Tuesday, 26 April 2022

Wetherspoons. Good or Shite?

I inadvertently started a sort of flame war on Twitter the other day. I innocently called into my local Spoons the other day after a few pints of Holts and Lees.  I took a photo - this photo - which seemed to kick off a lot of angst.

It seems that many of the Twitterati retain a visceral hatred of JDW, even if they up their cask game beyond the "usual suspects".  In a tirade reminiscent of a Usenet Flame War came the sort of comments that are all too often flung about where Wetherspoons are concerned.  You can look for yourself to see what exactly was said, but the same old clichés were trotted out. Let's list a few:

"They buy nearly out of date beer; they are sucking the life out of every High Street; they are loss leading cask beer; they are screwing brewers by forcing them to sell at under fifty quid a nine; £2.10 is an unsustainable joke even before the recent huge increases in EVERY aspect of producing beer;"

You get the picture. Of course, added to the general tirade about Wetherspoons, were the usual attacks on CAMRA and its members for daring to a) offer and b) use 50p vouchers.  Another theme was that brewers are devaluing their own products by selling to Wetherspoons and further shooting themselves in the arse by doing so at unsustainable prices.  I particularly liked this post - countered by Cooking Lager. One can almost feel the spittle flecks:

So what is the truth here?  Like many things, it is complicated. Let's all remember that JDW didn't fall from the skies as a fully formed company of nearly 1000 pubs. Owner, Tim Martin, started with one pub and slowly built his empire. Back then, as far as I recall, the company always used its buying power to keep prices down and attract a wide base of customers on the" pile it high and sell it cheap" model.  I assume as business picked up and the number of outlets increased, their buying power also increased.  This essentially is the model that most supermarkets use. They don't have high profit margins, but they squeeze their suppliers to maintain value to customers. It isn't new at all.  

Back on Twitter, I was moved to respond by naming what I called "the elephant in the room":

I suppose that the argument that brewers are devaluing their own product is some kind of abstract, perfect world thought, as the evidence, rather is that many breweries - most breweries - are not so indignant about the issue that they won't sell. The inconvenient truth is that they are all scrabbling for outlets and the real reason for their supplying JDW, is that if they don't, someone else will.  There are a lot of brewers out there with beer to sell. Likely there are more brewers than we really need to supply the market, but nobody likes to admit it. Oh, and JDW pay the agreed price promptly.  You make beer - you have to sell it. Not much outrage there.

Another inconvenient truth, that we must remember, is that selling cask ale is a quite small part of JDW business, but it accounts for a lot of cask beer. JDW does not make much of its money from cask and if they suddenly ceased to exist - or decided not to sell cask at any price, the problem of over-supply wouldn't go away.  There wouldn't suddenly be sunny uplands where cask beer will be sold at £140 a nine and all breweries would live on milk and honey. Rather, even more of them would have to cease trading. Be careful what you wish for.

So back to the hatred, by some of Wetherspoons. What's really behind it? Yes, they are a big company that force prices from suppliers to be lower than some would like, but unlike, say, certain other pub companies who also buy cheaply, they pass the savings on to customers. Bad people?  There is undoubtedly, too, a certain snobbery aspect. This will be vehemently denied, but really, many rather look down on ordinary people being comfortable with their peers in an environment that they can afford. Better by far they should learn to improve themselves and save up to buy expensive murk in a tin shed or railway arch. That would improve the beer market and give more money to deserving brewers, rather than to the ingrates flogging to Wetherspoons.

So are JDW saints or villains? I'd venture neither. They fulfil a need, and they keep mash tuns full.  You also have to remember two basic facts. Nobody has to go there and nobody has to sell to them, but should you really despise and demean those that do? 

