Manx Tales by wuzhengqin

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									                                            Manx Tales

It is only since 2003 that a physical presence from South-West London CAMRA has presented its
Beer of the (Battersea) Festival to the winners, as chosen by customers in a secret vote. Last year
(2004) the winner was Pictish of Rochdale and in 2003 St Peters of Bungay triumphed. With
Bushy’s winning this year for their Ruby Mild, it meant a trip outside Britain (and the UK for that
matter).

The Isle of Man is a self-governing Crown Dependency and is part of the British Isles. Its
independent parliament, the Tynwald, is over a thousand years old and is the oldest parliament in
continuous existence in the world. The Manx gaelic name for the island is Ellan Vannin and the
island has the distinction of being the first country to enfranchise women (albeit limited) in 1881.

It was a slightly depleted party of eleven souls who turned up at London City Airport on Saturday 3
September for the one-hour flight to the Isle. Whilst reassuring, it was quite alarming to see police
patrolling the premises with machine guns. The powerful turboprop aircraft took off on time
between the Royal Albert and King George V docks and an hour later we were on the ground at
Ronaldsway Airport at the south-east corner of the island.

We boarded a bus and headed straight for the brewery. Now unless you know exactly where
Bushy’s is situated, its physical existence would be easily overlooked. The only signage is one
that states “The Hop Garden”. Down a short, un-tarmaced path lies Bushy’s and there to greet us
was the Man in Black, Martin Brunnschweiler, Blackburn-bred Rovers supporter and co-managing
director of the brewery.

                                        Martin had no brewing experience (he had been a chef in
                                        various locations). His sister, Nicky, opened a pub on the
                                        Island and asked Martin to help out. After a couple of years,
                                        Martin decided to start brewing. Enlisting the expertise of
                                        ex-Lees and Yates and Jackson head brewer, Peter Cole,
                                        along with a prototype mini-brewery he was developing with
                                        students at Lancaster University, Martin had a relatively
                                        trouble-free journey into the world of brewing. The first brew
                                        went on sale in January 1986 and, with modest success
                                        over time, it was decided to expand. SIBA sourced the
                                        current equipment, Peter checked it out, reported favourably
                                        on it and installation on the present site eventually took
                                        place with Michael Jackson officially opening the new
                                        brewery in September 1990.

                                         The four pubs that Bushy’s owned at the time proved useful
                                         outlets for their beer and kept the business viable. It was
                                         only in 1996/97 that Bushy’s became more financially
                                         secure and, with the small brewers’ duty relief, investment in
                                         equipment, staff and marketing has had the desired results.
Martin cites the major reason for recent success as current brewer Neil ‘Curly’ Covery. As Martin
states, Neil is very popular with licensees, enjoying drinking sessions with them. With 30 outlets
on the Island that’s some pub crawl, Neil!

On being shown into the small reception area, we were handed round pints of a special, John
Quilliam’s Ale,. Martin explained that Quilliam was one of the forgotten heroes of Trafalgar in
1805. He was Nelson’s First Lieutenant on HMS Victory. During the battle, after Victory’s rudder
was severely damaged, Quilliam cobbled together a temporary mechanism which enabled the ship
to continue. After Trafalgar, he captained ships of his own and, when he left the navy, became a
prominent politician on the Isle of Man. He is buried on the Island with a fitting memorial.
A short walk around the brewery followed with one item of kit being especially commented upon,
this being a combined mash tun, hot liquor tank and copper/whirlpool. Returning to the reception
                                                          room – and more pints of John Quilliam –
                                                          it was then time for the Chairman of SWL
                                                          CAMRA, Martin Butler, to present Mr
                                                          Brunnschweiler with a framed certificate
                                                          commemorating the Beer of the Festival
                                                          victory of Ruby Mild. He appeared
                                                          suitably chuffed and with final goodbyes
                                                          made and pictures taken – particularly of
                                                          the Bushy’s promotional vehicle, a
                                                          functioning brewery bottle van based on a
                                                          2CV chassis – we made our way back up
                                                          the path to catch a bus for Douglas and
                                                          our hotel.


It was not long before we met in the hotel lobby ready for some pub crawling. First port of call was
the Rover’s Return (named after Blackburn Rovers FC) behind the Town Hall. A busy multi-
roomed pub, Bushy’s plus guests available; I had the Bushy’s Weiss beer. Whilst keg, it is
unfiltered and unpasteurised. A large crowd were mainly watching the Scotland v Italy World Cup
qualifying match on the TV. A talking point is the handpumps, fashioned from fire brigade brass
nozzle pumps. A short distance away on Prospect Hill is the Prospect Hotel. We arrived just
before 6pm, opening time and, once it was open, we had a choice of Deuchars IPA, Okells Bitter,
Bushy’s Castletown Bitter and Brain’s SA. I settled for a pint of Castletown followed by half of
Okells. A large, one-roomed establishment, refurbished by Okells, it has magnificent tiling in the
toilet (well, certainly the Gents).

