Category: Real Ale

Does your missus drink of the ale?

beer-in-the-evening-women-brewingDo you catch your good-lady gazing at your pint whilst she sips at her fruit based cocktail? Does she want to partake in your ale, but feels too shy to ask? Does she long for her own pint, but doesn’t want to be seen drinking one?

It’s a question that has been asked before but, could women be a part of the renaissance that the pub and real ale trades are looking for?

With micro breweries recently experiencing a lot of interest and growth, the real ale industry has enjoyed some gathering acclaim for brewsters within the business. Waen Brewery founder Sue Hayward has seen demand for award winning Waen beers rise year upon year. Sara Barton, founder of Brewsters Brewing Company reminds us of the long history between women and brewing, up until the 1600’s brewing was primarily a woman’s business. Alex Heeton and Zara Hale, of BrewDog Camden regularly produce interesting home-brews with a creative understanding of the brewing process. Although there are just a few female ambassadors being pushed into the lime-light, there is still plenty of room for more women within the industry. Women have been historically good at brewing, it’s time they were invited back on a grander scale.

The pub industry however is constantly under threat, CAMRA are reporting that pubs are now closing at the rate of 18 per week, with the trend of closures set to continue if not increase. On a brighter note though, since the smoking ban there has been a steady increase in the number of women pub-goers.

UK accredited beer sommelier Sophie Atherton in Cask Matters (Nov 2012) reminded licensees that around half of their potential customers are women. She also outlined some suggestions and techniques pubs can use themselves to help expose real ale to women in a more positive light.

Atherton suggested that the process starts with the equipment. Keeping your pipes clean and maintained isn’t often easy, but it is absolutely essential to maintain a level of consistency and pride over your beer selection.
She also asks licensees to consider the psychology behind attracting women to real ale.

Pubs should avoid advertising sexist pump-clip imagery and perhaps broaden their range of beers from just masculine names such as Spitfire, Mutt’s Nuts or Seriously Bad Elf, to embrace a softer selection that potential female customers can feel a connection to, such as Strawberry Blonde, Chocolate Orange Delight or Banana Bread Beer. It may seem patronising, matching flowery and flavoured names to female drinkers, but by introducing flavoured beers into the selection, licensees continue to dispel the myth to both sexes that all ale tastes the same, one enduring stigma that the drink has acquired. Who knows, if it’s on offer, perhaps even the bearded, port-belly, sandal wearing stereotypes may try a Cherry Fruit Beer after a long days rambling over the hills?

Then there’s the sales pitch, it’s proven more likely that women will sample real ale if it is suggested to them by a female member of staff. Women like to know the honest opinions of other women. Offering alternatives to their regular tipple could be the way. Red wine or coffee drinking women might like to try a porter, stout or dark beer. White wine drinkers may prefer a citrus or fruit beer, and sparkling wine drinkers may prefer a blonde more carbonated, citrus beer.

Lets continue to support the British pubs by by making 2013 the year we make an effort to share the ale with the women in our lives, and with Valentines day just around the corner, treat your missus to a pint down the pub, it’ll be an experience she’ll cherish and never forget. Cheers!

Does your missus partake in the ale? What is her favourite pint? If you’ve a comment feel free to leave it in our comments section below, or join in the conversation on our Facebook page.

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There’s a fight brewing at Kelham Island Brewery

Kelham Island Brewery

There is something brewing at Kelham Island Brewery, and it’s not just beers. A unique mash-up of hops and comic book characters is erupting,  pale ale heroes are slogging it out against dark beer villains  in the “Light vs. Dark” battle of the brews. Who will win? Will the two join forces to fight the fizz-keg army?

Kelham Island, based in Sheffield, was the first independent brewer in the city  for over 100 years. It was at a time when real ale sales were falling and the big brewers were retreating from the area. Hope & Anchor, Whitbread, Stones and Wards breweries all closed in Sheffield during the nineties. Big things have such small beginnings, and from the beer garden of the Fat Cat, Sheffield in 1990 Kelham Island first began brewing with a 10 barrel capacity. Popular demand saw sales increase and the decision was taken to move the brewing operation to a more permanent 100 barrel capacity residence. Today, if you are lucky enough to visit the Fat Cat, the original brewing house is now a visitors centre dedicated to the success of the Kelham Island Brewery.

