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MPs of all parties are raising their eyebrows in wonder at the invitation to sup Hemlock as their lunchtime tipple. The Hemlock, despite some lobbying for a judicious use of its similarly named poison, is Castle Rock Brewery’s real ale making its first appearance as guest bitter in the House of Commons Strangers’ Bar.

Named after the local Bramcote landmark, rather than the poison that killed Socrates, Hemlock is one of this year’s handful of real ales chosen by MPs and the House of Commons staff to highlight the output of the UK’s independent breweries and to bring regional tastes to the capital. On the recommendation of John Heppell, MP for Nottingham East, Hemlock will be available throughout March and he is determined as many of his colleagues and fellow members of the All Party Parliamentary Beer Group as possible sample this particular taste of Nottingham.

John says its appearance is well earned and gives him great an opportunity to brag about his home city. “I’m a bit worried about the name and how my classically trained colleagues will take to it. Luckily, though, Hemlock is also described as ‘the thinking mans’ ale’, so we’re all right there.”

Colin Wilde, Castle Rock’s commercial director, and head brewer, Adrian Redgrove were among the first to check out the ale in London. As guests of John Heppell, they were served the first pint in the Strangers’ Bar in a day that included a guided tour of the House.

Colin Wilde says he is very grateful to John for all his efforts to promote the real ale movement and the great pubs of Nottingham. “John is an occasional visitor to many of our pubs where, I hasten to add, he meets constituents in the line of duty. These are difficult times for many in the pub trade and it’s gratifying to be understood and even appreciated by someone like John who, I know, does much to foster the interest in, and promote an understanding of, our industry.”

Alfresco ale, (l-r) John Heppell MP on the House of Commons terrace with Castle Rock’s head brewer, Adrian Redgrove, and commercial director, Colin Wilde.

Alfresco ale, (l-r) John Heppell MP on the House of Commons terrace with Castle Rock’s head brewer, Adrian Redgrove, and commercial director, Colin Wilde.

At the bar, (l-r) John Heppell MP in the House of Commons Strangers’ Bar with Castle Rock’s head brewer, Adrian Redgrove, and Will Conway, the House’s senior bar attendant.

At the bar, (l-r) John Heppell MP in the House of Commons Strangers’ Bar with Castle Rock’s head brewer, Adrian Redgrove, and Will Conway, the House’s senior bar attendant.