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Today we say our goodbyes and raise our glasses to Neil Kelso, former Castle Rock director and owner of the Victoria Hotel in Beeston. Castle Rock's founder, Chris Holmes, pens some words.

Neil is pictured above (left) with Chris


Neil Kelso, owner of the Victoria Hotel in Beeston died at home on June 26th 2019. He was 63 and had been battling cancer for some time. He was born in Belfast and came across to England with his mother and brothers.

Neil has been a director of Tynemill Ltd. (the company that owns and trades as Castle Rock Brewery) and was very important in the development of the company over many years. We will be eternally grateful for his energy, imagination and support over the years.

Neil first encountered Tynemill when he was working as a chemist at Associated British Maltsters in Newark, after attending Trent Polytechnic in Nottingham. One of Neil’s jobs at ABM was to travel around their whisky-distilling customers in Scotland checking on the quality of the malt (and presumably the finished product!). How he got that job we will never know…

We had just opened our first pub in Newark, the Old King’s Arms, and Neil became a very enthusiastic customer. It wasn’t long before he was working part-time shifts behind the bar. As he said, ‘I’d be there anyway so I might as well get paid for it.’

In 1986, Neil left ABM and became bar manager at the Old King’s Arms, taking over from Julian Grocock who had gone off to open The Swan in the Rushes in Loughborough. Needless to say, Neil was very successful in Newark – immensely popular with customers and staff alike.

In 1989, Neil went off to Nottingham to open the Lincolnshire Poacher. He was heavily involved with the design and build of “the Poacher”, Nottingham’s first “real ale pub”. He worked tirelessly and made it a huge success.

After five years at the Poacher Neil moved on to open the Victoria Hotel in Beeston for the company. He had become a director of Tynemill and again devoted his energies to turning the Vic into the marvellous establishment that we all know now. He didn’t just open the pub. He was on site throughout its redesign and refurb. The Vic was Neil (with a bit from me).

It was at the Vic that Neil met and married Linda, and together they created one of the finest establishments in the country under the auspices of HOPCO (The Hands On Pub Company). This was founded when Neil purchased the vast majority of the equity in The Vic to become its owner.

Neil’s boundless energy and enthusiasm was not just directed at work. Whatever he did, he did wholeheartedly. He was a very good sportsman, particularly in hockey, a music enthusiast, and a very good self-taught chef. You also played cards with Neil at your peril! I know!

When writing a tribute like this, it is very difficult to capture the essence of a person. He was kind, funny, a perfectionist, driven, fun- loving and a great friend.

He will be sorely missed.



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