Jeff Evans - Mr Toads ride on brewery transport
A different kind of brewer’s dray has been carving up the backroads of rural Berkshire recently. Not far from the setting of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, Butts Brewery’s Dave Price has been seen tearing around the countryside like a modern-day Mr Toad, scattering pheasants and startling hares in his new delivery vehicle, a vintage motorbike and sidecar.
Mr Price, who familiarly goes by the moniker of Sydney Butts, clearly relishes the excitement of the open road. Donning period cap and goggles, he gleefully opens the throttle to allow the rich, earthy throb of the engine to pre-warn pedestrians of his dashing approach. Plenty of heads have been turned by this blast of nostalgia and admiring glances drawn from road users marginalised by the flying Buttsman.
“It’s amazing the effect it has on everyone who sees it”, Dave told me. “It really puts a smile on people’s faces as we roar past.” Dave has been riding motorcycles since he was eight and it was his idea to combine work and leisure. “I used to ride my BMW to work only to find customers ringing up asking me if I could drop off the odd nine of bitter on my way home. I had to explain that I couldn’t oblige because I wasn’t driving the van. Now I can.”
Butts “vintage” bike was imported from Russia and is based on an engine designed in England in 1915. The design was later taken up by BMW and known as the Classic Boxer Twin, because of its two “boxing” pistons. The bike is a Ural Moto 650, costing around £4,000 but economical at around 50 mpg. Despite its classic styling, it was only constructed last year and has only done about 3,000 miles. “When we thought about getting a bike, it just had to be a traditional-looking machine to fit in with the image of our traditional ales”, said Dave. “Another bonus is the reverse gear ­ very handy when you’re laden down with beer.”
The bike has not replaced the Butts Transit or pick up truck, but fills in for short, emergency deliveries. Three casks can be safely carried in the specially imported cargo box, a coffin-like sidecar that bolts on in place of a conventional passenger-carrier whenever work calls. The look was completed by a local canalboat-painter, who added the Butts livery to the cream and black finish.
“The bike gives me the best of both worlds”, purred Dave. “Now I can continue to ride and look after the brewhouse.” I sincerely hope that Sydney avoids the fate that befell the unfortunate Mr Toad in his motor. This piece of kit’s too classy to end up in a horse pond.
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