What is/was Usenet? Usenet (/ˈjznɛt/) is a worldwide distributed discussion system available on computers. Users read and post messages (called articles or posts, and collectively termed news) to one or more categories, known as newsgroups. Usenet is culturally and historically significant in the networked world, having given rise to, or popularized, many widely recognized concepts and terms such as "FAQ", "flame", sockpuppet, and "spam"

Back in the old Usenet days in the 1980s, we (semi jokingly) boiled things down a bit when discussing beer. Was it good, or was it shite? Hence this blog piece title.

Saturday, 23 April 2022

Eastbourne

 Before it fades from my mind entirely, I thought it worth mentioning the CAMRA Annual Conference and Members Weekend, which took place in early April at this venerable seaside town.  I hadn't been to Eastbourne for many years - the last time in the mid 1980s as a Trade Union Delegate-  and oddly enough held in the same venue. It would be good to say that I remember it well, but frankly, not a single thing - not even the Winter Gardens - had left the least impression on me. It was simply as if I'd never been there before. Furthermore, it was somewhat gratifying that E, who accompanied me, could remember nothing about it either. Ah, well. Not just me, then.

 There hadn't been a "live" meeting for a couple of years, and I hadn't clapped eyes on many of the attendees for some time. I think it's fair to say none of us looked any better for the rest. You could see, apart from the odd few, that CAMRA's demographic time bomb, was all too obvious.  Mind you, none of that made the old buggers - me included - any less lively, and debates and motions were vigorously participated in.  The accompanying Member's Bar - a mini beer festival - was well attended, and the beers from the surrounding areas, were all in good nick. A mixed lot if I'm honest, and the lack of dark beers was soon evident as they all ran out first.  Incidentally, it was noted at the recent more local (to me) Oldham Beer Festival, that dark beers seem much more popular at this kind of event than pale. Fortunately, Oldham had anticipated this, and had plenty to go round. Maybe it is a Northern thing, though I tend to doubt it?

The Eastbourne Organisers had done a good job with the handbook and many useful local pub crawls were detailed.  If I have to be honest, the pubs of Eastbourne - again, none of which I remembered -  were a bit of a mixed bag. Some were surprisingly grungy. One or two wouldn't have been out of place in Gibraltar and if you've been there, you'll know that isn't a compliment, though some were actually rather good.  You certainly had to have a liking for Harvey's Bitter, which seemed to be in every pub. Well near enough.  My pick of the bunch was probably the Dolphin on South Street, though a few veteren


eyebrows were raised at the way one barperson splashed the beer one handedly into a resting glass from the handpump.  But that's a quibble. This was a proper pub, with regulars and visitors and a great atmosphere. Beer in Eastbourne was mostly around the £4 mark, as indeed it was in the Member's Bar. Quality was variable, though generally not bad. We also liked the Marine, which had fantastic bar staff and a really fine pub grub menu. And Harvey's of course.

The town itself is very spread out, and if, like me, you attended all the meeting sessions, it was hard to check everywhere out, though I have little doubt some either did, or tried to.  As always, these gigs are best remembered for the chance to meet old friends, and that we did. I moved one motion and seconded two, all of which were passed, so that wasn't bad. It was all rather good fun.

We stayed two nights, and that was probably enough for me. Despite its reputation as a retirement area and its fine promenade and pier, I doubt if I'll be spending my dotage there. There's only so much Harvey's a man can stand.

I also liked the Bottle Grove, where a lot of the Manchester Crew congregated on the Saturday night. No real ale as such, but it was a jolly little place, with a great host, and the Keykeg was just fine for a change.

The other beer encountered more than once was from Long Man, including at the Stage Door next to the meeting venue. Sorry, but not a fan either and, you've guessed it, the other option was Harvey's. The beer here was in good nick though.

We stayed at the View Hotel, which was excellent and just a two-minute walk from the conference venue. That was wise.  The weather was very kind too, which allowed E and some others, to ascend Beachy Head.  Alas I missed out on this undoubted treat.



Tuesday, 29 March 2022

High Standards. Still Paying Off

When asked about how a pub can make the most of itself, I usually paraphrase Bill Clinton, who when campaigning for President, when asked the most important thing about governing America answered "It's the economy, Stupid".  My paraphrase is, "It's the offer". I don't add "Stupid" though. Well, not generally.  

