First pints are poured!

‘Let’s not blow it,’ says Boris Johnson as English pubs reopen

PM gives Downing Street press conference as lockdown measures are eased again

Boris Johnson has implored people to behave responsibly and safely as England’s chief medical officer admitted Saturday’s easing of the lockdown left the country treading a narrow path with serious risks “on either side”.

In a press conference on the eve of changes that will allow restaurants, pubs and bars to reopen for the first time since March, the prime minister insisted “we are not out of the woods yet”.

“Let’s not blow it,” he said. Continue reading

Beers that help us through: Leffe

THE HOBBLEDEHOY rely on music, movies, a good book and a good brew to help us through the Covid confinement. Leffe is our ale of choice, lately. Check out this review from The BrewClub

Leffe produce a fine range of Abbey style beers. As such they’re industrial rather than craft or artisan beers, but they’re full bodied, full flavoured and well worth seeking out.

While I was in Brussels recently almost every bar seemed to have Leffe on draught.  Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t complaining, but as a Brit I found it strange for such a fine beer to be well, so readily available!  There are a select few bars in Central London that stock it, but in the UK, for the most part Leffe is strictly for beer aficionados!

I suppose I shouldn’t have been that surprised, Leffe is part of the global InBev empire and brewed at the vast Artois brewery in Leuven. It still clutches to its ‘Abbey’ heritage though; the Leffe glass is modeled on a chalice, and the logo shows an abbey building, represented in stained glass.

Abbey beers are different from (although similar to) Trappist beers, they are brewed by commercial breweries in something approaching the Trappist style and tend to take the name of a nearby Abbey.  This is a largely successful endeavour by the Belgian brewing industry to cash in on the reputation of Trappist beers.  In the case of Leffe, the brand was resurrected in the 1950’s although the original abbey was devastated during the French Revolution; beer hadn’t been brewed at the Leffe Abbey for nearly two hundred years.  And indeed still isn’t!

‘Trappist’ beers, on the other hand, are still brewed (as the name might suggest) by serving Trappist monks in the surviving abbeys (Five in Belgium, one in Holland).  Examples of Trappist Beers include Chimay, Orval and Westmalle, all fine ales in their own right, and some tastings I’m looking forward to, on your behalf!

There is an apocryphal tale that the Belgian Government cracked down on the sale of spirits after the first world war, which is why Belgian beers tend to be brewed for strength as well as flavour.

The two main Leffe brands are Leffe Blond and Leffe Brune, both available on draught in Belgium and (as before) a few select bars and cafes around Europe. However on returning to the UK I remembered a Leffe gift pack I had on my shelf so, purely for the purposes of research, I submit the following Leffe beer reviews!


Leffe Blond

We’ll start with what should be the lightest of the Leffe family, although still a respectable 6.2% ABV, as you can see Leffe Blond came out considerably paler than I remembered, but make no mistake, despite its pale amber colouration, this is a full bodied ale. It has a full mouth feel, and a substantial head that lasted well down the glass, leaving a distinctive lacing down the glass.

The flavour is well rounded, slightly sweet, slightly spicy, but with all these brews there is something that is distinctively ‘Belgian’.  Okay so not quite trappist, but once you’ve tasted a Belgian beer, you’ll spot that flavour whenever you are fortunate enough to encounter it.

There are hints of vanilla and toffee in this flavour, it’s not too heavy, in fact, I was pleased to note that I had a large (75cl) bottle of Blond on my shelf for the weekend.
Rating: ★★★★☆

Continue at The BrewClub: Beer Review – Leffe

Missing your local? Why pubs mean so much to so many

Our Beerhunter points out the way our lives connect up around good times in pubs and people we meet there

I’m not sure if I’ll manage to keep a beer column going for the duration of our current exile from pubs but here’s one, inspired by Mark Gilliver, landlord of the Coach & Horses at Draycott, which he has built into a marvellous community facility.

This was Mark’s Facebook post which spurred me into action:

“Life just doesn’t seem the same without The Pub. A pub should be a cornerstone of every village, like a post office or church. It’s a place where a community knits and socialises. It’s a second front room, where you go to meet your neighbours, vent your woes, wind down after a day at work, solve all the world’s problems or join a pool team. You can have a bite to eat, watch the football and it’s the perfect place to take the in-laws when the conversation at home dries up.

