Saturday, 3 August 2013

Casting the net

There was an interesting comment on my recent post about the problems of cask beer in hot weather: “The places that don't keep the ale properly chilled are also the kind of places that don't offer any ale I like anyway. Hence for me there is no dilemma really.”

This raised a question about people’s general approach to pubgoing, which I addressed in the poll of which the results are shown on the right.

In the past, casual drinking was a common leisure activity, but I get the impression that in recent years there has been a tendency to concentrate on pubs that people know will suit. This has coincided with the rise of the multi-beer specialist pub. Drinking your way along six different pumps may have more appeal than crawling round six different pubs on the wrong side of town.

There’s nothing wrong with that, and if time and/or money is limited it’s perfectly understandable that people stick with what they know to be reliable. And, of course, in the old days most pubs had a loyal band of regulars who seldom took their custom anywhere else.

Having said that, it’s gratifying that there’s a strong vote for seeking out new and unfamiliar pubs. This doesn’t mean just going in pubs at random, but making some effort to go beyond the tried and trusted. I reckon that this year so far I have been to at least 30 pubs that either I have never visited before, or haven’t been to for at least five years. You may have some disappointing experiences, but on the other hand you may chance across pubs with qualities you weren’t aware of. The joy of discovery is all part of the fun.

And, if you go in unfamiliar pubs, even if they’re praised in pub guides or have a good reputation, you are much more likely to come across an indifferent pint than if you stick to a handful of trusted favourites. It’s a risk you take in expanding your horizons. Going to pubs is not, to my mind, like going to shops.

I’d also add that (contrary to some people’s stereotype) I’m not exclusively interested in pubs and beer, so I’m likely to end up going in pubs that happen to be in places I’ve visited, rather than going to places specifically because of the pubs that are there.

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