An Inn Reborn

A40, The Crown at Whitchurch, David Broadbent Photography
The Crown at Whitchurch

 

We’ve been very busy conducting some investigative journalism in the Dean Wye lately. We’ve been looking at pubs! We’ve got some great articles with a very different slant lined up for you this year including our quest for our favourite and very best pub!

All in this very good cause, we called in for a chat with the new owners of the Crown at Whitchurch. You’ll have noticed if you have passed by recently that they have a jazzy new sign in the car park and a sparkling paint job to the exterior. This though is no, superficial facelift. There is serious change afoot in The Crown at Whitchurch and this is just the start of bringing a traditional coaching inn back to its former glory.

Coaching Inns have been around ever since people starting moving around. A place to stage a long journey and relax, get something to eat and drink, recharge those batteries, chat to fellow travellers and smell the sweet malt and hops from the on-site brewery in the sheds out back. Coaching inns existed because of the road and when journeys were long and arduous, the road needed the coaching inn. So useful was the concept that small communities started to build up around them. No Roman way station on the least travelled backwater road would be without one!

When we started to move the roads because we needed bigger high capacity highways two things happened; the vital importance and the necessity of the coaching inn was retained and service stations where born, which we all know serve only the best quality food with great service and at a very reasonable price……Mmmmm; The second was that all those lovely old traditional wayside inns were left stranded, beached like ocean going vessels when the tide had gone out, along way, and for good. Those with a village live on, but those without – who knows how many we’ve lost.

A40, The Crown at Whitchurch, David Broadbent Photography
Comfy and inviting bar. The Crown at Whitchurch

Walk into The Crown at Whitchurch and you get an instant feeling of homeliness. In fact before you get in, that feeling starts. Its position, which would have dominated the old village cross roads, looks imposing and no less so today, even with the A40 traffic whizzing by. Outside under the veranda red and black chequer laid tiles hint at a Victorian innovation, the steel table and chairs cast interesting shadows in the low winter sun and the main door has that solid weight of history hanging off the hinges. Once inside the interior is surprisingly open plan, yet still very intimate, the bright and well stocked bar to the right isn’t the thing which catches your eye first, it’s the sexy Swedish log burner glowing attractively in the heath. Around it there is a shabby chic mismatch of furniture, comfortable and upholstered on a pleasing theme. A draughts board is set out ready for play on a small table below a small window and it’s invitingly snug cushion. The large window fills the bar with light and the bar itself glitters with Wye Valley Brewery beers and a chic stage-lit spirits collection – we can hear the cocktail shaker now!

Wye Valley Brewery ales. The Crown at Whitchurch, David Broadbent Photography
Wye Valley Brewery ales. The Crown at Whitchurch

To the left, the very simple and very pleasant restaurant again with an eclectic collection of tables, chairs and tableware, awaits seated diners, although this is set for refurbishment before Easter.

A40, The Crown at Whitchurch, David Broadbent Photography
Very inviting. The Crown at Whitchurch

And so just how do you breathe life back into a coaching house? Step one; have a lot of passion about it. Step two; have a vision. Three: get a good team behind you who share your passion. Nicola and Tom do not lack passion for the place! And so has the team. They already know most of them well because most of them are family, no we actually mean family. Apart from Nicola and Tom, there is Samara (daughter) as front of house manager and so it goes on, Tom’s brother and niece, Nicola’s son and other daughter and a niece on patisserie! We not even sure that’s all of them!

A40, The Crown at Whitchurch, David Broadbent Photography
The Crown at Whitchurch

Back to what’s happening for 2016. As we’ve said the bar sparkles with the glittering hand pumps of Wye Valley Brewery Butty Bach and Dorothy Goodbody as well as locally made ciders and all the components of a great cocktail bar on the back. The main craft ales are feature beers and so change regularly – always worth a re-visit then. At the moment food is great pub food but Nicola tells us that Owain Jones, their 25 year old Welsh but South African classically trained chef is chaffing at the bit to do more. It show’s in the specials, Owain is putting his classical training and previous experience (Llangoed Hall restaurant) for inventiveness to good use. He’s already established a great Sunday Roast – not to be missed – and in the week we visited the bar special was confit duck! For the upcoming Six Nations Rugby, (which The Crown will be showing) there is a bar menu in tune with the playing nations. Great homemade Fish and Chips and Aberdeen Angus burgers for the England Scotland match for example. They are also just starting their Phileas Fogg inspired world tour too. “Around the World in Eight Weeks” kicked off with Indian and Mexican so check out their web site for what’s next before it’s too late and you’ve missed the balloon.

