Report of Hydes Annual Meeting – 24th November 2022

On 24 November 2022, Hydes held their annual shareholder briefing. Neil Kellett and Ian Brindley attended on behalf of the committee.

The company reported that, despite the well-publicised headwinds facing the industry, the pubs were trading well and profits were ahead of budget. Margins have been squeezed and they are focussing on maintaining sales, which has inevitably affected profit margins. They outlined a number of initiatives that have been undertaken and events organised to boost trade.

The company continues to offer a programme of seasonal cask ales and continues their commitment to the beer style. Energy costs are fixed for the next couple of years, which is proving a great help.

With a modest buffet lunch provided and an opportunity to sample the company’s ales, your club representatives left the meeting satisfied that the company continues to perform well in the circumstances.

Neil Kellett and Ian Brindley – CMIC Committee Members

CMIC AGM 2023

The 2023 Club AGM will be held, as usual, at The Victoria Hotel, Beeston, Nottingham, on Saturday, 17 June 2023, with Jane Kershaw of Joseph Holt confirmed as guest speaker.

2023 Club Trips

We are now looking at venues for 2023 club trips. Enquires are underway and details will be released early next year.

Chris Excell

It is with deep regret that we have to report the passing away of Committee member Chris Excell, this morning, 21st November 2022. His death came after a short battle with cancer.

Chris joined the CMIC committee in 2004 and made a valuable contribution over his 18 years of committee service. He was a very longstanding member of CMIC, and has participated in most of the brewery tours since their inception.

Chris was “Mr CAMRA” in the Kent area and his knowledge of public transportation was legendary. He will be missed, both as a committee member and also as a good friend.

Final Visit to Cantillon as Shareholders

On 10th October, 21 CMIC members embarked on this final visit to Cantillon as shareholders – the Van Roy family is buying back all shares not held by family members. Yes, there will be a surplus on the deal!

However, on Sunday 9th October, in what has become a tradition on these trips, we caught the Ninove bus to Eizeringen. We overcame the obstacle of the 127 bus being diverted in the city centre for one day – the 9th October!

Our aim was to visit In de Verzekering tegen de Grote Dorst, or ‘The Insurance against the big Thirst’. This is a delightful cafe which only opens on Sundays and stocks every Gueuze beer one can think of, plus many other speciality beers. Some of the local beers were brewed by the son of Kurt Paneel, who owns the cafe.

Some of the group at The Great Thirst pub

Some of the group at The Great Thirst pub. 2nd from the left is Iain Dobson, CMIC member number 1.

On our return to Brussels the beery delights of the city were sampled in such cafes as Le Cirio – a particular favourite of the writer.

On Monday 10th October, we duly presented ourselves at Cantillon. There we received a first-class tour, led by an English speaking guide, followed by a considerable amount of sampling. Unfortunately, for various reasons none of the Van Roy family was there to greet us.

I never cease to be amazed that the old fashioned way of brewing beer still continues in what has become a dry part of Brussels.

CMIC committee member and trip organiser Neil Kellett

CMIC committee member and trip organiser, Neil Kellett.

Further post visit imbibing in Brussels took place before leaving for home on the Monday or Tuesday. Except for me – on the Tuesday I embarked on a 3-week Interrail tour through Belgium, Germany, and Switzerland ending up in Southern Sicily. This is another story…….!

Report by Neil Kellett – CMIC Committee Member

Report of Wetherspoon AGM – 17th November 2022

On 17th November, I travelled to London to attend the annual general meeting of JD Wetherspoon. Several dozen shareholders were in attendance, including several members of the club.

The numbers at the top table have increased over previous years, as there are now two employee directors who are full members of the board, and an additional two ‘associate’ employee directors who also attend board meetings. These appointments are intended to ensure that board discussions remain well informed about the views of those working at the front line of the company.

The chairman started the meeting by introducing all the current board members and paying tribute to two directors who are leaving the company after many years of service. The tributes included some amusing anecdotes from the directors’ time with the company.

The formal business of the meeting was kept very short, before opening the floor to questions. In addition to those asked on the day, written questions submitted in advance of the meeting were also addressed.

