The Truth behind the myths of Mother’s Ruin

March 2020

London Dry: The Real History Of Gin by Ted Bruning

From Mother’s Ruin to the Gin Palace, the vocabulary of gin reflects its place in our culture, as well as a sometimes conflicted relationship that has often both celebrated and shamed the juniper-flavoured spirit.

A new book sets out to separate the myths from the reality of Britain’s 400-year affair with gin, as well as gin’s place in the wider world. The latest boom in sales, seen across the last decade, has seen headlines celebrating the so-called ‘ginaissance’, with total UK gin sales now more than £3.2bn, balanced with grim inevitability by others raising concerns about the health implications of all those cocktails and G&Ts.

London Dry: The Real History Of Gin by author and drinks trade specialist Ted Bruning highlights that not only is moral panic about gin nothing new, but also that the spirit has often been used by anti-alcohol campaigners as a blunt instrument to attack the drinking habits of the masses, regardless of the reality.

Bruning has taken his trademark forensic approach to researching historic records to distinguish between what we think we know, and what the facts show. “There’s a great deal of nonsense talked, and written, about gin – and as I’ve discovered, there always has been,” says Bruning.

“One of the most striking examples of this is Hogarth’s famous Gin Lane print, which has come to be seen as a documentary depiction of the degradation and debauchery engendered by gin drinking in London, rather than the exaggerated work of a satirist.

“The main evidence we have for the widely-believed view that the 18th century poor of London were succumbing to effects of gin-drinking in large numbers comes from the pamphlets and sermons of neopuritans campaigning to reassert their former influence over the capital’s moral climate. Then, as now, the picture painted by moral campaigners can be as much about their view of alcohol as it is about the reality.”

Other gin myths examined in London Dry: The Real History Of Gin include:

• Mother’s Ruin: The industrial revolution created opportunities for single women to work, and spend their earnings. Far from being the downfall of working women, a well-earned gin was often enjoyed by women with more social and financial independence than previously.

• Dutch courage: It’s not true that the first Englishmen to taste gin were soldiers in Elizabeth I’s Dutch campaign of 1585-86 or the mercenaries who fought the Spanish in Flanders in the 1590s – at that time gin was still treated as a herbal tonic, and they would probably have been drinking brandy.

• Bathtub gin: The illicit gin of the Prohibition-era USA was mainly a high quality product “diverted” from legal industrial distilleries and bottled by the Mob in vast quantities, rather than a variable and sometime lethal home-made spirit.

Bruning adds: “The myths and rituals that surround alcohol are always fascinating, and gin has more than its share. It’s important, though, to understand the reality of what went on, especially as gin continues to be a drink that inspires passion on both sides of the debate about alcohol consumption

“The real story of gin is more fascinating than any half-truth, and London Dry: The Real History Of Gin is telling many chapters of that story for the first time.”

London Dry: The Real History Of Gin by Ted Bruning is published by White Mule Press, priced £13.85. and is available to order from Amazon and other online retailers

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Helping operators prepare for National Living Wage increase

February 2020

Easy to use calculator from Bizimply

With the National Living Wage set to rise on 1st April, workforce management experts Bizimply are offering hospitality operators a National Living Wage Calculator, as an easy way to work out the cost of the increase to their business.

Operators can download a free, simple to use spreadsheet from the Bizimply website and populate it with each employee’s date of birth and current hourly wage. This will show whether a pay increase is due in April, and if so, how much. For existing Bizimply customers, all the information can be easily transferred from current employee files, meaning the whole process takes only minutes.

Bizimply CEO Conor Shaw said: “The increase in the National Living Wage is going to have a massive impact on hospitality businesses, but working out exactly what that will be can be complex and time-consuming, especially for multi-site operators.

“That’s why we’ve created this simple calculator, which makes it easy for operators to see how much their wage bill will go up by in April. It’s vital information that every business should have – and the further ahead they have it, the better they can plan.”

The National Living Wage Calculator can be downloaded free of charge from Bizimply’s website. The National Living Wage is set to rise by 6.2% in April and will undoubtedly push up labour costs for many hospitality businesses. The increase is from £8.21 to £8.72 for workers over 25, and from £7.70 to £8.20 an hour for those aged 21-24.