A40, The Crown at Whitchurch, David Broadbent Photography
Old Ross Road. The Crown at Whitchurch

With a full refurbishment of the already pretty restaurant planned to open at Easter, no doubt Owain will allowed to go for it – we definitely look forward to seeing what he comes up with and we’ll be bringing you a full report on the menu tests.

A40, The Crown at Whitchurch, David Broadbent Photography
Huff!

All in all we like what’s happening at The Crown at Whitchurch. So do the customers and the bar and restaurant is beginning to establish it’s own steady and loyal band of locals and visitors. Nicola and Tom have clearly thought out what they want to do and how they want the place to look which is reflected in the décor. The plan for their 21st century coaching inn (the bar is as big as the restaurant) is to develop it as a great pub but also a great place to eat.

A40, The Crown at Whitchurch, David Broadbent Photography
Front terrace. The Crown at Whitchurch

When you walk in to The Crown at Whitchurch It has a very welcoming colour scheme and it’s also very light and airy. But somehow it doesn’t feel overly trendy, it’s not trying too hard, it feels…….well, nice….., comfortable, familiar……., like home, like a place you would want to sit, have a drink, something to eat and wait for the next stage coach instead.

 

Food Pairing Update

As an update to our blog of 18th August about the, then upcoming, Food and Beer Pairing event hosted by Harts Barn Cookery School and Hillside Brewery we caught up with Paul Williamson and Yvette Farrell to see how it all went.

Paul; the evening was a great success, with lovely feedback from our 40 visitors. The atmosphere was great too, very lively with great food and beer, with a fun interactive pub quiz based on beer throughout the evening.  Derek Orford, Master Brewer & Beer Sommelier, kept everyone entertained and informed with his wisdom and deep knowledge discussing the beer and food pairing. The food of course, (menu and food created by the talented Yvette Farrell) was a complete hit! Check out the menu in our previous blog post Food & Drink Pairing

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Unashamed plug time

Paul says; Hillside is an exciting brewery running green sustainable brewing methods with a wide range of beer & craft ales. It’s a family owned and run company, based in the Forest of Dean on a stunning 40 acre farm. We opened in May 2014 and have since received over 16 awards. We offer Brewery tours & tasting, team building days including additional fun activities, cookery classes and more! We also have an onsite shop selling our beers, merchandise, and local produce such as wine and chutneys and even beer ice cream! We are the perfect location for the perfect day out! We pride ourselves in producing high quality ales in small batches of the finest ingredients using traditional methods which have been developed and mastered over a lifetime. We want to change people’s perception of beer and what can be achieved. We are dedicated to sustainable brewing and we want to share our passion for great beer with you.
Yvette; Harts Barn Cookery School launched in 2011 and have gone from strength to strength. We believe in the ‘socialisation’ of food, bringing people together whether they are learning a new skill in the kitchen to sitting down and enjoying the fruits of their labours. Most of all though, we believe in the food, the freshness, the quality, the flavours, the localism and above all, great ingredients cooked simply to produce the finest plate from the Forest & Wye.

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Upcoming Events for food and beer lovers.

Check out both websites for full events listings this autumn and winter.

Have a beer and warm your cockles by the fire – Hillside bonfire night on Friday 6th
November, Christmas Market 5th and 6th December and a Christmas carol service on Friday 18th December.

Harts Barn have published their Supper Club schedule with “Indian and the 80’s” on 30th October, “Asian Flavours” on 27th November, Traditional Christmas Supper – several dates and a homage to the apple at their Wassail on 15th January 2016.

 

 

Beer and Food Pairing

 

Two of the most enjoyable meals I have ever had have been tasting menus where the accompanying drinks were skilfully and expertly selected specifically for me course by course.

Start with a great and characterful menu of interesting ingredients and then pair your chosen tipple to the specific flavours, acidity, sweetness and aromas of the food – Genius! Many of you may have had similar experiences but it doesn’t just have to be about wine. Lots of great, and sometimes surprising, combinations work and appeal to the palate enhancing the flavours of the food and the accompanying drink. The skill is in the pairing. Occasionally this happens by accident (see our Ice wine and pizza article) but it’s much more successfully achieved by experts! Those clever local food people at Harts Barn and ace beer brewers at Hillside have teamed up to prove it to you in a fab event coming in September.