Many of the questions followed several broad themes:

  • The company’s financial position, including debt levels and potential for the resumption of dividend payments.
  • Questions around specific pub closures.
  • The company’s pricing policy, and the differential against other operators.

The chairman said that, following the shock of the pandemic, the company would be likely to carry lower debt levels going forward. No forecast could be made as to when dividend payments might be resumed.

Regarding pub closures, the chairman said that they currently had too many pubs that were too close to each other. In the past, they had believed that they could operate a traditional Wetherspoons and a Lloyd’s No1 bar (Wetherspoons with music) close together. However, this had proven to not be the case. They were focussing on a smaller number of larger pubs, as they get a better return on capital at the larger venues. All pubs that are sold are sold as a going concern and are not initially sold for other uses. Of past disposals, 90% have continued as pubs.

On pricing, since the pandemic other operators have increased their prices faster than Wetherspoons and the differential has increased. However, there is also competition from supermarkets who have kept prices low to seek to hold on to the additional trade they acquired during lockdown. While Wetherspoon’s prices will remain competitive, there may be some modest price increases in the coming months.

Other questions included new openings in Ireland (it’s a more complex market that the UK, with fewer suppliers), and LED lighting (it’s difficult to install in pubs, as it has the potential to ruin the ambiance and drive away customers).

After the meeting, I spoke to the board and asked about their experience of cask ale sales post pandemic. I was told that these remain lower than before, but are recovering, and the recent autumn beer festival was a success.

Overall, from an investment perspective, the company appears to have its finances under control and remains competitive in the marketplace.

Ian Brindley – CMIC Committee Member

Visit to Adnams Brewery – Friday 2nd September 2022

In the year in which Adnams Sole Bay Brewery celebrates its 150th anniversary, it seemed only fitting that the club should organise a visit to this iconic, family business, renowned for its ‘beers from the coast’. So it was that, on a lovely sunny day in early September, 23 members assembled outside the brewery’s Visitor Centre in the delightful seaside town of Southwold. Its white painted Georgian buildings huddled around its landmark lighthouse, beaming out from the Suffolk shoreline.

CMIC members assembled outside the brewery’s Visitor Centre.

CMIC members assembled outside the brewery’s Visitor Centre.

Following a short audio-visual introduction to the brewery, the tour proceeded past the smart, glass fronted building housing their award-winning Copper House Distillery, to reach the modern and highly efficient stainless steel heart of the business, which has been cleverly squeezed into the original and imposing brick brewhouse.

Regrettably, owning to unusually high levels of carbon dioxide, which had been exacerbated by the warm weather, we were unable to visit the fermentation tanks across the road, but progressed instead directly to the sampling room, tucked away above the engineering workshop. Here we were treated to a wide selection of both their cask and craft keg beers, ranging from the 0.5% abv version of Ghost Ship, to their creamy Blackshore Stout.

Adnams Brewery Copper House Distillery building.

Adnams Brewery Copper House Distillery building.

Sadly, their recent and impressively hoppy collaboration beer, brewed in conjunction with the acclaimed, California based Sierra Nevada Brewery, had already been consumed, but we were able to enjoy a drop of their new anniversary brew, Sea Fog, described as a hazy, 4.5% abv coastal IPA, which could also be found on handpump in the local pubs. And where better to round off a thoroughly enjoyable day out?

Report by John Westlake – CMIC Committee Member

Draft – 2022 AGM Minutes

For Approval by the Members at the 2023 AGM

Minutes of the AGM held at The Victoria Hotel, Beeston on Saturday 18 June 2022, as approved by the Committee on 06.08.22 and subject to approval by the Members at the 2023 AGM.

Present: 69 Club Members; the Committee (9 of 12, with appropriate apologies from those presently incapacitated); Allens, the Club’s administrators; Hadfield’s, the Club’s independent examiner/reporting accountants; the Company Secretary.

