Watneys Raises A Laugh With Headliners Craft Range

September 2018

Watneys has launched a new range of beers in celebration of the lighter side of life, balancing the serious craft credentials of the beers with the importance of sharing a pint and a joke with friends while enjoying the many different things that make us laugh.

Named Sarcasm, Slapstick, and Irony, the three-strong Headliners range launches in September and features a Citrus Pale Ale, Double IPA and Craft Lager in keg and can. The launch will be supported this autumn with a Pop-up Stand-up campaign, which will see surprise gigs in pubs and bars by some of the UK’s best up-and-coming comedy talent.

Nick Whitehurst, managing director of Brands Reunited, which returned the Watneys brand to the bar in 2016, says, “We love a good time down the pub with our mates, and we love craft beer – but beard oil and Birkenstocks is really not us. So we’ve created three premium beers for laid-back laughter lovers who want to enjoy the flavours of craft beer but don’t necessarily buy into the full-on hipster experience.

“There’s a real opportunity to bring a broader range of beer drinkers into the craft category by making it more accessible, so with our Headliners beers we’re celebrating all the funny things that make us laugh, and different styles of humour. We all know a sarcastic mate, an ironic uncle, or someone who is always playing the joker, who we enjoy spending time with.

“Don’t get us wrong – these beers are great, but we know there’s much more to life. Drinkers appreciate a great beer as part of the experience of having a laugh and spending time with mates.”

The three Headliners beers are:
• Sarcasm Citrus Pale Ale 4.5% ABV
• Slapstick Double IPA 7.5% ABV
• Irony Craft Lager 4.6% ABV

The range will be available to pubs and bars in kegs and cans, with the cans also available to order online at The cans will feature tasting notes which take a more tongue-in-cheek approach than many craft brewers. Watneys beers are brewed at Sambrook’s Brewery in Wandsworth, continuing the Watneys tradition of brewing in London dating back to 1837.

Watneys will be taking the Pop Up Stand Up tour to a range of pubs and bars, with venues to be announced. Licensees interested in stocking the Watneys Headliners range should contact

Registration now open for World’s Biggest Pub Quiz 2019

September 2018

PubAid aiming for participation from 2,000 pubs

The World’s Biggest Pub Quiz is back for 2019 and set to be bigger and better than ever. Organisers PubAid are encouraging even more pubs and their customers to take part and raise money for charities, including official charity partner Prostate Cancer UK.

Next year’s event will be the fourth quiz and will follow the successful format of previous events. Pubs wanting to run the quiz will receive a free fundraising pack containing all they need to run a successful event and to encourage customers to take part. Pubs can join the 150 pubs who have already registered their interest by signing up on the World’s Biggest Pub Quiz website.
Co-founder of PubAid, Des O’Flanagan, said: “The World’s Biggest Pub Quiz has become a popular fixture for many pubs and their customers and we’re delighted to see many licensees signing up to run it again, as well as new pubs coming on board for 2019.

“We’re delighted with how the quiz has grown over the years, with 1,500 pubs taking part earlier this year, raising £190,000 for charities. We’re grateful to our charity partner Prostate Cancer UK who have made the event both easy to run for licensees and great fun for participants.

“We’re also grateful to all the pubs, brewers and pub groups who supported this year’s quiz and we are confident even more will take part in 2019. It would be great to see more than 2,000 pubs run the quiz and raise more than £250,000 for charity.”

He added, “The quiz has become a tremendous showcase event for pub fundraising overall. Pubs raise an amazing £100 million for charity every year, and we’re pleased to see that message now getting through to consumers, MPs and others, helping to shape positive perceptions of the great British pub.”

James Beeby, Director of Fundraising at Prostate Cancer UK said: “It’s been really great to see the World’s Biggest Pub Quiz grow since 2016 and we are excited to be PubAid’s charity partner once again for 2019. We are extremely grateful to all the pubs who have taken part so far and raised an incredible amount of money for Prostate Cancer UK.
“By continuing our partnership with PubAid, we can reach even more publicans and their customers, to not only help raise funds for vital research, but to also help us raise awareness of a disease which kills one man every 45 minutes.”

