Regional and microbrewers are to study how wine has raised its profile as a quality product with media interest. Their beers deserve as much coverage as wine in the quality papers and TV.
"Yo!" is a new Japanese theme bar in Soho featuring the expected low tables and cushions on the floor but with the innovation of each table having a metered tap for 1/3-pint of Kirin beer. A bill is presented when you've finished.
Brakspear have formed Honeypot Inns with David Bruce (creator of the original Firkin chain) to run a chain of managed, traditional, unbranded pubs.
The Swallow Group may be interested in expanding southwards, buying something like the Slug and Lettuce chain (founded by David Bruce while working for Grosvenor). In the end the 664 Vaux pubs were sold to Pubmaster who beat the £150M offer for pubs and breweries from the Vaux Tenants' Association. The Sheffield Ward's Brewery and the Sunderland one remain closed. The only Ward's beer to survive is Waggle Dance, which has gone to Young's (London). Swallow have set up a new chain, the Evolving Pub Co., as an umbrella for concepts. They intend to have a kit of fittings to create "new" houses. Sounds awful.
Morrells brewery site in Oxford has been sold for development, with the profits supposedly being invested in the pubs.
Robinsons (Stockport, Cheshire) is using the "Cellarstream" beer delivery system from Headmaster's (Hants) in a 100 outlets. This has one line to a handpump and one through a nitrokeg system from each barrel. They've found that cask sales are up at least 10% and that they can charge a 10p premium for the nitrokegged version of a beer.
New Century Inns has been formed by the founders of Century Inns (recently taken over by Enterprise Inns, just after Century took over the Tap & Spile chain from Pubmaster).
Shepherd Neame (Faversham) have had to close 50 pubs since 1990, largely due to cross-channel booze cruises. Their legal battle to get the Government to harmonise duty on beer failed but it's made a useful political point. Meanwhile they've opened a pub in Calais. Adnams has four pubs in Paris.
Sheps launched a hostile bid for neighbour King & Barnes (Horsham) at the end of September - yet another unnecessary and unwelcome bid for a successful brewery. Sheps claims it's at full capacity and K&B has spare, which they need. Of course they say they'd keep the brewery, beers and jobs but all previous experience of brewery takeovers tells us this is highly unlikely, with K&B Mild probably one of the first victims.
As Roger Protz pointed out, why not simply agree a deal for K&B to brew for Sheps or even buy the Morland Abingdon brewery? Industry analysts reckon the real reason is that Sheps wants K&B's pubs, helped by the ambition of the new MD, Jonathan Neame. K&B is 200 years old and has 57 pubs to Sheps 301 years and 370 pubs.
In November some K&B shareholders (perhaps 40% of the holdings) appeared to be ready to give in.