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London Home Counties Review of Events

Tour of West Berkshire Brewery

26th September saw a BFBi tour of the new West Berkshire Brewery, so new it was still being commissioned.  Hosted by Simon Lewis, CEO and Will Twomey, Head Brewer, the tour showed a sizeable step change from a 30 barrel Brewhouse to 60hl capacity Brewhouse and packaging facility.

A dual bottle and canning line compliments the kegging and cask packaging facilities, enabling the brewery to provide contract packaging facilities for the industry. 

A 100 seater restaurant is also being built, with a grand picture window showcasing the brewery at work.
The level of investment and future strategy is impressive, enabling West Berkshire Brewery to grow its brewing output as well as diversing into other income streams.

London & Home Counties Bat & Trap 2017

London & Home Counties had another great Bat & Trap evening, thanks to Shepherd Neame.

Another fantastically sunny evening accompanied the annual event, which was hosted by Shepherd Neame and resulted in a fantastic win by Stuart Pearson’s team, Cinque.

An event that endorses the benefits of a good supply chain relationship, Bat & Trap is definitely not to be missed.

Thanks go to Alison Shelley and Shepherd Neame for their excellent hospitality.

London & Home Counties Section Annual Luncheon Report            
27 January 2017

The annual luncheon was held as usual on the last Friday in January. Perfect for those of us who were breaking their January alcohol fast! The venue was the prestigious Carpenters Hall, located in the City of London. The Hall has been used continuously by the section for this, their major function, for almost 20 years now, and never fails to impress.

The surroundings are perfect for encouraging a convivial and serious setting for making new acquaintances, renewing old contacts, and for entertaining loyal customers and colleagues.

Almost 90 participants enjoyed the pre-lunch ale and lager selection provided in a relaxed, help yourself beer-fest style. The beers were generously sponsored by Fuller, Smith & Turner, Hepworths Brewery, Long Man Brewery, Sharps Brewery, and Shepherd Neame Ltd.

The section Chairman, Roger Sutton, spoke first, outlining the events that had been held over the previous 12 months. He was followed by the National Chairman, Peter Lawley who spoke interestingly of his family’s investment in one of the new wave of micro-pubs a few years ago. Its success was due to adhering to “old-fashioned” values and courtesies extended to customers, despite having several conventional competitors nearby, and despite being priced at the higher end of the range.

The guest speaker was Matt le Tissier, a retired footballer who played for  Southampton F.C. and England. He is now a regular “pundit” on the Sky Soccer television programme and gave an engaging and amusing account of his soccer career.

A charity draw raised £775.00 which was donated to the Childrens Air Ambulance Fund.

Hogs Back Brewery Tour 2016

Hogs Back has been brewing since 1992 and began their success story brewing in 18th century farm buildings that have stored a variety of farm produce over the years. Their first beer TEA was an instant hit and has gone on to win many awards.

The group gathered in the brewery shop (well worth a visit if you are a Belgium beer enthusiast as they proudly stock the largest collection of Belgium beer outside of London in the UK) and were introduced to the tour guide Mel.

The tour got off to an excellent start with a sample of ‘Hogs Back Bitter’ and an overview of the brewery history, suppliers used and the brewing process. We then moved into the main brewery and tasted ‘Surrey Nirvana’, a delicious hoppy golden ale.

After discussing the brewing process a little more, Mel took the group up to the hospitality room and spoke about the hop garden Hogs Back is currently cultivating and the main types of hops they are developing in a move to become more self-sufficient.

Head Brewer Miles Chesterman was on hand to answer any further questions and the attendees happily sampled ‘TEA’, ‘Hog Star’ and the exciting addition ‘Hazy Hog’ cider.

Thank you to Miles, Mel and the team at Hogs Back for allowing us to visit the brewery and for the generous sampling opportunities! Find out more about Hogs Back Brewery at

Rathfinny Winery Tour 2016

A stones throw from Brighton you will find Rathfinny Wine Estate, nestled amongst rolling hills – picture perfect England!

The estate was founded in 2010 and is located near Alfriston in Sussex. Rathfinny have ambitious plans, their vision being to develop the estate to become the largest in England and one of the largest in Europe. They are currently maturing their first sparkling wine but they do have a still wine available which the group was lucky enough to sample.

The group gathered at the winery to be greeted by Cam Roucher, Rathfinny’s Vineyard Manager. He walked the group through the vines, explaining the different types of grapes and growing methods. After a heated discussion about badgers stealing the grapes the group walked back through the vines to be introduced to Jonathan Médard, Rathfinny’s head winemaker.