“Call me old-fashioned but I think the good stereotypical English boozer has an esteemed place in our history and whether it will still be living and breathing in the future remains to be seen, but for many of us it’s an essential part of every decent community in this fine land. Looking forward to seeing all our friends and neighbours back at the Coach, hopefully sooner rather than later.”

If anyone reading this can’t agree with that then they might as well move on. Wrong article, wrong column! Continue reading

Can a good pub sell a country house? 

English pub

A good pub within walking distance is on most buyers’ wish lists and can even uphold an area’s value. But what makes the perfect village pub? Arabella Youens investigates.

If the idea that a village pub can sell a country house sounds a bit extreme, here’s a story to prove it. When the parents of James Mackenzie, head of the country-house department at Strutt & Parker, were in Oman and reading a copy of Country Life, they spotted an old rectory near Lyme Regis in Dorset for sale.

As soon as they could, they jumped on a plane and booked a viewing,’ says Mr Mackenzie. ‘When they reached the top of the drive, my father jumped up onto the gate to inspect the exterior and its aspect. Then, without venturing any further, he took the agent for lunch in the pub opposite. Once that had passed the test, they bought the house – barely bothering to look inside.’

The Bell Pub

The Bell at Stow is one such pub – gorgeously cosy with beautiful food.

That a pub acts as a binding force within a community was ever thus, but, today, this role is on the rise, believes Harry Gladwin of The Buying Solution, Knight Frank’s buying arm, who says a good village pub comes within the top three requirements of a country-house buyer. ‘It’s a place where everyone meets, regardless of background. This mix of people and ideas around an open fire is what breathes life back into many villages and – unlike village shops – can never be replaced by Amazon.’

In recent months, Mr Gladwin has handled two transactions where a good pub was at the top of the list of must-haves; as neither client enjoyed cooking, the pub would be an extension of their kitchen, to feed the family and house guests.


The Ebrington Arms.

‘Even in less extreme scenarios,’ he adds, ‘it’s great entertainment for guests at weekends, especially if they can combine a good walk with a pub lunch or have a late dinner there after driving down from London.’ The best landlords, adds his colleague Jonathan Bramwell, ‘will keep their kitchens open a bit late to accommodate this type of clientele. Now that you can no longer make a profit on selling pints alone, it’s the food that helps in no small way to keep these pubs alive’.

‘We will never do pea shoots or foams’

Village pubs that are successful tread a fine line between catering for the weekend crowd and looking after locals. Peter Creed runs The Bell Inn at Langford in west Oxfordshire, having taken over the pub, which was then derelict, with his business partner, chef Tom Noest, two years ago. It’s taken off and they now have an outlet in Soho Farmhouse (The Little Bell) and are in the process of negotiating on another pub nearby.

‘A pub needs to act as a hub for the village,’ says Mr Creed. ‘It has to be somewhere that everyone can afford to go.’ To that end, they ensure the menu accommodates local families, as well as those wanting to celebrate an important anniversary. ‘We will never do pea shoots or foams.’


Dogs friendly is a must – luckily, the Ebrington Arms welcomes all types of patrons!

Although it may not come as a surprise that the British public hankers after a regular pint to wash down wholesome grub, Charlie Wells of Prime Purchase, Savills’ buying agents, believes the pub factor is increasingly playing a role for international buyers, too. ‘Foreign buyers love a good old-fashioned English pub with horse brasses, which doesn’t really exist in Scandinavia or America,’ he explains. In addition, they attract buyers with families; as children become teenagers, the pub becomes particularly useful if they can walk there and meet friends, rather than using parents as a taxi service.

The Fife Arms, Braemar – The Flying Stag adds a unique decorative touch.

‘A good pub makes a good village and vice versa,’ concludes Mr Gladwin. With that in mind, if the current pub isn’t hitting the mark, it might be a good plan to take it over. That may sound like a storyline from The Archers, but these days, communities are beginning to take matters into their own hands and village-owned, village-run pubs are reversing some of the decline in pub closures.

In (albeit rare) cases, incoming buyers of large country houses are also buying the pub to turn it around – a move made by a number of Mr Wells’s clients. This can work to benefit everyone, argues Adam Buxton of Middleton Advisors. ‘It might underpin the popularity of the village and ultimately help hold up values.’

Source: Can a good pub sell a country house? – Country Life