I realise by posting this it is going to sound like I am starting to spend more time in pubs. However the experience I am about to relate concerns a Wetherspoons pub so that doesn’t really count does it? The experience informed me to a degree that I wish to propose the abolition of cask ale. A controversial point to be sure, and whilst currently not official policy of the Campaign for Cooking Lager I am asking the question whether it ought to be.
Stood at the bar of a Wetherspoons waiting to order I noticed a bit of a queue forming. The Wetherpoons are often criticised for not having enough bar staff but on this occasion the two gentlemen serving appeared more than adequate for the level of custom in the establishment. I am no great fan of pubs and one of the reasons is the requirement for self service. The continental model of sitting at a table and having a waitress bring you things is in my view a more civilised drinking experience. Whether it be food or drink I require, and I don’t mind tipping. The ebbs and flow of how busy the establishment is, are more convivial in such a system as if there is a wait on, you are sat at your table conversing with your friends rather than stood at the bar waving a note in the air.
The queue in this case was seemingly being created by a rather demanding customer who took rather a long time to buy a single pint of bitter. The customer in question was not being unreasonable and arguably well within his rights. Wetherspoons have a “beer festival” on at the moment which appears a way to hawk its guest ales with a price promotion. The customer in question was discovering the aforementioned beer festival. He was experiencing a taster of one of the ales in question, presumably being uncertain as to whether to buy a measure. It is of no relevance to mention the physical appearance of the gentleman, but he was a gentleman of mature years with white hair, a white beard and a cravat. Again this is not relevant but I like to paint a picture with words. He swilled the beer around his mouth at length, making a number of facial expressions where it was impossible to determine whether he was enjoying the experience or attempting the affect the mannerisms of a connoisseur. He swallowed and by the nod of his head showed his displeasure and asked for a taster of another. This was repeated at length with each of the cask ales on the bar and with each taster his mannerisms became ever so slightly more exaggerated. At this point I was enjoying watching him and was happy to wait to be served myself as my order was a simple one. 2 Sunday £5.99 specials, one pork, one chicken, one with a Tuborg and 1 with a white wine.
Upon his last taster the white haired gentleman declared with a wince “It’s all muck, a pint of smooth please” Now the gentleman was entirely within his rights to go through this lengthy process of acquiring a pint of John Smiths Smooth. Whilst smooth bitter is not really my cup of tea, I have no objection to people drinking it. The issue I realised is one of cask ale. I am prepared to accept the gentleman could very well be a connoisseur and his judgement of the beers as valid and reasonable as anyone’s. Due to the variable nature of cask ale, and the fact that a portion of it is muck, he had to go through this rigmarole. Simpler to not have mucky beer on in the first place, and only have beers on people will like. If cask ale were abolished, this gentleman would have been served quickly and so would the rest of us waiting at the bar. You would never need a taster of the Tuborg, Carlsberg, John Smiths or Guinness. So there you have it, my proposal to make the pub going experience more enjoyable for all. Abolish cask beer!