This month marks 175 years since birthday brewer Robinsons bought The Unicorn Inn on Lower Hillgate, Stockport, back in 1838. Now, Cheshire family brewers Robinsons are on course to deliver a planned spend of £3.5m on pub refurbishments in 2013, and have already committed to the same for 2014.
“These are really exciting times at the brewery” commented Operations Director David Harrison. “We currently have four new Business Development Managers (and are recruiting a fifth) who, between them and our in-house design team, have developed 35 pubs this year with significant investment schemes. Ever more rewarding is that we are seeing volume growth to encourage a similar investment next year.”
Robinsons is a rare example of a business which has been run by the same family for 175 years. A family tradition, and one which has grown over time, Robinsons take their responsibilities seriously and have continued the long-standing policy of ploughing profits back into the business, the brewery and the pubs.
In the last 12 months alone they have invested £5m into rebuilding their time-honoured Victorian brew house; rebranded their family of ales with a fresh look; released innovative new beers with the likes of Iron Maiden and Simon Rimmer, designed to attract new drinkers to the category; launched a new £2m Visitors and Training Centre and now, after continued substantial investment in their pubs throughout 2013, Robinsons pledge to invest over £3m into improving their pub estate again next year.
Robinsons see this as part of a long-term plan to keep pubs sustainable in all segments of their estate. “Some of our pubs in the Lake District, North Wales and Cheshire are amongst the best pubs you will ever see,” explains David, “but we have dozens of great community-focussed pubs which need an equal amount of love. So alongside significant investment into pub repairs we need to continue to support our pubs at all levels in order to make the most of our diverse pub estate in the North West.”
With over 340 pubs under their wing, Robinsons remain vigilant and aware of the future. “We have been investing in British pubs for more than 175 years, and we don’t intend to stop now,” asserts joint Managing Director (Pubs Division) William Robinson, “but you can’t live on past glories – each generation needs to make changes.”
“Robinsons has always worked on the basis of the long term rather than the short term. Over the years we have demonstrated this with recent investments in our brewery, beers and new Visitor and Training centre, with these completed, we are now able to focus our investments towards the foundation of our business, our pub estate.”
Representatives of a much loved Cotswold brewery, Hook Norton, met Mid Worcestershire MP Peter Luff this week to express their fears about government plans for the pub trade.
At one of the brewery’s pubs, the Trumpet Inn in Evesham, James Clarke, Managing Director of Hook Norton, Jonathan Paveley its Chairman and Bruce Benyon, Operations Manager explained how crucial the big pub companies like Enterprise and Punch were to the distribution of the beers of smaller brewers.
The government is currently considering changes to the regulation of pub companies to address the concerns of tenants about the poor treatment they have received at the hands of the major pub companies.
But Hook Norton told Peter Luff that the industry was already changing for the better and that the proposed code of conduct could seriously undermine the distribution of the smaller brewers' beers, leaving consumers with less choice and helping the bigger brewers to larger profits.
“I have been involved with this issue for many years going back to the Beer Orders of the late 1980s and again in the last parliament as Chairman of the Business, Innovation and Skills committee. The evidence the committee took convinced me that some of the biggest pub companies were treating their tenants appallingly and there was a need for government intervention if self-regulation could not be made to work. I had concluded, three years on, that self-regulation had indeed failed and that a code of conduct was now needed, but what I heard from Hook Norton this week has forced me to think again.
“This is a compacted market and the risk that more disruptive change could make things worse, just when the pub companies seem to be mending their ways, is one that deserves very careful consideration.
“If the government unintentionally undermined smaller brewers it would not quickly be forgiven by the nation’s beer drinkers.”
Peter also talked to Karen Swayne, the licensee of the Trumpet Inn, who told him what a good relationship she enjoyed with Hook Norton Brewery. They also discussed the arrangements to keep people coming to Evesham during the period of the Abbey Bridge closure.