Kelham Island continues to maintain the small-team charm that it began with despite demand for its beers always being on the rise, their fortune is a heart-warming tale of achievement when so much emphasis is applied to the bad news within the real ale and pub trades. With over 20 different beers produced by Kelham Island today, designing the packaging for a range of beers needed to be cutting edge as well as tipping a hat to classic beer label design, it was time to call in a hot-shot…

Jim Connolly is a mild-mannered artist by day, but by night, he drinks the occasional beer and enters into a world where heroes strive to protect the ale from an evil fizz-keg army. Mixing two popular genres, comic books and beer, Jim has lovingly created a series of heroic beer labels for Kelham Island Brewery. The mash-up of beer and comics doesn’t stop at just the beer label artwork, each character comes with their own back-story to tell, and in true story-telling style, each pale ale hero comes their own dark ale nemesis! We were lucky enough to speak to Jim and ask him some questions about his part in bringing the beers, their labels and pump-clips to life.

Q. Who came up with the names for the Kelham Island Beers?
The Kelham guys gave me the basic concept for the heroes and villains and let me run with it. I did a pile of quick doodles and we chose the best ones and made the names up together. The King of the Rocketman & Radar Men Men from the Moon pumps were the brainchild of Little Mick who works for Kelham Island.

Q. Who or what has been your biggest inspiration for these labels?
In Superman 2 there are three great baddies in General Zod (the mastermind), Ursa (the tough babe) and Non (the muscle) and I wanted each side to pretty much fit this model. I looked at some of the early Marvel character designs by the likes of Jack Kirby & Steve Ditko as I wanted the colours to stand out and be fun. ‘Gentleman death’, ‘Mistress Flames’ and ‘Crimson Steel’ feel more like DC characters down the Batman route, with a hint of Tim Burton.

Q. Can you give us the back story to some of the  Kelham Island characters?

Kelham Island Brewery - Crimson Steel

Crimson Steel (hero) He started life as a homage to Sheffield United FC with his double swords but became more like an English knight. He’s a bit Aragorn and a bit Batman-esque. In comparison Crimson Steel ale is bright and amber in colour, described as very hoppy, it’s like the best of all things good, so it makes sense to have Crimson Steel as the lead-hero.

Kellham Island Brewery - Gentleman Death

Gentleman death (villain) He uses black magic to achieve his dastardly ends. He’s a bit like Skeletor crossed with Basil Fawlty. In comparison Gentleman Death is a rich, dark, Baltic Porter, it clings to the edge of the glass like a lingering evil magic.

Kellham Island Brewery - Mind Control

Mind Control (heroine) She’s quite Xmen inspired with similar mind powers to Professor-X, of course with added telekinesis, no doubt derived from her double IPA. The intense hoppiness of Mind Control is perfectly balanced with complex alcohol flavours, the ‘force’ is definitely strong with this one.

Kellham Island Brewery - Mistress Flames

Mistress Flames (villain) She’s a vampire but with fiery blood and flame-throwing abilities. By comparison Mistress Flames is a mild ruby ale with deep flavours and colours, it looks very vampire, very moody and comes with some spark.

Kellham Island Brewery - Tin Can Avenger

Tin Can Avenger (hero) His mission is to prevent the consumption of cheap dirty lager whilst wearing his trusty metal-head unicycle armour. He’s a parody of the earliest Ironman design with a nod to Ghostrider as well. In comparison Tin Can Avenger is a continental style lager beer with a lower alcohol content, it’s got a lot of strength in flavours but with it’s mildness it’s a beer you can keep coming back to.

Kellham Island Brewery - Dunkel Devastator

Dunkel Devastator (villain) He leaps across the universe delivering shattering blows to far-off worlds with his fizz-keg hammer of doom. If he could find earth we’d all be in trouble. Luckily he’s incredibly thick. By comparison, Dunkel Devastator is a powerful, dark German wheat beer. Here in Britain wheat beers are not considered traditional, which makes Dunkel Devastator sort of a very strong, loose cannon amongst the real ales.

Kellham Island Brewery - Radar Men From the Moon

King of the Rocketmen & Radar Men from the Moon: In a homage to the old 1940’s serials that pre-date Superhero movies, Kelham Island have also brewed “King of the Rocketmen” and “Radar Men from the Moon”. Described as “blazing adventures in a glass” these two use internationally sourced hops to give an out of this world aroma, light and refreshing with just enough “zap” to keep you tuned in for more.

Which was your most favourite of the beer label characters to create?
‘Mistress Flames’ is my personal favourite by a mile. She was inspired mainly by a Mike Mignola, Batgirl cover from the 1980’s.

Any thoughts on producing comic strips for any of the characters?
As both comic-books and real ale are enjoying both mainstream and niche markets success, it’s certainly food for thought. I’d like to see the Dunkel Devastator show up at my old local wielding his hammer of doom!

