Ever get the feeling

I’ve just been to a new bar in the town centre.

Things I like in a pub/bar

  1. A wide variety of beer on tap

Things I don’t like in a pub/bar

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Ridiculously, insultingly high prices for really unusual beers: £18 a pint (sorry, £5.95 a third) is… well, ridiculous.
  4. 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.)
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

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9 Comments

  1. John
    Posted 3 May, 2012 at 11:43 pm | Permalink | Reply

    So you won’t be going back to Peter Street in a hurry?

    I already knew I wasn’t hurrying there for my first visit.

    Not like it’s new – six bars in the MO is well established.

    I said to somebody earlier – if I want overpriced bottled or keg beer I’ll go to Port Street. If I want similar beers at a lower price I’ll go to Pi(Chorlton) for one.

    • Phil
      Posted 4 May, 2012 at 9:26 am | Permalink | Reply

      It’s such a shame. The Zeitgeist I had was actually really nice, once it had had a chance to warm up; I could almost be persuaded that kegging is just a method of dispense, as they say. (Although even then I’d say that it’s a bad method of dispense, with a tendency to bugger up the beer.) But that sense of being ripped off over and over again – not just a £3.95 pint, but a £2.15 half; not just a £2.15 half, but a short half – that really left a bad taste.

      After the Pistols split, Steve and Paul had a band for a while called the Greedy Bastards. I think that’s the kind of ‘punk spirit’ these guys are channelling.

  2. Jimbaud
    Posted 4 May, 2012 at 9:19 am | Permalink | Reply

    Man who doesn’t like keg beer doesn’t like keg beer bar. Colour me shocked ;)

    • Phil
      Posted 4 May, 2012 at 9:28 am | Permalink | Reply

      Did you read the post? Actually I was pleasantly surprised by the keg beer, but felt atrociously ripped off by the keg beer bar.

  3. Posted 4 May, 2012 at 10:29 am | Permalink | Reply

    We thought this was a pretty balanced review, mentioning both good and bad points, even if your conclusion was that you didn’t like it; and you were open about how your preferences (and prejudices?) informed your reaction.

    So we tweeted a link to it and it elicited some, er, passionate responses.

    Which is interesting in itself.

  4. ChrisM
    Posted 4 May, 2012 at 9:21 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I was under the impression that, if in a lined glass, it was a legal requirement for it to be at or above the line. The 95% liquid only applies to brim measure glasses AFAIK.

  5. Posted 5 May, 2012 at 8:24 am | Permalink | Reply

    I think the 95% is industry best practice and the glass itself, providing it is government stamped is irrelevant. The glass should contain a minimum of 95% of a pint liquid after the head has collapsed. The line is not important here other than to help you decide your position.

    Now of course you could take them to court and if they say they are adhering to the industry Code of Practice, which states that after the head has settled, a customer may request a top up, which shall be given with good grace and they have refused to do so, then they’d be on sticky ground.

    If it is actual practice to serve below 95% then it would be clearly illegal.

    If you just don’t like what they do – sup elsewhere.

  6. Posted 6 May, 2012 at 9:38 pm | Permalink | Reply

    All I can say is absolutely agree with the general ideas here, and recognise them from bars I’ve been to.

  7. dsquared
    Posted 7 May, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Speaking as someone who lives across the street from a Brewdog bar, the pricing policy might be part of an unofficial agreement with the licensing authorities. They are for the most part selling 7% and above wreck-the-hoose-juice, to a largely young clientele (ie, too young to remember enough about punk rock to notice the incongruities in the marketing). Given that, I very much want them to be selling it expensive rather than reasonably priced. Their target market is hipsters with a lot of money, which as a local resident I approve of, since hipsters don’t tend to chuck things around or piss in my garden. If they could do a discount card for mild-mannered university lecturers I would go along with that, but in the absence of such a scheme, any lower pricing point would tend to create carnage (and also would presumably fill the bar up even beyond the groaning standing-only capacity it is at now).

    The interesting thing to see will be when the craft beer fad passes, which will probably be in about two years’ time. At that point, the market for this stuff will be hobbyists, and while hobbyists are also still willing to pay absurdly high margins for the sheer joy of spotterism, they’re not all that big a market. At that point I suspect Brewdog will reduce their prices, the other craft beer places will go bust, and I will need to embrace old bastardhood and start putting in objections to licence renewals.

One Trackback

  1. By Are We Being 'Had'? | Boak and Bailey's Beer Blog on 23 October, 2012 at 9:45 am

    […] go away — flared up again this week. Two sides of the argument were expressed eloquently by Phil (are we’re being swindled?) and Grace (don’t judge me for paying £4 a half), prompting the following […]

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