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

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

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.

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

Visit to Shepherd Neame Brewery – 16th March 2022

A group of seventeen club members visited the Shepherd Neame Brewery in Faversham on the afternoon on Wednesday 16 March 2022.  Our guide was Georgina who gave us a brief history of the brewery and a tour of the brewhouse as well as the chance to see the stationary steam engines that once powered the brewery, the old floor maltings that are no longer used and the company’s collection of historic vehicles.  After the tour we had the opportunity to sample some beers and we had a very good and informative question and answer session with one of the brewers during which we learned that the next seasonal beer will be called May Bee which will the first time that Shepherd Neame have used honey in one of their beers.  Northern Lights is expected to make a come back later this year.

Report by Chris Excell. – CMIC Committee Member

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Group photo of CMIC members at Shepherd Neame

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mash Tuns in the Shepherd Neame brewhouse

Visit to Joseph Holt’s Brewery – 18 February 2022

11 members battled against storm Eunice and duly arrived at Empire Street at 2:00pm for a rare treat – a tour of Joseph Holt’s. The brewery is in the Cheetham Hill area of Manchester, a few bus stops north of the city centre.

We were welcomed by Phil Parkinson, head brewer at Holt’s for 7 years. He had previously been at Banks’s/Marston’s for 14 years.

Having donned hi-vis jackets Phil then gave us a very detailed tour of the brewery. It is a tower brewery which involved much climbing and descending of iron stairs, the last being a spiral staircase!

Items of note were;

  •  Production of lager has just overtaken the production of cask beer.
  • Their high gravity bottled beers, Sixex dark ale, had just won a European beer industry gold.
  • Mild was still produced but is only supplied to half a dozen pubs.
  • There was a small pilot plant for the test brewing of new products.
  • Hop pellets were used, primarily from the UK hops. American hops are crazily expensive.
  • The building and equipment were wonderfully traditional -as one would expect at Holt’s
  •  No samples were provided at the brewery.
  • The £90,000 of CMIC’s funds invested in Holt’s would appear to be a good investment.

After the visit most participants sampled a few in the Derby Brewery Arms, close to the brewery. Bitter cost a hefty (for Holt’s) £3.50 per pint.

One member then cycled off into the wind and rain and the rest transferred to the newly acquired Lower Turks Head on Shudehill. Mild was available and was in great demand. The beer tested in both pubs was in very good order.

Report by Neil Kellett – CMIC Committee Member

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

” Head brewer, Phil Parkinson (left), showing the intricacies of the brewery pipework”

 

CMIC visit to Belhaven

A group of 27 visited Greene Kings Belhaven brewery at Dunbar in the Borders on Thursday November 14th 2019.

The size of our party was such that we were splint into two groups, one visiting at 11:30 and the others at 13:00. Both groups benefited from an excellent lunch and cask beers, at the nearby Brig and Barrell, handily on the corner of Brewery Lane and a short stroll down to the brewery.

We were given a most enjoyable tour with a talk on the history of brewing in Belhaven as well as a tour of the brewery which has seen a great deal of investment recently. Tom Carmicheal, our guide; had worked at Morlands in Abingdon, and was a font of knowledge and with an enthusiasm and capacity for laughter that was almost but not quite matched by our party.

Belhaven celebrated 300 years continuous brewing at the same site earlier this year. However, the first records of monks brewing and supplying Dunbar castle date to C12th-13th using water from the same source, the aquifer beneath the site. Some metrics percolated through the fascination of the old buildings listed by Scottish Heritage, that had found new life and purpose in C21st.

The brewing day is 05.30 – 23.00, and four brews are undertaken every day, seven days a week. While bottling etc., is tanked to Bury St Edmunds, all kegging and casking is undertaken at the brewery site. Malting had been a main business, but stopped in the 1960s, and the building is now sensitively adapted for brewery offices.

Knowing that we would be keen to see where our investment had gone, Tom concentrated our visit in the £1.1M new-ish brewhouse (2012), and associated refurbished sample bar the Monks Retreat, and the new shop. Because of the limitations of the site, and listing of the building, the steel framework and equipment all had to be craned in. Brewers barrels production is around 1/4M annually – and increasing. While there were around 300 pubs in estate when bought by GK in 2005, currently some 150 operate as Belhaven Pubs.

Over 1/3 of the brewery’s production goes for export, with Russia the biggest destination (five truckloads a week), mainly black stout and McCallums sweet Scottish stout. 120 different beers are produced annually, with whole fruit being used for the crushed grapefruit in the Twisted Grapefruit IPA, and there are some quite modern takes on beers along with the more traditional output. The 60/- is brewed mainly for clubs; and also the 70/- and 80/- continue in production. One ale yeast is used (there is another for lager), a 1954 strain that is replaced from Norwich every 10-12 weeks. 6 main malts are used, with another 8 as well, and 6 – 10 hop varieties. Each 180-barrel brew takes around 4 tons of malt. No contract brewing is undertaken, but specific beers can be ‘guest’ labelled eg. for the US club market. A test 180 barrels of Speckled Hen had been brewed, to demonstrate whether or not Belhaven could act as backup for BSE; achieved excellent results!

After the tour each group was offered a generous tasting of Belhaven beers with two cask ales available, keg beers, and some bottled beers that attracted interest. This visit took place a day or two after Greene King had been delisted from the LSE, following the sale to CK Asset Holdings of Hong Kong. When the visit had been arranged, we had 462,300 shares in Greene King valued at £3,924,291 pounds but by the time of our visit that proprietary interest had been entirely, and sadly, extinguished.