Will you be working with Kelham Island in the future?
I’m hoping to work with them on an art-print very shortly to tie-in with the labels I’ve done for them.

For other brewers out there, are you a gun for hire?
I’m always up for hearing about interesting commissions, beer label design has a long tradition in the UK, there’s hidden subtlety and meaning in each design.
For all those interested this is where I lay my cape…

If you are interested in Kelham Island Brewery beers you can read more or place an order on their website. For a list of pubs in Sheffield follow this link. If you have a comment feel free to leave it in the comments section below, or join in the conversation on our Facebook page.

Top 5 Most Haunted Pubs on BITE

Happy Halloween BITE Readers… There comes a time in every patrons pub-life, when the night grows still, usually during last orders, all you can hear is the ticking of the wall clock, or the gentle smudging noise of the barman cleaning a glass or two. It’s in moments like this that the old bar-barnacle or even the landlord himself decides is a good time to mention “the pub ghost”. We’ve all heard a dark tale of resident pub ghosts, trapped spirits (clean the optics) or mysterious happenings in our favourite locals. Below we have rounded up our choice of the top 5 most haunted pubs on BITE. Have you been to any of these spooky boozers? We invite you to share your pub-ghost stories with us on our Facebook page, do it before midnight though – else you’ll turn into a pumpkin!

1. The Ancient Ram Inn, Wotton Under Edge, Stroud

The Ancient RamThe physical ground that the Ancient Ram resides on was once a Pagan burial ground, it is suggested that two ley lines cross beneath the pub and through this natural energy spirits, apparitions and ghosts have managed to traverse the realms of reality into our own. Built in the 12th Century the Inn has played host to a great many stories and tales that many would describe as unnatural.  Devil worship, poltergeist activity, strange mists, black ghostly shapes of men hung from rafters, dramatic temperature changes and a deviant resident Incubus (women be warned).  Unfortunately no longer a public house, the current owner of the Ancient Ram is an approachable fellow and open to operate small group tours around this once fabled watering hole, you will not want to be alone for a minute, even the surrounding village and countryside is creepy in the dead of night. Take a torch! In fact take a few…
Visit the Ancient Ram Pub Page | Map link

2. The Ostrich Inn, Colnbrook Berkshire
The Ostrich InnOne of the oldest pubs in Britain, once used as a refuge by the notorious outlaw Dick Turpin, this venue’s tale seems to take a leaf or two from the Sweeney Todd fable.  In the distant past many, many travellers have been murdered within these pub walls. Wealthy visitors to the area would often disappear after spending a night at the Ostrich. The legend tells of the greedy, murderous Jarman family who once lived and worked at the Inn.  During the night whilst the weary traveller slept, the landlord would pull a lever and the unsuspecting guest would find themselves falling through a trapdoor dropping them into vat of boiling liquid and sealing their fate. The gruesome landlord and his wife after confessing to what they had done were hung for their crimes after a victim’s horse was found wandering the streets of Colnbrook alone and raised suspicion with local police. Today the Ostrich is known for poltergeist activity, the ghosts of trapped spirits who died in the pub, or the residual energy of the nefarious landlord himself? It’s hard to tell, despite the Ostrich Inn being a jolly good local these days, its cold, murderous past will leave you chilled to your dregs.
Visit The Ostrich Inn Pub Page | Map link 

3. The Old Bull and Bush, Hampstead
The Old Bull and BushFor centuries, banging and knocking in the night can be heard, sharp temperature drops and a ghostly, dark and shrouded apparition in Victorian clothes has been seen moving between rooms, these are just some of the stories to chill patrons whilst visiting this pub. Recent and extensive renovations to the building may have unearthed the reason why. Behind one of the cellar walls a skeleton was discovered surrounded by Victorian surgical instruments. Whilst the bones have been laid to rest, the tale of how this person met their demise remains unsolved, and so, their uneasy spirit still resides.
Visit The Old Bull and Bush Pub Page | Map link 

4. Spaniards Inn, Hampstead Heath
Spaniards InnWith a trio of apparitions, this pub once belonged to the father of Dick Turpin, and the highwayman himself used the Inn as a hideout during his escapades. The outlaw himself ‘Dick Turpin’ is said to haunt the upstairs rooms, banging, rattling and knocking can often be heard, whilst outside the spirit of Turpin’s horse “Black Bess” can sometimes be heard galloping away from the car park. Also, with a rather unfortunate name, the spirit of “Black Dick” haunts the bar itself, once a local moneylender he was run down in the street by a coach and horses, his spirit though, never left the pub.
On a different trivia note, did you know that many pubs named the “Black Horse” are a tribute to Turpin’s horse Black Bess, who in 1737 made the ride from London to York in a single night, a story of fiction, around which the legend was forged.
Visit the Spaniards Inn Pub Page |  Map link

