Wednesday, 25 February 2015

The Bevy: More than a Pub!

My above Blog of 20th July 2012 was a feature on the formation of a co-operative by a group of residents in the Moulsecoomb and Bevendean area of Brighton in order to reopen their local, the Bevendean Hotel, following its closure by the police in May 2010. The hotel was built in 1936 by local architect Stavers Hessell Tiltman, most probably for the Portsmouth and Brighton United Breweries.

On Saturday 13 December 2014, at 5.30pm, the reopening of the Bevy was blessed by the Vicar of Moulsecoomb, Father John Wall. Local residents themselves raised much of the £200K required, while regular ‘work-ins’ saw volunteers give up their weekends to fit out the pub ahead of its grand reopening. There were also fundraising events, grants and loans from East Brighton Trust, Social Investment Business, SE Assist, Co-operative Enterprise Hub and the Church Urban Fund. The group were helped to get going along the journey through advice from The Plunkett Foundation and the Community Shares Company. 

The Bevy is the first community-owned pub on an housing estate in the UK. More than 700 people have brought community shares and are now owners of the pub - more than any other co-op pub in the country. There are currently twelve people on the management committee, all who live locally. The licensee-manager is the well-known, popular figure and BHA supporter Chris Pobjoy, who used to be landlord of the Romans, Southwick. Their focus is on developing:

a hub for the community;
a pub that people will want to live close to;
a café that will draw people out of their homes;
a place to eat that will stop people going into town;
a facility to provide training and experience to our young people.

The light and airy premises are fitted out to a high standard: they include a large café area opening onto the south terrace and main garden area; a pub area occupying most of the space to the east and north of the pub interior; a small meeting room facility for twelve people on the north side of the pub; and a community kitchen. The Bevy serves a range of real ale on its three hand pumps from local breweries and guests, including on the day of your Editor’s visit, Harveys Best Bitter and Old Ale, Dark Star Hophead, Fuller’s Gale’s HSB, Sharp’s Doom Bar, and Timothy Taylor Landlord. Beers have also been supplied to the pub by Brighton co-operative brewery, Bartleby’s.

The Bevendean Community Pub is open every day from 12noon-11pm. Come along and have a bevy! The pub even has its own bus stop on the Brighton & Hove 49 route. 

The Bevy, 50 Hillside, Brighton, BN2 4TF, 01273 281009,

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Bob Copper and Harveys Copper Ale

Harveys Copper Ale was brewed at 8.30am on Tuesday 6 January to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Sussex folk singer and song collector, artist, author and broadcaster, Robert James (Bob) Copper MBE (1915-2004). The brew took place in the presence of the Copper family who sang ‘Oh Good Ale’. The suggestion that the Lewes brewery create a special centenary beer for Bob came in a letter from Hastings-born folk singer and local resident Shirley Collins. Head brewer Miles Jenner said: “It is an honour for Harveys to be marking the centenary of this remarkable man in a manner which would have given him tremendous pleasure.” 

The 5.7% copper-coloured beer has a smooth, malty palate and a restrained bitterness with a subtle aftertaste reminiscent of nuts and raisins. It was first sold at the Bob Copper Centenary Event at Cecil Sharp House, London, on 24 January, which featured an all day celebration of Bob’s work:

Three generations of the Copper family of Rottingdean are vividly recollected in characteristic anecdotal style in Bob’s (1972)  A Song for Every Season: A Hundred Years of a Sussex Farming Family. While the book is part eulogy for a vanishing rural way of life that was charted out by the rhythmic seasons of the year, the arduous labouring conditions for the farmers and shepherds of the time are never idealised. The scenes of communal singing over pots of ale in the smoky tap-rooms of Sussex alehouses are nonetheless conveyed with warmth and joy, and levied with not a little humour. The epilogue describes the opening up to a wider audience in the 1950s of the Copper family’s repertoire of traditional songs, through BBC broadcasts and by appearances at festivals and concerts sponsored by the English Folk Dance and Song Society. 

In the 1950s the BBC requested Bob to record for posterity old country dialects and traditional songs. Armed with his tape-recording equipment Bob journeyed in ‘The Major’, his 1932 Morris Major car, extending his search to Hastings, North Chailey, Fittleworth and Angmering and into rural Hampshire. His experiences of coaxing out and capturing the extemporised performances of traditional singers find their way into his (1973) book, Songs and Southern Breezes: Country Folk and Country Ways. The drawings of the locations that embellish and enrich the text are the author’s own. 

But it was a journey across Sussex by foot, from Robertsbridge to Harting, for which Bob was later known and which is documented in his (1994) Across Sussex with Belloc: In the Footsteps of the ‘Four Men’. As the title suggests, Bob was following the path taken in October 1902 by Grizzlebeard, The Sailor, The Poet and Myself, characters in Hilaire Belloc’s farrago, The Four Men. Bob completed the walk twice, in 1950 and 1988, visiting on the way the many famous pubs featuring in Belloc’s tale, including the George Inn, Robertsbridge; Bridge Inn, Amberley; Fountain Inn, Ashurst; Cricketers, Duncton; and the Foresters Arms, Graffham.

