QUICK ONE: Turning Casuals into Regulars

Detail: a 1970s pub table.

If someone comes into your pub twice you’re missing a trick if you don’t say hello.

We were hanging out with Bailey’s parents recently when his mum told us this story about their pub-going in the 1970s:

The second time we went into The Cobblestones the landlady came over and said, ‘Right, if you’re going to be coming in regularly, I ought to know your names.’ Then a few months later she said, ‘I’ve got something for you,’ and gave Dad a pint glass with a euchre hand on it, and Grandpa a glass with cherries on, because he liked the fruit machines. We drank in there for years.

This seems like such a simple, effective, emotionally manipulative approach. If you see the same face twice, make a formal introduction, and then use those names at every opportunity. Then after, say, three months of regular custom ask if they’d like a loyalty card, or a glass behind the bar, or make some other small gesture — ‘That one’s on the house.’

Lock them into the relationship, like the free sandwich thing at Pret a Manger.

In practice, there are probably all sorts of reasons this doesn’t happen so often these days, not least the fact that it feels ever rarer to actually find the licensee behind the bar. We often ask (because we want permission to take photos or need to ask some questions for one Thing or another) ‘Is this your place, then?’ and we can’t think of many occasions when the answer has been anything other than, ‘No, I’m just the manager.’

In big chains, though, Creating Regulars could be built into staff objectives and the performance management programme… Aaaaaaaaand we’ve depressed ourselves.

News, Nuggets & Longreads for 4 June 2016

Illustration: government stamp on a British pint glass.

Here are all the blog posts and articles from the past week that have captured our attention in one way or another, from ponderings on the pint to the state of Orval.

Whether you like to drink your beer by the pint or in smaller measures is another of those fault lines between Them and Us in British beer. Chris Hall (who works for London brewery Brew by Numbers) considers whether the fact that the pint is the default UK beer serving is distorting the market:

Even in the most wide-ranging, smaller-serving-focused craft beer bars in the country, we remain interested in filling a pint-shaped hole, and if it remains an unchangeable line in our programming, our industry will remain defined by the beers that fit this space, and not by what we could, or perhaps should, be brewing.


The brewhouse at Orval.
SOURCE: Belgian Smaak.

2015 Beer Writer of the Year Breandán Kearney considers the state and history of the brewery at Orval in a luxuriously long post at Belgian Smaak, which also has lots of juicy detail for home brewers and the generally inquisitive:

The malt bill is an evolving one, barley varieties such as ‘Aleksi’ and ‘Prisma’ used previously having been replaced for example with the ‘Sebastian’ variety. ‘It is difficult to speak about varieties of barley malt because a lot of them disappear for new ones,’ says Anne-Françoise [Pypaert]. ‘Brewers don’t have much control on that because farmers value varieties with a good yield. What I can say is that we use two pale malt varieties, one caramel malt and a little bit of black barley.’

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Q&A: Who Started Branding Glassware, When, and Why?

‘I’m interested in the history of the branded beer glass in pubs. Any idea when it came about, who started it and why?’ Mark Dredge

Oof. This turned out to be too big a question for us. Mark originally asked back in December and we’ve been trying, on and off, with some effort, to find a definitive answer since then.

We didn’t get one.

In the hope that someone out there knows, or might fancy doing some research themselves, here’s what we have learned.

1. Britain

In his monograph Pub Beer Mugs and Glasses (2007) Hugh Rock includes photographs of a vast range of antique British beer drinking vessels. There are several late Victorian earthenware mugs bearing the names of pubs (to help prevent theft, presumably); and a couple of glasses from around 1890 etched with what appear to be beer or brewery names. But the earliest examples of what we would recognise as mass-produced branded glassware, with colour logos, date from as late as the 1960s.

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The Pasglas

On the internet, one thing leads to another. This time, we ended up, via a Wikipedia wormhole, on the Dutch-language page for ‘Pasglas’.

Here’s what we got from Google Translate, tidied up a bit:

A pasglas is a tall beer glass from the 17th century used for drinking games. The glass gets its name from the passen (stripes) marked around the beer glass with the intention that, during a drinking game, each competitor would try to drink down to the next line… The pasglas is common in paintings of the 17th century in which it can symbolise the temptations of life. The quality of the glass itself was poor and often contain air bubbles; this, and the low appreciation of the glasses, means that few have been preserved.

There are indeed lots of pictures of these peculiar glasses, such as ‘An Allegory of Taste’ by Petrus Staverenus, that was auctioned at Christie’s in 2012 (and from where we nicked the picture):

AN ALLEGORY OF TASTE: A MAN, BUST-LENGTH, IN A BLACK JACKET AND RED BERET, HOLDING A PASGLAS, by PETRUS STAVERENUS

It looks a bit like a modern-day brewing sample jar, a vase, or maybe a distant relative of a German wheat beer glass.

There’s a lot more information on the website of ALMA, a Dutch project which aims to connect physical objects from history with paintings that depict them. Its essay says: ‘The eight-sided green pass glass is found regularly in archaeological excavations, not only in the Netherlands but also in Germany, Denmark, Sweden and even in the United States.’ It also includes the rules of the drinking game gleaned from a poem inscribed on a glass in Vienna:

The verse makes it clear that the pass glass was used by a group of drinking companions who passed the glass round and everyone must take a swallow from it. The drinker was challenged to go from measure to measure in one gulp and if he missed, then he had to go on to the next measure. 

Sounds like fun, and all very sociable. Someone making these today would clean up at Christmas, wouldn’t they?

The main image up top is a detail from ‘Vrolijk Gezelschap’ by Jan Miense Molenaer, c.1660 – 1668, from the ALMA website.