1) Chairman’s welcome – The Chairman explained that he did not intend to reprise the material in the quarterly reports already provided to Members during the year via Club Matters; suffice to say that the mood and outlook had darkened on both economic and political fronts since the 2021 assembly at Beeston, values had not returned to pre-Covid levels and, unsurprisingly, the unit value had fallen during the past 12-months.

2) Approval of minutes of 2021 AGM – These were approved and seconded from the floor.

3) Election of Committee 2022 – 2023 – There being no new nominations, the re-election of the four retiring Committee members was proposed and seconded from the floor.

4) Members’ questions and observations – No written questions had been received prior to the meeting and initially there were none from the floor either. The Chairman reminded the AGM that the Committee would greatly value input from the Members around the points raised in Note 3) to today’s agenda, i.e., investment strategy and ‘closed membership’. With regards the former, he continued, illiquidity would forever be an issue, along with the differing and competing objectives of retail investors willing to crowdfund and the unrealistic expectations of certain founders.

The Committee’s general view was that, despite the above and the occasional setback, such as West Berkshire, Club Members supported CMIC in making token investments in small players who are CAMRA-friendly and whose founders appear diligent and grounded. In response to this, several members then took the floor to address questions or observations to the Chairman, summarised (anonymously) as follows: –

  • i) might CMIC consider investing directly in a pub(s) to operate for its own account? An interesting idea, but the Committee considers the purchase cost of even a modest, single establishment to be disproportionate to the current overall fund value, and how would the Committee be able to actively manage such a venue(s) etc?
  • ii) on the subject of illiquid investments in small players, 5 Members expressed views which were generally supportive of the cautious stance already being adopted by the Committee – in essence, in spite of the obvious associated risk, there is a place for such investments going forward, provided the overall exposure is limited to (say) no more than 10% of the overall fund.
  • iii) in respect of the closed membership point, 3 members expressed views from the floor both against and in favour. ‘Against’, CMIC is here to support CAMRA’s ideals and this direct linkage between the two organisations should continue in such a way that anyone exiting CAMRA should be obliged to exit CMIC; ‘in favour’, longstanding, but departing, CAMRA members should be able to freeze or otherwise let their CMIC holding ride upon departure (from CAMRA). The feeling of the meeting was sympathetic to this point whilst agreeing with the principle of the first. The meeting agreed that the Committee should consider this point further and report back in due course.

5) Approval of Accounts for ye 31 March 2022 – Proposed and seconded from the floor, to a round of applause – no questions.

6) Appointment of Reporting Accountants for 2022-2023 – Proposed and seconded from the floor.

7) Any other business – The Chairman expressed his thanks to the Committee members for their efforts during this challenging year and also to Allens, Hadfields, the Company Secretary, Linda and her team at ‘The Vic’ for the usual excellent spread, and, last but not least, Castle Rock Brewery for its overall sponsorship of the day.

Next year’s AGM would be held here at Beeston on Saturday, 17 June, with Jane Kershaw of Joseph Holt confirmed as guest speaker.

Neil Kellett announced that we had recently received an offer from Belgian investee, Cantillon, to buy back our shareholding in this operation, on terms which were considered favourable, and which had already been accepted by the Committee – a farewell tour to the venue had been arranged for 10 October, and Members interested in participating (maximum 25) should make themselves known to Janet immediately please!

The assembled were then treated to an insightful and entertaining appraisal of the development of the hop industry, with questions, by Dr Peter Darby. The Charman and Members then thanked Peter in customary fashion.

Nick Metcalfe, Company Secretary, 9th August 2022

Committee Meeting – 11 June 2022

This meeting was held at the Victoria, Beeston on Saturday 11 June 2022. Apologies were received from Ann Mace, Chris Excell, Chris Holmes, and Sean Murphy. Also present were Paul Horrocks (Allens) and Nick Metcalfe (Co. Sec.)

Minutes of the previous meeting were approved in full.

Various auctions had been notified ‘between meetings’ and 1,150 McMullen Pref Ords had been acquired. Excluding the Brewdog holding, acquisition of shares held in a deceased member’s estate was now proceeding apace, albeit the holding in Twickenham Fine Ales was subject to pre-emption rights, and we would have to ‘wait and see’.

