Shropshire Star

Tuns of trouble sorted after Bishop's Castle brewery's ales vanish from pub next door

Real ale lovers can celebrate after after a much-loved Shropshire beer was returned for sale at a pub next door to the brewery that makes it.

Three Tuns Brewery and Three Tuns Inn, Bishops Castle

Even though the Three Tuns Inn at Bishop's Castle is next door to the Three Tuns Brewery, drinkers were shocked and puzzled to discover the brewer's ale had disappeared from sale at the pub last week.

The pub and brewery used to be a part of the same business but the two sides separated in 2003. The brewery, which opened in 1642, claims to be the oldest licensed brewery in the world and is still independent. The pub is now operated by Star Bars.

On Monday, a spokesperson for the Three Tuns Brewery said the beer has now returned for sale at the pub.

She said: "As of today, the Three Tuns Inn have placed an order and our ales will be available in the pub.

"The Three Tuns Brewery and the Three Tuns Inn are both totally separate independent businesses in Bishop’s Castle and have been for many years.

"The Three Tuns Brewery is happy to continue to supply its full range of cask ales into the Three Tuns Inn."

Earlier, a Shropshire Star reader who asked to remain anonymous, said: "The historic Three Tuns pub is no longer selling Three Tuns beers from the brewery next door due to a dispute.

"Is this the first time since 1642 that this has happened?" he added, following a visit to the pub on Wednesday last week.

He said that beer pumps that used to serve up Three Tuns ales were now serving ales from other regional breweries.

Another anonymous pub user has confirmed the news, and town councillor Andy Stelman said the issue could be placed on the agenda for the council's August meeting.

He said it was an issue for the town because tourists visit Bishop's Castle because of its history associated with the brewery.

Norrie Porter, of the Shrewsbury and West Shropshire Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), said group members have been alerted to the issue.

"I'm not sure what's happening," said Mr Porter. "I suspect that the pub is not allowed to buy direct from the brewery because it is tied to whatever the owners want it to have under the beer tie.

"Members visit Bishop's Castle twice a year and will be visiting the Three Tuns pub as a part of a trip there a week on Thursday."

Shropshire-based beer writer and Shrewbury beer tour guide Laura Hadland said the situation would seem "ludicrous" to the average consumer.

She said: "In 1989, the Monopolies and Mergers Commission found that brewery-tied pub estates were a 'complex monopoly' that were strangling the industry and blocking the route to market for small and mid-size breweries.

"They capped estates at 2,000 pubs and introduced the opportunity for tied pubs to offer a guest ale in an effort to break up this monopoly."

But instead of freeing up the market the so-called Beer Orders saw the birth of the 'pub company' with huge swathes of pubs tied to particular companies who often have supply agreements with certain large breweries and their portfolio of brands.

"The case of the Three Tuns Inn seems ludicrous to the average consumer," she said.

"It should be a no-brainer to serve beer from the brewery next door - an historic, award-winning and important brewery at that.

"This situation is mirrored up and down the country and is a huge barrier for smaller breweries looking to get their beer out to the public.

"In these economically challenging times, it is another barrier these brilliant artisans could do without - why not serve Three Tuns and Heineken products side by side?"

Meanwhile locals have pointed out that other pubs in the area stock the brewery's beers, including The Bridges at Ratlinghope.

And in Bishop's Castle itself, the owner of the Castle Hotel has recently announced the sale of the brewer's XXX ale.

The Castle Hotel proudly announced a few days ago: "Look what’s made an appearance at the Castle. Now serving Three Tuns XXX."