Too often in this country what we eat and drink is often dictated by our perceptions that something is more acceptable or more sophisticated than something else. We want to be seen by others to have good taste and to understand the finer things. For a long time this meant wine, and specifically French wine and the majority of British people, feeling they lacked sufficient knowledge on the subject, used price as an indicator of quality and sophistication. Then a few Australian’s smashed in the door at “Le Bistro” and proved the complete nonsense of that with big bold flavours in deep gorgeous reds that wouldn’t break the bank. Take another example and look back fifteen years to the lowly reputation of the Spanish classic – Rioja, and then take a look at the supermarket prices of today.

The point is times change and things move on. And this is what is happening in the beer and cider marketplace. The dominance of the big factories, like a medieval castle before gunpowder, can’t be easily or quickly overturned but it can be undermined, chipped away at and laid siege too. In the UK and across Europe, notably in Italy, people are making great craft beer again in ever growing numbers. Our new perceptions are that craft beer it is cool, tasty and sophisticated. Trendy young men and women in designer suits in shiny, busy London bars choose craft beer from around the UK as their wind-down Friday drink of choice whilst chatting about – well who knows what. There’s not a beard or a pullover in site! Although in fairness full beards are very much in fashion so we’ll withdraw that.

The timing is perfect for beer to come out of the shadows in the UK and step toward the front of stage where it belongs. In the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley we are ahead of that curve, we’re in the vanguard and the reason shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone – we have great natural ingredients and we use them simply but superbly in keeping with our unashamedly rural and no nonsense approach, ‘erm, a bit like Provence in fact if you are feeling the need for a sophisticated interlude from yesteryear!

Jolly-Jester

And so, in the spirit of all of this Yvette Farrell from Harts Barn will be on the hobs and larder whilst the ever likeable Derek, master beer sommelier from Hillside, has been drawing beer from the impressive May Hill cellar to bring you an evening of fun and learning where the food is paired to the beer – just as it should be.

 

Menu

Pinnacle (Pale Ale) – Stinking Bishop & pear canapés with May Hill Orchard Chutney

HCL (Craft Lager) – Wye salmon ceviche served on a lettuce cup

Over The Hill (Dark Mild) – Pulled Venison marinated in Over the Hill ale, bramble sirop with thyme & juniper

Legend of Hillside (English IPA) – Wild boar garam masala bites with forest herb flatbread

Jolly Jester (Belgian tripel) – Sticky toffee pudding & Jolly Jester Beer ice cream

Legless Cow (Best Bitter) – Local cheese board with beer crackers

Vegetarian:

Pinnacle (Pale Ale) – Stinking Bishop & pear canapés with May Hill Orchard Chutney

HCL (Craft Lager) – Sweet smoked paprika homemade ricotta cups

Over The Hill (Dark Mild) – Roasted tomato pesto with marinated Portobello mushroom

Legend of Hillside (English IPA) – Paneer, chickpea & spinach garam masala bites with forest herb flatbread

Jolly Jester (Belgian tripel) – Sticky toffee pudding & Jolly Jester beer ice cream

Legless Cow – Local cheese board with beer crackers

 

Friday 25th September 2015 7pm to 10pm at Hillside Brewery, Holly Bush Farm, Ross Road, Longhope GL17 0NG

Go to https://www.facebook.com/hillsidebrewery?fref=ts for details and booking via Eventbrite

Happy Birthday Hillside!

Hillside, Paul WIlliamson, beer, real ale, craft ale, venue, party, music, bar,

 

Our lovely friends up at Hillside Brewery are 1 year old!! And to prove it they threw a great party, “The Hillside Sausage & Ale Festival” in their spacious bar/barn/venue/dance hall – not quite sure what official name it has, but it accommodates all of the aforementioned.

Hillside, Paul WIlliamson, beer, real ale, craft ale, venue, party, music, bar,
Sausage Fest!

The Sausage & Ale Festival was a great success and the party goers spilled out onto the sun drenched terrace on a fabulous Saturday in the Forest of Dean. Anzac; Legend; Pinnacle and Legless Cow were all available on draft. Their other beers were all available in bottles and the fully stocked bar catered for every other taste, including “fruit based drinks for the ladies” – Al Murray pub landlord on wine.

With live music from the Hillside Stage throughout the day, the event started with a real party atmosphere. First up on stage was The Six Foot Way – the raucous Irish folk band from Cinderford. We also had a solo set from the lovely Lydia Borg and a couple of sets from the Ukes uv Hazzard collective. Headliners were Vapor, with the fabulously voiced Onika Patterson smoothing over some classic reggae and soul tracks, making them her own.

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Vapor last played on the Hillside Stage back in February when we all felt the chill wind of living atop May Hill. Since then, the Hillside crew have been busy installing amazing see through wind screens on the open doors, which eliminate the wind without cutting down the light. And the overhead heaters (which have always been there) now work fantastically that the wind has gone making the barn a great place for parties.