The rise in the NLW comes at a time of the lowest unemployment levels in the UK for decades, creating a challenging environment for hospitality employers. Added to this, the Government’s decision to deny working visas to ‘low skilled’ workers, and the possibility that EU nationals in the UK – who make up an estimated 15% of the hospitality workforce – may return home, will add further pressures to labour supply.

Shaw says: “The reality for most hospitality businesses for 2020 and beyond is rising labour costs and a shrinking, and transient, workforce. These may feel like ‘bigger than us’ factors outside any individual operator’s control, but in our experience, the opposite is true.

“The solution is to have the right team members working in your business, at the right time, and making sure they’re motivated to deliver memorable customer service. This is what Bizimply was designed to achieve and we’ve helped many of the hospitality businesses we work with to reduce their labour cost from 35% to less than 30% of turnover.

“Our software helps operators to create staff rotas more efficiently, taking up less time, particularly for the GMs, who are then freed up to spend more time front of house. It also gives team members more advance notice of their schedule, which in turn improves their work-life balance and job satisfaction and means they’ll be more engaged with your business.

“The result is staff teams who enjoy their job, and are receiving hands-on coaching and direction from their GM to deliver the exceptional customer service that encourages return visits. Operators who can create this workplace environment are the ones who will weather the storm of wage increases and staff shortages – and anything else that might be thrown at our industry!”

New Deadline for Oliver Kay Produce Vegan Dish recipe competition

February 2020

The deadline for entries to the Oliver Kay National Vegan Dish of the Year 2020 has been extended to Thursday, 5 March. The extra time allows chefs who have been trialling new vegan dishes at the start of the year the opportunity to enter their recipes online at

Running for the first time in 2020, the competition challenges chefs to create a new dish to appeal to the growing number of vegan and flexitarian customers eating out.

Jane Aukim, marketing manager for Oliver Kay Produce says: “We’ve had some great entries already, but we’ve also seen so much innovation in vegan dishes on menus at the start of 2020 that we’re extending the deadline to enter from the end of February to 5 March.”

The competition aims to find recipes with a strong appeal to customers looking for enticing vegan dishes, as well as to inspire hospitality businesses to create profitable vegan menus.

Shortlisted finalists will be invited to prepare, cook and serve their recipe for a panel of industry judges at the cook-off final, to be held at Oliver Kay Produce’s development kitchen in Bolton, on Monday 30 March. The final will also include a short Mystery Box challenge inviting entrants to prepare and serve a starter or dessert from a selection of fresh produce provided by Oliver Kay, including from the new Plant Based Collection of ingredients.

The judging panel includes:
• Adam Leavy: Semi-finalist in MasterChef the Professionals 2013, and head chef at Alvarium in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, which specialises in vegan small plates;
• Tony Naylor: Food and drink columnist and feature writer for The Guardian, BBC Good Food, and other titles;
• Day Radley: International professional chef, food writer and founder of The Vegan Chef School in London.

The prize on offer to the overall winner incudes a UK city break for two, including a dinner booking at a leading vegan restaurant. Finalists will receive a hamper of products from the Plant Based Collection, and the shortlisted recipes, credited to their creators, will be featured in a national marketing campaign.

Dishes entered must be the chef’s original creation and should include an element of protein, Beyond that, chefs have free rein to use all their creativity and skills to create a new vegan menu classic.

The Oliver Kay National Vegan Dish of the Year 2020 competition is open for entry at The closing date for entries is 12 noon on Thursday, 5 March 2020.

Hogs Back Brewery to bring a ‘bit of heaven’ to pub gardens

February 2020

Hop giveaway marks relaunch of Surrey Nirvana Session IPA

Pub gardens across the south east will be blooming with aromatic hops thanks to a giveaway of English Cascade plants from Surrey-based Hogs Back Brewery this spring, to mark the relaunch of its Surrey Nirvana Session IPA.