Born in the champagne region of France, Jonathan’s passion for wine is clear. He led the tour around the newly built impressive winery, pausing to explain each step of the process. The group was led into a locked room where hundreds of bottles of the Sussex Sparkling sat maturing, ready for sale in 2018. Another BFBi tour will definitely be scheduled around this time!

A huge thank you to Georgia, Cam, Jonathon and the rest of the team at Rathfinny for kindly hosting a tour and allowing us to taste their delicious wine.

London & Home Counties Tour and Luncheon at House of Commons

An inaugural tour and luncheon, at the House of Commons, was held early September 2016.  Hosted by Andrew Griffiths MP (then Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Beer Group) and led by Roger Sutton, Chair of the Section, the day was well attended.

The tour of the House was fascinating.  This writer has been on the tour more than ten times and, every time a new fact is learned, a new facet of our political system through the ages is discovered.  For those of you who have not had the opportunity to visit the House, it should be on your bucket list.

As well as the history tour, the luncheon gave those present an opportunity to speak with Andrew Griffiths, ask topical questions and gain insight as to what Brexit might mean for their company.

Andrew Griffiths proved to be an excellent host.  Entertaining and informative in equal measure.  As Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Beer Group, Andrew has provided great support to the industry and we all wish him well in his new position as a member of the Government  Whip’s Office . 

Bat & Trap June 2016

Shepherd Neame again played host to a joint BFBi London & Home Counties/Shepherd Neame Bat & Trap evening.  The sun shone, yet again, a miracle with this year’s weather.  Bat & Trap is not just a fun evening, with great company, food and beer, it is also the mutual recognition of sustainable working relationships between supplier and customer.  Thank you Shepherd Neame for another great evening.

London & Home Counties Section Annual Luncheon 2016

On Friday 29th January 2016 the BFBi London and Home Counties Section held their annual luncheon in the prestigious Carpenters’ Hall in the City of London. Over 100 guests gathered for an afternoon of good company, excellent beer and delicious food.

Those attending sampled a variety of beers supplied by Palmers Ltd, Fuller Smith and Turner Plc, Sharps’ Brewery, Shepherd Neame Ltd and Charles Wells Ltd. BFBi would like to extend their thanks to the breweries for kindly supplying such a fantastic range of beers.

Attendees also had the opportunity to speak to representatives from Anton Paar, Integrated Processing Technologies Limited and Projective Ltd who exhibited in the foyer.

After enjoying socialising in the foyer, guests sat down for a beautiful three course lunch. Patrick Redman, BFBi National Chairman, then gave a speech briefly highlighting the association’s exciting year of events planned for 2016 and thanked Roger Sutton, London and Home Counties Section Chairman for hosting such an enjoyable Luncheon.

Roger Sutton reviewed the section’s past year and the planned events for 2016. Roger presented a Burton Cooper to Les Birchmore of Fuller Smith and Turner in celebration of his final day of work before retirement

Guests were then entertained by Shaun Williamson, best known for playing Barry in EastEnders. His amusing talk gave a little insight into the death of his most famous character, life after the soap and his life on stage.

The annual raffle included two prizes, courtesy of Air Ambulance: an Aston Martin experience and dinner for two at the House of Commons. Winners were: Sarah Wells, MF Refrigeration; Monica Monajem,Kegstar Ltd. Other raffle winners were Ian Swann, guest of Alectia Ltd and Vic Hibbert, Baxter Hoare Travel.

Many thanks to all who donated a total of £830 to this worthwhile charity.

To view photos click here

Bombay Sapphire Tour October 2015

Following a successful visit to the Bombay Sapphire Laverstoke Mill earlier this year the BFBi returned to Hampshire on 13th October.

14 BFBi members and their guests met on a beautiful autumn day, starting the afternoon with a gin workshop led by Sam Carter, the Senior Ambassador for Bombay Sapphire.

The group was then taken to the Heritage room and given the opportunity to read more about the history of the spirit and brand. After a walk through the impressive glasshouses designed by UK architect Thomas Heatherwick, Sam then explained each of the ten botanicals in the Botanical Dry Room. The group then walked through the distilling room to see the process up close.

After the tour all returned to taste a delicious complimentary cocktail, a very popular part of the day! The day was very much enjoyed by all and the BFBi would like to thank Sam and the team at Bombay Sapphire for allowing us to return.