You would think it obvious that when running a pub, the main consideration would be how best to present the pub to attract the maximum number of customers of the desired type wouldn't you, but amazingly, to this writer at least, that often doesn't happen.  That isn't wholly  the point of this particular piece, though, but it does show the value of getting it right.

The Swan with Two Necks in Pendleton was the CAMRA National Pub of the Year in 2014.  It is a neat little place near Clitheroe in the village of Pendleton. Slightly off the beaten track, but well worth the small detour, if like me, you are on a coach that is going to Clitheroe anyway.  I was with my fellow imbibers from our CAMRA Branch and in the time-honoured fashion we were due at the Swan, by arrangement, shortly after opening time.  There were, I think, about forty of us on the coach and our social guru had arranged in advance, for those requiring it, a lunch of sandwiches and chips.  We'd opted out, as such an early lunch was not needed, but after the warmest of greetings and pints being selected -  we were shown to a marquee in the garden where (for a fiver a head) a veritable feast had been laid out.  This was quality and worth every penny, judging by the oohs and aahs of the participants.

The bar staff, in what soon became a very busy pub (apart from us) were fantastic. They dealt with the thirsty influx with cheerful calmness and control and somehow, we were all served very quickly. The beer range - see photo - was an absolute delight and was immaculately presented, while the landlord and landlady oversaw it all with smiling efficiency.  I recognised the boss, Steve Dilworth, as shortly after the award in 2014, I'd visited the Swan and interviewed him on behalf of the On Trade Preview magazine, for whom I'd been commissioned to write an article on what made an award-winning pub.  I wrote then, "Steve runs a pub that works for him and his customers. He exudes the warmth and welcoming attitude that you hope for in a pub, but don’t find often enough.  If you had to sum up his offer, it is a balanced one that has evolved rather than been devised. At the Swan you get a genuine welcome, good beer, good food (in generous portions) and a pub which is the centre of the community. It goes without saying that the beer is above reproach in its quality and condition." 

It was good to see that almost eight years later that same warm welcome and high standards were still there for all to see. I think it's fair to say that many of us, despite the attractions of Clitheroe, would have stayed there all day. And you can't really have a much higher compliment than that.  We all left with a degree of reluctance, with Steve thanking us and coming out to wave us off.  

The line-up of beers was particularly well-chosen.  But what a dilemma. White Rat, Harvey's Best and Fyne Ales Jarl. How on earth do you pick the bones out of that when you only have limited time?

 I won't do a pub crawl report of Clitheroe, but it is well worth a visit, with a few decent micropubs, the massive Bowland Beer Hall and to me, the pick of the bunch, the New Inn - a proper old-fashioned pub with a great range of beer in top condition.

 

Wednesday, 9 March 2022

Ask Not for Whom the Bell Tolls

There is quite a lot of unseen business in campaigning for real ale.  I know many view the organisation as  merely a glorified drinking club, which, of course, to an extent it is, but there is much valuable work done behind the scenes in the vital area of information gathering.

It is a priority of our Branch to update all the information for the large number of pubs we have in our area. That will mean that the drinking public that use WhatPub - CAMRA's national database of pubs  - will have the most up-to-date information possible. While we try to keep everything as recent as we can, we do tend, naturally, to concentrate on the real ale pubs and clubs in our area. As a matter of interest, we look after approximately 350 pubs and clubs selling real ale across the boroughs of Rochdale, Oldham and Bury, with funnily enough the three areas all have a third or so each. Despite our 2100 members, as you can imagine the task of updating, falls to a few dedicated souls.

