BrewBritannia: the strange rebirth of British beer, Boak & Bailey. Click to Look Inside.
Those with a keen interest in beer, pubs and history thereof, may be aware of the eagerly-awaited book from beer bloggers Boak & Bailey, BrewBritannia: the strange rebirth of British beer. It's out on 19th June, but it will be available from them at the Port Street Beer House on Sunday 18th May from 2pm.
Manchester's role in the rebirth of British beer is not to be understated, so to start with here's a piece from Boak & Bailey on the White Gates Inn. This little Sam Smiths boozer on Manchester Road, Hyde, is named after the entrance gates to Hyde Hall, and back in the mid-'70s became the first official CAMRA pub in the north (after the Old Fox in Bristol).
About the authors
Boak & Bailey write a beer blog at boakandbailey.com. Their book, BrewBritannia: the strange rebirth of British beer, is due out in June 2014.
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In 1974, CAMRA's chief 'thinker' Christopher Hutt, author of the polemical paperback The Death of the English Pub, set up a member-funded pub chain known as CAMRAIL - CAMRA Real Ale Investments Limited. It caused conflict within the Campaign but, nonetheless, for a few years, pubs demonstrating the CAMRA ideal operated across England, including in Manchester.
CAMRAIL purchased The White Gates in Hyde for £16,000 (they were the only bidder) and it became the second in the small chain, its opening being announced in What's Brewing in March 1975. CAMRA's appointed managers, Frank and Joyce Eastwood, took on a solidly Victorian pub that had been run for years by one Samuel Oldham. They inherited his choice of draught beers - Tetley's Mild, and bitters from Younger and Boddington. Neil Kellett of CAMRA said at the time:
"We plan to preserve the traditional atmosphere and enhance it with a wide range of real draught beer and straightforward but tasty food. Our first priority will be to attend to a number of urgent structural repairs to the building."
White Gatesm Manchester Road. (c) CAMRA 1979 Good Beer Guide.
Before long, the White Gates became the best place to try beer from the region's own contribution to the slowly growing number of new 'real ale' breweries, Pollard's of Stockport.
CAMRAIL, in general, seems to have been a balancing act between, on the one hand, preservation of buildings and pub traditions, and, on the other, appealing to relatively well-off CAMRA members with an interest in novelty.
Throughout 1975, CAMRAIL used cash invested by CAMRA members to expand the building, at a cost of £40,000. With similar rebuilding and renovation going on at pubs in Bristol, Cambridge and Leeds, the company made a loss in its first full year of trading, causing investors to grumble.
In the 1978 Good Beer Guide, the description of the White Gates suggests that it had become the kind of 'real ale pub' we would recognise today, selling cult out of town favourites such as Theakston's:
White Gates, Manchester Road. (c) 1978 CAMRA Good Beer Guide entry.
The following year, Frank and Joyce Eastwood decided to retire, which gave Hutt the opportunity to assess the situation. Manchester was far from being a 'real ale desert' and so it was decided to sell the White Gates with a view to investing the proceeds in a new CAMRAIL pub in Watney's-dominated Northampton.
'Doors Open at White Gates', What's Brewing, March 1975.
'Pubs that Convert the Fizz Drinkers', What's Brewing, December 1976.
'Camrail open one pub - and close another', What's Brewing, July 1979.
Good Beer Guides 1975-1980.
History of Stockport Breweries, Mike Ogden, Neil Richardson, 1987
Interviews with Christopher Hutt, Terry Pattinson and others.