On administration matters, the recent What’s Brewing/Beer ad, in conjunction with a published article written by a Committee member, had seen 10 new members sign up so far, albeit countered by further leavers; withdrawals had exceeded contributions during May, a rare event that has only occurred once in the recent past.

All set for next week’s AGM in terms of attendee numbers, general arrangements etc.

Brewery trips – 2022 program going well and a farewell trip to Cantillon would also now be arranged (limited numbers, unfortunately).

A Committee member was congratulated on having recently been appointed to CAMRA’s National Finance Committee.

With significant fund withdrawals continuing (deceased estates; members exiting CAMRA; routine cash requirements in these inflationary times etc) a suggestion to increase the 0.5% ‘spread’ to 1% was accepted.

Investee AGMs and other known corporate activity noted and discussed.

Generally, and in advance of the AGM specifically, the Committee’s overall stance towards occasional investment in smaller, illiquid players was debated at some length and confirmed.

With the ‘buffer’ now set at £400K, and only a limited amount to invest anyway, a decision was taken to place £20K total into 4 existing investees, though, as per usual, CMIC will participate in the annual Joseph Holt bargain matching exercise.

Committee Meeting – 14 May 2022

This meeting was held at the Ostrich, Bristol (Butcombe) on Saturday, 14 May 2022. Apologies were received from Ann Mace, Chris Excell, Ian Brindley, Chris Holmes, and Sean Murphy. Also present were Paul Horrocks (Allens) and Nick Metcalfe (Co. Sec.).

Minutes of the previous meeting were approved without comment.

No fewer than nine share auctions had been advised by brokers since the previous meeting: Wadworth (x5); Hydes (x1) and McMullen (x3). Committee voting (via e-mail) had generally been in favour of not proceeding, but one McMullen bid had gone forward and been successful. An opportunity to increase the Club’s Ordinary holding in Heavitree, but only by a nominal amount, had also been taken up.

Hadfields, the reporting accountants, had visited Stockport in early April to undertake their year-end work and had now issued their clearance letter.

In respect of membership, the ‘net leaver’ trend continues, and overall member numbers have now fallen to (slightly) below 3,000. A recently placed ad in Spring’s What’s Brewing/Beer would hopefully compensate for some of this? A member has recently suggested allowing long term CAMRA/CMIC members to remain in latter if they exit former – for discussion at AGM.

The share buy-back offer recently proposed by overseas investee, Cantillon, was discussed and agreed.

Upcoming investee AGMs were noted and discussed, along with corporate activity at other investees and targets.

The year-end valuation meeting with broker, James Sharp, had taken place recently – nothing contentious to report.

With limited new money to invest anyway and an ever-increasing, time-contingent liability to settle deceased members’ estates, a decision was quickly taken to make no new investment at this point in time and to increase the buffer to £400K (from £300K).

Committee Meeting – 5 March 2022

This meeting was held at the Briar Rose, Birmingham (Wetherspoon) on Saturday, 5 March 2022. Apologies were received from Dave Goodwin, Sean Murphy, Chris Excell, and Ann Mace. Also present were Paul Horrocks (Allens) and Nick Metcalfe (Co. Sec).

Minutes of the previous meeting were approved, but with clarification requested of the terms of the proposed ad spend with CAMRA.

Representatives from Windsor and Eton Brewery presented to the Committee on their brewery’s history, its cask credentials, and plans/ambitions for the future.

Admin matters discussed included declining member numbers (58 year-to-date) and possible write-offs of nominal holdings held by non-contactable members etc.

Shares in Wadworth and Hydes had been offered at auction ‘between meetings’ with majority ‘no’ votes received in all instances. Committee members encouraged to redouble their efforts to actually cast their votes on such occasions!

Serious progress now being made towards June’s AGM – Peter Darby confirmed as speaker and a £2/head increase in attendee cost debated and agreed to.

A paper had been pre-circulated on 2022 brewery trips, in particular Holts, Shepherd Neame, Fullers, Black Sheep, and Adnams. Although member take-up is perhaps lower than previously, these remain popular, and feedback indicates they are well received. Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine now casting serious doubt on the Finland/Estonia trip for the foreseeable.

