It’s difficult to avoid the feeling, though, that the Joule’s pub estate is ultimately dependent on some deep pockets. If taking failing pubs over and carrying out lavish refurbishments as proper pubs rather than family-focused eateries was such a good commercial prospect, then surely others would be doing it, but rather conspicuously they are not. Their recent revamp of the previously run-down Butcher’s Arms at Forsbrook in Staffordshire is a good example. Still, why not just enjoy them and not worry about who is paying for it all?
On the bar of the Cross Keys is the vintage Carling Black label font pictured on the right, now non-operational, of course. And this reminded me of another point I’ve made in the past, that the working classes almost to a man now shun cask beer. It was a beautiful sunny day, not particularly warm, but the sun was pleasant if you were out of the wind. While I was there, a sequence of fairly down-to-earth looking groups and couples came in, and pretty much every bloke went for a pint of Grolsch, even though there were six cask beers on the bar and the Joule’s Pale Ale was in excellent nick.
Is cask beer seen as just too difficult, poncey and precious? And is that maybe a reason for stocking Bombardier and Cumberland Ale rather than 57 varieties of stuff the average drinker has never heard of?