Monday, October 23, 2006


An supportive article from the eloquent pen of Tom Flynn, a non-Lewes resident who feels strongly enough about the issue to have posted the following on his excellent blog Artknows

Gloomy news reaches me that one of my favourite pubs — The Lewes Arms in Lewes, East Sussex (left) — is about to stop selling Harvey’s Sussex Bitter. This is one of the most depressing things I’ve heard in a long time. I’ve been drinking this award-winning stuff since I was seventeen and The Lewes Arms is one of the best places to imbibe it.

The crass decision to evict the local nectar was taken at corporate level by the Suffolk-based Greene King plc brewery chain, which owns the Lewes Arms licence. Once again it seems the egregious spreadsheet monkeys have got the upper hand.

You can get Harvey’s in many pubs in Lewes, but none can compare with The Lewes Arms.

In the same way that people refer to how certain bands provided ‘the soundtrack’ to their youth, Harvey’s bitter lubricated most of my beer-drinking adolescent years in Sussex. I’ve supped it everywhere from Hove to Hastings, and on rare heart-stopping moments have even discovered it as a guest ale at the Anglesey Arms in South Kensington, although with its signature zest not entirely unimpaired by the trauma of travel.

Sadly, over the past twenty-five years, many of the authentic Sussex hostelries that stocked this excellent hoppy brew have been transformed by the dead hand of corporate strategy into execrable family eateries or soulless lager laagers. This may well be the fate awaiting the Lewes Arms, but I hope not.

I wonder whether the Lewes locals have thought of pooling their resources and offering to buy the licence from Greene King in a sort of vernacular management buy-out? After all, The Generalist reliably informs that Harvey’s bitter outsells the Greene King ales by at least 3:1 at the Lewes Arms. This would make withdrawal of the brew akin to commercial suicide. Maybe the locals should let Greene King go ahead, take their custom elsewhere, and then when the Suffolk suits realise the error of their ways, offer to buy the licence back at a discount. If I’m missing some fundamental commercial logic here, please let me know.

But while I can understand the locals complaining, there are also thousands of people like me who don’t live in Lewes but for whom the Lewes Arms remains the pub of choice when in the area. If the Lewes Arms stops serving Harvey’s, I will have lost one of the main reasons for visiting the town. Lewes won’t care, but I will.


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