Real ale can be a beautiful thing — nothing can beat it for its fresh taste and fruitiness. But when it’s bad, it’s horrid — sour and farty. So what do you do?
(a) exercise your rights, take it back and ask for something else
(b) leave the pub, never to return.
I bet most readers of this blog go for (a) whereas most Brits go for (b) or possibly even (c) — continue to drink it coz it’s a vehicle for alcohol on a Friday night.
It took me years to progress to option (a). Why? Well, partly because for the first couple of years of drinking ale, I really wasn’t sure if I had a bad pint, or if that was just how it was supposed to taste. Ale is an acquired taste — more acquired than it ought to be, in fact, because it’s off more than it ought to be.
Also, I’m British, and therefore not one to make a fuss or cause any possible awkwardness.
However, as my ale-drinking has progressed, I now have no problem taking back a dodgy pint. And every time I do it, it’s the same ritual:
Me (choosing a quiet moment if possible, using maximum possible “indirect” language):
Er….I think this might possibly be a bit off.
Bartender (shrugs and/or feigns perplexion): Are you sure?
Me: Yes. Try it yourself.
Bartender: Tastes fine to me.
Me: Well, it definitely tastes off to me.
At this point, the bartender usually shrugs, caves in and asks what you want instead. But they always try to convince you you’re wrong. As if you’ve got over your doubts about your own judgement, and your typical British reserve, just to walk away at this point. Must be something they learn in pub school? Or maybe the perplexion is genuine — maybe not that many people complain?
I’ve come to think you should always take a bad pint back. Firstly, they never refuse to give you a new one, once you’ve gone through the ritual. Secondly, you’re doing them a favour — lots of barstaff don’t like ale, remember, and have no way of knowing if it’s off unless you tell them. In the case of the chain bar in central London where they hadn’t rinsed the bleach out of the pipes properly before serving me my Pride, maybe I even saved a life by fighting my way to the front of the queue to complain…