Saturday, 14 January 2012

A thaw in Tadcaster

Sam Smith’s have been in the news recently for the wrong reasons, but it’s interesting that over the past month they have also broken the habit of a number of years and increased their prices above and beyond those increases dictated by changes in tax and duty rates. Beer seems to have gone up by around 8p a pint. Clearly, in an environment where costs across the board are remorselessly rising, a policy of freezing the pre-tax price is unsustainable in the long term, and even after the increase, Old Brewery Bitter is still only £1.60 in their two Stockport pubs, and £1.66 in the Vine at Dunham Woodhouses in the Cheshire countryside.

Sam’s are still a long way from that point, but if a key aspect of your business proposition is low prices, you have to be careful you don’t end up frittering that away. Going back fifteen or twenty years, Joseph Holt’s had the same reputation as Sam’s enjoy now, and their pubs were often very busy with a distinctive, boisterous, working-class clientele. Over time, they have slowly allowed the differential to erode, so that now many of their pubs are no cheaper than others in the locality, and in the process have lost a lot of that distinctive character and not really replaced it with anything else.


  1. I can only speak for London, but here the Sam Smiths USP of low, low prices has all but gone. Yes, OBB is still very cheap indeed (i.e. £2.50 or thereabouts) but outside that, it's pretty typical London prices. I got stung for the best part of £6.00 for a bottle of Nut Brown Ale - you pay less than that in the trendier beer bars for a Rochefort 10! The kegs aren't cheap, either.

    It's been noticed by my fellow 20-something pals (whose salaries necessarily vary quite a bit) and consequently we frequent them less often. After all, their beer is good - but if you end up paying London prices anyway if you deviate from OBB, there are better.

  2. The prices of their bottled beers have always been much higher - I remember many years ago when OBB was about £1 a pint deciding for a change to have a bottle of OB Pale Ale and being taken aback to be charged about £2.25.

    However, I think you'll find all the other draught (i.e. keg) products are broadly proportionate to OBB.

  3. OBB has hit £2.22/pint in the Murenger in Newport which used to have the same pricing structure as London until recently. The Waterguard in Cardiff Bay does not serve OBB but as its the closest pub to the National Assembly its always been a bit pricey.

  4. How much would a "typical" pint of bitter (say in a pub company outlet) currently cost in Newport?

  5. Average costs are about £2.75/pint in Newport, £3/Cardiff.
    Hmm I recited those off the top of my head, shows how much research I do in pubs!

  6. Sam smiths mild £1.18 a pint in tadcaster.

  7. "Average costs are about £2.75/pint in Newport, £3/Cardiff."

    Around here maybe £2.50-£2.60 in central Stockport, but easily £3 in central Manchester.

    So the Sam's drinker here, relatively speaking, gets more of a bargain than in Newport.

  8. I used to pop into a number of the Sam's London houses more often, but found myself around Bankside 10 days ago, so went to the Anchor Tap (near the Dean Swift and Tower Bridge Draft House). My half of Pure Brewed Lager was £2, so that's a £4ish pint. Somebody ordered a pint of OBB, which I'm sure was about £2.80. The Pure Brewed and their stout have tended to be my preferences for some time, but I'm sure in 2007, OBB was around £2 a pint down here, so they appear to have changed their pricing policy which, as I understood it, included a COL adjustment in the London eatate.

  9. Martin, Cambridge14 January 2012 at 17:22

    I've just been reading a revealing article in Bristol CAMRA magazine about half-pint bottles of Sam's Cherry beer (?) for £3.70 in their Gloucester pub. On the other hand my own last experience was a good pint of OBB for well under £2 in Bispham last week.

    I've always enjoyed Sam's eccentricities, which haven't detracted from good cheap beer in lovely pubs, but I'm not sure if they're losing the plot, and there are increasing stories of odd treatment of their licensees.

    I could forgive them quite a lot if they returned real OBB to Sinclairs, though.

  10. Only have experience of London pubs myself, but the pricing of the bottles varies between pubs, a bottle of Oat Stout will be between 3.50 to 6.00 depending on pub. The pubs near main streets such as the Lyceum and Princess Louise will be in general more expensive than say the one behind the HMV on Oxford Street. There never seems to be a standard pricing structure.

    However pricing aside I don't go to Sam Smith's pubs for the cheapest price, I go because I like the beers. Now if prices rise and beer recipes change for the worse like Youngs (sidenote Wells now add chocolate extract to the Double Choc Stout to get the choccy flavor because they can't brew it like Youngs did) did after the Wells then I would have issues.

  11. I will take the Sam Smiths for that price.


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