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The sausage part of the deal came in the form of Cameron’s Butchers traditional and chilli sausages as hot dogs with chips – just what was needed for between-beers sustenance. A great mix of locals; real ale lovers; Paul’s friends and family and visitors alike – the visitors from London and Southampton were duly awarded the furthest travellers prize. All eight of them called in on spec and stayed all night!

All in all it was a great party and the Hillside field (superb views) was given over to camping for the party goers so no-one had to drive or taxi, if they didn’t want to. Camping is something that will be on offer at selected future events so follow Hillsides Facebook page or website for details.

 

 

Sumptuous Vegetarian Kitchen’s Call to Action for Local Suppliers

vegetarian, veggie, catering,

Bristol-based cook Jo-Anne Lovemore of Green Tomato Kitchen creates abundant and delicious vegetarian buffet spreads for events and celebrations throughout the South-West and South Wales including the Wye Valley.

Curiosity about food and being interested in cooking has been with me for as long as I can remember. My mother enlisted my ‘help’ in the kitchen as soon as I could stand on tiptoes on a chair and wield a wooden spoon, and as children, my brother and I were allocated a corner of our garden veg patch each year to grow whatever flowers and edibles took our fancy. If I recall correctly, my pet rabbit was the primary beneficiary of the modest yield from my carrot crop, uprooted too early, thanks to my impatience.

Green Tomato Kitchen

During my teenage years, I (mis)spent many an hour glued to TV cookery shows, which at the time were enjoying a meteoric rise in popularity. I am sure this began as a diversionary tactic from schoolwork, but soon evolved into a genuine curiosity and a desire to experiment with newly discovered ingredients and culinary techniques. I would furiously scribble down recipes while Ainsley Harriott and co rattled through them at breakneck speed on the TV screen (this was before the days of the internet!)

Aside from a string of summer and weekend jobs working in kitchens while I was a student, my career path to date has taken me far away from the culinary world, although I continued to enjoy cooking for friends and experimenting with recipes. But it was only in my 30s when I began to question how I might get more fulfillment from my work and lifestyle that I decided to follow my heart into the kitchen. Since turning vegetarian at the age of 20 my interest and awareness has grown around what and how we choose to eat impacts our health.

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Food is an integral part of any event – a tangible expression of care from host to guest. So with my recently launched catering business, Green Tomato Kitchen, my aim is to create delicious, original, varied and healthy menus that guests will remember for the right reasons. When designing menus, I work closely with my clients to really understand their needs and preferences. All of the food that I prepare is vegetarian, and I love to introduce people to the abundant variety of flavours and textures found within good vegetarian cooking.

Combining the freshest ingredients to create colourful salads, mouthwatering dips, hearty bakes, savoury pastries and quiches, and gluten-free goodies is my thing. I have a soft spot for baking cakes and desserts, and no buffet spread would be complete without a tempting sweet selection to round off the meal!

Green Tomato Kitchen
Dill, feta and black olive pogača – small savoury Turkish pastries

Working from my home kitchen in the heart of Bristol, I’ll happily cater for clients with special dietary needs, or produce menus that are fully vegan, or lower in fat or sugar, for example. The central location in the south-west makes me ideally situated for one of the main strands of my business, supplying office lunches and celebratory feasts to business and private clients in the city. However, I’m not tied to the urban environment, being equally happy to offer the same high service to businesses or house parties and celebrations in  the Wye Valley.

At the moment I’m looking for a good, preferably organic, dairy supplier in the region and would be very happy to hear from any Wye Valley-based dairy farms producing delicious cheeses, butter, yoghurt and other dairy delights. Please do get in touch with any suggestions. To find out more about what Green Tomato Kitchen could offer you, visit www.greentomatokitchen.co.uk. I look forward to cooking for you!

Green Tomato Kitchen

Ed says……

We first met Jo-Anne at a business event in Bristol and we were immediately impressed with her passion for what she does. We asked her to tell us her story, particularly since she is always on the lookout for the very best vegetarian produce suppliers. So come on, if you think you can supply Green Tomato Kitchen, lets get a little bit of the Forest of Dean & Wye Valley into those sumptuous GTK buffets!! All pix M Lovemore.

 

 

A new annual food and drink event for the Forest & Wye? We hope so.