Jon Dale, head of corporate communications at Ei Group, said: “Pub quizzes play an important part in bringing the community together and enjoying the Great British pub. We always encourage as many of our publicans as possible to sign up to take part in the World’s Biggest Pub Quiz and will continue to support this worthy cause in 2019.”

The World’s Biggest Pub Quiz is scheduled for 3-7 March 2019, but the organisers stress that this window is a guideline, not a requirement. Pubs who want to take part but can’t run the quiz during that week are welcome to run it at any other time in 2019. Pubs are encouraged to support PubAid’s charity partner Prostate Cancer UK, but can choose to raise funds for another charity should they wish to.

Tom Richardson & Ollie Boulton – Three Moles, Selham, West Sussex

“The World’s Biggest Pub Quiz was a real hit with our customers. We’re a small, traditional pub, and were absolutely packed on quiz night, it was standing room only – so it shows how an event can really draw customers into your pub.

“Customers were incredibly generous and, by combining the quiz with an auction of items donated by local businesses and residents, we raised an incredible £1,060 for Prostate Cancer UK. The charity has helped some of our local customers through difficult times and it’s a subject that isn’t talked about enough, so anything that can raise awareness is great.”

Penny Warren – The Trout Inn, Lechlade, Gloucestershire

“The day we’d scheduled for the World’s Biggest Pub Quiz coincided with the heavy snowfall, but despite that, three teams made it to us through the blizzard to pit their wits. That’s a sizeable group of people who might not have made the effort just for a drink, so it shows how popular the quiz is.

“We ran the quiz again once the weather had improved, so it was great that we had another set of questions to choose from, and we added our own current affairs round. All our customers enjoyed the quiz and the atmosphere on both evenings was great, we’ll definitely be running it again in 2019.”

Hogs Back prepares for fourth and final harvest on current site

August 2018

New hop garden to double hop yield

Hogs Back Brewery is predicting a top-quality hop harvest this year, with the impact of the long, hot summer raising expectations of quality over quantity. With plans in hand to relocate the hop garden to a much larger site for 2019, the fourth, and final, harvest on the existing hop garden will take place mid-September, after which the process of transferring hops, and planting new ones, will begin.

The brewer, based near Farnham in Surrey, has been closely monitoring hop growth during the heatwave. Estate manager Matthew King said, “This is the first extended period of dry and hot weather we’ve experienced since planting the hop garden in 2014. Hops thrive on heat and sunshine, but the lack of rainfall has affected their development. They are drawing water up to the top of the plant which is looking very healthy, but we’re not seeing as much lateral growth lower down.

“For this reason, we’re expecting this year’s harvest to be more about quality than quantity. We’ve learned a lot this summer about how hops respond to hot and dry weather, which will stand us in good stead when we move to our new hop garden.”

The new hop garden is more than double the size of the existing one – a total of eight acres, compared to the current 3.5 acres – and is located within Manor Farm, where the brewery itself is sited. The garden will sit in a prime location on the best land on the farm and will also include a test area for different varieties.
Work is due to start this month on the new garden – formerly a wheat field – and is expected to be complete by early 2019. The site will be prepared for the arrival of hop poles which, thanks to an absence of overhead power cables, will be taller – and therefore higher-yielding – than those at the existing garden. After several miles of hop wire have been added, 2,500 hop plants from the current site will be moved by hand, and new ones planted.

Hogs Back Brewery managing director Rupert Thompson said, “This is a huge investment in the future of Hogs Back Brewery and we’re proud to be continuing the journey that started with the planting of our hop garden in 2014.

“The new hop garden embodies everything Hogs Back stands for as a ‘farmer brewer’ and will make us an even more sustainable, environmentally-conscious business: we can measure the distance from hop garden to brewery in ‘food feet’ rather than ‘food miles’!

