Monday, 14 March 2016

Any colour you like, so long as it’s brown

I’ve finally got round to closing and summarising my poll on the beers you would like to see in a pub with only one cask beer. The thinking behind this was summarised in my earlier post here. It should be pointed out that I was referring to pubs with the turnover to keep their one beer well, not the kind of pub with a single Doom Bar pump at the end of the bar where you worry, even at eight in the evening, whether you will get the first one out that day.

First was Hawkshead Windermere Pale Ale, which is a superb lower-gravity beer than you could easily imagine slaking the thirst of fell-walkers in some rugged Lake District inn, although I’m not aware that any pub actually has it as a sole beer. I was rather pleased that Draught Bass was a strong second, a beer that probably still graces more one-beer pubs than any other apart from OBB. Marble Manchester Bitter, another fine brew, was third, and Sam Smith’s Old Brewery Bitter fourth, although in Sam’s case there’s no chance of it being anything other than a sole beer.

Some of the lower votes may reflect dislike of a particular beer, but other may simply be a matter of unfamiliarity. Weetwood Eastgate Ale is a classic English “best bitter”, but maybe not very well known. On the other hand, Bradfield Farmers Bitter got a decent score, and John Clarke mentioned in the comments that “it is in fact the sole beer at the Royal in Dungworth - a centre of the Sheffield folk carol singing tradition. I went most years with the late Rhys Jones.” Bradfield is a brewery that seems to enjoy healthy distribution around South Yorkshire and the Peak District but never gets much mention in beer blogs. The low score for Hydes Original is probably a fair reflection of it being a distinctly underwhelming beer.

The range of choices in any such poll is inevitably going to be limited by space, and I was aiming for a mixture of classic family brewer bitters, beers from newish micros, and nationally-distributed brews. Perhaps the one I really should have included as well is Taylor’s Landlord – a beer that is wonderful when well-kept, but so often disappointing in the free trade and pubco outlets.

There was a strong showing for “I wouldn’t drink in a one-beer pub” I wondered about including this option, but eventually decided to go for it. I suppose it reflects that people value choice and wouldn’t, given a range of options, go for the one-beer pub. But I suspect if, on some social occasion, they ended up in a pub serving a good drop of Bass, they wouldn’t object too much.


  1. Depends if you were in the mood for Bass. If you were in the mood for something P&H or something dark, you'd be sadly disappointed.

  2. I'm fairly flexible about what real ales I'll drink, so I don't find a one-beer pub too disheartening, unless the one beer is Tetley Bitter, John Smiths or Greene King IPA.

  3. Bradfield beers are fairly easy to find within North Manchester as they enjoy good distribution via Spoons and the free trade. I think the reason they don't get much coverage is that they are considered pretty much par for the course. Certainly I know of several drinkers who avoid them for being too much on the sweet side.

  4. Noticeable how often Thwaites pops up as the sole cask beer in central Blackpool, including in places like Scruffy Murphys you might expect to be keg.

    Without the Beer Guide to guide me, I'd probably pick the pub with one beer on as most likely to have had SOME turnover all day.

    NB I've had some Bradfield beers, particularly in Nag's Head west of Sheffield, that were as good as it gets, but (like Ossett) also less convincing in the wider free trade.


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