The Friday Pint 2015 #5 – You Thought I’d Forgotten, Hadn’t You

Okay, so probably not, but it is only a quick post this week to say a few things.

1. Tickets for the third Birmingham Beer Bash go on sale on Monday. If you’re not already following the @birminghamcubed twitter account, go and do so now. It’s your best source of news on all things Beer Bash related.

2. The Wool House opens on the 27th February. You should totally come down and drink some beer, or just admire the building. Actually, you should at least buy some beer, even if you don’t drink it. I’ll drink the beer if you don’t want it. Buy me beer.

3. I’ll be in the USA next Friday, so by UK time standards, the next couple of Friday Pints may actually be posted in the early hours of Saturday. There’s a lot of new breweries in and around Pittsburgh for me to visit. The following Friday will see me at the Pittsburgh Winter Beerfest too, so that should see me with something for the Friday Pint post after that, when I’ll be far too busy drinking beer in Southampton.

4. Part four of the Wool House series will be coming hopefully on Thursday.

 

Until then, have a great weekend. (137)

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. (201)

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. (128)

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 (349)

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. (185)

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. (395)

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. (249)

The Friday Pint 2015 #1 – New Beginnings

So, 2015.

This year will be my fourth year of writing Friday Pint posts. Unlike previous years however, I’m not going to explicitly decide on a theme for this years posts. I will however be trying to make sure I do post something every Friday, even if there’s nothing beer related about it. After all, one of the main purposes of The Friday Pint when I started doing it back in 2012 was to keep my brain active and improve my writing.

As I write this post, I am currently sat in The Wheatsheaf, a Fuller’s owned pub in Slough, opposite Herschel Park. Prior to being sat here. with a pint of London Pride by my side, I walked around the park, and the nature reserve that is situated just to the side of it.

I then paid a visit to The Old Red Cow, where outside a man, possibly 50 something in age, was looking up towards a red kite hovering majestically in the sky above. He told me that there are usually two of them, and that they come from the parks behind us.

Inside I order a pint of Twickenham’s WInter Cheer. The man from outside is offered the usual, and a conversation begins between the man from outside and the man behind the bar. At a guess, I’d say the man behind the bar is probably a couple of years younger than me.

Through sitting at the bar, in the middle of their conversation, I learn that the man from outside has been living in a tent in the park recently. He tells the man behind the bar that he has been evicted from the park. The man behind the bar questions if you can be evicted from a public space. The man from outside seemingly still has a lot of posessions. He spoke of a TV and DVD player, and DVDs back in Reading, and also of trying to get rid of a lot of stuff.

Not long after the man from outside and I entered, another man entered with news that someone had broken their ribs. A brief conversation ensued about how they can’t do anything but let them heal natuarally. The man from outside got the man behind the bar to feel a spot on his chest, from where his ribs had broken. He then went on to talk about how his collarbone healed.

With the man behind the bar reading a newspaper, conversation between the man from outside and him switched to news. There was a story about Banksy giving someone a drawing after they helped him pick up his art stuff, and another about a nurse who helped an old man with a heart attack.

I left The Old Red Cow and made my way to The Wheatsheaf. When I enter, Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance video is playing on the TV. Seemingly, the man behind the bar here is playing youtube videos. I can’t be sure if it’s related to having a customer or not, but the television gets changed to the sky box. Several channels get put on before finally settling on Sky News.

Over the speaker system, what sounds like mid to late nineties R&B plays, drowning out the sound from the television. A pool table takes up a large amount of space just inside the door. The interior of the pub is reminiscent of an old Tudor pub. It is also rather red, with red leather seats, red patterned carpet, red chairs, and red painted walls.

The London Pride here is passable, but still doesn’t match up to the London Pride I could enjoy whilst living and working in Chiswick.I should try and go back there at some point this year.

As for this year, it’s going to be a busy one for me. I already have 12 days of overtime lined up as I save up for my wedding in October. Before then though, I have my 30th birthday, which I shall be belatedly celebrating at the Maltings Festival in Newton Abbot. Also this year will be my Dad’s 60th birthday, and my Best Man’s 30th birthday.

Going back to the subject of that wedding, I’ll be moving to America for it, providing they let me in of course. Back in Southampton I have two shelves worth of beer I won’t be taking with me, and can’t really store back here. Needless to say, this year is going to see some rather good bottles being opened.

I shall return next week, until then dear reader, have a great weekend. (118)

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.

  (308)

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. (338)