Quick addendum to the previous post. As you probably know, Wetherspoon’s have one of their periodic ‘beer festivals’ on at the moment. My local Spoons held a pre-launch event for local CAMRA members the night before the festival officially started. When I went along they were serving beers from Belhaven, Elgood’s, Moorhouse and Hilden (a new one on me, probably because they’re from Antrim), as well as two ‘international’ collaborative brews: a Greek coffee porter(!) brewed at Everard’s and an American amber ale brewed at Adnam’s. So, six decent guest beers, plus the usual suspects.
On my way to the Spoons I stuck my nose in every pub or bar I passed, making a mental note of how many beers were available & which breweries were featured. And I can report that the places I passed on that ten-minute walk were serving 22 cask beers from 15 different breweries: Art Brew, Brightside, Bristol Beer Company (x2), Buxton, Dark Star (x2), Green Mill, Hornbeam, Liverpool Organic, Magic Rock, Marble (x5), Red Willow (x2), Redemption, Salamander, Tatton and XT. This evening I tried the experiment of walking ten minutes the other way, to find another three bars and another eight beers: Beartown, Bollington, Hartley’s [sic], Hornbeam (again), Mobberley, Phoenix, Pictish and Thwaites. There are a couple of names in there that I wouldn’t necessarily cross the street for, but there are also plenty that would be worth a ten-minute walk any day of the week. (Plus three that I haven’t tried yet, and a fourth that I hadn’t even heard of before tonight.) It takes a bit of the shine off a paddle at Spoon’s, I have to say.
Miracle and wonder. I think this has to be a bubble, speaking economically (as well as culturally) – apart from anything else, speaking economically we’re all going down the tubes, and while people do carry on getting drunk during recessions they don’t tend to spend big on luxury items. (Although, as I’ve said before, the relative fixity of the price of cask beer has made it that rare thing, a high-quality good which isn’t a luxury good. (Another reason – or perhaps the reason – to be suspicious of craft keg.) So maybe beer will remain an affordable luxury and won’t be hit by the downturn.) Realistically you’d have to bet that we’re going to lose one of those bars and/or two of those breweries over the next year. Oh well – I’ll just have to keep propping up the ones I like.
Update 13th April. I stuck my nose in the local Spoons yesterday and noticed they had the special-edition 6% Wadworth 6X plus a 5.5%er from Orkney, both of which I rather fancied. I didn’t fancy them quite enough to drink them on the day – ‘day’ being the operative word – so left it until this evening… when they’d both gone. Curses. Instead, I had thirds of Central City Red Racer IPA, Robbies Hoptimus Prime and Lodewijk Fly By Night. All were quite pleasant, but they were (a) not much more than pleasant (Tandleman reports a similar experience); (b) in thirds, which increasingly looks like a doll’s house measure to me – you can get a taste of a beer in that volume but you can’t really get to know it; and (c) in a Wetherspoon’s, and one of the more barn-like ones at that. Not the greatest of beer experiences; I think that might be it for me and this particular ‘festival’. On my way back I passed by the Font, a venture which is surely doomed to fail – nobody’s going to go there if it’s always that crowded – and beat a retreat to De Nada, where I sank into a pint of Red Willow Directionless: a superlative pint in very nice surroundings (and a dimple mug, but you can’t have everything). The Font, incidentally, still doesn’t have a blackboard for cask beers, despite having one for keg and another for ciders. Presumably this is a deliberate decision, but if so it baffles me – they certainly aren’t all the same price, or cheap for that matter.