Investee AGMs and other corporate activity noted and debated. In particular, Bedlam will receive some further, albeit limited, support.

As for new investment, majority view was that none should be made at this point in time.

Report of Fuller’s AGM – 21st July 2022

On 21 July 2022, I travelled to London to attend the AGM of Fuller, Smith & Turner PLC, better known as Fuller’s. The AGM was held at one of their own pubs, the George IV on Chiswick High Road.

The meeting commenced at 11.00 and the chairman introduced those members of the board who would be seeking re-election. He then went through a detailed timeline of events since the beginning of the covid outbreak, detailing not only the restrictions imposed at various times and the impact on the company’s ability to operate, but also how this presented an opportunity to further invest in the estate and refurbish closed venues. Although the pandemic interrupted the company’s long history of progressively increasing dividends, these have now resumed and the company remains optimistic for the future.

He went through the trading statement that had been issued to the stock exchange that morning, detailing trading in the first 16 weeks of the financial year. Sales are up by 3% on pre-pandemic levels and debt is down. The company will soon open a second site landside at Heathrow Terminal 2 to complement the existing (and very successful) airside pub ‘London’s Pride’. He went through a recent revaluation exercise the directors have undertaken to identify the value of the company’s freehold estate. The results suggest, based on the director’s estimates, the estate is worth approaching £1bn, around £400m more than the book value shown in the accounts. At the higher valuation, the net asset value of each share would be £13.80, rather than the £7.27 based on the book value.

The meeting was opened up to questions, and I asked for an update on the company’s experience of cask ale sales since reopening. The chairman responded by thanking the club for its many years of support, before handing to the chief exec for a more detailed response. The CEO said that the company remains committed to cask ale and, while demand has not recovered to pre-covid levels, they are seeking to promote the style and have a range of interesting guest ales lined up for distribution through the estate.

Questions from other shareholders included:

  • A request for more detail about the revaluation methodology.
  • A question on the balance of the estate between city and country locations.
  • A comment on the exclusion of private shareholders from the share placing (the chairman pointed out that the shares are now available in the market for less than the placing price, so no-one has lost out).
  • A query on the changed qualification criteria for the shareholder ‘Indulgence’ card. (The company secretary explained that, although new shareholders need to hold 1,000 shares, the 500 share threshold has been rolled-over for existing shareholders).

Following the meeting, shareholders present were given two free pints of London Pride, which I enjoyed in the beer garden, along with a number of other members of the club who were present in their capacity as individual shareholders.

Overall, the company appears to be coping with both recovery from the pandemic, and the recent difficult economic circumstances.

Ian Brindley – CMIC Committee Member

Visit to Black Sheep Brewery – Friday 8th July 2022

On a warm sunny day in July, 18 members of the club assembled in the visitor centre at the Black Sheep brewery in Masham, Yorkshire. We were met by Emma from the visitor centre, and introduced to head brewer Dan and company Chairman Andy. The visitor centre offers a range of tasty food and all of the Black Sheep beers are available on cask.

At 1.00pm the tour commenced with an introductory talk from Dan. He explained the history of the brewery and outlined the brewing process. We then spent around 45 minutes touring the various rooms that make up the brewery, seeing the process stages from when the malt is first introduced, right through to where the casks are filled.

After the tour, Dan led us through a tasting session where we had an opportunity to try all of the cask Black Sheep beers currently produced. For each one, he talked us through the details of the ingredients, including the types of malt and hops used.

The company Chairman, Andy Slee, spoke to us and emphasised how grateful he was for the support shown to the company by the club. Our most recent investment was made a few months before lockdown, and funded the installation of an in-house packaging line, which proved invaluable when lockdown drove consumption patterns away from the pub and into the home.

Overall, a very successful day where we were made to feel very welcome as valued investors.

Report by Ian Brindley – CMIC Committee Member

Head brewer Dan explaining the history of the brewery and the brewing process

Head brewer Dan explaining the history of the brewery and the brewing process.