Thus, it was I found myself checking up on a long-standing real pub that had been reported as reverting to keg only.  This is a pub that was first a beerhouse in 1860 and only became a fully fledged public house in May 1960.  I rather think that in all the time it has sold beer, it has been sold in either bottled form, or more likely,  as cask conditioned real ale.  Alas, no more.  A very amiable chat with the landlady revealed that she switched to keg on re-opening after Covid-19.  I expressed surprise and with a pained expression she explained, that put simply, over the years and exacerbated by Covid, most of the bitter drinkers had died off and not been replaced. This had resulted in her having to throw away rather a lot of beer. Over time, with no improvement, she realised that she simply couldn't afford this, hence the move to the smooth version.

Looking around me in this neat little street corner local, there were, perhaps, a half dozen people around the bar at 5.30 p.m.  All were drinking pints of lager.  I sympathised with her predicament, and she assured me it was a very reluctant step and maybe one day, things will change.  I replied that I hoped so and left. She was a smashing woman.

There used to be a pub like this on almost every corner, but things have changed so much, that this is no longer the case.  Bigger, brighter establishments have more chance of survival these days, and the corner street or mid-terrace local, where everyone once went, is struggling.  Are bitter drinkers getting older? Well, of course, everyone is, but are these pubs that many describe as boring old men's places going to survive in any great numbers? The older customers that they rely on won't be around forever, in this kind of pub, they just aren't being replaced. Cask beer relies on volume and turnover. If that isn't there, then its presence will always be in jeopardy.

When you see so many closed little corner street pubs that used to be thriving with locals, I for one, am glad that I lived through an era that, while perhaps not the highest point of pub going, was at least when they were, more or less, all seemingly doing well. These buzzy little boozers, alive with banter and familiarity, gave me a lot of pleasure and thinking on, they still do, and I'd miss them if they all went in favour of some of the souless places they call "pubs" today.

So will they survive? It is a difficult question to answer, but looking at the evidence objectively, though some undoubtedly will, for many,  it doesn't feel that way at all.

I'm not naming the pub. That would be unfair. A landlady that made a very good impression on me is doing her best for her business.  That's exactly what she should be doing.

Yes, I do feel sentimental when I think back and when you look at the problem I outline and the people who still drink in them, you can't be optimistic.  The title of this piece tells you that I think not only will many of these pubs be gone all too soon, but those that survey and write about them won't be, relatively speaking, that far behind. 

The photo is from a picture we have in our kitchen.  It seemed appropriate.

Thursday, 3 March 2022

Goodbye to Dave Bailey

I'd never been to Millom before.  For those that don't know where it is Millom, according to Visit Cumbria, it is, "a town and civil parish on the north shore of the estuary of the River Duddon in southwest Cumbria, historically part of Cumberland, England. It is situated just outside the Lake District National Park, about six miles north of Barrow-in-Furness and 26 miles south of Whitehaven" Sadly, on immediate inspection, it isn't the most attractive of places, but last Friday, along with my pal Graham who is familiar with these parts, it was where we found ourselves. The reason? To pay our last respects to the great guy who was Dave Bailey, formerly of Hardknott Brewery who had sadly passed on after a very tenacious fight against cancer, detailed on Facebook.

Now, this isn't a eulogy about Dave. Knowing him, he wouldn't have wanted that, but it would be somewhat amiss if I don't mention a few things about him. Many may remember him as not only a fine brewer, but a well known blogger who was active in the British Guild of Beer writers. Before he was a publican and chef (it was there, at the Woolpack Inn at Hardknott Pass that I believe he set off on the brewing path.) Oh, and  he was an electronics engineer, mountaineer and probably a lot more I don't know about. A bit of an all-rounder really and, of course, a family man and a real genuine guy.

Some might say he was an opinionated bugger. Well he was, but he was more often right than wrong and prescient about the beer scene in many ways. His views about cask versus keg, the crowded market for breweries against a shrinking pub market - his ultimate reason for quitting brewing - his relative dislike of CAMRA and SIBA, his views on the beer tie, on beer duty, on sexism in beer are still great reads and relevant today. His blog is still up on t'interweb and I commend it to you. Dave and I didn't always see eye to eye, but we got on like a house on fire in our blogs and in real life. It was always a delight to see him.

