Visit The Pub Curmudgeon site

I spoke highly here of Joule’s refurbishment of the Royal Oak in Eccleshall, Staffordshire. Looking a bit more into their operation, it seems that rather than going down the usual route of targeting the free trade and beer festivals, they are trying to build up something more like the local brewery with a tied estate within a set radius from their home base, which used to be much more commonplace forty years ago. “Not a single pint is sold outside our heartland”, they say.

They do have some free trade, although theirs are not beers often seen in free houses around the country, and they just seem to concentrate on a core range of three beers – Blonde, Pale Ale and Slumbering Monk – rather than producing a plethora of specials and seasonals. Pale Ale, their flagship beer, is a classic 4.1% ABV Midlands pale ale in the style of Draught Bass and Pedigree as they once were. Maybe there is a gap in their range for a mild and a 3.6% light bitter, but they must know what their customers want.

They have so far built up an estate of 18 pubs, most within 25 miles of the brewery in Market Drayton, but extending as far as Wrexham and Chester in one direction and Burton-on-Trent in the other, where they have the Coopers Tavern, once regarded as the ultimate place to drink Draught Bass which, according to the Good Beer Guide, is still sold there. The Royal Oak is the only one I have actually visited as a Joule’s pub, but according to their website they intend to restore them all as “proper pubs”, which must be applauded.

The only possible fly in the ointment is that, over the years, a number of breweries that have tried to go down the same route, such as Archer’s, Smiles, Copper Dragon and Trough, seem to have come a cropper financially, not because of the brewing operations, but because of problems with the property portfolio. Let us keep our fingers crossed that Joule’s manage to steer clear of those pitfalls.