If I ran a pub, I’d make sure that the range of cask beers included sufficient variety that as few customers as possible would be disappointed. If I had four pumps, I’d have a classic ordinary bitter, a golden ale, a stronger premium bitter and a dark beer, either a mild or a porter. I suggested here that Bateman's Dark Mild, Whim Hartington Best Bitter and Taylor's Landlord would make an ideal core range. As the number of pumps grew, I might add one or two stronger and/or more exotic beers, but I’d still retain roughly the same proportions. And I’d always remember that, although there’s much to be said for offering more unusual brews, the majority of customers, even in specialist pubs, will be looking for beers in the gold-amber-copper colour range with a strength roughly between 3.5% and 4.5% ABV.
So it’s disappointing when pubs which you think really should know better fail to adhere to the basic principle of offering a balanced beer range. One of my local Wetherspoon’s, which I maybe visit twice a month, often seems to fall short on this front. For example, on one occasion, apart from the usual Ruddles and Abbot, there was nothing on the bar below 5%, which isn’t ideal if you want to keep a clear head at lunchtime. Another time all the guests were dark beers of some description with the exception of one cloudy Belgian-style witbier which I imagine many casual punters would have sent straight back. It really isn’t good if you’re confronted with eight handpumps but can’t find anything you want to drink, or if in Spoons you find Ruddles the least worst option.
I also recently called in a well-regarded free house, not in this area, which to be honest I reckon has one of the most congenial pub atmospheres around. It had eight beers on, one of which was a chocolate porter, and the remaining seven all golden ales. Now, I’ve nothing against golden ales, and many of them are excellent beers, but it would have been nice to see a bit more variety and one or two milds and classic bitters. Wye Valley HPA is a fine brew, but on this occasion their Bitter or Butty Bach might have provided a broader choice.
It’s not difficult, licensees – as far as you can, within the number of beers you can turn over, make sure you offer as wide a variety of strengths and styles as practicable, and don’t neglect beers of sessionable strength in the amber and copper colour range.