So back to Millom. We had an hour to kill before Dave's requiem and wake, so we went to the nearest pub.  The Bear on the Square was rather busy at around three on a Friday afternoon, but the odd thing was everyone apart from us two were women. Well, there might have been a couple of children who weren't, but you get the picture. The woman behind the bar greeted us in a very pleasant fashion and, discerning from our careful perusal of the pumps that we were cask ale types, offered us tasters of the two beers available. No great shakes, I'm afraid, and we settled for something from Cross Bay as the least bad option.  This was supped quickly amid a cacophony of wailing as one of the running about children collided with a hard surface. 

We still had time to walk the ten minutes or so to the Devonshire Arms, a pub which looked to have been decent once, but seemingly had been on the wrong end of a poor makeover. We drank an ordinary pint of Hobgoblin Gold as a local gleefully remarked that he had identified us a real ale types from a distance as we approached the pub.  We grinned back while secretly hoping he choked on his keg Tetley Mild.  In all probability, he was just keeping us talking while his mates were round the back building the wicker men for us.

Dodging that bullet, we headed back to the wake venue, the Millom Palladium, a neat little theatre near the station. People were gathering and after buying a couple of pints of something murky from Fell Brewery - not bad actually - we were warmly greeted by Ann, Dave's partner who was delighted to see us. Then followed a very touching event with readings from Dave's children and brother and a couple of appearances in film from the lad himself, playing the piano, the guitar and an astonishing singing performance in an amateur production. With the addition of photos of him through the years, including on the top of Mont Blanc and his swansong performance in the same theatre a couple of weeks ago, we were left in wonder at the sheer talent and enthusiasm of the man.

At about six, there was a break for food and chat. Our train was at seven, and we said our goodbyes to the people we knew and, of course, Ann. She advised us that we should help ourselves to some Hardknott bottles, which were in boxes under some tables. Tempting though this was, we confined ourselves to a bottle each and a Hardknott glass. For me, Colonial Mayhem and for Graham, Rhetoric.  Had we known about the journey ahead, though, we might well have taken more.

Now the plan was to nip into Tesco for train beers, hop on the 19.05 to Barrow and thence directly to Manchester. We had reckoned without Northern Rail though, who cancelled the Barrow train and, for good measure, the next one. Enquires at Barrow revealed a one-hour wait, a Northern train to Lancaster, catch an Avanti to Preston and then a Northern train to Manchester.  Fortunately there is a rather decent pub just outside Barrow Station, thus it was we found ourselves in the Lancaster Brewery's Duke of Edinburgh, which on a Friday night was busy, with Graham, who used to work in Barrow, inevitably meeting an old pal.  The beer and atmosphere was good, though, and the rest of the journey(s) passed in a pleasant haze of Jaipur and red wine. It was nearly midnight before the train got to a deserted Piccadilly, and a bit more until I got an Uber home.

For some, Dave was a bit of an awkward sod at times, but when involved in the industry, he thought a lot about the place of beer in society, the industry itself and how things fit together. I guess his engineer background prompted that approach. As mentioned above, I thoroughly recommend a read of some of his stuff. The issues analysed at length by Dave  haven't gone away and indeed, since the pandemic, have probably worsened.

I am so glad I went to Millom to pay my last respects, and respect him I did. We had many interactions over the years, and every one for me at least, was a pleasure. His epic fight against cancer, and his will to squeeze every ounce out of life, is a lesson to us all.  He is gone, but his beaming smile when we met will always be here in my mind.

Dave started blogging not long after me. Here's what he said on 24th November 2008. "Firstly, Hoppy Birthday Tandleman - It's not the blog authors birthday you understand, just his blogs first year. I have Tandleman to thank in part for helping me find my way in the blogging world by comments on my blog, and putting up with my comments in reply to his writings. Another blogger who has helped me is Jeff Pickthall, who regularly puts up worthy issues for discussion and provokes Tandleman into interesting counter comment."  I am glad to say Jeff was also present in Millom".