Well the dust has well and truly settled on the inaugural Wye Valley & Forest of Dean Tourism Association’s new food and drink event Local Produce, See, Taste, Buy.  The event, originally conceived to match producers with potential  clients from within the tourism associations’ extensive and diverse membership, was quickly turned over to a public event to coincide with English and Welsh Tourism Weeks respectively. Sited in the spacious “The Venue” function room on the CSMA site at Whitemead Park, exhibitors and visitors were protected against the worst the Forest spring weather might throw at anyone. In the event it turned out to be a beautiful Forest of Dean spring morning.

As the exhibitors built their stands before public opening at 10am the sights and sounds, and most of all smells of our fabulous local producers started to build and fill in the background hubbub.

Great names in beer Hillside Brewery LINK www.hillsidebrewery.com and cider Severn Cider LINK www.severncider.com were there in strength with Paul Williamson owner and head honcho from the Hillside Brewery with a broad selection of the great beers crafted up on the hill. Also showing, and tasting for the first time, their new Anzac beer brewed especially for the Gloucester Beer Festival. Nick Bull was in charge over at Severn Cider where, even though we were working hard, we had to have a small sample of their killer Severn Cider Perry.

Alongside these headline names in the now thriving local craft drinks industry, was the very tasty Apple County Cider applecountycider.co.uk with their deciderly good Dabinett and Vilberie dry and medium brands – very easy to imagine drinking those two beauties on a warm sunny evening! We also had Ty Gwyn cider, VQ Country Wines sporting their new swanky designer labels with the same great quality fruit wines still inside. Parva Farm Vineyard were there too showing a good selection of their Welsh wine from the terroir  of Tintern  – some great news for Judith and Colin lately in that Marks & Spencer have taken their award winning Bacchus white wine into stock. We couldn’t resist a tasting stop at the amply stocked Chase Distillery stand either – hic!

Adding to the ambience were the great aromas of James’ Gourmet Coffee brewing constantly in the background, Rayeesa’s Kitchen homemade curry sauce bases simmering away in the tasting pot and fabulous charcuterie cooking on the hot plate from the guys over at Native Breeds. Smarts Gloucestershire Cheeses seem to be essential to any successful food and drink event and no matter how many times you’ve tasted their Gloucester’s before, resistance is futile! Celia’s Pantry was on hand to dispense Caribbean inspired tangy chutney flavours to go with it all.

For dessert there were two great ice cream makers were there Kelsmor Dairy and Hillbrooks Luxury Ice Cream with their own distinctive flavours – all of course available for tasting. The Chocolate Bar had a dazzling array of beautiful handmade chocolates to tempt the palate for that sumptuous finish.

The timing of the event is driven by the original concept to put producers and tourism association and other local buyers together before the busy Easter season and we think that that makes a lot of sense. A little later mind you and Whitemead would have been thronging with visitors to increase the footfall for the traders and give visitors a fantastic showcase of the produce and the ability to stock up the holiday larders for their stay and to take home.

The Venue is a great place for this event although perversely Whitemead don’t actually signpost the halls location at the site entrances which makes things difficult for new conference visitors. The public parking there is also very restrictive (the design and concept of the site envisaged all of the visitor cars being parked around the site outside respective holiday lodges, caravans or tents).  We spoke to Mike Carter (centre manager) who had already identified this issue as a growth limiting factor for this and other events. He’s on the case he assures us.

Does this new event conflict with the hugely popular Forest Showcase event in the autumn fields of the Speech House Hotel www.thespeechhouse.co.uk ? Not according to John Theophilus of the Tourism Association. “We developed this idea primarily as a trade show for producers to meet buyers from the local economy and tourism sector – and we think that it has worked extremely well! We are delighted so many members of the public came along too as it helps to spread the word about the great work being done in our tourism sector. This incidentally adds a great deal to the local economy. It’s events such as this that make you realise how widespread the influence of a thriving tourism economy can be to the whole local economy”.

Overall we loved the concept and thought that, as a first year launch event, it was a real bonus to the local food and drink network. We would definitely have liked to have seen even more buy-in from local businesses – every tourism association member and every pub in the area were sent invitations and we think all of them should have attended!

We know only too well that profit margins for local businesses are always tight and the drive for economy in purchasing is a constant pressure on small business. Small artisan producers make up for this lack of scale costs with bags of flavour, localism, innovation and skill. This added value is demonstrated nowhere better than in the tourism sector because those values produce a cash sales equivalent and really register with visitors who want to buy local great produce.

If you run a business selling food and drink, why not follow the lead of the Tourism Association and look for one new local supplier today? Let us know how you get on, we’d love to tell your local collaboration story.