To view photos click here

Tour of Tate & Lyle

A full compliment of BFBi members took the opportunity to tour the Tate & Lyle Silvertown factory.  Peter Herlem and Tom  Sanders hosted the tour and presented on the history of Tate & Lyle and their various products aimed at the beverage industry.  Copies of the presentation may be downloaded HERE.  Photos can be viewed HERE

Chapel Down Winery Visit 2015

On a glorious sunny afternoon, a group of BFBi members met at the Chapel Down Winery in Tenterden Kent, for a tour of the picturesque vineyard.

The tour began with a history of the company and an explanation as to why every vineyard has roses present. The red roses trailing along the vineyard buildings are a beautiful addition, but also have the very important role of alerting the viticulturist of mildew, before it spreads to the grapes. After a pleasant walk around the fields, looking at the Bacchus and Chardonnay grapes, the group learnt about the wine making process.

Once the fascinating guided tour was over, the group was led to the wine tasting area. Once refreshed on how to ‘properly’ taste wine, the sampling began. Chapel Down has a wide range of superb wines, with Rose Brut infamously being served at the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding in 2011. The company has now expanded to beers and cider, with a small selection of Curious Brew beverages available including a Pale Ale, 100% apple Cider and a Porter.

The afternoon was enjoyed by all who attended and the BFBi would like to thank Chapel Down for their hospitality.

Cheque Presentation to Air Ambulance

Monies raised from the 2015 London Annual Luncheon raffle were donated to the Section Chairman’s (Roger Sutton) charity of choice, the Air Ambulance.  Roger Sutton presented a cheque for £687.50 to the Children's Air Ambulance Service.

22nd Shepherd Neame / London & Home Counties Section Bat & Trap – July 2015

Yet again the sun shone not only on the righteous but on the 22nd Bat & Trap event, hosted by Shepherd Neame.  Unfortunately, fortune did not, this year, shine on the women’s team but they felt it was time to let somebody else have a chance at winning….  Congratulations to the winning team “Green Team” (surely you could have come up with a better name than that…).

Scores were running high and the evening, as always, proved to be a great opportunity to mix with colleagues and fellow suppliers.  

Thanks, as always, go to Shepherd Neame for their superb hospitality.

Bombay Sapphire Distillery Tour  June 2015

25 Guests and members of the London & Home Counties Section of the BFBi, enjoyed an excellent tour of Bacardi's Bombay Sapphire Blue gin distillery, on Wednesday 17 June. The glorious June weather completed the scene, as the visitors gathered at this iconic location, with the crystal clear water of the River Test meandering through the centre of the site.

The distillery opened in 2013 after extensive renovations to the former paper mill. The buildings have been sympathetically restored, and the site features 21st century technology to maximize energy efficiency, and ensure any emissions do not upset the delicate balance of nature in the surrounding village of Laverstoke in rural Hampshire.

The tour began with a Gin Workshop given by Sam Carter, of Bacardi. This was a masterclass in understanding gin, and the group was lead through the rudiments of making the perfect gin & tonic, and then to some further  interesting cocktails, including The Laverstoke which Sam created especially for the opening celebrations back in 2013.

The party was then at liberty to wander around the site on a "Self Discovery" basis with audio stations providing relevant information. Specially constructed glass houses demonstrated which botanicals were used in the gin production, and it was possible to experience the aromas of each botanical in a sensory evaluation room. This was followed by a detailed technical tour of the Dakin Still Room, where questions and answers came in rapid order.

Finally, the visitors were treated to a complimentary gin cocktail of their choice, and sat by the River Test networking with other members of the group.

The tour began at 14.15, and lasted until 17.30. It was thoroughly enjoyable, and can be recommended to all those who missed the original application to attend. It is hoped to repeat this successful event in the near future.

London Section Annual Luncheon 2015

Just over 110 members and guests sat down for the London Home Counties Section Annual Luncheon, held on January 30 at Carpenters Hall, London.

The new Section Chairman, Roger Sutton, spoke about the Section’s past year and the plan to introduce a number of new events, such as visit to Bacardi, House of Commons etc.

Roger also presented the Past Chairman’s medal to Tom Hall and thanked him for his two successful years at the helm of the Section.

The guest speaker was TV personality Bobby Davro, who fully entertained the attendees.

Thanks are due to Adnams, Fullers, Green King, Hogsback, and Shepherd Neame for donating their beers.

Roger Sutton’s company ALECTIA and MF Refrigeration advertised in the menu booklet, and
MF Refrigeration sponsored the stillage.


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