“Expanding to the new garden will make us more self-sufficient in hops, ultimately providing around half our hop requirement, compared to less than 25% currently. Just as importantly, growing our own hops has made us better brewers, as with each harvest we’ve learned more about how the flavour of the hops is affected by the weather, and how that then impacts the quality and taste of the beer.

“Getting closer to this key ingredient has given us a level of control over our beers that few, if any, other British brewers can claim.”

Hogs Back will harvest four hop varieties in September: Farnham White Bine, a traditional local hop which Hogs Back revived from near-extinction; Fuggles, used in the brewer’s flagship TEA (Traditional English Ale); Cascade, used in Hogstar Craft English lager, and Pioneer, added alongside the other varieties to the seasonal Home Harvest Ale.

British bartender wins the International Southern Showdown 2018

August 2018

Bartender Lee Jones, of the Smokestack bar in Leeds, has won the International Final of the Southern Comfort Southern Showdown 2018 cocktail contest, held in the cocktail capital of the world, New Orleans.

Lee’s winning drink, the Whitesmith Cobbler, won through against strong competition from Irish and Australian Southern Showdown winners. All three international finalists had already triumphed in their national contests, where they were challenged to recreate the spirit of their home town in a cocktail, just as Southern Comfort captures the spirit of New Orleans.
Cocktails had to include the classic 35% ABV Southern Comfort Original, the 40% ABV New Southern Comfort Black, or the 50% ABV Southern Comfort 100 Proof.

With the New Orleans final taking place in the birthplace of the American cocktail, a panel of international judges including Christian Tirel, UK & Ireland Southern Comfort Brand Ambassador, James Johnstone, Senior Brand Manager of SouthTrade International, Australia, and Norton Christopher, Beverage Director, Sac A Lait, New Orleans put the three finalists through their paces.

Up against Lee were runner-up Daniel Gregory of the IXL Bar in Hobart, Tasmania, with his Where the Wild Things Are cocktail, and third place Shane Groarke of Cask bar in Cork, with his creation called Non Genuine But Mine.

Making their winning cocktails for the judges, the finalists earned points for the flavour of their drink, their technique and presentation skills, and their knowledge of the history and heritage of Southern Comfort, created in New Orleans in 1874 by bartender M.W. Heron.

Lee said: “To be in New Orleans representing the UK for the Southern Showdown Final is about as close to the essence of hospitality as you can get. I met passionate individuals from all over the world, who want nothing more than to celebrate the career we’ve all chosen.

“I’m incredibly proud to have won, and in particular to be bringing a bit of attention to northern bartenders in the UK – there is so much talent out there waiting to be found, and I can’t wait for the rest of the world discover it too.”

Christian Tirel, UK brand ambassador for Southern Comfort, and winner of the first Southern Showdown in 2016, said: “The quality of entries gets stronger every year, and Lee had to be on top form to win the International final against great competition from Daniel and Shane, in the home of Southern Comfort.”

Lee’s winning recipe for the Whitesmith Cobbler is:
• 40ml Southern Comfort 100 Proof
• 20ml Absentroux herbal wine
• 20ml gooseberry cordial
• 1 dash champagne acid
Served in a Nick & Nora Coupette glass. Garnished with a pickled gooseberry, mint hydrosol and absinthe bon bon.

Southern Comfort is distributed in the UK by Hi-Spirits. For more information, please contact Hi-Spirits on 01932 252 100, email or visit

Caption to attached image: (l-r) Norton Christopher, judge, Beverage Director, Sac A Lait, New Orleans: Lee Jones, International Southern Showdown Winner from Smokestack, Leeds and Christian Tirel, Southern Comfort UK & Ireland Brand Ambassador

Scapegrace Gin goes rogue with Anonymous Cocktail Competition

July 2018

Building on its reputation as the rogue of the spirits shelf, Scapegrace Gin is launching a cocktail competition with a difference. Bartenders entering the Anonymous contest will have to create a Scapegrace cocktail recipe that will be made for the judges by another bartender.

With the entrants remaining anonymous until after the judging, the competition has been launched by Hi-Spirits, distributor of premium New Zealand gin Scapegrace, to put the focus firmly on the quality of the cocktail rather than the personality of the bartender.

