I’ve just been to a new bar in the town centre.
Things I like in a pub/bar
- A wide variety of beer on tap
Things I don’t like in a pub/bar
- High prices for ordinary beers: say 25% higher than I’d expect to pay anywhere else in Manchester for the entry-level draught beer, and 100% higher than you’d pay in some places.
- Very, very high prices for mildly unusual beers: if you can get something for £6 a litre in Tesco, it really doesn’t need to cost £7.50 a pint (sorry, £3.75 a half) when it’s on draught.
- Ridiculously, insultingly high prices for really unusual beers: £18 a pint (sorry, £5.95 a third) is… well, ridiculous.
- Overpriced halves: most pubs are capable of dividing by two and rounding up to the nearest 5p, if they round up at all. When you divide £3.95 by two you don’t get £2.15. (I naively gave the barman £2 and assumed that would cover it. He was quite apologetic about the price difference, and offered to help me out – by selling me a full pint instead.)
- Short measures: when I see a line on the side of a glass, I like to see the top of the liquid level with it or slightly above it. I know this isn’t a legal requirement, and I’m sure the 2mm of froth below the line in my glass fell well within the legal limit, but it is a customary expectation. It’s not so much that failing to fill glasses to the line is a rip-off – it’s more that filling to the line or above is a visible sign that the customer’s not being ripped off. Most pubs seem to understand this and have no difficulty doing it.
- Obtrusive branding: your average pub doesn’t brand every visible surface with the same company image. Neither does your average McDonald’s, come to that.
More trivial annoyances included chalking up the most expensive beers with an even higher price than the price in the printed menu (which was already insanely high) and giving the cheapest beer on the board a deliberately off-putting name (an annoying little trick, familiar from the wine lists of restaurants with a student clientele).
And – I thought I’d leave this till last – another thing I don’t like in a pub is keg beer. No, hear me out. I don’t like heavily chilled beer: I like to be able to taste the beer. I don’t like obtrusively carbonated beer: I like to be able to taste the beer. Halfway through my half, I swilled it around the glass for twenty seconds or so, giving the beer a chance to warm up and gas out; the effect was extraordinary. The top half of the glass was a reasonably pleasant thirst-quencher; the bottom half was an interesting beer with a big, complex flavour. (Although even then it wasn’t as good as the cask version of fond memory.) I believe them when they say their beer isn’t pasteurised or filtered to the max; once I’d let mine warm up and got rid of some of the CO2, there was a decent beer there. Which makes their commitment to kegging – and kegging in this specific form – all the more of a mystery; it’s almost as if they want people to knock the beer back instead of lingering long enough to appreciate it.
I can see good commercial reasons for kegging; come to that, I can see good commercial reasons for doing most of the things this brewery does. The trouble is, a lot of the time I can’t see any other reasons for the things they do.
Update OK, parts of that may have been a bit over the top, the bit about the blackboard prices in particular. The fact that they’re selling (or trying to sell) some oddity from Nøgne Ø at £5.75 a third doesn’t actually affect me one way or the other, and it certainly offended me much less than being chiselled out of 15p on my half. (Not that I can’t afford 15p! But it really isn’t about the money – it’s about the principle, the principle in question being “Thou shalt not blatantly rip me off and then tell me not to be so uptight.”) I’m not really that fussy about branding as a general thing, either; what really winds me up about their branding is the way they’re trying to scrape up some kind of spurious rebel image by evoking punk, something which for a lot of people meant a hell of a lot more than a stylish choice of exclusive beverage. (Communism’s gone, May ’68 went years ago – the marketers could at least have left punk alone.)
Anyway, the discussion is continuing at B&B – see you over there.