The Bhurtpore Inn
Find below old blogs:
Magner's Cider, Mision Statements, The Death of the English Pub (parts 1 & 2), My Favourite Pubs, I'm Not Dead Yet, Win a Case of Bollinger
Just a short one for openers as I have recently become intrigued with the apparent massive success of Magners Cider. My first experience of this new star of the cider world was when I bought a bottle from a supermarket - I always buy a bottle of anything new.
I have been very impressed with the Irish real ales that I have bought for the pub recently and felt it may be interesting to try Magners for this reason.
Sadly, I felt that on this occasion my money might have been better spent elsewhere. The cider was bland and deeply ordinary. I thought little more about it despite noticing that it was increasingly obvious in fridges behind the bar of nearly every pub I walked into.
Recently, I was talking to a sales rep from one of my major suppliers when the subject of Magners cropped up. I was amazed to hear that it is rapidly becoming the product of the moment in more 'fashionable' outlets than my own, with massive growth in sales over the last 12 months.
It seems, however, that this 'traditional' cider was developed for the US market, and we all know what that means.
A quick slurp of American 'Bud' will tell you that flavour is not very important to the US drinking man or woman. Indeed, it seems important that flavour is totally absent. All they want is cold & wet.
This explains why our Irish cousins have deliberately created a cider that is infinitely bland. But this is seemingly not enough.
Just in case any nasty apple flavours might still upset the consumer, Magners is served cold from the fridge, and for extra reassurance, it is poured over lots of ice.
If you come to The Bhurtpore with somebody who likes Magners (if that is truly possible), just warn them to ask for something else because they may get a bit of a lecture from the bloke behind the bar about apples and flavours and ciders that aren't fizzy or clear. And they may be forced to try some proper cider!
What a nice idea. Everybody says how nice they are and what nice things they would like to do and how it will all make the world a better place.
In late 2005 we ordered and paid over £4,000 for some new fixtures in the pub. More than 12 months later they remain incomplete.
Annoying, really, but we all have to put up with annoying things in life. I can live with annoying without taking it too personally. Recently, however, I just happened to 'visit' their website. I don't know why. I just got an urge.
That just made me properly annoyed.
If I was doing a statement for the Bhurtpore I might say something about trying very hard to please most of the people most of the time. But I would really mean it - unfortunately every barrel has a last pint which may not be too good, and every so often things just do go wrong.
We accept that we are only human and hope that customers will throw us a little slack when bad things happen.
I would not come up with a load of vacuous twaddle like 'Our goal is to enjoy continuous success through always exceeding our customers' expectations and to be their first choice supplier of such-and-such'.
This does not prepare that customer for months of unreturned phone calls, and insincere promises when I showed up in person.
Rest assured. The Bhurtpore will never have mission statement as long as it has my name over the door.
STOP PRESS: On a recent trip to my suppliers of curry cooking supplies in the Potteries, I was given some delicious hand made sweets from Karachi.
On the bottom of the box was a statement by the makers, Rehmat-e-Shereen. It makes so much more sense than most mission statements: 'All products are prepared under highly experienced & skilled organisation upon preparation, cleanliness, standard and taste are kept very carefully.'
So that's alright then.
The Death of the English Pub? Part 1
This autumn I will slip quietly into my 51st year. I was only 33 when Nicky and I bought the Bhurtpore, and back then it was one of the only pubs I had ever seen boarded up.
I may have seen a few that had to go to make way for redevelopment, or in troubled inner-city areas, but we never saw them in smaller towns and villages.
In recent years such sights have become increasingly commonplace. I find this deeply sad, but not in the least surprising. Do we really understand what we are losing – a part of the vital fabric of English society.
I regularly visit a mid-Cheshire town where just about all the old pubs are drab, downtrodden, damp-smelling and empty. Around 25 years ago I visited the same town several times with a couple of friends and sampled most of the pubs.
It wasn’t great then but, boy has it suffered since. Sadly this pattern is repeated the length and breadth of Britain.
So many of our old pubs are now places few people would visit twice The big brewers who used to maintain them a bit so people would go in and buy their beer were required by (half-baked) law to sell them off years ago.
Now we have faceless pub companies who lease out badly maintained buildings to (often) ill prepared people in return for their life savings, and then wind up the rent every time they smell a bit of profit.
When they run out of takers and the building is on it’s knees they can apply for permission to redevelop the site. It’s a win/win.
But not for you and me.
Death of the English Pub? Part 2
Despite the depressed tone of my last blog (see old blogs page), there are some seeds of hope.
Love them or otherwise, Wetherspoons invest serious money creating interesting, comfortable places to visit and offer food and drink at, frankly, silly prices.
They are the only pubs worth visiting in some towns, but do they really have character, individuality or soul? They tick some of these boxes quite often, but rarely all three.
Also, the Brunning and Price chain were a remarkable achievement by two men of vision. Again, love them or hate them (and some of us publicans did both at the same time!), they offered new standards of excellence in many areas.
Not always a lot of real soul there though, either. I am not sure there is a real buzz of atmosphere on a Friday night. Generally too foody with tables that don’t cross pollinate the atmosphere as groups of diners either leave early or keep themselves to themselves.
