Last night the local branch of CAMRA had their monthly “Stagger” – in this case a wander round one of the less affluent, but still well-pubbed, parts of Stockport. Two of the pubs visited were ones that, after a long time selling only keg beers, had fairly recently restored cask beer. Both, perhaps surprisingly, had Black Sheep Bitter: one also had Greene King IPA and the other Marston’s Pedigree.
In the first, the Black Sheep was OK-ish, the IPA very tired and just on the cusp of becoming vinegary. In the second, however, the Pedigree was well beyond that stage and fully qualified as Sarson’s Best. The Black Sheep wasn’t much better. The Pedigrees were returned, and the bar staff accepted that they needed changing. After some humming and ha-ing, they eventually put on a new cask of Black Sheep, which was acceptable, but the whole experience was a somewhat uncomfortable one.
Sadly this will have reinforced the stereotype of CAMRA members as people who visit a pub once every two years, order a round of halves and then moan about the beer, and there was a bit of barracking from some of the lager-drinking regulars.
But it does raise the question of whether marginal outlets should put cask beer on if they don’t have the turnover to keep it in good condition.
By the way, the beer and atmosphere in the other five pubs visited were fine. I had rather hoped Cooking Lager would join us, but in the end he didn’t turn up.
And, if you are thinking “dull selection”, what beer of around 4% ABV would you suggest a “community” pub putting cask beer on for the first time in years should go for?