I’ve seen a few postings recently complaining about blogs having a negative tone, and being much more willing to criticise than to praise. Now, I willingly plead guilty as charged, as the key point of this blog is to highlight the ever-increasing attack on lifestyle freedom, mainly, although not exclusively, in the sphere of the pub trade, beer and alcoholic drinks in general.
2011 was the usual gloomy round of pub closures, anti-drink hysteria and general illiberal bullying from government and fakecharities, although Chris Snowdon did identify a few flickers in the darkness.
The only thing I can think of in the past year that has actually improved my drinking life is the conversion of the Gateway in East Didsbury to a Wetherspoon’s. Oh, and Tesco’s get-it-while-you-can 4 for £5 beer offer. While I have had some very enjoyable experiences in pubs, they have mostly been ones you could have had five or ten years ago, and these opportunities are steadily becoming fewer as pubs continue to close and their customer base dwindles, which in a sense makes them more special and poignant.
But, gazing into my (slightly fogged) crystal ball, maybe through an alcohol-induced haze, I can see some positive developments on the horizon for 2012:
January: Tim Martin announces that the Wetherspoon chain is to start providing beermats in all their pubs and, in an attempt to appear more “pubby”, will be refitting them all with much more extensive fixed bench seating.
February: Secretive family brewer Samuel Smith’s announce they have acquired ten wet-led pubs in Cheshire towns and villages from Enterprise Inns. Even though beer prices fall by on average by £1.20 a pint, the local CAMRA branches complain about “loss of choice”.
March: George Osborne announces in the Budget that both HSBD and low strength relief are to be scrapped. Beer duty will be cut by an immediate 5% and then frozen until after the 2015 election.
April: CAMRA Chairman Colin Valentine announces at the National Conference that fighting the anti-drink lobby will now be the organisation’s Number One priority, and that any differences with off-trade representatives will be set aside in pursuit of this.
May: Stockport brewer Robinson’s open a brand-new pub in a former social club in a large Cheshire village. While it will serve food, they clearly say that it is intended to be a pub first, not an eating house.
June: A pre-emptive legal challenge in the European Court to the Scottish Government’s minimum pricing plans succeeds, with the scheme declared illegal and the Scottish taxpayer lumbered with a bill for several million pounds’ costs.
July: Controversial Scottish brewers BrewDog open a new bar in the prosperous South Manchester suburb of Didsbury. It serves only keg beers and has Punk IPA at £4.10 a pint. Despite this, or maybe because of it, it rapidly becomes the busiest and trendiest bar in the village.
August: Specific official alcohol consumption guidelines are scrapped as they are declared to be misleading and counter-productive.
September: The smoking ban in pubs, bars and restaurants is completely repealed. After a few months, the trade settles down to an equitable provision of smoking and non-smoking areas in proportion to the demand, and shows a marked upturn in the fourth quarter of the year.
October: The government announces that a pint of draught beer is to be defined as 20 fluid ounces, and no less. Pubs and bars are given twelve months to change their glass stock and dispense methods.
November: The Highwayman at Rainow in the Cheshire Peak District is acquired and reopened as a pub by a local free house operator.
December: The government instruct all police forces to concentrate on closely-targeted enforcement of the drink-drive laws, and abandon the practice of large-scale harassment of the innocent. The core message of seasonal publicity campaigns reverts from “Have none for the road” to “Stay low”.
And I look forward to spending a pleasant summer afternoon in the beer garden of the Davenport Arms watching the Royal Porcine Flight wheeling lazily in formation in the azure skies above Woodford.
(Two of those 12, but only two, are actually not entirely beyond the bounds of possibility, at least within the next 2-3 years)