Both the above are very worthy ways forward for an essential part of our heritage. Sadly, the recent sale of Brunning and Price to the rather low pedigree Restaurant Group a few months ago means things may well tail off (if subtly at first) quite rapidly.
My final verdict? Too much relies on Her Majesties Government making balanced, sensible decisions about planning, taxation, health and licensing matters for us to have any hope at all for the future. I predict well over half our pubs will be gone by 2015. Especially in rural areas.
Meanwhile, I’m off to the White Lion at Barthomley for a proper pint in a proper pub!
My favourite pubs
After what my favourite beer may be (which depends on the time of day, day of the week and the weather!) the question I am most often asked is what is my favourite pub.
Here are my ten pubs to visit before you die. (On another day I may give a different selection).
The Yew Tree, Cauldon Low, Staffordshire – a treasure trove of antiques from pianolas and polyphons to penny-farthings and zulu shields. It’s just so good to explore.
The White Lion, Barthomley, Cheshire – Just a perfect unpretentious, unspoilt village pub with a great mix of customers, sensitively adapted for life in the 21st century.
The Falkland Arms, Great Tew, Oxfordshire – A favourite for nearly 30 years, Perhaps not quite what it was back then, but still a Cotswold gem. Featured as an Inspector Morse set.
The Sun, Llangollen, Denbighshire - A great pint and a great live music venue. Best Juke-box I’ve ever seen and a real buzz on a busy night. Did I mention a great pint?
The Blue Anchor, Helston, Cornwall – I haven’t been since 1984 but don’t think anything has changed much, including their crazy Spingo beers. An ancient home brew pub.
The Turf Tavern, Oxford – A student days favourite. Tucked away from the bustle and traffic near the Bridge of Sighs. Good beer in a unique setting that is just so right (sadly, on my most recent visit the pub had been 'sensitively' refurbished and extended). Uniquely Oxford. Try also the Bear, King’s Head, White Horse, Eagle & Child etc.
The Philharmonic, Liverpool – A staggering example of the Victorian gin palace. It speaks volumes about the power and wealth around the port of Liverpool in the late 19th century.
The Ty Coch, Porthdinllaen, Gwynedd – No real ale in sight, but bottles of Purple Moose and Budvar on draught are enough to make this idyllic old pub on the beach a must visit. Sit on the wall and watch the sun go down.
The Olde Trip to Jerusalem, Nottingham – Reputedly the oldest pub in England (1189) this remarkable pub is partly in caves hewn from the rock under the castle. Scene of many good nights out in my youth!
Lastly, the Willow at Hack Green, Nantwich has been closed for the last couple of years following a disastrous flood when the canal burst it's banks in 2006. Rumoured to be opening it's doors again in '09. A hidden rural gem which was loved by all who knew it.
I'm Not Dead Yet!
Hopefully, most of you who heard I had shuffled off my mortal coil on New Years Eve now know that I am back and healthy again, but for those of you that are still celebrating, here is a swift summary.
Firstly, I did not have a heart attack. Shortly after Christmas I started bleeding from the stomach. This was caused by aspirin tablets . I had been feeling pretty rotten since late October and I seem to have developed anaemia.
By the 31st I had lost about 1/3rd of my blood. At around 11pm I went to prepare the fireworks for midnight, but collapsed before getting out of the house.
Nicky called an ambulance and I was being treated for suspected heart attack at Leighton in no time at all. The thing I needed most, and duly received was 3 pints of blood to top the system up. After that the improvement was very rapid, helped by the wonderful staff on Ward 1.
On the Monday I saw a Dr Mann, who figured out what happened in double quick time, changed my medication, and said I should go home in a couple of days
And that was that. I have been slowly returning to full health since.
The best news is that my resolutions - lose weight and drink less beer – are almost on track. I’m a stone and a half down and going easy on the beer*.
In the meantime thanks for all the cards and enquiries.
* The resolutions were on track. Past tense!
Win a Case of 1997 Vintage Bollinger (Extra Brut, 6 bottles, value around £900)
The following notice was recently posted around the pub. I hope it is self explanatory:
'All you have to do is find any genuine* proof that the Bhurtpore is being advertised for sale, on the internet or elsewhere. Or indeed, that it has been advertised at any time since we bought it in 1991.'
'We have been bothered by rumours of impending sale for the last couple of months. This is becoming irritating to us and unsettling for staff. Unfortunately, some sad individuals seem to enjoy starting silly rumours. Please don't make a potential fool of yourself by believing them.'
'* The Small Print: By genuine we mean placed and authorised by ourselves. As outright owners nobody else has any authority. We are regularly approached by people who want to sell the pub on our behalf or even buy it from us, and several years ago had a meeting with an agent for the purposes of getting a valuation. No instruction to sell, or invitation to buy has ever been given or intended.'
'Go ahead. Waste your time!'
Oh. and we are not shut on New Years Eve either!
What a Load of Utter Rubbish!
When will the powers that be tire of bashing us over the head about how green they are, how green we need to be, and how only they know how to save the planet.
