Friday 13 July 2012

Hear the echo

I must say I have great sympathy with Pete Brown’s views on the design aesthetic of the new wave of trendy craft beer bars:

The amazing beers are not the only thing the above-named bars have in common. They also — every single one of them — follow a very strict design aesthetic that treats soft furnishings with the same contempt as a warm bottle of Corona. Not a single one has carpets.

They all have hard floors, hard chairs — hard surfaces wherever you look. I can’t even think of any that have curtains. Consequently, the craft-beer bar that has more than two groups of punters in at any one time is a place of booming, crashing, scraping, echoing cacophony.

The range of beers and the barstaff may be welcoming, the sensory experience on the palate may be amazing, but the experience on the ears is — without exception — painful.

I don’t know why we have to be in a sterile echo-chamber if we want to drink craft beer. I suppose it’s a coolness thing.

In a sense, of course, they adopt this hard-edged, industrial, open-plan style specifically because it establishes a clear differentiation from the sterotype of the “traditional boozer”. Comfort, cosiness and intimacy are just not part of the plan. So I doubt whether they’ll be answering Pete’s plea any day soon:
But here’s a plea: how about some nice velvet drapes or something? Or even soundproofing on the ceiling? Or how about someone, somewhere, combining the comfort of an old-fashioned pub with the range on offer at a craft-beer bar? Please?
Both Wetherspoon’s and Brunning & Price do the same thing to a lesser extent, deliberately eschewing many of the characteristic features of “old-fashioned pubs”. Unfortunately, what was celebrated thirty years ago as the essence of pubness is now dismissed as old hat.

Personally, I look back with nostalgia to the days of red dralon-covered wall benches. And, if my nearest pubs were an echoing open-plan craft beer bar full of hard stools and posing tables, and a keg-only Sam Smith’s boozer with little rooms, there wouldn’t be much doubt as to which I would adopt as my favoured local.


  1. It's really simple - carpets are expensive to buy and difficult to keep clean (same goes for soft furnishings).

  2. Simon,
    True. But one of my favourite pubs when i was an underaged drinker had a carpet that was permanently black from fag ash and wet from beer spillage.
    I loved that pub!

  3. But commercially, you have to admit these places are doing well.

    There are times when I like to sit, all quiet, with a nice pint. I know, having been in the business, that a quiet pub or bar isn't making money.

    A pub, or bar needs to be busy, and noisy, to be making a decent return.

    Are we not just objecting to success?

  4. Obviously not been to the new and very well running 'Friends of Ham' which has just opened up in Leeds - a true eye opener in what a pub/craft beer bar/lounge, whatever you want to call it, can be...

  5. Who said they weren't doing well?

    But that doesn't mean that I, Pete Brown and other fuddy-duddies have to like them.

  6. The Southampton Arms NW5 is a rare example of a pub which is both cosy and trendy.

  7. Bailey. Have to disagree. It is a proper boozer. It isn't trendy as such. It just attracts a certain kind. Probably because it is well known.

  8. There is a difference between "multi-beer freehouse" and "specialist craft beer bar". The Crown and Magnet in Stockport, which fall into the first category, are both, broadly speaking, traditional-style pubs.


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