Triple crown for East Dorset CAMRA!

We’ve been keeping Wessex and Channel Island’s Regional Director, Nigel Jones, busy this summer, we’ve only gone and won not one, not two but three Regional awards to pub and clubs in the East Dorset branch area.

The first award to be given was to the Corfe Castle Club in Corfe Castle for the Regional Club of the Year 2019.

The second award was given to The Firkin Shed in Springbourne for the Regional Pub of the Year 2019.

The third award was given to The Square and Compass in Worth Matravers for Regional Cider Pub of the Year.

They are all contenders for the Super Regional Club/Pub/Cider Pub of the Year which will produce a short list of four from each category across the UK to be judged, then out of those four, a National Club, Pub and Cider Pub of the Year will emerge.

Good Luck everyone, we’re behind you all the way!

Corfe Castle Club Reigns Triumphant

Nigel presented the certificate to Club Steward Brian Varney, known by everyone as “Chubby”, and Club staff member, Tracy.   Nigel told a packed club on Sunday lunch time that all the judges agreed that it was the “friendliness” of the club and “the condition of their beer” that ensured first place. 

Chubby said he “couldn’t be happier” to be receiving the award and thanked CAMRA members for voting them branch club of the year earlier this year and said that he is keeping his fingers crossed that the next round of judges will like them.  Club secretary and retired bank manager, Barry Wilson added that winning this award justifies the risks and costs associated with selling real ale.  He revealed that their real ale sales account for over 50% of all their beer and cider sales. 

The Club chairman, Mike Glover, said “We made the decision twenty years ago to put on real ale and we have never looked back.  We started with one hand pump, then two and now we have three hand pumps – two permanent ales and one rotating.  However, we put the success with real ale down to Chubby, a real ale fan himself, who is passionate about keeping and serving quality real ale and in excellent condition”.  On his days off, Chubby likes to visit other pubs around Dorset, which gives him more of view of what is going on outside of the village.

Corfe Castle Club was formed as a British Legion club at the end of the First World War for returning servicemen to the village.  but broke away from the British Legion in 2017 to give themselves more autonomy over their finances.  The Club is “members only” but welcomes guests of members and CAMRA members.  Corfe Castle Club is a 200-year-old listed building, built from local Purbeck stone and blends in with the surrounding properties.  Members come from not just the village, but the surrounding area and some regular holidaymakers have become members too; membership is just £10 a year.  The village of Corfe Castle attracts visitors all the year round and is well-served by four lovely pubs, but the club is important to locals as it provides a break from the hustle and bustle and a place where you will see people that you know.  It is there for the community, it has a function room, they support the local football team by providing team food and for a bit of competition, they have twice-weekly Bing, a shove ha-penny table, dartboards, pool table and 2 boule pitches in the south facing garden.  The club does not provide meals apart from when they are catering for an event, and regulars to the Club will be familiar with Chubby’s Rolls, which are huge, tasty and fill a gap.

In answer to the question about any future plans, Barry simply stated “To steer the same course!  It works well for our type of business.  We are completely self-sufficient so making a profit is essential.  We know our business limitations and we stick to them; we do have plans for a lot more events for the village though” he added.  They do seem to have the mix just right.  It is a “no frills” village club that serves the village’s needs, and really good real ale. 

A Firkin Good Pub or A Shed load of Beer and Cider!

Wow!  Another great award goes to the Firkin Shed!  No sooner have we traipsed round there to present one award, but we’re back again for another!  Of course, they are all richly deserved by Paul and Lisa and their small crew. 

Four and a half years after they took over a closed down Blockbuster video shop and opened their doors to their newly formed micro pub, Paul and Lisa Early Peaking Gray can really stand back and take pride in what they have achieved.  Nothing much has changed, or had to change in those years, but as Paul says, “it has evolved a little bit”.  Customers might have noticed that it is a bit more comfortable now; one day Paul decided to sit down at every seat in the pub and worked out that there were only about five comfortable places to sit.  With that they decided that they needed a bit of a makeover, and changed the seating to incorporate lower tables and benches and cushion covered empty casks, “we have so little storage space; it’s a good way to deal with them until they are picked up” said Paul.

There is always plenty of real ale, key keg and real ciders to choose from, and something for every taste.  During the week there will be four cask ales but at the weekend that gets bumped up to six, and they are all poured directly from the cask, no lines and pumps are involved.  Then there are three or four key kegs to choose from and a dazzling array of ciders and perries.

When asked what Paul thinks their strength is, “well, I think it’s the community aspect!  People come in as strangers and new friends are formed and reformed.  We have Bring and Buy Curry Nights where everyone brings in a curry, pays £2.50 each and share each other’s curry. Money raised goes to two charities that are close to his heart, Air Ambulance and the local food bank.

What does the future look like for the Firkin Shed?  “Funnily enough, the property covenant, written in 1895, states that the building should not be used as a hotel or public house! With a cheeky grin Paul advised to “stay tuned…”

Be There or be a Square and Compass!

The Square and Compass sells real ale and cider, and for ale and cider lovers the blackboard is a sight for sore eyes!  Not only do they buy in some wonderful ciders and ales, but they make their own too.  Charlie began his journey into cider making in 2006 when he took over old orchards and planted new ones.  They produce single variety ciders from American Mother and Porters Perfection and blended ciders, from at least 12 different apples including dabinetts and cookers.

Their cider is made “the way it’s always been done”, unmechanised.  Everything is done by hand, the harvesting and the crushing, the only parts that can’t be done by hand is carried out by the mill and the press.  Though not organic in the official sense, it certainly is in principle.   The cider is 100% natural, no sulphites or syrups are used and only its self-produced wild yeast is present.  The resulting apple juice is fermented in huge oak barrels in their own cider house.

Cath Newman is the “creative director”, she ingeniously came up with the names for the ciders and took her label design ideas to be drawn by local illustrator and past member of staff, Janine Drayson. The ciders have been given slightly suggestive and saucy names reminiscent of the old seaside postcards, “Sat Down Becider”, “Eve’s Idea” and “Kiss Me Kate”, and they are dry, medium dry and sweet.  This summer they have produced a 7.9% cider that celebrates the first landing on the moon in July 1969, called simply “Man on the Moon”.   They are very proud of their cider business and it goes hand in hand very well with their real ales.

Charlie and Kevin head a very happy and loyal team of staff and cider makers.  Nick, Derek and Geoff work their cidery magic with Charlie, and are responsible for the entire process that eventually results in the award-winning ciders.  They all agree that Kevin is an “excellent bloke”.  Derek told me “Kevin is a brilliant manager; he keeps a tight ship.  He is a but grumpy but he’s spot on!  Kevin has made it (the pub) into a music venue, we have country folk, Blue Grass…a broad spectrum of music here”.

On Charlie, they are so grateful to him.  “He’s a generous and humble chap and very well liked”, Nick told me, “in fact I’m the luckiest man alive.  I live because I know that great man!”  Geoff nodded sagely, and laughingly added “by the grace of Charlie, there go we!”  I think the evidence is everywhere you look, just consider the fossil museum that is in one of the adjoining rooms, where his and his father’s collection of fossils and archaeological find are displayed.  How many pub owners would have turned that into more space for more tables or a larger bar? Not Charlie!