An artisanally crafted blog curated by Cooking Lager for discerning readers of beer bloggery

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Where the kids are at

For the last 24 hours the beer blogs have been alive with the flames of the dying pub industry, Best of the blogs here and here and here and here. It’s all yesterday’s news today though so that’s why I thought I’d post about it.

The views expressed, were wide and diverse and went from disputing the figures on the basis that many pubs reopen, to disputing them the other way saying that with bars and none proper pubs opening the number of proper pubs are in even steeper decline.

One set of opinions touched me, it touched my soul. This was expressed by a number of people and at a direct tangent from my own view of pubs. This was a view of pubs as warm convivial community centres that enriched the human soul.

Now that is not my view of pubs, my view of pubs is that they are dumpy crapholes full of losers and old men without homes to go to drinking themselves to death whilst expressing offensive and often racist but ultimately impotent views on anything from immigration to taxes to which one of Girls Aloud they would most like to take from behind. Nadine, the Irish one, if you’re wondering, is my answer.

I got back from the gym last night and whilst I sat with my lovely lady and ate the 3 bean salad she had lovingly prepared, I didn’t reach for the fridge to get my daily can of cooking lager goodness. Instead I ventured “fancy going out for a drink tonight?”

Surprisingly she answered in the affirmative. We haven’t been on a date for a while. At weekends we socialise with friends and midweek we are homebodies. It suits us, in you are single early twenties you get out and about, but when you approach 30 you stick with a bird, buy a house, and for want of a better expression, live in it, with her, and generally have less sex than you would like and thought you would have, now you both have your own place and can do it whenever you want.

The rain stayed off and it’s only short walk to the local, a pub I’ve been in twice in the 4 years I’ve lived here. Once when we moved in, second when a mate came round and fancied going to the pub. Upon entering I realise I’ve been a bit unfair and provocative in regard to pubs. To describe the pub as a dump is only partly true and also a tad unfair. It is not smart, not aspirational, a bit tatty, but not so horrible you have to leave and have a shower. It’s no worse than pubs have always been, and I used to spend time in these places, with mates, when a student. At the bar is a choice of bitter or lager. Johns Smiths Smooth, Bombadier cask, Fosters, Stella. There are ciders and Guinness too. I look around and the clientele, all 4 of them are drinking either the smooth or the lout. A bunch of miserable old sods you wouldn’t buy a used car off. I have a Foster’s and the lady has a white wine from the choice of red or white. The service is not unfriendly, but obviously there is an extra charge for a smile. We take a seat. Now the romanticised views of pubs are about the atmosphere not the drinks, but looking at the drinks, it’s nearly £7 for 2 drinks. Tesco are not only cheaper, but offer me more choice. The choice here is of bog standard products that sell at a discount in the off trade. And why is lager the premium expensive beer? In the supermarket, that’s the cheap stuff, 40p a can, and the bombardier is 2 for £3 on discount? How odd. The premium products of on and off trade are at a direct tangent.

Atmosphere? Well there is oxygen. You can breathe, but atmosphere is what I suspect we mean when we look at pubs through rose tinted romantic eyes. The atmosphere is well; quiet would be a nice way of putting it, dead a less friendly expression. The locals leave us alone to chat, and frankly I like it that way, when getting a closer look at them. Sense of community? Nah. I’m paying money to sit in someone else’s frankly shabby faux 18th century front room. “Fancy another?” I say “Are we stopping in here?”, “Nah, let’s go”
If anyone chooses to comment on my tosh, one thing I’d like to know is why pubs look like, well pubs. What’s with all the Victorian/Edwardian design? Did pubs have a style before Queen Victoria? Why hasn’t it moved on, what’s kept it like this? You can look at a house and know exactly what decade it was last decorated. You can’t do that with pubs. They have always been dated. You tell how long ago they got a lick of paint, and it’s usually “too long”.

