Aug 17

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Yet J D Wetherspoons success has not led to masses of imitators. Its low priced drinks and food unmatched 20 years on. The fish and chips and a pint for £3.29 in Cardiff in 2008 or the 3 pints for a fiver in the 2000s. Even now 2 pints and a meal cost me £8 the other day.

In an era where most pubs can’t serve above a 5/10 pint of ale Wetherspoons consistently serves 7 or 8 and many are Cask Marque. It has done more to bring good beer to the nation at affordable prices than anyone. Its food is functional and nearly always edible and above many ordinary pubs.

I genuinely believe it could charge more but it does not and that is a good question, why not? Maybe it is not 100% about monetising every last penny out of us and we do notice or maybe the people running it take a longer term view or just want to stand for something.

No one dares imitate that it seems these days.

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Mar 21

Ask a Man United fan why they support the team and they will cite many true things about United. United fans may have a point but those who support political parties don’t. Football fandom may have more differences than the current Punch and Punch show in the Commons. Continue reading »

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Jan 10

It’s tempting to see CAMRA as the saviour of the pint of ale. It’s tempting to see CAMRA as a movement that has affected real change. Well maybe once. However what have they done for the drinker lately?

The gap between CAMRA’s rise and the slight upturn and interest in decent beer is too big a gap. Those who served their purpose in the 70s now get rich endorsing big breweries and hammering home a strait jacket of Cask and Tradition except they are more than happy to endorse furrin providers cask stuff if it’s not a big brewery.

The increasing relevance of cask ale owes more surely the craft beer movement of America? The use of hops and golden ales.  Ironically often producing genuinely bitter beers not labelled Bitter. It also points to the need of swanky new pubs anxious to differentiate from the Lager and Brown Bitter palaces.

What differentiates the new pubs leading the increased drinking of Cask Ale is quality. At random you can go into 10 older pubs and probably only 1 or 2 will likely have an above average/replacement level pint. A lot will float on the fringes but most you drink and leave. It is why a clearly superior product like Cask Ale is still out drunk by a grim array of insipid at best lagers. They are at least consistent and barely drinkable is still drinkable.

Where CAMRA has failed is that in the last 20 years it has never pushed quality. It pushes diversity even when pubs don’t turn over enough ale to justify it and decries technology to maintain the beer. It desires a full measure almost it seems as a means to discourage condition in the beer. It proffers tradition but the beers that excite me now owe nothing to tradition. Indeed Traditional Ales may as well say Heavy Brown Filth or Sulphur Specials.

Whilst it’s a love in now it should not be forgotten CAMRA’s initial distaste for JD Wetherspoons’ blackboards and selling cheap well conditioned beers at working men’s prices.

We drink beer not tradition.

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Jul 30

This may seem a filler but it’s been a debate a few of us have been having over the last few years. About whether CAMRA’s strictures on the preparation and keeping of ale are a fetishisation. A pushing of tradition as an answer to the problems of bad mass produced beer being force fed on to us 40 years ago but no longer relevant.  Continue reading »

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