3rd CAMRA Gloucester Beer & Cider Festival

medieval, Blackfriars, copyrighted, Priory,

Well that was a blast! Whenever we stray far from the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley to bring you a story, it has to be for a good reason. We found one! Stick with us though because there is lots of local interest to be had in this the third great event organised by those lovely people and beer & cider aficionados.

We first met the guys and girls from CAMRA Gloucester at Hillside Brewery (see ANZAC beer feature below) and have already covered the story of this fabulous charity fund raising commemorative ale. We thought that we would just bring you an update on the story as well as wax lyrical about this fabulous county beer event. First of all I need to assure you that there was lots of commemorating done over the weekend, so much so that the ANZAC beer was a sell-out. No flippancy intended for such a sombre historical event but we are sure that our Aussie pals would be celebrating too. Even the British Legion stand (the chosen charity for the festival) was selling presentation packs of ANZAC beer and we hope they made LOTS of money for a good cause!

12:30 Saturday 25th April 2015, Gloucester, England. 3rd CAMRA G

Neil Richardson (CAMRA Gloucester’s head of light entertainment) told me at Hillside, “wait until you see the venue – it’ll blow you away”. OK, so Neil has now been outed as a master of understatement because the Blackfriars Priory on Ladybellegate Street a.k.a. Gloucester’s Via Sacra, did more than that. Not heard of it? No, neither had the guy who lived in flat 100 yards away, or the countless other Gloucester residents who said the same thing. If I’d have had a half a pint of Wye Valley, Kingstone, or Bespoke for everyone I heard comment in a similar vein, well I wouldn’t have been here now.

My first thoughts about this imposing ancient monument, which don’t forget now housed a beer festival for the weekend, finally – a Cathedral to Beer! This cavernous space with a high vaulted ceiling felt just that.

priory, blackfriars, beer,
A cathedral to beer & cider

This finest surviving example of a Dominican Friary in the UK isn’t a finely crafted polished visitor experience you might expect from the Chatsworth Devonshire’s, this a building in the raw. A building where beer festivals should be held. Chapeau to English Heritage and Gloucester City Council at this point for allowing the venue to be used for a such a great event. We are all used to that conserve/preserve viewpoint which doesn’t envisage anything other than a slowly deteriorating pile for a visiting few maintained at public or charitable expense.

Not here though. The building itself, stripped bare of plaster belies that viewpoint. Stand in the hall, as I did on VIP night, and “read” the building with Nick Bull of Severn Cider  (an event sponsor and providers of the most serious bar I have ever seen), and the building shouts makeover upon makeover! It strips bare the concept that buildings should be “preserved” instead shouting loudly that they should, as Blackfriars has, evolve. Every use and every brutal change for every different use since 1239 is there for the layperson to see. Vaults, now going nowhere, false windows, filled in windows, tiny windows that once lit something no long there and projecting masonry used for – well who knows? The truth, for a building to survive and prosper for future generations, it has to be useful!

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Beer and Cider lovers are life lovers. From time to time they may over train, but lovers of craft ales and ciders are a lovely bunch of people. Everyone I spoke to not only appreciated the building for its beauty and history but also the custodians for allowing it to be used and promoted to a wider audience. In the lower section beneath the huge glazed wall (replacing masonry lost to history) the monumental bar (Severn Cider bar hire) stood ready to prop us all up in style while we chose from the inexhaustible supply of great beer and cider. The modest festival entrance price includes a beer card worth £10 (I know, bargain) which you can cash in at the bar in pints, halves or thirds to sample and appreciate as many beers as possible. Wye Valley Brewery (HPA and Pedal Pusher), Hillside (Anzac, Compatriot, Legend of the Hillside and Legless Cow) and Severn Cider (a full suite of their fabulous Perry and Cider on tap) were heavily involved in supporting the festival but also there and very popular were;

Bespoke from Mitcheldean with their King Shilling mild ale with English hops.

Castles from Caldicot with a refreshing pale ale hopped with Saaz as well as White Knight American style pale ale.

Kingstone, Tintern with their 1503 Tudor and Abbey ales.

 

3rd CAMRA Gloucester Beer  and Cider Festival

The raised second level of the main hall (North Range) housed the stage and ample room for sitting or standing and the limited number of available tickets  meant that it was a very comfortable atmosphere even when full. There was a very respectable chicken curry and other hot food on sale in the Language Centre restaurant as well as, my preferred option – Gloucestershire cheeses. I opted for White Heaven (to go with my Hillside heaven) a soft creamy Camembert style from the people over at Woefuldane. There were also several smaller rooms (East Range) for drinkers to sit and chat but The Scriptorium across the quadrant was just the most delightful piece of medieval architecture I have ever had the pleasure of enjoying a pint in!

