Monday, 23 January 2023

They all add up

In my Review of 2022, I mentioned that I had visited 128 different pubs during the year. This was considerably more than in the two years of lockdowns, but still quite a bit less than in the four preceding years, which is as long as I have been keeping a record. For information, for 2016-19 the numbers were 154, 188, 203 and 207. In fact, during 2022 I had to cancel a planned holiday due to unforeseen circumstances, which would probably have bumped up the total to over 140.

However, I was struck by this review of the year by Matthew Thompson, who I know from the local CAMRA branch, who said he had only been to about half a dozen pubs. Now, I have no knowledge of his circumstances, but that obviously indicates a very different mindset. So I thought I would run a Twitter poll on how many different pubs people had visited over the year, producing the following results from an impressive turnout of 511 votes:

Obviously my followers are likely to be much keener on pubgoing than the population at large, but this produced a wide and fairly even spread of results, with the largest share going to the top category of “Over 50”. That must indicate people who are consciously seeking out pubs rather than just visiting them in the normal run of their daily life. GBG ticker Martin Taylor responded that he had been to 877 in 2022, and over 1000 in 2019, which rather puts my efforts in the shade, although I’m not really looking to visit pubs in pursuit of any specific objective.

Ever since I reached legal drinking age I’ve been fascinated by pubs. I would go out and visit various pubs with my dad, and with former school friends in the university holidays. At university in Birmingham, armed with a student railcard, I travelled as far afield as Bath and York. Remember in those days that lunchtime closing was 2.30 pm in most places in the South and Midlands, so trips had to be planned much more carefully than now. Apart from the two years of lockdown, and possibly 2001, which was something of an annus horribilis in which I spent six weeks in hospital with a shattered ankle, and was later made redundant, I would say I’ve visited at least 100 different pubs in every year of my adult life.

In the early years, a major factor was sampling different beers that I had never encountered before. At this time, the tied house system still held sway, and there were only a handful of national-distributed beers, meaning you had to travel to find particular beers. I often sought out obscure pubs just because they had a rare brew for the area. I wrote about this in detail here.

Nowadays, the situation is very much changed, with far fewer pub-owning breweries with a distinctive offer on the bar, and far more beers distributed across the country. Very often, you will walk into a free house or pubco outlet with no idea what you are likely to find, which to my mind somewhat detracts from the experience. However, I will seek out family brewer tied houses when away from my local area, and indeed in the 2010s had two mini-holidays with the partial motivation of visiting Donnington and Hook Norton pubs.

However, I increasingly found that it was the pubs themselves were the attraction, not the beers themselves. As I wrote back in 2010 in a post entitled Wooden Wombs:

At heart I have to conclude I’m more fascinated by pubs than beer – by the variation in layout and architecture, the fittings from many different eras, the ebb and flow of trade, the little rituals and quirks of pub life, the mix of customers, their interaction with the bar staff and each other, the way their clientele and atmosphere reflect the varied strands of society. Every pub is different and has its own character and its own story to tell.
And there are still plenty of pubs to explore that haven’t had the soul sucked out of them by corporate makeovers. I will also make an effort to seek out pubs on CAMRA’s National Inventory when I’m outside my local area.

I’m not setting any targets or making any predictions for 2023, but I would hope that, if all goes well, I can manage at least 150 during the year. I’ve already visited 12 in the first three weeks of the year, which would indicate an annual total over 200, but of course some of those are ones on my regular rounds which I will visit again over the course of the year.

14 comments:

  1. I think you're right that there's a definite split between those who are more interested in pubs than beer, and vice versa, and I clearly belong to the latter camp. As a result of pandemic restrictions, I got into the habit of mostly just going to my local, where the quality of Holt's Bitter has gone up in the last couple of years, albeit at the same time as the price, and occasionally a few other pubs within walking distance in the summer. I went to 38 different pubs in 2019, and ten in the first couple of months of 2020, and intend to get back up to that kind of level this year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd guess Matthew Thompson is little different from the majority of CAMRA members, never mind regular drinkers, who only go to a half dozen or so different pubs, focusing on their local and a few on holiday.

      Most of my enjoyment from pubs is in the first few seconds of stepping through the door, summing up the customers and the pub, and the conversation at the bar.

      Like Matt above I'm a fan of Holt's Bitter if it's good; I'd rather visit a 100 different pubs and drink Holt than stay in one pub and have 100 different beers, however good.

