QUICK ONE: One Function of a Pump-Clip

Handpumps at a Bristol pub.

A huge, gaudy, distinctive pump-clip is the speculative pub-explorer’s friend.

For benefit of readers from Mars, pump-clips are the badges displayed on handles in pubs. They barely existed until about 50 years ago but now they’re ubiquitous, increasingly ornate, and increasingly huge.

Which, though some may scoff, is great for people like us whose favourite way of finding pubs is wandering about with feelers twitching.

In Topsham the other week, researching our Devon Life column, we saw a pleasant looking pub but with only limited time before our train had to make a snap decision about whether to pop in. From the street, through glass, across several metres of floor-space, we could recognise the brands on offer and see that they weren’t terribly exciting. Without stopping, we were able to make a quick decision to push on somewhere else instead.

Equally, though, there are times when we’ve slammed the brakes on because one of us has subconsciously registered a hit in the database: wait — was that the clip for Rooster’s Yankee back there in The Union? (They’ve never had it on again since; it was glorious.)

In lieu of pubs displaying a list outside, which is ideal, a bank of pumps visible from the street, with bold clips on display, is the next best thing.

And brewers: if your pump-clips are generic, or inconsistent within the range, or lack a visual hook, you might want to bear that in mind next time you review the designs.

The Power of a Good Pumpclip

Magic Rock brewing pumpclip

When we went to the Craft Beer Company with a not-especially-beery mate last week, we got to see the power of branding in action.

Faced with a vast array of pumps, slightly anxious at too much choice, and aware of the queue behind him, our chum made a snap decision: he went for Magic Rock Curious. Why? Because the design stood out as professional, stylish and interesting. Because it leapt off the bartop shouting: “Buy me!”

Sadly, there was none left, and he had to settle for another beer suggested by the barmaid. As it turned out, it was every bit as nice as Curious, but we’d never have known that if left to our own devices, because its pumpclip looked like something from an A level art portfolio c.2002 — Photoshop for Dummies, posterise-everything amateur hour.

Design can’t be an afterthought, because, in the current competititve climate, it can mean the difference between a beer either selling briskly or quietly turning to vinegar in its cask. We punters — especially those of us who simply drink beer rather than obsessing over it — are fickle, superficial, shallow creatures.