3rd CAMRA Gloucester Beer  and Cider Festival

The 4th CAMRA Gloucester Beer & Cider Festival?  One for the diary!

Full gallery of images at David Broadbent Photography

A new annual food and drink event for the Forest & Wye? We hope so.

Well the dust has well and truly settled on the inaugural Wye Valley & Forest of Dean Tourism Association’s new food and drink event Local Produce, See, Taste, Buy.  The event, originally conceived to match producers with potential clients from within the tourism associations’ extensive and diverse membership, was quickly turned over to a public event to coincide with English and Welsh Tourism Weeks respectively. Sited in the spacious “The Venue” function room on the CSMA site at Whitemead Park, exhibitors and visitors were protected against the worst the Forest spring weather might throw at anyone. In the event it turned out to be a beautiful Forest of Dean spring morning.

As the exhibitors built their stands before public opening at 10am the sights and sounds, and most of all, smells of our fabulous local producers started to build and fill in the background hubbub.

Great names in beer Hillside Brewery www.hillsidebrewery.com and cider, Severn Cider www.severncider.com were there in strength with Paul Williamson owner and head honcho from the Hillside Brewery with a broad selection of the great beers crafted up on the hill. Also showing, and tasting for the first time, their new Anzac beer brewed especially for the Gloucester Beer Festival. Nick Bull was in charge over at Severn Cider where, even though we were working hard, we had to have a small sample of their killer Severn Cider Perry.

Severn Cider, perry,                 3K5C1907          3K5C2145                 3K5C2154

Alongside these headline names in the now thriving local craft drinks industry, was the very tasty Apple County Cider with their “deciderly” good Dabinett and Vilberie dry and medium brands – very easy to imagine drinking those two beauties on a warm sunny evening! We also had Ty Gwyn cider, VQ Country Wines sporting their new swanky designer labels with the same great quality fruit wines still inside and Wye Valley Brewery. Parva Farm Vineyard were there too, showing a good selection of their Welsh wine from the terroir of Tintern  – some great news for Judith and Colin lately in that Marks & Spencer have taken their award winning Bacchus white wine into stock. We couldn’t resist a tasting stop at the amply stocked Chase Distillery stand either – hic!

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Adding to the ambience were the great aromas of James’ Gourmet Coffee brewing constantly in the background, Rayeesa’s Kitchen homemade curry sauce bases simmering away in the tasting pot and fabulous charcuterie cooking on the hot plate from the guys over at Native Breeds. Smarts Gloucestershire Cheeses seem to be essential to any successful food and drink event and no matter how many times you’ve tasted their Gloucester’s before, resistance is futile! Celia’s Pantry was on hand to dispense Caribbean inspired tangy chutney flavours to go with it all.

For dessert there were two great ice cream makers were there Kelsmor Dairy and Hillbrooks Luxury Ice Cream with their own distinctive flavours – all of course available for tasting. The Chocolate Bar had a dazzling array of beautiful handmade chocolates to tempt the palate for that sumptuous finish.

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The timing of the event is driven by the original concept to put producers and tourism association and other local buyers together before the busy Easter season and we think that that makes a lot of sense. A little later mind you and Whitemead would have been thronging with visitors to increase the footfall for the traders and give visitors a fantastic showcase of the produce and the ability to stock up the holiday larders both for their stay and to take home.

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The Venue is a great place for this event although perversely Whitemead don’t actually signpost the halls location at the site entrances which makes things difficult for new conference visitors. The public parking there is also very restrictive (the design and concept of the site envisaged all of the visitor cars being spread out over the whole site outside respective holiday lodges, caravans or tents).  We spoke to Mike Carter (centre manager) who had already identified this issue as a growth limiting factor for this and other conference events. He’s on the case he assures us.

Does this new event conflict with the hugely popular Forest Showcase event in the autumn fields of the Speech House Hotel  www.thespeechhouse.co.uk (Peter Hands and his chef from the hotel were there and actively looking for new local suppliers – featured image)? Not according to John Theophilus of the Tourism Association. “We developed this idea primarily as a trade show for producers to meet buyers from the local economy and tourism sector – and we think that it has worked extremely well! We are delighted so many members of the public came along too as it helps to spread the word about the great work being done in our tourism sector. This incidentally adds a great deal to the local economy. It’s events such as this that make you realise how widespread the influence of a thriving tourism economy can be to the whole local economy”.

