Saturday, 3 September 2016

Sticking point

Last week, I ran a poll which showed that a large majority of respondents thought that beer in British pubs was typically too dear. So, as a follow-up, I asked exactly what they would define as “too dear” for a pint of ordinary bitter. There seems to be something of a north-south divide in the results, but two obvious spikes at £3.50 and £4.00. Overall, 48% thought a pint had become too expensive by the time it reached £3.50, while 90% felt that way at £4.00.

I was recently in a pub on the fringes of the Peak District and ordered a pint of Taylor’s Landlord. I was expecting to pay maybe £3.30 or £3.40, and was slightly taken aback to be charged £3.70. For a one-off with a meal, you wouldn’t mind too much, but if it was your local you might be inclined to cut back a bit. You have to wonder about the three people who answered “over £5”. Even in London that suggests more money than sense. Or maybe they were just wind-up merchants.

The comments also brought up a couple of tangential points. One is that, whenever such a question is asked, someone always replies “depends what beer it is”. But, in practice, there isn’t much of a price differential between cask beers of the same strength in the same pub, and surely implicit in the question is the assumption that we’re talking about a beer you’d actually want to drink and is in acceptable condition.

I was also taken aback to see both Taylor’s Boltmaker and Harvey’s Sussex Best described as “mediocre, characterless beers”, with one commenter saying “I probably wouldn't choose to pay a penny for either of these beers unless it was the only option on a cruise ship or something.” The intention was just to ask a question about people’s general view, but I deliberately chose these ahead of more commonly available brews such as Doom Bar and Bombardier as they were beers widely regarded as top examples of the style. If you really don’t think much of these, are there any pale beers of 4% or less that you actually do like, or are you such an extremophile that nothing in the category appeals to you?

28 comments:

  1. Hmmm...sounds to me like your commentators don't really like beer.

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  2. I can't speak for every 'predjudiced idiot' or 'beer snob' but in my case it is as much about pounds gained around the waist as it is pounds spent over the counter.

    Doctor suggested I cut down my beer consumption so I'm not going to waste a pint on something I've already had several times before and know to be singularly unspectacular.

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    1. If you want to expend your restricted allowance on new beers, fair enough. But most people tend to mix the familiar and the novel to varying degrees, and don't regard drinking a good drop of an old favourite as "wasting a pint".

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    2. It's not that I think Boltmaker and Harveys Best are *terrible* beers. I'd score both 6/9. Reasonable examples of a style for which I don't particularly care.

      And that's just not enough to flick my internal switch from 'ticker' to 'normal'.

      I had a pint of Fullers Chiswick today. First time in about 7-8 years. Wasn't as good as I remember it, and only really served to convince me that I'm not missing out on much the way I carry on...

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    3. "Oh I don't care much for those ordinary beers drunk by ordinary people."

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  3. Maybe the subtle delicacies of Boltmaker and Sussex Best are wasted on people that think beer should be an assault on the tastebuds from railway arch grapefruit juice brewers that have no concept of subtlety or drinkability?

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    1. maybe the subtle delicacy is lost because they are the ubiquitous unloved "traditional" beer pump left at the end of the bar that keeps losing out to its flashier cousins whose flavour overload hides the flaws in the cellaring (heck based on what I saw in one pub yesterday some folk will simply assume the flaws are part of the expected flavour), but so when you do try it, you instantly wished you hadnt, see also GK IPA.

      as for the price thing, I think I picked £3.50, but the over £5'ers might not be joking, Id expect as it was already beyond £4 a few years back in Brighton on average for even Sussex Best, that prices have moved on and the beyond £5 might well be seen as the next cut off.

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  4. are there any pale beers of 4% or less that you actually do like

    Windermere Pale

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  5. £3.50 is my limit. More than that, say £4, and that is the price of four tins at the local shop. I'd go to the pub more if it were down from £3.50 a bit.

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  6. I agree with ElectricPics. There are numerous examples of so called 'craft' railway arch grapefruit juice brewers and they all taste the same. Boltmaker and Harveys Sussex Best are superb examples of English real ale.

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  7. As Meer For Beer once colourfully wrote, not everyone wants to be slapped in the face by their drink.

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  8. If there's a stag and a doe, that is when I consider it two deer... For goodness sake, choose your pub according to your taste and/or your disposable income. 'Spoons always have cheap ale... go there...

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  9. It would be interesting to see the location of voters; I suspect the biggest factor in "how much is too much" is where you live. As a Londoner, I voted near the top end of the scale because frankly, the idea of being able to get a pint for less than £3.00 is laughable.

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    1. Yes, as I said, the results do suggest a north-south divide.

      It's entirely conceivable that there are people in parts of the North and Midlands who do most of their drinking in Spoons, Holts, Sam's and the like and genuinely do regard £3 as dear.

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    2. £3 is dear - if you spent £90 on a pair of trainers then they're expensive trainers, no doubt about it. And at £3 a pint, £90 is what just three decent pub sessions would cost - That's if you had any shoes to wear to get to the pub in the first place. BTW I'm not trying to say you've got to drink ten pints, but you'll maybe want a game of pool or a bag of crisps or whatever so £30 is about what a halfway decent saturday afternoon/evening session in the pub costs. Which is expensive.

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  10. The idea that Sussex Best is characterless is objectively untrue. That's why many people love it and others don't like it - its character. Jaded palates are at work here, too many hop-bombs and sours.

    I have a mate who has spent years eating the strongest curry available, Phalls if possible - .Vindaloo started to bore him. He doesn't like curry any more.

    Balance can be a good thing and many of the finest English (and German) beers are the result of brewers trying to find their own unique style but without sacrificing balance.

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    1. "When a man is bored of ordinary bitter, he is bored of beer."

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    2. Undoubtedly.

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  11. and what's the average price of a pint nowadays?

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    1. Obviously varies between different areas. And, even with an area, there's a huge disparity. Within 1½ miles of my house, I can pay between £1.90 and £3.70 for a 4% bitter. And the former is the better beer, in the better pub.

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    2. Well OK then, never mind. Looks like some folks in yr neck of the woods don't consider £3.70 too expensive, otherwise they'd be all drinking the £1.90 wouldn't they?

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    3. People have widely different opinions - surely that adds to the glory of life :-)

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    4. last years GBG (so expect an update within the week) said it was £3.46. since there are pubs locally selling 3.8% beer at £3.90 thesedays, though generally Id say £3.50 was the average here, there must be a lot of cheaper pints being counted from somewhere.

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    5. Where is "locally" for you, Stono?

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    6. I suspect that asking folks what's "too expensive" is pretty much the same as asking "what's the most you've paid recently".

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  12. There's more to one's choice of pub than price.

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    1. But price can't be ignored, and many who can afford it will gib at paying £3.70 for a pint of indifferent beer.

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  13. The only place to drink Taylor's Boltmakers is, of course, in the Boltmaker's Arms on East Parade in Keighley.

    I shall pop down and let you know what they charge!

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