We are told that one of the best ways of encouraging people to try cask beer, is to offer tasters. Indeed the principle can be stretched to all beer, but I'd guess that it is to cask beer that it most often applies, given the huge number of different beers available and the lack of information provided about what's on sale in most pubs. There is a touch of psychology involved here too. Perhaps it is a British thing particularly, but there is a degree of obligation then put on the drinker, in his or her mind at least, that having tried a beer, you must buy a beer. I can't recall many, if any times, where I or others having tried a sample or two, then said "No thanks" and left. It is you would say, a "win win" situation. The drinker gets a beer they are more or less content with and the pub makes a sale. Simples.
Stepping back from this a little and broadening things out, there is still a distinct lack of information about beers on sale in most pubs. Bar staff are often guilty of complete lack of knowledge of even colour, despite serving the stuff - even sometimes it has to be said - at the end of a shift. Boards rarely indicate style or colour and the Cyclops scheme of how a beer appears and should taste is yet to make much of an impression. At least, nobody has ever read the Cyclops tasting notes back to me.
Last week in Liverpool I came across something that has only happened on the odd occasion. In one pub, a request by my drinking companion for a taste was politely refused, citing company policy. In another the very helpful barmaid explained that third pint tasters (as a pint) were available, so that you could make up your own mind at your own cost, as the burden of paying for tasters had proved uneconomic to the pub, mostly due to abuse of the system. Interesting stuff.
Now it may be that they are just a mean lot in Liverpool, but I doubt that. Personally I'd rather the pub factored in the cost of tasters in their pricing, as I'm sure most do, but given the wide variety of beers and beer styles available and the huge lottery of buying the unknown blind, I'd say pubs are missing a trick if they don't offer free tasters and make more effort to tell folks what the beers available are like. On the subject of third pints and three for the price of a pint in particular, I've noticed this becoming more common. It is a good thing, but not as a replacement for a quick taste to see if I'd like it in the first place. For the record, I've never come across any pub that sells a third of a pint on its own. Does that happen anywhere?
Tasters can be misleading of course as most drinkers know, but at least they give you a fleeting impression of the beer, but more product information is never a bad thing. The customer not only deserves it, but with huge choice, actually needs it.
I have even heard of CAMRA run festivals where the third has replaced tasters. Bad form.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink.
This blog mentions specifics; pubs and beer, good and bad. The opinions will be forthright, but you can always disagree, just don't be offended. Comments from those mentioned are particularly welcome and a right of reply is hereby offered.
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Beer samples are welcome, but I cannot guarantee a good review. You, the brewer, on the other hand can.
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