Chris Excell – CMIC Committee Member

Dominic Pinto – Club member

Visit to McMullens Brewery

A trip to McMullens in Hertfordshire took place on Friday 24 August – here is Iain Loe’s report.

18 members of the Club visited McMullens Brewery, Hertfordshire on Friday 24th August. The Club has almost 62,000 preferred ordinary shares in the Company, but unfortunately voting shares in the Brewery are restricted to Family members!

The group was shown round the “Whole Hop Brewery” the new, downsized, brewery which Macs built in 2004 to replace their magnificent tower brewery, which dates from 1897, by Head Brewer Chris Evans.

Chris was in fact responsible for helping design this new brewery when Macs decided to downsize their brewery operation to take advantage of the new excise duty rules which gave a duty reduction for brewers below a certain level of production.

Whist the brewery is new it still uses traditional brewing methods including the use of whole leaf hops rather than pellets, hence the brewery’s name!

The brewery currently uses malt from the barley variety Flagon, supplied by two maltsters, Simpsons and Crisp. Coloured malts come from French and Jupp who have supplied the brewery for over a100 years. Charles Faram supplies the hops.

As well as the 2004 brewing plant Chris has also brought back into operation a mini brewery that the Company acquired several years ago when they bought the then brewpub The Fishery in Elstree.

As the company who made the plant were no longer in existence Chris had to find local engineers to manufacture replacement parts which had been cannibalised for use on the existing brewery; Chris had been instructed by brewery directors to get the plant in operation “at no extra cost.”

Chris now brews not only the traditional McMullns beers such as AK and Country but a range of specials and seasonal often under the name of The Riverside Brewery. The aim being to attract new drinkers who might have steered away from drinking beers badged McMullens! And when they drink them they seem to enjoy them!

The trip was very interesting especially with Chris’s wealth of knowledge and information about the brewery and brewing in general. He originally thought he would be staying a few months when he first joined McMullens but has found he has now stayed for most of his brewing life.

The one disappointment of the trip was that it had to be curtailed early with no chance to sample Macs range of traditional and seasonal brews. The reason? McMullens had to prepare their brewery yard for Hertford’s Sunday music extravaganza when the whole town, pubs, cafes and (brewery yards!) are filled with entertainers and the ale flows freely. Macs were setting up a bar and stage in the yard as we left.

Fortunately Macs BLO, and South Herts chairman, Les Middlewood, was on hand to guide members round Hertford’s pubs and had produced a simple map and guide to nearby hostelries.

Some members also visited the nearby Sainsburys which had been built on the original brewery site. The original tower brewery is still untouched (it is listed!) but next to the supermarket’s cafeteria there is a small brewery museum containing many artefacts from the old McMullen brewery.

Hopefully in the not to distant future members will be able to have a return visit to the Mc Mullens brewery and this time have a chance to sample Macs beers which these days do not often get out into the free trade. And hopefully that trip will not clash with preparations for a Hertford Festival Day or other such events.

CMIC members being shown round McMullens

2017 Brewery Visit Programme

A visit to Jennings in Cockermouth took place on Tuesday 25th April.

The second trip of the year to the Caledonian Brewery in Edinburgh.

2016 Brewery Visits

CMIC visit to Fuller’s Brewery, Chiswick on Thursday 14 July 2016

Despite the best efforts of Southern Rail to delay 2 members until after the tour had started, all 37 members registered to visit the Griffin Brewery were eventually in attendance, including CMIC committee members, Neil Kellett, Chris Excell and Ian Loe and former member, Steve Williams.

Members met in The Mawson Arms, the brewery tap, prior to the visit and were then split into three groups by the three Fuller’s guides who joined us for the tour for the 2.00pm start-time.

The tour lasted for just over an hour and all three guides provided interesting and informative data on the history and origins of the brewery, its expansion over the years and its plans for the future – members were impressed with the cleanliness, organisation and efficiency of London’s premier cask ale brewer.

Of particular interest was the “Robot” keg-racking equipment, installed in late 2004 at a cost of £2 million, which increased the brewery’s rate of keg ale production from 120 to 280 kegs per hour in order to allow it to keep pace with market demand, and also for sub-contract kegging of beer and lager from other brewers – it is apt to say, however, that cask real ale still accounts for about 70% of Fuller’s beer production.

Following the tour members were taken into the Hock Cellar sampling area to try as many Fuller’s beers were on tap that day including London Pride (obviously), Oliver’s Island (inspired by Oliver Cromwell) and Summer Ale, with no limit put on quantity until “time” was called around 3.45pm.

Neil Kellett then thanked all three guides for a very enjoyable afternoon spent with them at the brewery.

George Hall – CMIC Member

2016 Brewery Visit Programme

A visit to West Berkshire Brewery took place on Friday 13 May.

Fullers in Chiswick has also taken place, on Thursday 14 July.

This year’s foreign excursion was to Munich. Report and photos will hopefully be uploaded shortly.

All contact details are on the Contacts page.

2015 Brewery Visits

A visit to Hook Norton took place on 14th May – a report and photos should be uploaded in the next few days.

A trip to Shepherd Neame will take place at 14:00 on Friday 25th September. Jannette is the person to call if you want to put your name on the list.

A visit to Joseph Holt has been planned for Friday 27 November at a cost of £10 (for the tour and a pint), all proceeds to be donated to The Christie. Anyone wanting to visit Holt’s should contact Jannette and then let us have a cheque made payable to CAMRA Investment Club. Neil Kellett will then present Holt’s with a cheque to The Christie on behalf of the Club.

Further visits in the UK are currently being planned and will be announced here as soon as they are finalised.