      Delete
  2. I do tick pubs , but not as obsessively as some, I also are as interested in seeking out new beers or beers I rarely see locally so I am just as likely to shun a nice looking trad pub with only one national beer on in favour of a shop conversion with six or seven interesting (to me) beers on. I am also bad at keeping records so in the past have only recorded new pubs visited, but this year are attempting to record all pub visits as well as all beers drunk at what price though I'm not holding my breath on completing it in total by the years end. For the record last year I managed 205 new pubs visited, this year to date I've managed 15 total pub visits involving 10 pubs six of which are new. Beers,I've had 34 different ones from 28 different Brewers all rounded up to 30 pints in total, this is quite a slow start for me and hoping to get things going in a couple of months or so.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Very similar for me so far Mick, a slow start with 33 visits to 20 different pubs, five of them new to me. But it's early days. I'm not planning on going anywhere near last year's 548 never-before-visited pubs out of 1148 total pub visits and 753 different pubs. Like Peter I'll be looking at doing more heritage pubs this year - those five in London last week to get the ball rolling. Quality rather than quantity.

      And 44 different beers from 39 brewers so far this January, and a total of almost 51 pints in 18 pub-going days. Sometimes I think that's a bit much, but there are so many excellent beers out there, and someone's got to drink them.

      What I won't be doing is lots of keg-only pubs, like last year, where I was drinking John Smiths Smooth Crap or Worthington Creamflow, or making do with a whisky or a Guinness, just to tick the pub. It'll be quality pubs and quality drinks this year.

      Delete
  3. You live in Stockport. The Calverts Court Wetherspoons has plenty of cask ales in better nick and cheaper than the other pubs. You'd be mad to drink anywhere else.

    One pub is enough.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Point spectacularly missed there. Visiting various pubs is the object of the exercise, not a means to an end. And an afternoon spent visiting a selection of pubs within a couple of hundred yards of the Calvert's Court would be far more rewarding than just stopping there all the time.

      Delete
    2. Bitterman got the point. A pub is a system for the efficient supply of quality beer at reasonable retail price in pleasant surroundings. Therefore there will be a best pub. That may or may not be a wetherspoons. But there will be a pub that stands above the others. Therefore trading with other pubs is suboptimal. Better choosing the best supplier and occasionally shopping around as and when you think the market requires a review. If you are into CAMRA, that might be your current pub of the year in any given year unless you think a different pub is better,

      Delete
    3. That's rather like the argument of people who go on their holidays to the same place every year.

      Anyway, enough of people from unregistered accounts stirring the pot.

      Delete
    4. You two are never going to agree. I suggest we ask Cooking Lager, he's the best beer blogger.

      Delete
    5. No, Cookie is firmly in the staying put camp on this one. And we may already have heard his opinions anyway ;-)

      Delete
  4. After checking my tally for last year, I was surprised to discover I'd visited 82 pubs, in total.

    Small beer, I know, if you'll pardon the pun, and nowhere near the"professionals" boasting on these pages, of scores in the hundreds.

    It depends, I suppose, on why you visit pubs in the first place, and that is a topic way beyond the scope of this interesting little exercise of yours, Mudge. ๐Ÿ˜€

    ReplyDelete
  5. Those that drink in a lot of different pubs must be drinking a lot of indifferent and mediocre cask beer. Those that drink in a few select pubs they know serve decent beer win the cask lottery every time. Matt is the expert on the beer, not the foolish pub tickers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Those that drink in a lot of pubs don't do so to drink the best beer. Similar reason some people still watch Stockport County or Oldham when there's top, top football on offer for the same price (season ticket £299) a few miles away at the Etihad.

      Delete
  6. This is a question that I can answer more definitively when my annual credit card report arrives here at the abode. Most of my pub visits were charged. I will remember at which pubs I paid cash.
    I would have taken part in your Twitter poll, but my account (pudgym29) has been locked, and Twitter has not yet sent the e-mail with the re-verification code. It keeps asking me for a telephone number. But I will not give Twitter a telephone number. It cannot receive a text message anyhow.

    ReplyDelete

Comments, especially on older posts, may require prior approval by the blog owner. See here for details of my comment policy.

Please register an account to comment. Unregistered comments beyond asides and one-liners will probably be rejected unless I recognise the author. If you intend to make more than the occasional comment using an unregistered ID, you will need to tell me something about yourself.