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The Speech House Hotel is the most iconic hotel in the Forest of Dean. Situated, as it is, at the very heart of the Forest of Dean and housing the ancient home of Britain’s oldest court has made it well known, and well loved by all. Nowadays, it’s equally well known for the adjacent Speech House field, home to the Forest Activities Festival, the Forest Showcase and the grand annual Fireworks night display events to name, but a few.
In charge at the hotel, husband and wife team, Peter & Gill Hands, run a tight ship with customer satisfaction unashamedly front and centre of everything they do. And the latest big news is that Hillside Brewery’s traditional IPA style best bitter – Legless Cow – is well and truly re-homed in the Speech House bar and on draught. The beer, named for the healthy appreciation the cattle up at Hillside have for the spent grain from the brewing process, has already sold out the first delivery. We caught up with Peter Hands, and Paul Williamson from Hillside as he delivered the next consignment.
The ever ebullient host Peter, who has only recently made his Twitter debut, has been having a little bit of “pun” in the Speech House social media channel (@speechhouse) on the Legless Cow theme. He started with “There’s a Legless Cow meandering its way to the Speech House. Watch this space for more on its journey.” On a roll and seemingly unstoppable, he waded in with “We are looking forward 2 stabling the Legless Cow at Speech House when Paul rounds her up and drives her down. Moooch joy @Hillsidebrewery.” We hesitate to say finally, because we don’t think he’s done yet, but “Mooovalous this Legless Cow Beer, Prime cut hops. No udder one like it. Cheers from Speech House Bar” – we can hear echoes of – “I thank you, I’m here all week!!”
Peter & Gill have always been supporters of local food and drink businesses. We last chatted to Peter at the inaugural Tourism Association event See, Taste, Buy in the spring where he was chatting to local suppliers to see, taste and, where possible, source good local produce. Paul from Hillside was there, but the two were already acquainted by that time. We chatted to Peter about the latest introduction to the Speech House bar:
WyeDean Deli Confidential: “So, Hillside Brewery’s Legless Cow on draught.”
Peter Hands: “I love Legless Cow and the name still brings a smile to my face. We love what Hillside are trying to do and we’d love to be able to say that a much larger part of our stock is sourced from the DeanWye and other local producers with low food miles.”
WyeDean Deli Confidential: “What are the drawbacks or the hurdles in trying to achieve that?”
Peter Hands: “Theoretically – none. But we have to offer our customers great service and great quality products in everything we do. One of the key factors on the quality issue, when it comes to local producers, as opposed to national producers, is consistency. Customers may already know a brand from their travels or they may be coming back to us, as so many do, and they expect that the things they love are the same each and every time. It’s a commercial decision to stock local (and one which we are happy to make), but we can’t accept products which change with the weather – it’s just a guaranteed way to disappoint the customer. That’s why we like Hillside Brewery. We’ve been up there and met Paul and his staff and looked at the operation. We like what they do, we like the fun and the passion they bring to it and we are seriously impressed with the investment they have made to ensure that their beers are top quality – consistently!”
WyeDean Deli Confidential: “Aren’t local products more expensive than big brands?”
Peter Hands: “They don’t have to be. Big brands have definitely got the muscle when it comes to pricing, but we are always looking for the best prices from our suppliers – we have to. And the real key is, yes customers expect value for money, but it’s a mistake to assume that is their only driver, our customers also want quality. It’s also a mistake to assume that customers make those decisions in that order. In my experience quality and taste comes first every time.”
Paul Williamson: “It’s great to hear Peter pick up on the consistency issue. We’ve worked so hard on our recipes to get the quality, depth of flavour and variety into our CAMRA recognised craft ales, but making the best beer in the world is pointless if you can only ever produce one batch of it.”
So, down at Speech House, the welcome is great; the countryside is great; the hotel is great (as is the food) and the bar is well-stocked with great local beers. The jokes – well……….
Hillside Brewery www.hillsidebrewery.com Twitter @Hillsidebrewery
If you tweet and want to keep to date with all the news from the Forest of Dean & Wye Valley follow the hashtag #deanwye
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