Dousland-based builder John Burbage is involved in the latest development on the local pub scene – change of hands at The Prince Of Wales in Princetown.
He and a business partner, John “Jan” Hayes, who lives in Princetown and has an engineering business in Plymouth, have bought a long lease on the pub and are already at work on a relaunch – so far, without needing to close.
They got it free of ties, after estate agents Stonesmith called for bids around £99,000 and got several offers to negotiate with.
The inn was described as: “A traditional moorland village inn with origins reputedly dating back to around 1860.”
It once lived mainly off prison officers and remains more of a local pub than its rival, The Plume Of Feathers, right on the crossroads, which takes most of the cycling and walking trade.
But Princetown visitor traffic seems to be on the way up, construction of a new distillery is going ahead, the prison ain’t shut yet and The Prince has a £20-a-night bunkhouse, three private bedrooms and a restaurant to play with, besides the bar.
The bunkhouse is where the Dartmoor Brewery started and one idea is to make the pub more of a showcase and events centre for the brewery, as its spiritual home.
The strategy may have something to do with the fact the building is still owned overall by Philip Davies, founder of the brewery and controller of the Bedford and Two Bridges hotels among other interests.
Together with brewer Simon Loveless, now moved on, he created Jail Ale, which held the title of local real beer for a decade before the explosion of microbreweries hit Devon.
Since start-up in 1994, and a move to custom-made premises in 2006, it has become the second biggest brewer in the county, next to Otter in East Devon, with a good range of draught and bottled beers and at least one pump in most pubs for some distance. However, none of the Devon players is as big as Sharps of Rock, Cornwall, which has turned Doombar into a national common denominator.
The current managing director, Richard Smith, came in from Sharps in 2016, along with the current brewer, Ian Cobham, heading a workforce of 17. They have concentrated on getting consistency and Richard thinks some of the smaller players are trying too hard to be interesting rather than “agreeable”.
He said: “The market place has changed immensely. But in America, where the craft beers explosion came from, there is a bit of a swing back to the idea that you want the customer to have a couple of pints, not wish they had stuck to a half.”
The brewery will be presenting its case to remain on local menus in a promotional open day on Thursday November 29 – trade visitors 3pm-6 and anybody else interested 6pm-9.
Remind yourself by keeping a link to the Horrabridge Times What’s On Calendar – here
Meanwhile, the other relaunched pubs are still seeing a market for more individualist beers, cider and lager. The Walkhampton Inn is in the course of dropping mass-produced Thatchers cider, from Bristol way, and bringing in Devon Red, from Sandford Orchards, near Crediton.
Manager Frazer Reed said: “I’ve wanted to move away from big brands that can be seen everywhere. It was just being confident enough that that the locals were happy for the change and speaking to them, they are. The Devon Red is made in Devon with real apples grown in Devon. It’s our first step into a local draught product but we have plans for a few more in time.”
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