Bob’s great-uncle Tom was landlord of the Black Horse, Rottingdean and later of the Kings Head, Chailey. Older brother Ron took the Queen Victoria, Rottingdean while Bob was at some point licensee of the Central Club, Peacehaven, and landlord of the H. H. Inn, Cheriton, Hampshire. Later in life Bob would walk from his home in Peacehaven to the Ram Inn, Firle, imbibing four pints of Harveys Best Bitter before setting out on the return journey, a round trip of fifteen miles.

Bob’s genuine love of traditional pubs and his delight in a glass of ale is a recurring theme in his books, conveyed in a prose style that combines romance and realism - a beguilingly poetic rendering of precise observational detail. Take, for example, the following passage from the preface of Songs and Southern Breezes:

“Have you ever spent an evening in early summer sipping ale on a wooden bench outside a country pub, while the sun filters its fading glory though the tracery of a flowering apple tree … have you sat in a chimney corner in a flagstoned taproom, while the wind moans under the thatched eaves outside and the light of the leaping log-flames and of the oil-lamp overhead glints in everyone’s eyes …”

Chapter fifteen of this same book also contains the most evocative characterisation of a pint of bitter I have so far encountered in English literature. On having the glass set on the counter in front of him, Bob Copper muses …

“What wonders of re-creation can be worked by a pint of good bitter beer. Embodied in the limpid amber of its liquid heart are all the rewards of last year’s harvest. The purity and sweetness of April rains; the warmth and brilliance of summer sunshine; the tang of September dews on southern hopfields; and the golden richness of sun-baked barley, all confined in one seductive glass and ready to be released at the first touch of your lips. Good English beer is a tribute to English ingenuity.”

I’ll drink to that!

Monday, 16 February 2015

Sussex CAMRA Branches 25th Beer & Cider Festival, 19th-21st March

Sussex CAMRA Branches 25th Beer & Cider Festival, 19th-21st March

Brighton Corn Exchange, Church Street, Brighton, BN1 1EE

Real ale is bucking a lot of trends and going from strength to strength with over twelve hundred breweries in the UK, including over forty in Sussex, producing over 5,000 different beers. With a new venue this year we will not be able to have as much choice as we have had previously, but there will be over 150 specially chosen real ales on sale. Cider and perry lovers will have more than thirty ciders and perries available and there will be a selection of British real ales in a bottle together with foreign beers. Please bear in mind that real ale takes at least two days to settle before it can be served, therefore the earlier you can get to the festival the greater the choice of beer that will be available. It is not our policy to hold back for later sale any beers which are ready for consumption.

Unfortunately, due to space limitations, we will not be able to provide any live entertainment this year. To help soak up those pints there will be a variety of food on sale, including vegetarian and vegan choices. Kaz and Camilla from Ace Faces will be doing face painting and temporary tattoos. All bars will operate a token system with each token being worth 10p. Refunds will be given only for whole £s and must be requested before time is called at the bar. Any surplus tokens as well as any spare cash you have can be donated to this year’s Festival Charity which will be Blind Veterans UK (formerly St Dunstans). If you wish to volunteer to work at the festival there are full details on the festival web site:

Tickets will go on sale from 19 January until 14 March at the following outlets: Evening Star, Brighton; Beer Essentials, Horsham; Gardener’s Arms, Lewes; Duke of Wellington, Shoreham-by-Sea and Selden Arms, Worthing. Please note that, contrary to the information given in the winter Sussex Drinker, tickets will not be available from the Buckingham Arms, Shoreham-by-Sea. 

For Postal Sales please send a 9x4 SAE with your payment to SBB&CF Ticket Sales, 16 Connell Drive, Woodingdean, Brighton BN2 6RT. Please state which session(s) you require with cheques or postal orders (sterling only) made payable to Sussex CAMRA Beer Festival. No refunds will be processed after 12 March. There will be no on-line facility for the purchase of tickets this year.

Again, contrary to the information given in the winter Sussex Drinker, a minimum of 100 tickets will be on sale at the door before each of the five sessions.

Opening Times & Ticket Prices:

Thursday 11am to 3pm £5
                 5pm to 11pm £8

Friday      11am to 3pm £5
                 5pm to 11pm £8

Saturday  12am to 10pm† £8
                 After 5pm‡ £4

(† Or whenever the beer runs out if before)
(‡ No Advance Tickets for Saturday after 5pm - Pay on the Door)

 More information is available on the festival website. The ticket price will include a free souvenir glass and festival programme. For card-carrying CAMRA members there will be £2 worth of beer tokens available from the CAMRA membership stand. If you look under 25 please bring a photo ID and there will be no admission for under-18s at ALL sessions with no exceptions. Bags may be inspected at all times. ID wristbands will be issued to all attendees.

All enquiries: or 07450 656148;