A hunt for food brought us to ‘Paparazzi’ on the seafront. Waiting on the ground floor for a table in
the basement restaurant, I had a bottle of Bushy’s Bitter. All of Bushy’s bottled beers (not bottle-
conditioned) are processed by Robinsons of Stockport. Having feasted, we made our way to the
two pubs close by that are next door to each other in Chapel Row. At the Albert Hotel I had
Bushy’s Old Bushy Tail and at the Market Inn a pint of Okells Bitter. Both pubs have a central bar
serving two rooms and appear to attract local clientele.

Having a good, solid breakfast is a major delight of being “on holiday”. Whilst having mine on
Sunday morning in the basement restaurant I was distracted by the couple sitting close by with a
very responsive baby. The couple were both dressed in black; he was wearing a black leather hat
and a T-shirt with a slogan that stated “I don’t do daylight”. He was also wearing dark sunglasses.

All of us caught the 10.15 am IoM Steam Railway service to Port Erin on the south-western side of
the island. Being a great fan of preserved railways, it was unfortunate for me that our trip
coincided with a “Thomas the Tank Engine” weekend. This meant engines in steam had plastic
caricatures fitted to their smokebox and ruined any decent attempts at a picture. This was more
than made up for by the weather, the picturesque scenery and visits to both GBG pubs, the
Falcons Nest Hotel and the Bushy’s-owned Bay Hotel. The former pub sported Bushy’s Manx
Bitter and the 4.1% seasonal, Wanderer along with Brains SA and Okells Bitter on the four
handpumps. Being some of the first customers, (10.30 opening on a Sunday) we took over part of
a room that led to a conservatory with an outstanding view of the bay.

A short walk to the Bay Hotel and a mini-beer festival! At the time such beers as the Anglo-Dutch
organic Supreme Spikus (4.5%), Three Bs’ Duff Cocker (4.5% - and certainly not duff), Dent’s 6%
T’Owd Tup, Bateman’s Summer Swallow(3.9%) along with three selections from Bushy’s (including
the Ruby Mild) were available. I can also heartily recommend the food. I had a bread and butter
pudding with custard that was to die for. Martin Brunnschweiler turned up in the Bushy’s mobile
bottle van and we each received a free pint and a bottle of the special Tercentenary of Gibraltar
beer. Nice one, Martin! A couple of the pub’s (now no longer an hotel) rooms have wooden ceiling
border panels decorated with the IoM three-legged symbol and various pump clips. Again, there is
wonderful tiling to be seen in the loos; this time cream and black Bushy’s titled ones.
We reluctantly bade farewell to Martin to return to the
Steam Railway and the 2.15 train. All bar myself alighted at
Castletown for the Sidings pub whilst I returned to Douglas
for some ‘R&R’ and a horse tram ride. All the spent grain
from Bushy’s is collected by the Council and fed to these
horses. With eight of the party returning to London on the
5.20 flight, only I (staying another 24 hours) and Messrs
Butler and Hedger – remaining for the rest of the week –
were left.

Monday began damp, very damp, unlike our spirits. We
caught the first electric railway service to Laxey
(northwards). The scenery is far better than the Croydon
Tramlink. I bade farewell to Martin and Tony here whilst
they continued to Ramsey. The Snaefell Mountain Railway
carriages rattle and roll their way 2,300 feet above sea level
to the summit before returning. The prospect of being able
to see anything of great note once there remained remote
even though the rain had ceased. I shared the single
carriage with one man and his dog (literally!). The views
from the rattling box on wheels were quite breathtaking
(including the old Laxey wheel water pump). On the way down I saw a red kite (possibly) scything
through the air. Moreover, I did have my one and only cream tea (mug for me) on the Isle of Man
in the cafeteria at the summit.

Having returned to Laxey station and just missed the scheduled bus that would have taken me the
short distance to the Island’s only brewpub, the Shore Hotel, I decided to walk it. Within fifteen
minutes I had reached the cream-fronted pub with the River Laxey flowing past and beach close
by. Deciding to stay longer than I had intended, I had a pint and a half of the excellent Bosun’s
Bitter. The brewer and landlord, Mr Yates, told me that only ten gallons are produced each
Monday. Having ordered a Shore Hotel polo shirt, I walked back to Laxey and finished my drinking
at the Mines Tavern, right by the station. Only a half pint of Okells Bitter entered my system,
tempered by looking at the collection of pictures of old mines and waybills hanging on the walls.

A bus back to Douglas and then another to the airport completed the long weekend which I
thoroughly enjoyed. Oh, and I never saw a Manx cat: hardly any cats at all, really.

I am sure that the whole party would wish to thank Andy Robinson and Phil Blanchard for the travel
arrangements and Martin Brunnschweiler for being an enthusiastic and effusive host (thanks for
the beers again). Personally, I would like to thank the other ten beer-lovers in the group and those
customers who voted for the Bushy’s beer but would you please choose a brewery’s beer closer to
home in 2006 – it will be far less expensive!

The only sad note was learning of the passing of South-West London CAMRA stalwart, John
Barry. John has been suffering from non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma for a considerable time and had
been undergoing bouts of chemotherapy. He was a school caretaker and family man and at the
Battersea Beer Festival manned the door and was main driver.

My condolences go to his family and work colleagues. He will be sadly missed at future BBFs.
Wherever you are John, keep taking the money and drive safely in that seven and a half tonner. I
dedicate this meandering tale to John Barry.

Paul Kirsten

								
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