One of the most enjoyable aspects of the beer blogs are not the fascinating beers enthusiasts inflict upon themselves paying many times the multiple of high quality cooking lager to drink murky dark pongy bog water knocked up in someone’s shed, but the bizarre and sometimes downright odd places they choose to go in order to do so.
The place to drink cooking lager is obviously the home. Cooking lager enthusiasts are intelligent, educated and if I may dare to say it, handsome creatures. What people tend to refer to as “the beautiful people”, or “the bright young things”. The tattoos, Eng Ger Land shirts and casual violence are an ironic statement to society that only the truly independent free thinker can make. In public we may look violent and aggressive and read the Daily Star, but in private we read the love poetry of WB Yeats, cook polenta, and listen to radio 3.
By making ourselves rich, and not brewers and publicans, by drinking at 40p a can, we enjoy standards of living far in excess of the pub going public, but on occasion it is necessary to rub shoulders with the poor folks that drink in pubs and bars, so the question is “where to go?” Cheapest pint is better than any pub or beer guide, as it strips your requirements to their barest essentials, where is the cheapest pint of lout near me? Even if you only start the evening there, you can look generous by buying the first round before moving on and letting your mates buy rounds in pricier establishments.
Pubs and bars come in many forms; most are to be avoided unless they are flogging cheap grog. I’ve written a run down.
The community local: Often said to be the hub of the community. Nothing could be further from the truth, unless by community you mean “care in the community” Local pubs will, by and large, be full of local losers without a home to go to. The beer will be mediocre, the welcome and service apathetic, the public bar tatty, and the prices, whatever they are, slightly above what you think it’s actually worth.
The beer enthusiasts pub: This can be a pub with 20 cask ales on and “proudly” nothing mainstream or a bar selling overpriced Belgian lambic beer that tastes like there is a dead cat in the barrel. Either way it’s populated largely with middle class tossers paying over the odds for pongy muck. Most punters will be guardian reading public sector workers from the local council and expect a larger than average number of the stereotypes like beards, morbid obesity, plastic bags, tankards that are the source of such rich comedy. If you can stand being patronised by the bar staff for such simple questions as “which of these beers is like a regular best bitter?” you can enjoy yourself in these places even if it’s only laughing at the bloke with the tankard. An entertaining crack, though not craic.
The gastro pub: Customer service in England is the worst of any 1st world civilised nation and most of the uncivilised 3rd world nations, like Scotland. Take a fine restaurant and notice it’s a bit pricey, the food is good, and waiters bring you stuff that you ask for and your missus likes it and thinks you’ve treated her. Notice pubs, the food is terrible, but it’s cheap, and you order it at the bar. Now create a pub where it’s pricey, the food is either poor or simply not as good as claimed and there is no waiter service, and what have you got? A gastro pub. Avoid like you would a toothless clap riddled prostitute offering a freebie.
The trendy bar: Somewhere you have to go if you’ve got a woman in your life, but that doesn’t mean you have to like it. Expect nice decor, a pleasant crowd, and some pretty lasses. Looking good so far. Also expect eye watering prices, and your woman friend inferring that you are “cheap” if you comment on it. “Yes I am cheap, I am proud to be cheap, me being cheap is why we can afford to holiday 4 or 5 times a year, treacle” is the factually correct but also incorrect answer. There is no winning of arguments if your goal is sex at the end of the evening, every route is a loss. Better to just bite your lip, and avoid that line of conversation completely.
Wetherspoons: In a class of their own. Like pubs but generally smarter and not anywhere near as shabby. Cheap food if your missus hasn’t fed you before heading out, of the “ping” variety, but edible. A wide choice of drinks on tap and bottle, whatever your tipple whether it be cask beer, cooking lager or wines for the lady. Spacious, so you don’t really have to rub shoulders with people and price wise nothing to complain about. No eye watering rips offs for a foreign bottle of lager, or soft drink. Even the real ale drinking mate of mine sees no reason to pull his favourite trick of “it’s his round, cheap bitter and encouraging others to try one because it’s really nice. Someone else’s round, let’s try a pricey pint of something else?” Though he’s not all bad. He has Wetherspoons tokens that give him 50p off a pint and shares them with me when it’s my round saving me 2 quid when we were last in there. That’s friendship.Beard or no beard, he’s alright. That made for £1.19 a pint for something called “Everards Sunchaser” that whilst not being up to the consistency and quality of let’s say a Coors Light, was perfectly palatable grog.
The best feature of Wetherspoons, though, is that by and large beer enthusiasts are snobbish about the gaff, preferring “real” pubs, so you only tend to get normal average everyday sort of folks as punters. If that’s not a recommendation I don’t know what is. They are also one of the few pub company’s not going tits up, so they must be doing something right. Brokers Charles Stanley and KBC Peel Hunt are united in their admiration for pubs group JD Wetherspoon, which on Wednesday morning said like-for-like sales in the 50 weeks to July increased 1.2%.
So there you have it, fancy a beer outside your delightful and modern furnished living room and don’t want to be stung for sitting in a dumpy craphole? Head to the Spoons.