Hogs Back is supplying pubs with a Cascade growing kit of hop ‘plug’, string and canes to support the bines, a display tag and a simple guide to cultivation. Kits are being offered to any pub ordering two or more casks of Surrey Nirvana, which Hogs Back is relaunching this month as Surrey Nirvana Session IPA.

The 4% ABV golden cask ale has a new, more hop-intense flavour, achieved by adding more of the English Cascade hops grown on its own hop garden, and a deep tropical aroma from the combination of US Mosaic and Centennial hops. The brand is also being given a new pump clip design that delivers more standout on the bar and clearly communicates its ‘Session IPA’ positioning.

Hogs Back managing director Rupert Thompson said: “We’re delighted to be offering up to 200 hop plants to pubs in our local area and looking forward to seeing the results in their gardens later in the year.

“The English Cascade is a wonderful hop variety, with a distinct aroma of spicy citrus notes and hints of grapefruit. It has thrived in the Hogs Back hop garden since we first planted it in 2014 and we’re delighted to be sharing it with our customers as a way of reinforcing the centuries-old link between hops, beer and pubs.”

He added, “We chose the name Surrey Nirvana many years ago, with the idea that a pint of this golden ale represented a little bit of nirvana, or heaven, in a Surrey pub. So with this hop giveaway, we’re extending heaven from the bar into the pub garden!”

Surrey Nirvana is one of Hogs Back’s best-sellers, with well-balanced hoppy and citrus flavours. Additional hops have been added to capture the style of a session IPA, a beer style which has the classic hop forward character drinkers now expect from an IPA, but with a lower ABV and more balanced palate to make it more sessionable.

Hogs Back expanded its hop garden last year, and planted more of the Cascade which is used in its Hogstar lager, Hog IPA and other bottled beers, as well as Surrey Nirvana.

Thompson added, “For pubs, the chance to grow their own display hops is in keeping with the growing consumer demand for sustainable, locally sourced food and drink that has seen many pubs create their own kitchen gardens. We expanded our hop garden in order to become an even more sustainable, environmentally-conscious brewer. The hops we grow have a fraction of the carbon footprint of importing from the US – justifying our claim of ‘field to firkin in a furlong’.

“Growing our own hops also makes us better brewers. With each harvest we’ve learned more about how the flavour of the hops is affected by the weather and growing techniques, and how that then impacts the quality and taste of the beer.

Pubs who successfully cultivate their Cascade hop will see the growth cycle from hop shoots – which appear in March or April and are also known as ‘poor man’s asparagus’ for their culinary qualities – through to fully mature plant standing at 16-18 feet by midsummer. Plants flower, then produce the hop cones that are harvested in late August-September, and used in brewing.

he plants die back in the winter and then regrow in the spring. They send down roots that can extend for 12-14 feet, and they last for 20-30 years with relatively little care.

Caption to attached image: Matthew King, Hogs Back’s hop garden manager, assembling the Cascade hop growing kits to send to pubs

Hogs Back Brewery hails success of ‘Go TEA Total’ campaign

February 2020

Kings Head in Billingshurst named TEA Drinkers’ Pub of the Year

Hogs Back Brewery has named The Kings Head in Billingshurst, West Sussex, as the ‘TEA Drinkers’ Pub of the Year 2020’ at the end of its successful ‘Support Your Local, Go TEA Total’ campaign, which ran throughout January.

The campaign, designed to encourage more people to support their local during the pub trade’s quietest month, achieved Hogs Back’s highest ever levels of engagement among licensees and drinkers.

More than 220 pubs, both in Hogs Back’s Surrey heartlands and further afield, displayed ‘Go TEA Total’ posters, beer mats and pumpclip wobblers, while the campaign reached more than 130,000 people on social media channels.

As well as the TEA Drinkers’ Pub of the Year, which attracted votes from 450 drinkers for 59 pubs, the campaign also rewarded pubgoers through a weekly ‘TEA Total Thursday’ competition, giving brewery tours to those who ‘tagged’ the mates they were taking to the pub. Poster advertising at Farnham station highlighted the benefits of a reviving pint after the daily commute.