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Overall we loved the concept and thought that, for a first year launch event, it was a real bonus to the local food and drink network. We would definitely have liked to have seen even more buy-in from local businesses – every tourism association member and every pub in the area were sent invitations and we think all of them should have attended!

We know only too well that profit margins for local businesses are always tight and the drive for economy in purchasing is a constant pressure on small business. Small artisan producers make up for this lack of “scale costs” with bags of flavour, localism, innovation and skill. This added value is demonstrated nowhere better than in the tourism sector because those values produce a cash sales equivalent and really register with visitors who want to buy local great produce.

If you run a business selling food and drink, why not follow the lead of the Tourism Association and look for one new local supplier today? Let us know how you get on, we’d love to tell your local collaboration story.

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ANZAC Day beer special and The 3rd Gloucester CAMRA Beer & Cider Festival

beer, CAMRA, real ale, craft ale, ANZAC,

If you happen to be an Australian or a New Zealander, you’ll already know that 25th April is a very special day in the antipodean calendar. It is ANZAC Day and the remembrance of Australians and Kiwi’s who have died in conflict, this is a day deep in the down under psyche. Originally a day to remember those of the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACS) who died in the failed attempt to capture the Gallipoli peninsula from the Ottoman Empire in April 1915 during the First World War. It was the first occasion that the joint expeditionary force took heavy casualties in that war and as such it has, ever since, been an important day for both nations.

beer, CAMRA, real ale, craft ale, ANZAC,
Hillsides special ANZAC beer for the 3rd Gloucester CAMRA Festival

Now though, ANZAC Day has come to be a more general day of remembrance for the dead and all of those who suffered in all campaigns and Aussies and Kiwi’s, wherever they are in the world, hold this day dear. In the UK there will be major events at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire and  I don’t think that I’ll ever forget the emotional tension at the ANZAC Day memorial at the Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium a couple of years ago.

Essex Farm, copyrighted, war,
Essex Farm dressing station

And given that the dates of the 3rd CAMRA Gloucester Beer & Cider Festival coincide with ANZAC Day, and…the nominated festival charity is the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal, our great friends and beer geniuses over at Hillside Brewery have come up with their own fitting tribute. Quite fitting that such a sombre day is being marked by the creation of something many of those from the southern hemisphere would appreciate very much – a great beer. Personally, I think that it is a great, and touching, opportunity to commemorate ANZAC Day and in doing so to help out the charity, based in this country, which has similar goals and very close links with the ANZAC associations.

The beer will be officially launched upon us at the festival, being held at the impressive Blackfriars venue, Gloucester. We had exclusive access to the new ANZAC beer and spent a very pleasant hour conducting a very in-depth and scientific tasting session whilst sitting in our shorts outside on a glorious spring day in the Forest of Dean & Wye Valley.

Fosters – it is not! This is a full bodied craft ale from Paul, Derek, Will and the boys. We served it slightly chilled – it being “scorchio” at tasting HQ – and although it has body it tasted light and refreshing, with clear citrus tones and with mango coming through onto the palate. As the beer warmed in the sun, those flavours persisted throughout the tasting, as did the fabulous hop aroma you would expect from a Craft Special beer from Hillside. That hop flavour and aroma is created using British Challenger for the bittering blended, very fittingly, with Galaxy (passion fruit and citrus) and Rakua (more tropical fruit aromas) from Australia and New Zealand for that long lasting aroma.

All in all, we thought it was a fantastic beer. It’s sad when you recall the story behind it but we think that all those ANZAC’s from back in the day would have appreciated the sentiment in their honour so make sure you try at least one – especially on the 25th.

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The 3rd CAMRA Gloucester Beer & Cider Festival kicks off proper on Friday 24th April and then you have to go back and do it all again on the 25th! Full information is on their website at http://www.gloucesterbeerfestival.org.uk/ and of course there is more information about all the beers from the Hillside stable at www.hillsidebrewery.com who also offer brewery tours and brewery experience days.

The product shot is a compilation done by us here in the WyeDean Deli Confidential studio. The back drop is a poppy cut into mild steel from the Essex Farm Dressing Station memorial site and the foreground is a shot of the battlefield debris as it would have looked and currently on display in the Tyne Cot Cemetery visitor centre, both of which are in the countryside around Ypres, Belgium

Official Brewery Tasting Notes:

On the nose is tropical fruit, pineapple and mango. The flavour is a full bodied, tropical fruit flavour with passion fruit, mango and pineapple with a caramel malt backbone with a slightly dry finish – leaving you wanting more. We have used Challenger which is a British hop for the bittering and Galaxy and Rakau from Australia and New Zealand for the flavour and aroma.