This week the council stopped emptying our green paper bins and told us that it was now alright to put paper in the same bin as our cardboard, old tin cans and plastic bottles. This suggests that all the careful sorting over the last 5 years was just a waste of time. Did it all end up in the same place anyway?
I am an appalling cynic at times, but it really does get my goat. I am, I am afraid, a firm believer that global warming is not quite the animal that we are told it is. Stone me to death if you like, but I am in there with Johnny Ball, David Bellamy and, yes, Jeremy Clarkson.
We bought the Bhurtpore in 1991, and since then I am proud to say that every single bottle has been recycled. For many years I used to take a boot full bottles to the council's glass skips every 4 to 6 weeks. It just seems hugely stupid to throw away something that can be recycled so easily.
Of course recycling would not be my first choice. I would far prefer the bottles I use to be re-filled. Even ten years ago I only had to recycle wine and mineral water bottles.
The idea is simple really. When the lorry comes to bring me some full bottles of beer or fruit juice they take away the empties. When they go to their supplier to pick up fresh stock, they take those empties back with them.
This is the way it all worked for decades, even centuries, until over the course of the last 15 years or so the producers decided it was more cost effective to chuck them away and make new ones. And the Government let them get away with it! Now I could fill the boot of my car 3 or 4 times a week.
The only bottles that are returnable in 2011 are some of the Belgian beer bottles. They still think the transportation is worth while.
95% now goes into the glass skip outside the front of the pub, which the council can't even be bothered to empty regularly. This leaves us having to clean up the mess when others decide they will just leave their bottles on the pavement.
Maybe I'll fill a van with them and dump them outside the Houses of Parliament. I could throw a few at the responsible MPs if I see them!
Incidentally we would like to sort the pub waste much more if the council would allow us to use our existing bins for different materials. Same number of bins, same amount of rubbish, but if we did go ahead with this we would have to pay a lot more to have it taken away!
Joined up government, anyone?
Bhurtpore Fantasy Football Leagues 2011 / 12
It’s that time of year again!
The King is back. Long live the King. In the season during which Dalglish will deliver Liverpool back to their rightful place there is much else to look forward to: The final crumbling of Ferguson’s United, ruinous sackings at Stamford Bridge, the implosion of Manchester City and Arsenal’s relegation battle.
There are two leagues this year. The Bhurtpore Prize League, limited to one team per player, and the Bhurtpore Superleague for as many teams as you like.
Winner of the Prize League will receive a £25 Bhurtpore gift voucher.
Sign on at fantasyfootball/telegraph.co.uk
bhurtpore superleague, Pin: 8004648
bhurtpore prize league, Pin: 8004649
Fashionistas of the beer world: jumping sharks. 2112
One of the great developments in the beer world over the last few years has been the wave of foreign hops that have arrived on our shores. This was made inevitable, to a degree, by the reduced hop production in our traditional areas of Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Kent.
My philosophy, when it comes to choosing beers for the pub is that I go out to find the new and unusual. I never play safe given the choice. This has been an issue for some customers over the years, and I understand why, but I feel the need to do this. I feel I need to seek out new trends and styles. Partly to keep our selection interesting and varied, and partly to maintain my own passion for the subject.
These new hops resulted in a good many new beers. For a year or two we enjoyed these beers, many with the American, recently created Citra hop variety to the fore. A carefully employed citric edge could be found in beers from many brewers such as Oakham Citra. A beer that remains very enjoyable.
I am afraid that, a year or so ago, the use of excessive quantities of these hops in many of the new beers did, for me at least, start to become tiresome. I started to resent the ever more agressive level of hopping employed by some brewers. A good old fashioned IPA like Worthington White Shield is hoppy, sure, but the result is refined rather than brutal. Thornbridge Jaipur is a fine example of the modern IPA style, with the more vibrant new hop varieties.
Many more, however, seem to be verging on crude, perhaps even stupid attempts to brew ever more hoppy beers.
The issue, I feel, is that some brewers see a more viable future in brewing extreme beers than in brewing GOOD beers. Thornbridge can brew wonderful beer, and use some great ingredients (pink peppercorn's anyone?) that most would never imagine using, but for me they do sometimes overstep the mark. Brewdog also brew some very interesting beers that everyone should try, if only once. Can't say I would I would like to find myself on a desert island with a truck full of their beers to live on indefinitely.
The fact is that every time I try one of these new beers these days, I end up wishing I had a pint of anything from Hobson's, Salopian, Weetwood or Copper Dragon (to name just a few). Give me a well made, well balanced beer of any strength or colour, and I will be a happy man.
And, as if that isn't enough, the latest trend is for a new style called 'black IPA'. IPA stands for India Pale Ale, a beer style developed in Burton-on-Trent a couple of hundred years ago. It was strong, pale and very hoppy - characteristics that enabled it to survive transport to the sub-continent by sea and then up into the hills to slake the thirst of the British. It may be a strong hoppy ale, but it is definitively not black. The black IPAs are often lovely beers, but find another name!
I'm sorry that this all gets me a bit cross but if these people would just concentrate on something more creative and useful, such as developing ways to make curries spicier, we could all be happy.