Hogs Back managing director Rupert Thompson said: “We’re delighted with the response to Go TEA Total among pubs and their customers, who clearly engaged with the campaign’s messages about banishing the January blues with a walk to the pub and a sociable pint of TEA.

“Licensees who supported Go TEA Total tell us that it was a frequent talking point at the bar and that their customers enjoyed taking part in the competitions by scanning the codes on beer mats.

“We’re confident the campaign made January a more cheerful month for many pubs and reminded pubgoers about why they love their local, and the importance of supporting it throughout the year. We’re looking forward to building on Go Tea Total and making it bigger and better in 2021.”

As winners, the Kings Head received 20 vouchers for a Hogs Back Brewery tour and beer tasting, and a certificate to display in the pub alongside other awards – including the local West Sussex County Times Pub of the Year in 2019 and 2018. The pub has been owned for the past six years by Oonagh & Colin Ganley, who have stocked Hogs Back TEA from the start.

Oonagh said: “We’ve just had our busiest January ever and we’re sure the TEA Total campaign played a part. Customers loved it and our staff team were really motivated to win the Pub of the Year title, so it definitely created a great buzz in the pub. We’ll be looking forward to TEA Total next year, and hoping to retain our title!”

The Kings Head won the TEA Drinkers’ Pub of the Year title in a tight race, and Hogs Back also presented Highly Commended certificates to four other pubs, who scored highly in the public vote: The Wooden Bridge, Guildford; The Wheatsheaf, Camberley; The Onslow Arms, Clandon, Surrey, and The Crispin, Wokingham.

Although most of the pubs and drinkers taking part in Go TEA Total were in and around Surrey, where Hogs Back is based, the campaign also reached further afield. A competition with Cask Marque’s Cask Finder app generated 4,500 entries from drinkers as far afield as Newton Abbot and Darlington.

Caption to attached image: (l-r): Oonagh Ganley, Kings Head owner; Hogs Back Brewery sales director Gordon Thompson and Paul Sweeney, Kings Head manager

PubAid welcomes first Patron

February 2020

Greene King commits three-year funding to pub charity group

PubAid, the organisation dedicated to promoting pubs as a force for good, has welcomed Greene King as its first ever Patron.

PubAid receives funding from a number of supporters, with Greene King becoming the first to commit at the highest level of £5,000 per year for three years.

PubAid co-founder Des O’Flanagan said: “We’re delighted that Greene King has stepped up to be a Patron and are grateful to all the pub companies, brewers and others who have supported PubAid over the years.

“To enable us to plan for the longer term, we are seeking support guaranteed for three years, with a choice of funding levels. This will allow us to be more ambitious with our plans to raise the profile of pubs as a force for good in their communities and wider society.

“Pubs raise more than £100 million for charities every year and support grassroots sport to the tune of £40 million; we think these are impressive figures that everyone in the pub industry should be proud of, and more people outside it should know about!”

With guaranteed funding, PubAid is planning to raise awareness of how pubs support charities and their local communities, both by building on successful initiatives such as next month’s World’s Biggest Pub Quiz and the Charity Pub of the Year competition, and exploiting new areas including pubs’ support for grassroots sport.

Greg Sage, Communications Director at Greene King, said: “We’ve supported PubAid for a number of years and are happy to formalise that support with a three-year commitment.

“PubAid’s work shines a spotlight on the great work that thousands of licensees and their teams do to support national and local charities, groups and individuals, working tirelessly to keep their pub at the heart of its community. We’re delighted to be helping PubAid to spread these positive messages about pubs more widely.”

Other PubAid supporters include: Ei Group, Heineken, Star Pubs & Bars, Everards, Shepherd Neame, Magners, C&C, Stonegate, Zonal and the British Beer & Pub Association.

PubAid was founded in 2009 by a group of senior pub industry figures with the aim of raising awareness of UK pubs as a force for good, highlighting that they raise more than £100 million every year for hundreds of charities and local causes, and offer £40m in financial and in-kind support to grassroots sports.

Caption to attached image (l-r): Des O’Flanagan, co-founder of PubAid, with Greg Sage, Greene King Communications Director