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

Monday, 11 January 2010

Pub of the Month

I have to confess that the lady in my life notwithstanding, one of the few things I love almost as much as beer is beer writing. It is ace. I was wrong, I love it. It remains pointless, just as pointless as I ever thought it was, but that’s what I have found to love about it. I love the beer blogosphere. What did I do before I discovered it? I have no idea. 2 pieces of beer writing inspired me this weekend. This beer hawker with a grudge against the spoons, as a lot of publicans and trade press do, because the Spoons let the cat out of the bag. The cat in question being that it is possible to provide nice pubs and sell nice beer for a fraction of the price of other gaffs that think marketing means “how can I sting punters for more money?” rather than “how can I meet my customers expectations?”. That as a punter you don’t have to be ripped off.

The next bit of inspiration came courtesy of this gentleman and his pal Clarkey, who led me to the following regional Camra publication of printed media beer writing. But at least its free, they’re not attempting to charge for it. Well done fellas. Here I discovered the world of the free pub magazine, without having to step into a grotty pub to read one.

I’m not knocking the Opening Times, not taking the piss, I genuinely like it. Best bits, Mr Mudgies bit and the pub crawl, naff bits are the area news bits, but best bit, and I loved it, was Pub of the month. Who gets to decide what is pub of the month, the drinkers of Stepford or a few beardies in the tap room of the winning pub deciding that this month such a pub has the pongiest and therefore best grog? I don’t know, but why bother to find out when you can make whatever assumption confirms your existing prejudices?

It was so good that I’ve decided to have a cooking lager pub of the month, despite not going into pubs much and not really liking them. If the CAMRA pub of the month can tell the pongy ale lovers where the happening place is then I ought to be pointing people in the direction of where the cheapest neckable grog is, for when not in your own living room. First pub of the month has to be in Stepford as they inspired me, then I might bother to check out the Spoons in the areas of other bloggers if I can get a cheap day return. Or I might forget about it if I cannot be bothered. Why not make a suggestion?

There’s no rule that says there can be only one Stepford pub of the month. If there can be 2 darts world champions then there can be 2 pubs of the month. Clarkeys BDO pub of the month versus the new pretender, the PDC Pub of the month.

So off to this site to find a cheap day return to Stepford. Then off here find out where in Stepford I can taste the delight of the Spoons January sale. Then a traipse through the snow from the train station to the spoons past a MacDonald’s and a number of empty pubs. Every pub I walked past was empty or closed. Not the Spoons, a warm vibrant busy establishment. Comfy sofa’s near the front. Modern seating, then dining tables, then more modern seating. Clean, nicely furnished, modern, nice clientele and pleasant toilets you can enjoy a comfortable dump in.

As it was busy I didn’t get my choice of table, I was a little too close to other people, I’d have preferred a little cubby hole to the side, but it was more than comfortable. The bar was a bit busy and the typical Spoons complaint of not having enough staff could be justified, but I was served within 5 minutes. 99p of Ruddles and £1.99 ham egg and chips, table 78 please. £2.98 all in. The bitter being 50p cheaper than the lout.

Contrary to many presumptions made about the spoons I was not sat in a chav dump with a cheap pint waiting for bad food to arrive. There were no drunks sleeping it off in a corner. There was a large number of regular people, families with well behaved kids, groups of all ages and unusually for pubs, groups of young women sharing a bottle of plonk that you might see in a trendier bar rather than pub. The 99p pint of Ruddles was a nice drinkable well balanced pint of bitter. Nothing wrong with it. Far from bland, well kept and a nice drink. Nothing a beer geek would get excited about but a lovely drink to refresh you or lubricate a bit of social conviviality if you were a social type of person. At the bar and on the menus I saw a superb choice of drinks with guest cask beers, plenty of keg lagers and bottles of beer you’d not only struggle to find in many other pubs, but if you did they’d be far more expensive. The German Weiss beers were £2.45 for what a bar near me stings punters £4 a pop for.

Friendly local too. A pretty girl in a group of tasty looking lasses asked me why I was photographing my pint of bitter and when I told her it was for an article I’m writing for my beer blog she seemed impressed without knowing what a blog was. Defiantly up for it, but as I have a love in my life I don’t wish to lose I didn’t. If you haven’t a bird and want one, why not sit in a Spoons near you and photograph your pint? You can make up any old tosh if a lass starts talking to you and consider yourself well in there.

The food arrived and it was delicious. You can’t really go wrong with egg and chips; you have to be a pretty poor cook to bugger it up. The ham was pretty decent, not cheap crap and I enjoyed putting what I liked on my chips. I opted for ketchup. For pudding? I had another 99p pint and just as good as the first it was.

After necking that I siphoned the python in the clean toilets before having a wander around Stepford. A pretty average northern market town that’s no better or worse than a dozen other examples of its type you could mention. Nice enough. I liked the local fashion for trackie bottoms and hoodies, then back on the train.

“Where have you been?” was the greeting awaiting me on my return.

“I’ve been to Stepford for material for my beer blog”.

“You’ve been where? Good god. You’ve had a pint then; I was thinking you could drive me to the Trafford centre to spend those shareholder vouchers you got for the shops”

“You can drive, my love”

“But the car is covered in snow”

“So what you are asking is, can I dig it out for you? It would be my delight” So no reason the take the coat off and I was somewhat glad of a pint inside me. Calvert’s Court. Stepford Pub of the month, January. Be there or be square.


Curmudgeon said...

You should have let me know and we could have had a beer bloggers' get-together in the Spoons – I'm sure I could have forced a 99p pint of Ruddles down, especially if you were buying.

Cooking Lager said...

That involves being sociable, though. Though you might have had more use of the lasses than me. If you've not got a lady squeeze or even if you're thinking its time for a trade in, get a 99p down you, fella.

Tandleman said...

I had the eggs, ham and chips plus a bottle of Tucher Hefe weizen for a mere £4.44 in Rochdale JDW today. The ham was indeed delicious and the eggs were rather good too.

I made the mistake of not photographing my meal, therefore wasn't chatted up, otherwise a perfick lunch.

Cooking Lager said...

I think you might have eaten in Febs pub of the month, Tandy.

Tandleman said...

I should think so. My eggs weren't frazzled.

Pete Brown said...

you found a Spoons with clean bogs?

Jesus. What's the world coming to?

Cooking Lager said...

A quick google Pete, and

Adrian Tierney-Jones said...

the Spoons’ loos I’ve noted have always been clean enough to eat your ham and eggs off the floor, don’t know which ones you’ve been lurking about in…

Curmudgeon said...

I get the impression that Spoons in London come across as a much more down-market pub chain than they do in the rest of the country. In many provincial towns they come across as almost a bit smart and genteel compared with much of the competition.

Paul Garrard said...

Not sure why by if I'm on my own and fancy a bite and a pint I will pop into a Spoons and have ham egg and chips.

You're never alone with a ham egg and chips!

Kristy said...

Can't be a London thing - it looks like London has some very posh toilets.

Must be a gents thing though - I'm yet to find a spoons ladies toilet I'd be happy weeing in never mind eating off the floor!!

Whorst said...

Years ago, Wendy's in the UK had "A square meal for a round pound!" That was a burger, chips, and a refreshing soda of your choice for a quid! Now that was value! Probably long before most scum started drinking. Where were the likes of Brown, Pattinson and Clarke in those days, eh???

Cooking Lager said...

The most intelligent comment yet, ta.