The Sun Inn is an Everards pub situated in The Square, Gotham and run by licensees Sue & Richard. The pub has been awarded Best Kept Cellar in The East Midlands and East Anglia area by the Great British Pub Awards. The pub will now head to London to attend an award ceremony where the overall finalist will be announced on 12th September.
Licensee Sue said: “It’s fantastic news that we have been given this prestigious award - Richard and I are really proud of the achievement! We take great care of our cellar, making sure it is kept well in order to serve the best possible drinks to our customers – which is the most important thing!”
Now in its sixth year, The BT Sport Great British Pub Awards are recognised as "the one to win" by licensees; attracting hundreds of entries from thriving pubs around the UK including the Sun Inn.
The finalists in this year’s awards have been announced, and in the running for the Best Cellar award are:
- Farmers Arms Inn - Combe Florey, Somerset
- The Pointer Inn - Newchurch, Isle of White
- The Sun Inn - Nottingham, Nottinghamshire
- The Salisbury - Manchester
- The Ivor Arms - Brynsadler, Pontyclun
- Cheers Cafe Bar & Tavern - Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire
The overall winner is to be announced at an award ceremony held at the famous Hilton on Park Lane in London on Thursday 12th September 2013.
The Sun Inn are having a great year so far; they are finalists in the Everards Garden Competition which will be announced later this month and the pub is undergoing a re-vamp internally and externally to give customers an even better experience.
The Sun Inn is a traditional village pub serving a great range of ales, wines and spirits alongside homemade traditional food. Come and visit this award-winning pub located in The Square, Gotham, Nottingham, NG11 0HX where a warm welcome awaits you from licensees Richard and Sue.
Last month, the Chancellor George Osborne cut the price of a pint of beer by 1p in a bid to support our British pubs. But how much difference will this actually make to Britain’s brewing and pub businesses? BBC Breakfast visit one of Britain’s longest serving family brewers – Robinsons to find out.
The planned 3p rise in beer duty has been scrapped and general beer duty rate was reduced by 2% from 25th March 2013. Duty rates on low strength beer were reduced by 6% and on high strength beer by 0.75%. This equates to a 1p cut in the price of a pint... the first beer duty cut since 1959.
How much difference will one penny really make? We were all expecting five or even ten pence rise on the price of a pint, so the fact that we have had a tax fall is a huge difference.
Managing Director of the drinks division at Robinsons, Oliver Robinson, said:
The effect of the Budget to date has been to decrease beer consumption by 17% (that’s 2.7million less pints sold per day) and increase beer tax by 42% from March 2008 to March 2013, when the Chancellor made the recent cut of 2%. So whilst we are both shocked and delighted to finally receive a cut in beer duty, we still have our work cut out to protect our national tipple. Drinking habits are changing and, despite what the government would have us believe, we are actually becoming a nation of discerning drinkers. We may not consume as much but what we do consumer is arguably better thanks to a rise in both competition and variety. British beer has a special place in pubs and it’s great to see the government recognising this.
It goes without saying that British beer is fundamental to British pubs up and down the country – 87% of the beer drunk in the UK is brewed in the UK (compared with 0.2% of wine) and beer counts for 68% of pub’s drinks sales – but it is also fundamental to our jobs. One job in brewing equates to 18 jobs in a pub, plus 1 in agriculture, supply chain and retail. The beer duty cut will not only protect thousands of jobs, and many pubs, it will allow us to create new ones”
Along with the majority of larger pubcos and brewers, regional brewer Robinsons have also promised to pass on the beer duty cut onto their licensees.
