I go to London a lot and have been doing so for the 16 years or so we have owned a flat there. Before that I spent around nine months in London managing the removal of IT systems from Euston Tower and relocating them in Lytham St Annes and Leeds. I drink beer there and have done so for a long time. I know a fair bit about the beer scene, both now and when I first ventured there. Bit of background that.
Now being a blogger and writer, I sometimes write, when it happens, about bad beer
in London. Now there are some that think I have an unfortunate down on
London and that I just complain for the hell of it. Why would I? When
I'm in London I'm just out for a drink, usually with my better half. I rather like
to visit, among other types, the classic London pub with a beautiful interior and loads of
customers spilling out onto the pavement. It is a "thing" about London I
rather like and there I'm just a customer paying (top dollar) for my
beer. I'm not really looking for bad beer to
write about, because quite frankly if I was, I'd be writing about little
else. I'm not talking here particularly about one or two of the top
pubs where you have a much better chance, but of the pubs a normal beer drinker might visit. The pubs are jumping and beer is
flowing freely from the handpumps. Having spoken about warm temperatures being the enemy of cask beer, the
other main enemy is lack of turnover. That causes staling and souring.
Now in the pubs I'm visiting turnover of beer is certainly not a
problem, at least during the week. The beer though is often flabby,
warm and lacking the zing that properly conditioned cask beer needs to
have. What's a beer drinker to do?
Recently I have been advised by a well known beer writer, in a somewhat testy exchange of views, to complain. It is my duty apparently and my failure to complain is the reason why pubs are being killed. What tosh. The pubs I'm complaining about are going like a fair even if the beer is crap. Of course I've complained but it gets you nowhere. My Mrs calls me a serial complainer, so unless the beer is absolutely cloudy and muddy*, I don't bother embarrassing her and frustrating myself. It changes nothing. Here's a few scenarios from memory:
Me: I'm sorry but this beer is far too warm: Barperson: I don't know I don't drink the stuff Me: I'm sorry but this beer is far too warm / flat: Barperson: Everyone else is drinking it /nobody else has complained Me: I'm sorry but this beer is far too warm: Barperson: Would you like something else? Me: I'm sorry but this replacement beer is still far too warm: Barperson: What do you want me to do then? Me: I'm sorry but this beer is far too warm: Manager: Ah yes. The cooler's broken (a favourite that) Me: I'm sorry but this beer is far too warm: Manager: It's a hot day Me: I'm sorry but this beer is far too warm: Manager: Oh sorry about that Me: I see you have a Cask Marque plaque outside, I'll report this to them. Manager: Suit yourself.
The point is that in good pubs the beer won't be warm and flat and the staff will know that and be concerned if it is. This isn't about them, it is about the vast number that don't do it properly. What's the use of complaining if a replacement beer comes from the same warm cellar and the same uninsulated beer lines and your complaint results in no change? None.That's what. The pubs are run by people who are transient, know nothing about cask beer and frankly don't care. They are selling lots of it to a transient and couldn't be bothered arguing clientèle. They are probably underpaid and overworked. Why should they bother? The beer shifts anyway. (Some places that should know better don't do much better. More of that another time).
When I started working in a pub many years ago, my boss, one of the old
school, taught me many things about the pub trade and serving customers.
I've mentioned some of them in this blog before, but one that sticks
particularly in my mind is this "If a customer complains about the
beer, just change it without question - he'll tell everyone that if you
have a problem in my pub, they'll sort it out immediately. . That's
worth money to me." Now of course he knew there was nothing wrong
with the beer, but his point was that it was good business for him
reputationally. The customer would get a new pint he felt better about
and tell all his friends how great the service was. Pubs were a very
competitive business then and he wanted an edge. How does that apply in London and in the scenarios mentioned, all of which are absolutely true? It doesn't.
One other thing I'd mention again from my old times and also from running a pub cellar, many beer festival cellars and from working in a pub. The last person to find out there's something wrong should be the customer. The beer should be checked before service and importantly, during service.
(The other main enemy of cask beer not already discussed is cleanliness in both cellar and beer lines.) *I tweet such photos and usually name names.
Next: The Keyboard Warrior in his pride. Cheery Beery? Trust me. I'm only just warming up.
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.
Read my information and links and then decide for yourself. You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes.
If you wish to email me you can do so by using this address: tandleman[at]yahoo.co.uk
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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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