We walk to a bar the missus likes to go in on the main road. It’s usually a sting in here. The choice is Fosters, Stella, Kronenburg, Hoegarrden and Leffe on draft. No ales, keg, cask or otherwise. The decor is modern and smart. It’s a bar, not a pub, with a restaurant upstairs. We get a table and on the table is a menu, drinks on one side, and snacks on the other. The missus picks a bottle of wine and I buy it at the bar. £8. Not as good as the Spoons where it is a fiver, but we get a couple of glasses each out of it. £8 for two rounds. The bar is busy; there is a buzz about the place. The clientele is young, well dressed and orange. Orange fake tan is the look for the youth of today. An orange girl at the bar says hello, and knows me. It takes a few seconds for me to remember who she is. She’s with her mates, blue wickeds all round, and we chat for a moment before I return to my slightly annoyed girlfriend. Who is she and how do you know her, she wants to know. Once it’s confirmed that it is not an ex girlfriend and not a girl I really know that well, the lady is happier. We enjoy a drink in a busy, but not heaving, vibrant centre of the community. People are chatting; groups know each other, the lady squeeze nods to some people that live along the street. She’ll be making friends with them next, so I hope they’ve got some decent grog in.

I realise the community is not in the pubs, it’s in the people. It follows people where the people go, and currently plenty of people want to go here. Its female friendly, bright, smart, and aspirational and I like the place. A couple of glasses of white wine each and we are off home. We get home, something nice happens. It’s a work night and I get to have sex. Maybe I ought to take the girl out and throw wine down her more often.


The Beer Nut said...

Why Victorian(ish)? This, I think.

Curmudgeon said...

But bars of the type you describe aren't exactly setting the market alight either, are they? As I said in a comment on my own blog, they are very much a niche proposition, urban and middle-class.

And in any major town in the North-West you could be pointed in the direction of pubs far more appealing than the one you mention.

Cooking Lager said...

It's where we differ, I think, Curmudgeon. In terms of what we think is mainstream. Urban and middle class is mainstream. Maybe not in Stockton, dunno about your manor. I'll have to make my way there and give a review of the cooking lager so you'll be able to steer clear of grim proper pubs.

Woolpack Dave said...

I don't really think "urban and middle class" are niche. Surely most people live in or around towns and are average people. In the middle of the spectrum, so to speak.

Victorian? Misplaced nostalgia in most cases, I'd say.

Sex on a work night? lucky bugger.

Tyson said...

As a (very frequent) pubgoer, I feel obliged to say that was a little unfair on the good old pub, I’d say. Fun, but harsh. How it normally works is that you pick a pub you like-or a good one (they’re not mutually exclusive) if you’ve got some totty you’re trying to pull. Choosing a pub you’ve only visited twice is four years was inevitably going to lead to disappointment as, presumably, it failed to make much of an impression on your previous visits.

As the PC pointed out, you could have found plenty of pubs that are much more appealing. The beauty of pubs is that they range from the pongy to the poncy. There’s a type for everyone. And as for bars, there are plenty of ones such as you describe, here in Manchester and they many are empty midweek. I don’t think you can stereotype. As for “urban middle class” being mainstream, I’d have to disagree. An urban middle class would, by its very nature, be a minority.

But despite being a pub (and bar) goer, it’s not about their atmosphere for me, although it’s a bonus to have a good one. No, it’s all about the drink. For sadly (or perhaps luckily?) my preferred choice is frothing ale. Or some fancy pants foreign muck. This leads to me spending a lot of my drinking time out and about as I simply can’t replicate that experience at home. Probably because I haven't got any friends.

How I envy your simple life. I remember the heady days of being able to enjoy tucking into cooking lager at home. Or, indeed, cooking sherry or anything else I could lay my hands on. £8 for a bottle of wine doesn’t sound too bad to me, though. I do enjoy the occasional bottle of vino: usually when I’m out with a member of the deadlier sex. Or a gay man. Can you really get a bottle for £5 at your local spoons? My local one is pretty grubby but even the house wine is now £7.

Sex on a weeknight? Definitely one of the lures of drinking out a lot. Hmmm, perhaps it’s not all about the beer after all...

Curmudgeon said...

By "urban and middle class" I really meant "yuppie" - which is a niche. There may be a few trendy bars in the likes of Didsbury and Chorlton that meet that description, but overall they are few and far between.

Most of the trendy bars I see seem to appeal mostly to the under-25 chav market and are very short-lived. The swift demise of "SK One" in Stockport is a case in point.

And when established pubs try to go trendy it is invariably the kiss of death.

Outside of the yuppie enclaves, there really is no middle-class trendy bar scene. Sorry.