many get the chance to create something that people connect with on a mass scale. Fewer still create a work that still feels relevant and important 20 years after it was first released.

There are more lines on this album that have meant something to me, that I have been able to interpret as relating to my life as well, than any other album I can think of. I could spend the second half of this post going through the album, quoting each one, but instead, I shall just finish with the line that says everything it needs to say, without any need for explanation from me.

I know I believe in nothing, but it is my nothing.

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If a beer looks like it tastes awful, it probably does…

For some reason, a couple of weeks ago, I decided that a blog post where I drink questionable beer, which is obviously going to taste awful, would be a good idea. This post is the result of that plan.

I have had in my fridge four beers which many respecting beer drinkers would refuse to even look at, let alone drink. They are Carlsberg Blackcurrant, Fosters Gold, Cuvana Rum Flavoured Beer, and Dead Crow Bourbon Flavoured Beer. As per usual with my posts, I’m writing this as I go along, so things may get interesting as I get more drunk, or more disgusted by the beers.

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First up in my glass is the Carlsberg Blackcurrant. It has been poured into my Birmingham Beer Bash 2014 glass from a clear 660ml bottle that has been sat on the top shelf of a B&M store. Fluorescent lights shining their light rays through the beer, day after day until I decided today would be a good day to drink a beer which is obviously going to taste awful.

Preconceptions. Sometimes they are met, Sometimes they are awfully misjudged.

The beer certainly smells of blackcurrant. A part of me is slightly trepidatious about actually lifting the glass to my lips and taking the first sip. Compared to how bad I was expecting it to taste, the actual taste isn’t that bad. If anything, it’s slightly disappointing, and nowhere near as blackcurranty as I was expecting. The question is though, can I drink an entire 660ml bottle, or will I end up pouring half of it away?

The answer is the latter, though I have managed to drink around the equivalent of a 330ml bottle.

Next up into the Beer Bash glass is the Cuvana Rum Flavoured Beer. Once again, it is poured from a clear glass bottle, that has been sat in the glare of fluorescent lights for goodness knows how long. For some reason, it smells like limes, rather than, as would be expected of a rum flavoured beer, rum. As a result, I’m even more cautious about drinking this than I was the Carlsberg Blackcurrant.

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I start with a small sip. There’s lime in the taste as well. If I’m supposed to be tasting rum, I’m not. It is, I’m slightly pleased to say, as awful as my expectations thought it would be. After three or four sips or mouthfuls, I have reached the half pint line of the glass. I may have found a contender to Floris Chocolate for the worst beer to have ever passed my lips.

Swiftly pouring that abomination down the sink, I move on to the Dead Crow. Natuarally, my expectations are as high for this as they were for the Cuvana. Aroma wise, the Dead Crow is much more subtle than the previous two beers of the night. Sure, it smells of something, but it’s not as obvious.

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I take a similar sized sip to last time. This is the first time the taste of one of these beers has made me screw my face up in disgust. I take another to confirm the horror that revealed itself in that first taste. I can only imagine that most of the trade for these beers is from first time buyers, or friends and family who don’t know better buying gifts for those who like beer and rum, or beer and bourbon. If we live in a world where people can actually manage to get through an entire bottle of either of these beers, and then think “I’d like another of those”, we live in a world of people who either hate themselves, or are idiots.

Last but not least, it’s the turn of the Australian beer Australia doesn’t drink. What that says about the beer is up to you and your conceptions of Australians and beer.

Compared to it’s predecessors, this is a relief. A beer approaching somewhere near drinkable, even if it is somewhat bland, and leaves you wondering if you did actually have a drink of it. It smells of nothingness. It tastes of nothingness, though there is a slight moment where it hints that there might be something there, before leaving a nothingness aftertaste and a dryness in the mouth.

Already I have drunk more of this than the Cuvana and Dead Crow combined. That being said though, when this glass is over, I’m moving back to the good stuff.

Tonight has been an experience, and as some people say, you can’t truely criticise a beer until it has passed your lips. These four beers have now passed my lips and I can safely say that I’ll never willingly or knowingly drink any of them again. Usually I’d tell you to try the beers yourself and make your own minds up, but in this case, I’m going to say trust me on this one.

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