5. The Ring O’ Bells, Middleton, Manchester
Ring O' BellsEdward was a Royalist, dressed in full Cavalier military gear when his life met its fateful end. Edward, the son of a Local Lord, used the Ring O’ Bells as a secret Royalist meeting place in a Parliament forces held town during the English Civil War. One fateful evening Edward was hacked to pieces by Roundheads whilst trying to escape,  now his sombre spirit lingers on within the pub walls.  The pub grounds date back to the Saxon times, and are also rumoured to have been the location where ancient sacrificial victims were offered to Gods.  What an ideal place to erect a pub! It’s been reported that Edwards ghost can manipulate objects, throwing them across rooms. Patrons have recorded a number of times when they have felt a firm hand on their shoulder or back only to turn and find themselves all alone.  It is said that anyone who dares sit in the “Cavaliers seat” will feel an icy chill and wandering sadness.
Visit the Ring O’ Bells Pub Page | Map link 

National Cask Ale Week 2012

National Cask Ale Week 2012“It’s the big one folks!” Organised by Cask Marque and with support from CAMRA, Britain’s “National Cask Ale Week 2012” is almost here. The event, running from the 28th of September until the 7th October promotes Real Ale to those who have yet to try one the many, many varieties of Real Ale now available. It’s also a time for pubs to show some solidarity towards Britain’s national pub drink.

There are a lot of national events going on during the week, from Real Ale tasting sessions, to brewery tours, cellar tours, new beer launches, beer festivals, food festivals, competitions, a real ale trail and let’s throw some Morris Men in there too! A full list of the details of the events can be found on the Cask Ale Week website. There’s almost too much to do, thank the beer-gods that National Cask Ale week is in fact a 10 day affair spanning two weekends.

For the upcoming celebration BITE recommends:

Visit to one of these 5 Fullers pubs where the expert award winning Cellarmen will give you a glimpse into the science (and love) it takes to serve consistent beautiful beer;

Greene King are supporting National Cask Ale Week 2012 again this year with the “try before you buy” scheme in operation in 300 of their pubs.  If you fancy a pint of real ale, but can’t decide which is your tipple, just ask one of the bar-staff for a sample. More information on the “try before you buy” scheme can be found on the National Cask Ale Week website.

If you’re in the Cornwall area, head off to the St. Austell Brewery on Wednesday 26th September, Sophie Atherton, Britain’s first beer sommelier will hold a tutored beer tasting from 1pm at the Visitor Centre, you’ll have the opportunity to sample some of the famous St. Austell signature ales as well as some new brews featuring just for National Cask Ale Week. Tickets are just £1 per head, and there are competitions and prizes on offer once you get there, for more information and a chance to meet the First Lady of Beer visit the St. Austell Brewery events page.

Good olde’ Punch Taverns are giving away free beers, all you have to do is buy the Daily Telegraph on Sunday 23rd September for your free pint voucher, so do look out for this free beer promo!

If you have any tipson a first ale for an ale-virgin to try, or would like your say on the National Cask Ale Week 2012 you can leave a comment below or join in the conversation on our Facebook page.

National Cask Ale Week 2011

National Cask Ale Week 2011It’s National Cask Ale week starting tomorrow (1st October 2011).  Cask Ale Week is a campaign organised between CAMRA and Cask Marque with the intention of spreading wider interest in ‘Real Ale’, if you know someone who has not tried real ale yet, this following week is your chance to introduce them to the myriad of different real ales that are on offer.  All 7,500 of Cask Marques accredited licensees have been asked to support the cause – promoting real ale, most locally sourced, and with the weather in the South set to be a scorcher, pubs will definitely receive an influx of customers who are out to enjoy the sunshine.

According to the CAMRA website many of the Cask Marque pubs will operate a ‘Try Before You Buy’ promotion allowing revellers the opportunity to sample-taste a real ale before choosing.   Some Cask Marque pubs may operate the “3 x 1/3 pint” meaning you get to try 3 real ales for the price of a pint which is a great promotion for any new real ale drinker,… and regular ale drinkers alike.  It gives you some time to hone in one a particular brew you might take a fancy to.  So, be sure to look out for pubs with a Cask Marque accreditation this weekend, and be sure to ask about the real ale promotions they may be serving.

If you’ve any tips for a new real ale drinker, or would like to tell us about a promotion in your area, or a distinct real ale you might like people to try, please leave a comment in our comments section below or join in the conversation on our Facebook page. Cheers!