I have discovered a few snippets of info about Thornbridge over the last week which I thought I might share.
Their seemingly odd and sometimes risible policy of no guest beers is not all arrogance and fear of competition it seems. A man, who is male, and works in a Thornbridge pub, informs me that certainly in the case of the Greystones and Hallamshire House, its the terms of the lease with pub ruiners Enterprise, Punch or (add unlikeable behemoth) whoever. It seems the deals, which were fairly revolutionary at the time, only included Thornbridge beers, and none of that frightening outsiders stuff.
Broadly, if the restrictive terms of the original agreement meant licensees/tenants could only buy guff like Burton brewed Stones or Tetleys at twice its market price, the same backwards outlook prevailed, except now the new tenants were at least restricted to a brewery with a range of styles. Easily a better deal for punters, but still a monopoly. You can have too much of a good thing, after all.
It seems the terms at the Cross Scythes (visits - 1 Guests - 1, promising...) are a bit more relaxed, and clearly the trading arrangements at the Sheffield Tap are radically different because Thornbridge only supply the beer, rather than own or lease the pub from a Pubco. DAda, one assumes, along with the Bath Hotel, basically continues what ever arrangements were in place already as well, its just that they are far better in terms of choice.
Alas, no clarification was forthcoming about whether these arrangements applied to Keykeg as well....
Other news now, and it turns out that moving up in the reaching the Top ten stakes for my favourite breweries of 2012 is Hop Studio, most recently at Shakespeares on Shalesmoor.
I remember being underwhelmed by their ironically hopless offerings earlier in the year but they seem to be getting better. Last night I enjoyed a pint of their Spooks (or Sparks!?) , a finely balanced stout with a pleasing smoothness that tasted stronger than its ABV suggested. Also on last night was their Blonde.
This is a 3.5% (unsurprisingly) blond coloured beer with a fantastic dry hoppy bitterness. Incredibly easy to drink but packing in as much hops as a much stronger beer that I would drink later on, this was a session beer at its best. I "only" had three pints, but it was, once again, a beer at Shakespeares that I could happily have drank until I fell asleep. Wonderful.
Meanwhile, one of Octobers star beers for me was the Abbeydale Abbey Ale, dry hopped and weighing in at 5.5%. Having tried it at Archer Road Beer Stop at the end of September I have spotted it in quite a few other pubs including twice recently at DAda. Dave's shop kept version was virtually unbeatable but the DAda offering was up there with that in terms of juicy citrussy bite. An incredibly well balanced dry hopped, but not dry tasting, fruity pale ale.
Talking of DAda for a change, and unfortunately it has been decided that the bar will not open during the day, likely opening at 16.00 but potentially still opening all day Friday and Saturday. This caveat laden reporting reflects the fact that I only found out last night and it doesn't seem like the finer points have been agreed. My suggestion would be to retain the current arrangements until after Christmas, then change them in January when far less people are likely to visit, thereby maximising the potential of the Christmas party season. But what do I know...
Recent, albeit evening or night visits, have provided an unrivalled range of Dark Star and Abbeydale and Marble brewery beers, including the amazing Dobber, as well as current Thornbridge favourites Evenlode and Halcyon. All have been on impeccable form of late.
That's all I have for now, more beer and pub news coming soon.