Friday, 8 July 2011

Local character

As a means of combating climate change, CAMRA’s “Locale” campaign is nonsense. But as a way of encouraging local character and distinctiveness it has much to be said for it. The UK has a huge variety of local cask beers, and a tourist expecting a taste of the area should have a reasonable expectation of finding one on venturing into a pub.

But, hang on, I walk into an attractive half-timbered pub in a popular tourist town somewhere vaguely South-West of Birmingham. And the beer choice is: Bombardier and Theakstons Best. Two beers often decried as bland, and which have no connection with the area. It might be understandable if these were beers such as Draught Bass and Pedigree that had a long history of being distributed in the area, but they weren’t.

The Severn Valley has a wealth of respected micro-breweries such as Wye Valley, Hobsons and Salopian. Why couldn’t they serve one of those? It is noticeable that the popular Stockport multi-beer pubs, the Crown and Magnet, both make a big point of featuring local beers as well as those from further afield.

I went in another pub that made a proud proclamation that all its cask beers were sourced within 35 miles. I might substitute “all but one” to include the likes of Draught Bass, but as a tourist and business traveller within the UK I would applaud that principle. You don’t go to Scotland to drink Tetley Bitter and Old Speckled Hen, both of which I encountered as the sole cask beer in a pub last year.


  1. I couldn't agree more. Southport's quite well off for real ale, but very few places sell Southport beers, a fact our local press has bemoaned on several occasions. You also struggle to find George Wright beers and anything from the microbreweries in Liverpool or Wirral.

    Our CAMRA Pub of the year is a joke, as it serves London Pride - we're very proud of London here on the North West coast! - and Tetley.

  2. I suppose you can excuse Tetley's as it once was a local North-West beer. But it always dismays me when I go into a pub outside the South-East and see London Pride on the bar. Doom Bar and Deuchars IPA are in my experience two other regular offenders.

  3. Hollowing out of their customers due to the smoking ban, so the pubs that remain become increasingly comformist. It's a vicious cycle.

    And yes. Bombardier, Abbot Ale and Greene King IPA are the worst ones up here.

  4. In a way I can forgive Greene King for serving their own beers in their tied houses, but when you see such a dull selection in pub company outlets it is dispiriting.

  5. I went in a pub local to me, that used to be a Boddingtons tied house, and still has some yellow Boddingtons-branded handpumps. The beer range was Greene King IPA, Bombardier and Everards Tiger. Why any pub that isn't a GK tied house chooses to serve IPA I will never know.

    I tried the Bombardier, to see what the new 4.1% ABV version was like. To be fair, it was in quite good nick, and while it's never going to be a beer I'd go out of my way to drink, I think it actually benefits from being a bit lighter and less chewy.


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