It was acquired by Midsummer Leisure in , Stakis Leisure in and then by Allied Domecq in ; by the chain had 44 pubs, 19 of which brewed beer on site. A small handful of establishments still retain the Firkin branding, distinctive because they all followed the same naming convention. The format was always The and Firkin, where was a word, beginning with either "F" or "Ph", which had some connection to the pub building or to the local area. The Firkin Brewery also gave out T-shirts for anyone who managed at least 12 pubs in the Firkin Crawl. A "passport", issued by the Brewery, would be filled with a stamp from each pub visited, and public transport directions to the nearest pub in the crawl would also be in the "passport". Although there was no stipulation in the rules that the 12 pubs had to be completed on the same day, this was often the goal of participants.
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He stepped in and bought a few run-down pubs off the major brewers where they were unable to make them pay. As well as redocorating the pubs in a basic but friendly style, he introduced the long forgotten concept of pubs brewing their own beer. I first became aware of the chain in when friends took me to one of the original pubs, the Goose and Firkin in Borough, London SE1. The pub was packed and the atmosphere very lively, with a pianist leading everyone through an old style pub sing-song.
Another well known pub was the Phoenix and Firkin which occupied the old ticket office at Denmark Hill station in South London. The name refers to the fact that the ticket office was previously destroyed by fire, but was renovated to create the pub.
Expansion With the success of the concept, the chain grew rapidly until when David Bruce sold the chain to European Leisure. The pubs changed hands a couple more times in a short period until in the chain was taken over by Allied Lyons later Allied Domecq.
After this the chain expanded again, not just in London but all over the country — typically in university towns. There were a few wobbly periods but generally the pubs were excellent, had a great atmosphere and played good music too.
The non-brewery pubs were supplied by one of the other Firkin pubs. When going for a night out in London, trips to Firkin pubs were always on the schedule.
The Bass Takeover Apparently in the spring of , Whitbread and Punch Taverns both made hostile bids to take over the entire Allied Domecq pub roster. After a bidding war, Whitbread pulled out of the running leaving Punch Taverns to take over with financing from Bass. It then appears that Punch Taverns sold the Firkin chain on to Bass.
So on October 8th all brewing of Firkin beers stopped completely and all the brewing staff were made redundant. Tetleys, and Burtons especially may have been quality beers, but they are limp and lifeless when compared to Firkin beer. John Paul Adams also has a site with beer related facts including a list of all the Firkin pubs within the Greater London area. These pubs are appranetly not themed in the same way the Firkin pubs were, and none of them brew their own beer.
Dogbolter actually does live on! And I have read comments that it tastes very like the original. You can read more about it in a blog post elsewhere on this site from entitled Firkin Dogbolter. In I naively believed that pub chains would care what their customer thought since it was the customers that chose to go there and buy the beer.
I guess they were also interested in acquiring a chain of pubs that were often in prime locations within towns.
What Happened to the Firkin Pubs