Oliver’s cousin, William Robinson, is Managing Director of the Pub Division at the brewery. William was very pleased the government have finally taken a step in the right direction
“Since 2008, 5,800 pubs have closed and 60,000 jobs have been lost. Pubs have been struggling and it was about time the government gave a helping hand and recognised the importance of pubs in British society. Not only are our British pubs the third most popular reason that people visit the UK, but they are also the beating heart of the community and they play a huge role in ensuring people drink and meet new people in a safe environment. They enrich local life with community events and activities as well as offering vital community services such as post offices, general stores and broadband internet. We have been investing heavily in our brew house, Visitors Centre, brands and pubs at a time when others aren’t. We have done this because we are passionate about our business and we plan on sticking around for a long time to come”
Robinsons have been topic of the month all over the country – and even the world for that matter – for a number of reasons: a multi-million pound brew house and Visitors Centre are now welcoming guests and corporate clients, their new 2013 seasonal ales are already proving popular, their new beer with food range (created with Simon Rimmer) has taken the supermarkets by storm, and they have announced they are bringing out an ale with heavy metal rock legends, Iron maiden (launching 9th May). Robinsons are also celebrating their 175th
A Hertfordshire pub has again been honoured for its exceptionally high quality real ale, with the prestigious Master Cellarman of the Year award from London brewer and pub retailer Fuller, Smith & Turner PLC.
Run by manager Bryan Walsh, The Harpenden Arms received the award after excelling in every area of quality control from cellar to glass, and impressing judges, including Fuller’s Head Brewer John Keeling and distinguished beer writer Des de Moor. The Harpenden Arms, and Bryan in particular, is no stranger to the awards having also won the title in 2008.
“It’s an amazing honour to receive one of these awards, but two in four years is something special,” said Bryan, who has been with Fuller’s since 1998.
“We work really hard at The Harpenden to make sure each pint is at the best quality possible, and it’s great to be recognised in this way.”
“But it’s a real team effort, so I’d like to thank everyone at the pub because it’s not just the quality of the cellar, it’s also about the quality at the bar and service that you receive.”
During the rigorous quality checks, carried out by the Fuller’s Beer Quality Team, cellar hygiene and dispense equipment are thoroughly inspected, as well as samples of beer taken away for analysis, to ensure the customer is being given the best of the best.
“It’s such a pleasure to give this award to a person who lives and breathes cask ale,” said Fuller’s Head Brewer John Keeling, toasting all the finalists with a pint of London Pride.
“When you visit a Fuller's pub which has been awarded Master Cellarman status you can be safe in the knowledge that the beer they serve is in the best possible condition; just as it is when it leaves the brewery gates. Even more incredibly, all of our eleven finalists this year received top marks during the judging, showing how high the standard is.”
The Master Cellarman of the Year award recognises consistently outstanding cellar quality in Fuller’s pubs, with managers and tenants needing to sustain a score of at least 96% across four visits from Fuller’s Beer Quality Team throughout the year to be named as finalists for the grand title.
Fuller’s offers in-depth cellar training courses throughout the year to provide pub teams with the necessary skills to ensure the company’s high quality of service is delivered in each and every pub in the estate, as well as to on-trade national account customers.
To date, 209 Fuller’s pubs hold the Master Cellarman badge of distinction (42 added since August 2011), which is displayed in all the certified pubs as a gong on top of the London Pride pump handle.
The second place Master Cellarman of the Year award went to Jason and Karen Tinklin of The Star Tavern, Belgravia (winners in 2010), whilst Angus McKean & Claire Morgan of The Red Lion, Barnes (winners in 2007), were named in third place.
Two other Fuller’s pubs also received special recognition at the prize-giving; Rachel and Robert Burrows of the Pointer Inn, on the Isle of Wight, were named Best Newcomers, and Julian Peters of the Fox & Goose, Ealing (runner up last year), received the Pride and Passion award for absolute dedication to cask ale.
The six other Master Cellarman finalists were: Kim Bibby from the Fox & Pelican, Hindhead, Tom Hayden from the Partridge, Bromley, Mark Crane from the Five Bells, Leighton Buzzard, Jill Cameron from the Mawson Arms, Chiswick, Steve Williams from The Holly Bush, St Albans, and Shaun Patterson from the Hind’s Head, Berkshire.