Saturday, 30 July 2016

Keeping it local, keeping it real

Last week’s poll was on whether people would continue to visit their favourite local pub if it stopped selling real ale. There wasn’t any specific prompt for this beyond one or two reports of some Sam Smith’s pubs doing this. I also avoided trying to give any context – it was up to you how you interpreted the question. Obviously respondents weren’t too keen on the idea, with only 19% saying “Just as much” or “A bit less”, but 34% saying “Only occasionally” and 35% determined to completely shun the place. The poll results and associated comments can be viewed here.

Clearly “your favourite local” can be interpreted in a variety of ways, from just one of several pubs in the area you sometimes visit, to the only pub in your village where you’re an active member of various quiz and sports teams. But, surely, if you identify it as such, rather than just “my nearest pub” or “a pub I quite like” then you must have some social capital invested in it, and to totally turn your back on it comes across as an exercise in cutting off your nose to spite your face. And, if you really can’t contemplate enjoying the occasional session in a pub or club without real ale, you’re rather missing the point. You’re a beer snob, not a pub lover.

As I’ve mentioned before, there are a few local Sam Smith’s pubs that I like going in, not specifically for the beer, but because they offer a proper pub atmosphere that few competitors can match. If they dropped cask Old Brewery Bitter, I’d probably go in a bit less. But I’d still enjoy them for the other aspects of the pub experience. But I might end up on the lager...

18 comments:

  1. Sam's have even taken cask OBB out of The Falcon in Tad, less than 100yds from the brewery. I don't get it?

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    1. I don't get anything Sam's do, they're a law unto themselves. They own (for some reason) an old seaman's mission church in Bristol which has been disused in the 36 years I've been down here, falling into ruin, in a prime harbourside development area and they refuse to sell it.

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    2. In a way I'm forced to admire the bloody minded perversity of them doing that. Old Humphrey - He's a card isn't he?

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    3. I kind of agree with you even though it makes no sense. And in no way am I knocking Sam's; if I'm in central Bristol I enjoy going to their pub and whiling away a hour or so in peace with a couple of pints and a read of the paper.

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  2. The only pub I've used regularly to stop selling real ale was indeed a Sam's pub. I used to go in Sinclair's a fair bit, before and after the last relocation, but just the once since they dropped the OBB (introduction of plastic glasses on match days didn't help either). Perversely, I'd be just as happy with keg or bottles in Sam's now, so it's clearly psychological.

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  3. I voted "never" because I have an alternative to my favourite pub (actually closer to home) and most of the people I talk to in the pub also drink real ale and would probably give it a miss as well. Having said this, I would rather drink in a pub with no real ale than one which didn't sell much and where it was in bad condition, like the one I was in on Exmoor last weekend. Also, I'm happy to drink keg OBB in Bristol's only Sam's pub although they have recently brought in the cask version, which I would have in preference.

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  4. I gave up my local of 25 years, not because they dropped real ale, but because he beer, which wasn't cheap, became off much too often. They always offered a replacement, but I got sick of complaining. Even the squirted coke was flat too often.

    Found much better, and cheaper, local since.

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  5. If my favourite local stopped serving real ale I'd find a new favourite local. But I've got four or five second favourites, so it wouldn't be that big a deal.

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  6. Sams really is run by people who haven't got a clue....they have a great pub in Notting Hill surrounded by £5m houses where they have no cask, but sell keg at £3.16 a pint...go figure.
    They also built a new place in Durham, prime territory overlooking the river, and made it into a male boozer...not saying they should take all their places upmarket, but show a little commercial nous....

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    1. Sam's have a consistent formula that may not suit everyone. And what is a "male boozer"? One that doesn't major on food? Plenty of expensive, food-led pubs in Durham.

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    2. Would a "male boozer" be something akin to the Blue Oyster?

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    3. The Blue Oyster? Am I missing something here?

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  7. Sam's Stout is a beautiful beer and is available in all of their pubs that I've visited so far. It's not pulled by hand but by electric pump; nevertheless it's good. I prefer it to the OBB.

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  8. I've only really had a 'local' worth drinking in for about 9 months of my entire life.

    Probably a combination of my own specific requirements in a pub, my living in shit places, and the general decline of the numbers of locals.

    But when I move (hopefully in the next few weeks if the solicitors get a shift on) I'll have the rather excellent Radius Arms in Whyteleafe a short bus ride or longish walk up the road, and fully intend to make that my local. The chance of them not serving real ale is non-existent, given that it's pretty much all they sell!

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  9. I'm of the 35% - has to be real ale.

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  10. I wish people would stop knocking Sam Smiths. Their OBB is excellent and from the wood. Their prices are excellent and when i go in with friends who enjoy lager and cider they say the quality of the product is superb.

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    1. I don't think anyone is knocking Sam's. I agree with everything you say. They just have an eccentric way of going about their business, that's all.

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    2. I think it's great that Sam's continue to plough their own furrow and refuse to bend to the winds of fashion. If they started trying to vary their offer they would rapidly lose it.

      In parts of rural Cheshire the Sam's pubs are about the only ones left that haven't been totally taken over by gastro dining.

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