Saturday, 17 December 2016

Quality time

CAMRA is, not unreasonably, carrying out a review of the scope and content of its flagship publication, the Good Beer Guide, with a view to implementing any changes in the 2020 edition, published in September 2019. However, one phrase in the information document about this, included almost in throwaway fashion, rather jumped out at me:

Recently, with the increase in pub quality, branches in some parts of the country are finding it more difficult to select just a few pubs for their allocation.
Now, with the rise of micropubs and craft beer bars, there has certainly been an increase in the number of pubs specifically setting out to provide a beer offer of interest to enthusiasts. But it struck me as a drastic leap of the imagination to extrapolate that into a general “increase in pub quality”, however defined.

We have continued to see a steady stream of insensitive refurbishments and conversions to a food-dominated format, plus of course a pub that has closed can never be as good as it was before. And increased beer ranges all too often work against beer quality, with slow turnover and tired beer becoming a growing problem.

So, I thought I would ask the question of the blog readership. While on balance they did tend to feel that pubs had got better, by 41% to 36%, it certainly wasn’t the obvious given that the CAMRA document lazily assumed. And nearly twice as many felt that pubs had got “much worse” than “much better”.

23 comments:

  1. Typical CAMRA hype, like the standard phrase it used to put into the Good Beer Guide that if the beer is right, then every thing else (food, toilets, etc) falls into place, which is clearly nonsense.

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  2. Well setting aside the validity of a poll with 70 self-selected participants (about nil I'd say) I'd also guess that, given the readership here, the "worse" replies have been enhanced by the anti-sm*king b*n brigade.

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    1. Yeah, some people actually care about the decline of pubs.

      Others obviously are cheering it on.

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  3. I must have missed this poll but, like John Clarke, I have to question its validity. I would also question exactly how “pub quality” is decided on, as this is such a subjective area that one person’s “quality pub” is another’s over-priced, food-oriented establishment.

    Meaningless in other words, and whilst CAMRA often lay themselves open to criticism, it is surely no bad thing for them to re-examine their flagship Good Beer Guide to ensure it remains relevant in today’s rapidly changing world.

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  4. Come on, lighten up folks! As said many times before, such polls are only intended as talking points and no scientific validity is claimed.

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    1. Except when they show the demand for smoking in pubs, obviously:)

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    2. Apart from the fact that you used it as a peg for accusing CAMRA of making lazy assumptions. I think Tyson may have it right in his comment below.

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  5. As far as I understand it, this refers specifically to the increase in the average NBSS score. Which means that, in some areas, there are more pubs meeting the branch criteria for selection in the GBG.

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    1. It's always been the case, though, that in most areas there have been more pubs that qualify for the GBG on the grounds of beer scores than there are places.

      And if that was the reasoning, surely the comment should have referred to an "increase in beer quality". And even that's highly questionable. From the reports of Martin Taylor and Simon Everitt from the GBG front line, I don't see any evidence of an overall improvement in beer quality. Choice, probably yes. Quality, no.

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  6. I suppose it depends on the weight individual branches place on NBSS scores.
    My branch uses them when drawing up the initial short list, but then other factors obviously come into play.

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    1. Same here - they're used to determine eligiblity, but can't really be used as the sole criterion. I'd put much more faith in a pub with 50 scores and an average of 3.2, than one with 7 scores and an average of 3.6.

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    2. Well many branches, including mine, are actually reporting an increase in the average score for well reported pubs. Which, on the face of it, seems to suggest there has been an increase in quality in some areas at least.

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    3. Scores have to be taken with some salt of course. They should be used as a guide though certainly they could be used to pick your first say 10/20 allocations, reducing the need for debate on the last 10/20 as long as it is agreed to do it this way before hand.

      However you can weight scores based on number or visits or/and reporters.

      Also the CAMRA spreadsheet for scores (overly complex but a marvel of excel programming) has a weighting calculator as well.

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  7. "We have continued to see a steady stream of insensitive refurbishments and conversions to a food-dominated format, plus of course a pub that has closed can never be as good as it was before. And increased beer ranges all too often work against beer quality, with slow turnover and tired beer becoming a growing problem."

    Couldn't agree more. I've seen a few wet-led to pub-restaurant refurbishments/conversions where the number of cask beers has jumped from a couple to half a dozen, despite the sharp drop in drinkers as opposed to diners and the resulting slow turnover and tired beers. Some places seem to think it a point of honour/attractive feature to have a row of hand-pumps on the bar, even if days go by without anyone ordering a drink from them and the contents of the cask are slowly deteriorating in the cellar.

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    1. Indeed, it sometimes seems that a row of handpumps is basically viewed as a nice decorative feature in a restaurant.

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  8. Not sure about that. No operator, whether an individual or corporate, wants to throw beer (or any ither product) away.
    In a managed operation, the licensee will quickly be under the spotlight from area management and the audit team for excess wastage.
    It's difficult to generalise; my local is a food orientated pub (70% of sale are food) yet it stocks 6 cask beers and I have rarely had a duff pint. Sales of lager, on the other hand, are pretty low.

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    1. In general they just keep the beer on until a customer complains. The travels of Martin and Simon have revealed an awful lot of *very* tired beer out there in GBG pubs.

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  9. So they have, I wonder what that says about some of the local branches' selection policies.

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    1. It has to be said that many branches seem to put range and innovation ahead of actual consistent beer quality. All those in Cheshire, for a start.

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  10. They have improved for me. I have never been a big fan of pubs because they were smoky and noisy. Having done SSMCAMRA 'circuits' for Mild, Cider and now WWW this year I have discovered places I like - especially Taps. As I don't drink large quantities, I also don't mind (too much) paying a little extra for a decent pint. BTW other than 'a device for delivering beer' is this a new use of the word Tap (for premises) or an historic one.

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    1. It is historic. Traditionally Tap Room was an alternative name for the Public Bar. A Brewery Tap was a bar actually at the brewery or in the nearest pub. Nowadays it is just a synonym for bar.

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  11. Considering a theme of this blog is "everything always get worse" the poll reveals concerning levels of optimism among your readers. Rest assured I voted "much worse" Three times.

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  12. Whist some refurbs have been poor, overall I think quality has improved in the products offered, the variety of food available and the overall ambience. I much prefer a smokeless pub and since my friendship group are nearly all non smokers this has been a good thing for us. I understand this is far from universal and would support freedom in choosing a smoking policy.

    Where I have seen a steep decline is in the general *running* of pubs. Two incidents recently spring to mind. One was being sold a pint then within 5 minutes the lights were fully on, and 10 mins we were told to leave. I understand "drinking up" time was never a right and no longer applies, but I still think it poor practice to sell drinks that can't be consumed in a reasonable fashion nor in the environment they were sold in. It's a growing problem that needs sorting.

    The other incident was being ejected off tables as a large group without helping us find new seats after spending hundreds because the area was being reserved (no signs present when sitting down).

    Also reserved seating in a pub should be the exception rather than a rule and only where it wouldn't unduly disadvantage walk ins.

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