Any bar stocking Scapegrace Classic Gin or Scapegrace Gold Gin can enter a cocktail recipe with a maximum of ten steps online. Entrants will be shortlisted on the basis of the originality of the drink, the appearance of the cocktail, and creativity based on their answers to two online questions about who they’d serve their drink to.

Regional winners will be invited to a Grand Final in London on 3 October, during London Cocktail Week – where they will see their drink being made for the judges. The identity of the winning drink’s creator will only be revealed once the judging is complete.

The prize for each regional winner also includes a one night, all expenses paid trip to London, with a plus one. This will include a tour of some of the capital’s best venues, along with dinner and drinks, hosted by Scapegrace Ambassador Josh Linfitt. The overall winner will get a Scapegrace goodie bag and tickets to see Fat Freddy’s Drop at the Brixton O2 Academy on 9 November as part of another VIP night out.

Dan Bolton, managing director of Hi-Spirits, said: “It’s just over a year since we launched Scapegrace in the UK, and it’s definitely lived up to its reputation as a Rogue in terms of its premium quality and mixability. There are plenty of cocktail competitions that put the focus on the personality and presentation skills of the bartender, so we’ve created the Anonymous competition to put the quality and originality of the cocktail itself at the heart of the contest.”

Coming from the Rogue Society Distilling Co, Scapegrace bills itself as the gin ‘from the bottom of the world’. Distilled in New Zealand using spring water sourced from the country’s Southern Alps, and botanicals sourced from around the world, the spirit is batch-distilled using a restored 19th century copper whisky still, with each batch individually numbered.

Scapegrace is a traditional word for a rogue or rascal, and the brand celebrates gin’s sometimes murky history with a black-tinted bottle, which has a shape based on an antique genever bottle. Alongside Scapegrace Classic, a 42.2% ABV complex, artisan dry gin which combines classic juniper and citrus notes with subtler floral and spice undertones, sits Scapegrace Gold, a 57% ABV Navy-strength gin with added tangerine flavour notes.

Full entry details for the Anonymous Cocktail Competition, including terms and conditions, can be found at

A Second Showdown for Hogs Back Brewery

July 2018

Surrey brewer back on national TV

Farnham brewer Hogs Back Brewery is back on national TV this week with a timely repeat of its appearance on BBC One Daytime series, The Farmers’ Country Showdown, as the brewer prepares for its hop harvest.

The programme was filmed at the time of the 2017 harvest at the Hogs Back hop garden adjacent to the brewery and was originally broadcast in January. With The Farmers’ Country Showdown attracting regular audiences of 1.6m, the new broadcast, at 11.45am on Friday 20 July, comes just as Hogs Back is gearing up for the 2018 harvest.

The episode includes an interview with Hogs Back MD Rupert Thompson, where he talks about the brewery, and in particular its hop garden, as well as footage of the Farnham Food Festival, where Thompson gave a talk on hops. The programme also features local gamekeeper and butcher Jack Smallman.

Thompson said, “We were delighted to welcome The Farmers’ Country Showdown team to the brewery, and we’re glad there’s another opportunity for viewers to enjoy the programme.  The hop garden, which we planted in 2014, is a great example of brewing tradition and innovation working hand-in-hand, and an excellent fit for the series, which looks at a wide range of farmers and producers.

“Growing our own hops, including the Farnham White Bine, a traditional local variety which we have revived, is a great story and we’re always happy to tell it again, especially as we prepare for this year’s harvest.”

The Farmers’ Country Showdown celebrates the hard-working, devoted farmers who are the backbone of the rural economy. It illustrates the changing face of farming as well as the traditional ways of working the land they live on. It first screened in 2017 and a second series of 20 x 45-minute programmes was shown this year.

Notes to editors

The Farmers’ Country Showdown is produced by Sidney Street Productions, a production company founded in January 2016 by former MasterChef Creative Director, Karen Ross with Endemol Shine UK. It specialises in producing food, factual and lifestyle formats, including the Mary Berry Everyday series for BBC Two.