Members of the club enjoying a tasting session after the visit

Club members enjoying a beer tasting session following their brewery visit.

Viewing the mash tuns and the copper kettle in the brewhouse

Viewing the mash tuns in the brewhouse.

Viewing the mash tuns and the copper kettle in the brewhouse

Viewing the copper kettle in the brewhouse.

Report of City Pub Group AGM – 8th June 2022

On 8 June 2022 I travelled to London to attend the AGM of the City Pub Group. The company operates 41 pubs in London, the South of England and Wales. The majority of the pubs serve cask ales and a number have microbreweries attached. The AGM was held at Aragon House, one of the company’s West London pubs. The meeting was attended by all the board members and around 20 shareholders.

The meeting started with the Chairman presenting encouraging recent trading figures and an update on new openings, before inviting shareholders questions. I asked about recent trends in cask ale sales, and for additional detail on the sites that the company intends to acquire from the Mosaic pub group over the next 12 months. The Chairman replied that, while there had been some disruption to cask ale supplies during the pandemic, this had been somewhat mitigated by the company’s use of local suppliers. The company’s focus remains on maintaining quality, and this has sometimes meant reducing the range of ales available, while still offering a good variety. The company is planning to acquire 10 sites from Mosaic, all of which stock cask ales. Subsequent to the meeting, the company supplied me with a list of the 10 sites.

Other shareholders asked questions about beer prices, acquisition opportunities, the income split between food, drink & accommodation, and the potential for a shareholder loyalty card.

After the meeting, there was a good opportunity to speak to members of the board over a light lunch in the beer garden. I queried the fact that the company’s most recent opening does not offer cask ale. I was advised that within 50 yards the company has another pub offering a good range of cask ales, and the company was keen to differentiate the new opening from their existing site in order to attract new customers.

Overall, I felt it was a good meeting and an opportunity to find out more about one of our investments.

Ian Brindley 

CMIC Committee Member

CMIC AGM 2022

Annual General Meeting, held on Saturday, 18 June 2022

69 Members, most of the Committee, Allens’ Admin Team and representatives from Hadfields attended the AGM on Saturday, 18 June at the Victoria Hotel, Beeston.

The resolutions were all passed and the assembled, suitably fed and watered, then received an insightful and entertaining appraisal of the hop industry by acclaimed ‘hopmeister’ Dr Peter Darby. Full minutes will be uploaded after the August Committee meeting and please be advised that the date for the 2023 AGM is now set for Saturday, 17 June, same time, same place.

Nick Metcalfe, Company Secretary, 21st June 2022

Agenda for 2022 CMIC Annual General Meeting

Agenda

for Annual General Meeting to be held on Saturday, 18 June 2022 at 12noon

1) Chairman’s welcome

2) Approval of minutes of 2021 AGM (note 1)

3) Election of Committee 2022-2023 (note 2)

4)  Members’ questions and observations (note 3)

5) Approval of Accounts for ye 31 March 2022

6) Appointment of Reporting Accountants for 2022-2023 (note 4)

7) Any other business

 

Nick Metcalfe, Company Secretary, 31 May 2022

Agenda Notes for 2022 CMIC Annual General Meeting

Note 1) Minutes of the 2021 AGM are already on the website (see upload dated 20 October 2021)

Note 2) No nominations for election to the Committee had been received at the Admin Office by 15 May. Under Club rule 4), four existing Committee members are due to retire by rotation (Ann Mace, Chris Holmes, Bob Crumpton, Neil Kellett), all of whom have expressed their willingness to continue in office.

Note 3) Questions and observations can be raised from the floor at the meeting, but, as ever, your Committee also welcomes written questions from members unable to attend on the day. These should be forwarded to the Admin Team by close-of-play on 10 June, please.