I couldn't resist nicking the photo above from Dave's blog.  I think he'd want to be remembered that way! 

Thursday, 17 February 2022

London. Back in the Cask Game?

Those that know me will be aware that in my trips to London, I rarely drink cask unless I'm absolutely sure of the venue's bona fides. This has come of long experience, where, particularly in the warmer months, it just isn't worth the risk.  Even in winter where cellars are naturally colder, over venting of casks, old tired beer, lack of cooling and the like is such a dispiriting problem that I generally just don't bother.

We hadn't been back in Tandleman Towers South since November and were well overdue a visit, so we went last week and after the tedious task of checking the many rooms (3) for issues (0) we decided for a change to head to Farringdon for a couple of pints.  Our destination was the Farringdon Tap, a place that has been open for a while, but which we hadn't yet been to.  I'd already mentioned on social media that we'd be coming, but it was particularly rewarding that the Boss Man of the owners, Bloomsbury Leisure, had taken the time to meet us and have a chat. I've met Jon before in Manchester in the company of his mate, the legend that is Stonch, so despite me not immediately recognising him, we were off to a flying start.  

The pub was pretty well bustling, which was good to see, and offered a decent number of beers from a steel wall behind the bar. On this occasion, the only cask was Thornbridge Lord Marples and knowing that all Jon's pubs keep their cask well, I had no hesitation in ordering it. It was in excellent condition and as we chatted the need for another became apparent. A great start. One or two things emerged from our chat. First we talked about the new Victoria Tap at Manchester Victoria Station, which should be open in April. This looks to be a splendid venue, with a decent outdoor space, so will be a great addition to the area. The other piece of info is that Jon will be opening another pub near Tandleman Towers South. If you know the area where I rest my ancient bones while in London, you should easily guess how it will be named. Jon then got the call to get himself home from his better half, and as we were keen to be off on another tip, it was well-timed, but it had been very pleasant.

Our next port of call was the Sutton Arms in Great Sutton St, and despite going the long way round - thanks Google Maps - this proved another worthwhile visit. On a Tuesday night, this was absolutely rammed and had a great atmosphere. It was the sort of place you warm to immediately. I had no hesitation in ordering  Five Points Pale and this was in fine nick too.  The barman was very welcoming, but even better, the landlord himself, ushered us to two stools at the end of the bar which had a reserved sign in front of them. "Sit here." he said with a wink. "This is my perch, but you have it".  Fab.  We had a great chat with him - an old school type who I took to right away. His son ran the bar, and amazingly, recognised me and gave me a couple of tasters while we chatted about beer.  Of course, we had another and will be back. A great pub.

On Wednesday, we met an old pal from our neck of the woods for dinner. Beforehand, we warmed up in the Woodin Shades, a Nicolsons pub opposite Liverpool Street Station. Guinness for the pal, Pilsner Urquell for E and for the by now emboldened Tandleman, London Pride, which again was in great condition and enjoyable. 

Thursday saw a little culture with a visit to the Imperial War Museum, with the inevitable trip to sample Harveys in the  deserted Royal Oak.  Just one pint as we were meeting BSF colleagues for a quick one in Fuller's Parcel Yard. They were returning to Yorkshire after a week down South. Again rammed and disappointingly, only London Pride was available - even more so when the lads mentioned it was exactly the same the previous Sunday when they had lunch with John Keeling. Surely they can do better than this? Nonetheless, the Pride was good, and they did put ESB on in time for my second and final pint. 

That wasn't quite it for this visit. On the recommendation of the BSF lot, we nipped over to the King Charles 1, where there wasn't even elbow room. Forcing my way to the bar, I ordered the first cask beer I saw. No idea what it was, but you know, it was great too.

What conclusions do I draw? Well, cask beer seems to be making a post Covid renaissance in London, with the possibility that the reduction in the number of beers offered has resulted in better quality. Pubs were very busy too, so the after work London thing is making a comeback.  All in all, encouraging. 

Our post meal drinks after our meal with our pal - Guinness for him of course - were Litovel Pils from the Czech Republic. No cask in this handy pub (Barley Mow, Curtain St), but it was very enjoyable all the same.  I also had a pint of mediocre cask (Dark Star) in the Oliver Conquest near our flat, but really you should drink gin there. 

And cyclists! At night they have such dazzling lights that  make seeing what's behind each difficult. E was nearly wiped out, as her vision when it is dark, isn't tip-top. Just watching  them in traffic, generally,  is a shitshow of dangerous speedy cycling

Monday, 17 January 2022

Iconic Beers Today

There aren't many cask conditioned beers that can be regarded as iconic these days I'd say. Oh, there used to be quite a few. Tetley Bitter would certainly be one of them and from the same stable, though a different brewery, who of those that supped it regularly, can forget Ind Coope Draught Burton Ale? So good that it became the Champion Beer of Britain in 1990 and a beer that if you saw it, you ordered it straight away, even if only for one pint, because it was one of those beers that was not only dangerously drinkable, but strong to boot. Draught Bass would be in there too and it, of course, despite being brewed by Marstons, still has a certain appeal. Talking of which, Pedigree could well be included.

There is probably a case to be made for certain others. In its heyday, possibly Courage Directors, or maybe Theakstons Old Peculier, but that's about it. Of course, too, some beers were legendary in their own backyard, for example, Shipstones Bitter from Nottingham, Higsons Bitter from Liverpool,  Holts Bitter from Manchester - you could likely include Bateman's XB - and many more. These though were, in the main, recognised as great beers, largely by local customers and some aficionados, while the ones mentioned in the first paragraph were much more widely available and were sought after when seen on the bar.

So what of now?  Well, certainly I imagine Harvey's Bitter would be there. Fuller's London Pride would likely be in the mix and of course, perhaps above all, Timothy Taylor's Landlord. You don't see much of Fullers here in the North, which is kind of puzzling, and rarely do you hear of Harvey's appearing at a bar near here.  But you do see Landlord all over the place. It is relatively speaking common. It also features in glowing and reverent terms on Twitter, in beer discourse, and is thought of very highly in almost every beery circle.

Me and Taylor's Landlord have a bit of history. When I first came to this neck of the woods, a local free house used to sell it. It was on the way to Tesco when we did our weekly shop, and we always stopped on the way back for a couple.  It was a rich, balance of malt and hops, with a distinctive floral touch. The term multi layered really did apply to it.  Alas, the free house was sold to Robinsons and the then landlord presented me with the Landlord pumpclip as a farewell gift. I still have it. And that was that. No more readily available Taylor's. I have supped it in Keighley too over the years and when I saw it on a bar, I always tried it. E loved it too. Of course, there is a but. Over the years, it just hasn't retained its appeal somehow. It isn't the same.

The other night, we were caught in the rain and dashed into the nearest pub. Landlord was on the bar and we ordered it. It looked great, only to taste, it was ordinary. E said, "What's happened to this beer?" I had to agree. It isn't a one off. I can't remember when I last had a decent pint of it. Landlord, from my memory, needs a bit longer to mature than most. Maybe it just isn't being given the time. I know it is often sold too "green", but I don't think that was the reason. The vibrancy and that multi layered source of delight simply wasn't there and hasn't been for a long time.

None of this is to say that Landlord is a bad beer. It certainly isn't in any way, but I accept all things change and that some memories are rose-tinted. Possibly it is just me and E, but I don't see either of us ordering Landlord automatically again soon. And that's sad, but thanks for the memories.

The Landlord pumpclip in the photo isn't the one I mentioned above.  It would take too much finding, but it is mine. The Ind Coope Burton Ale sign is my own too.

Sadly, the pub I mentioned above is no more either. It was the New Inn in Castleton. Robbies sold it for offices after a few years, which was a shame.