Items the Committee would particularly welcome feedback on include the following:- i) the investment position it has decided to adopt with regard to smaller players operating in the industry (who are, more often than not, brewers), as outlined in the Chairman’s recent March 2022 report at ‘Unquoted investments and portfolio risk’, and ii) the ‘CAMRA members only’ club membership requirement – members who attended the 2019 AGM may well recall that a suggestion that this requirement be done away with in its entirety was given short shrift. However, a member has now suggested a ‘relaxation’ along the lines that a Club member who has been a longstanding member of CAMRA – say for a minimum 10-year period – should be allowed to remain in CMIC if he/she chooses to exit CAMRA. The Committee is not recommending this be adopted but can see some merit in this proposal – particularly if the member has been in CMIC for some years also – but before exploring it any further would welcome members’ feedback on it.

Note 4) Hadfields have expressed their willingness to continue in office.

 

Nick Metcalfe, Company Secretary, 31 May 2022

Peter Darby – Career Notes

Dr Peter Darby retired as consultant to the British Hop Association in 2020, having set up and run the hop breeding programme at Wye Hops Ltd., Canterbury, Kent since 2007 following the closure of Wye College. He is a recognised international authority on hop research, breeding and pathology with over 100 publications on the subject, and he has been on the editorial boards of several respected international journals.

Following a degree from the University of East Anglia in 1977, he gained his PhD at the John Innes Institute in Norwich. He briefly taught at the University of Keele, Staffordshire before joining the Department of Hop Research at Wye College, Kent in 1981 becoming Head of Department in 1993 until its closure in 2007.

He has developed 13 new hop varieties in Britain including the world’s first dwarf variety, ‘First Gold’, and the world’s first hop with resistance to aphids, ‘Boadicea’. He has also been a consultant to hop breeding programmes across the World and still continues his consultancy in Alsace where he now has a further six new varieties registered. He has been a guest lecturer to several universities including Imperial College, Harper-Adams, Nottingham, and Cambridge.

He has gained many awards during his career, not least in 2016 as CAMRA Real Ale Hero No.14. In 1991 he became a Chevalier of the Order of the Hop, an ancient order of merit instituted in 1406 by John the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy. He was awarded the 1999 Rudolf Hermann’s Foundation Prize (Geisenheim, Germany) for an ‘outstanding contribution to European horticultural production’, and the 2003 Royal Agricultural Society of England Award for Technology. In 2006, he was awarded an honorary fellowship of the Institute of Brewing and Distilling, followed by a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008. To mark his service to the hop industry his Order of the Hop was upgraded by the International Hop Growers Congress from Chevalier to Officer in 2017.

Finland/Estonia Trip

For all the members eagerly waiting news of the Club’s overseas trip to Finland and Estonia I can only apologise for the delays in letting you know when this trip may take place.

We had originally planned for the visit to happen in September 2020. With fellow Club member Dave Wright, I had made a reconnoitre trip to Helsinki and Tallin in February and arranged for visits to several breweries, brewpubs, pubs and restaurants in the two cities. We had sorted out and costed a full itinerary and were all ready to go and then Covid hit. We had hoped that we could still run the trip in September 2020 but that proved impossible and for 2021 the situation as regards travel restrictions etc did not improve.

And then just as travel overseas opened up again Putin decided to flex his muscles, raising questions about how safe a trip to Estonia would be. We still have all the contacts in place for the trip and should be able to easily revive plans to visit Finland and Estonia, but with all the uncertainties we have decided to postpone trying to fix a date for our trip till 2023.

I hope we may have firmer news later this year and I may even make a second investigative trip to see if our original plans may need adapting. So keep an eye out for further news and if any of you have got any suggestions about the proposed trip, i.e. time of year, other places to visit etc please let me know.

 

Kind Regards

Iain Loe – Committee Member

Visit to Fuller’s Brewery – Wednesday 18th May 2022

A glorious sunny day in May saw 24 Club members make the trip to Fuller’s Thameside brewery in Chiswick.

The brewery, which can be traced back to a brewery founded by Thomas Mawson in the late 17th century and bought by Messrs Fuller, Turner and Smith in 1845, was sold to Japanese brewer Asahi in 2019, with the Fuller’s company keeping charge of the original company’s pub estate.

The first thing that greeted our visitors to the Chiswick site was the sad sight of the closed Mawson Arms (named after the person who started brewing there). The Fuller’s pub company has retained the ownership of the pub and the short terrace attached, but it is unclear what will happen to the property and if the pub will ever reopen.

Things improved when we entered the tour starting point the brewery shop which has its own small tap for on and off sales. Beer prices were very much London prices at £5.50 for a pint and £3.50 a half for London Pride. No CAMRA discount! Through the glass wall at the rear of the shop could be seen the new small 5 barrel trial brewing plant.

Our party was met by our guides for the day by Dave Elmer and Colin Ford, who, after running through safety rules and logging us in, led us to The Hock Cellar. On the way we passed the Wisteria plant which has covered the wall of the Directors house since 1816, making it the oldest of its species in the UK. The plant had flowered a couple of weeks previously, so our party missed that glorious purple display. Although there may be a second blooming in August. The only noticeable change following the Asahi takeover was by the door to the company’s office where all various company registration plates owned by the Fullers pub company had disappeared.

Having disposed of surplus coats, bags etc in the Hock Cellar (it was a warm day) we set off in two groups of 12 round the brewery. On our way round the brewery we first passed the old mash tuns, coppers etc before encountering the newer stainless steel mash tuns and coppers (brewing kettles) installed in 1986 each with a capacity of 320 barrels. The old mash tun installed in1863 and still in place was last used in March 1993.Behind a glass screen we caught a glimpse of the two malt mills (one for organic malts) which are still in use after more than 100 years and to emphasise this the wooden staircase next to the mills showed the wear from the shoes of head brewers over the last century. Open fermenters are now a thing of the past and enclosed conical fermenters is where ales and lagers now ferment. The fermenters are of 320 barrel capacity to match the output from the coppers. Three yeast strains are used: a Fuller’s yeast, the old Gales yeast and a “commercial” yeast for the Dark Star brewery beers. The same yeast strains are used for both lagers and ales.

Passing the packaging area it was noticed that the cask racking line was currently out of action and undergoing maintenance. Production levels are still down post Covid and are yet to fully recover, particularly cask ales. But one hopes the cask line will soon be back in operation. It was soon time to head back to the Hock Cellar for sampling. On our way there we passed a small flowering plant Saxifraga or London Pride, made famous by the Noel Coward’s 1944 song and the name of the Brewery’s flagship beer which accounts for over 50% of their beer production.

During the sampling session were lucky to get the first taste of the Fuller’s Vintage Ale 2022. The beer this year has been brewed using all English ingredients, the hops being Bramling Cross and a new variety Emperor from hop merchants Charles Faram. The beer still needs to be matured and bottled but should be available in October with a limited amount going out in cask to selected pubs and beer festivals. Our party also got a taste of Fuller’s Platinum Jubilee beer which was due to be released in the following days to coincide with festivities.

All too soon it was time to leave the Hock Cellar as another tour party was due to arrive. This was probably the only major change there has been since the Asahi takeover; brewery tours have become more commercial and only a limited time allowed in the Cellar for sampling.

But to give the Japanese brewing giant credit they do not seem to have made any obvious changes to the brewery. The only thing that was surprising is that export sales of beers particularly London Pride do not appear to be growing and reports from Sweden and Finland still talk of a lack of cask-conditioned Pride and ESB in the speciality pubs and bars of these Nordic countries.

Time will tell what plans Asahi have for Fuller’s and the Dark Star brewery which continues to brew the Dark Star brewery beers for local consumption whilst most of Hophead and other Dark Star beers are brewed at Chiswick.

And we will continue to closely monitor the share prices of both Asahi and the Fullers pub company.

Report by Iain Loe – Committee Member

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LEFT: A cheerful band of Club members after the brewery tour and visit to the sampling room    RIGHT: The new Fuller’s Brewery shop and tap room

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LEFT: Colin Ford one of our group’s two tour guides outside the Hock Cellar     RIGHT: The malt mills still going strong after more than 100 years and the well-worn wooden stairs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LEFT: One  of the tour groups in the brewing room.     RIGHT: The closed Mawson Arms, the former brewery tap