Generalisations about beer culture

Representing the community

A barman playing Guitar Hero in a pub in London
A barman playing Guitar Hero in a pub in London

It’s not just about where you feel comfortable yourself — it’s sometimes about where you feel comfortable taking your friends.

A Jewish friend of mine recently said he hated going to his favourite kosher restaurants with non-Jewish friends because he felt accountable for the terrible time they would inevitably have: “If it wasn’t for me and my dietary requirements, they could be in a nice restaurant eating food they’d actually enjoy!”

The funny thing is, I feel very much the same about pubs that cater for the beer geek.

I go to those kind of pubs frequently with Boak, and with those of my mates who are bothered about beer, but the couple of times I’ve gone with people who aren’t that fussed — normal people — they’ve really hated them.

A pub which, on previous occasions, has felt as relaxing and cosy as my own front room suddenly becomes cold and rather lonely. I find myself trying to make people like the pub; making apologies for it; defending it.

It’s just like when I made my brother watch Peep Show and he didn’t laugh once.

The pub should be fun. Being (perhaps justifiably) berated for making people go out of their way to get to a “weird, silent pub full of weirdos”, just isn’t.


Maieb touched upon a similar issue a few months ago.

12 replies on “Representing the community”

Is the Guee-tar Hero Stonch by any chance?

For as many times as this has happened to me, on an equal number of occasions people have become just as enthusiastic about my farflung geeky beer haunts as me. It’s trial and error.

Oh, and I don’t know how your brother made it stoneyfaced through a whole episode of Peep Show. Strange.

Yes. I know what you mean. I feel the same way.

There are exceptions, of course – places with formidable beer that are frequented by fully paid up members of the human race.

Dubbel — my brother doesn’t much enjoy the comedy of embarrassment — it makes him feel embarrassed. I haven’t bothered trying him on Curb Your Enthusiasm, which I think would probably kill him.

Stonch — there is a third way, as you say. As someone who likes both Fuller’s and Young’s, I’m spoiled for choice near my office, for example.

Decent beer pubs here all cater primarily for tourists so are never weird and silent. My problem tends to be convincing people to go to a pub full of fat septics and English stag parties, neither of which seem to be capable of conversing at normal human volume.

Surely, there are worse things than pubs with a good and rotating beer selection? IMHO plasma screens, loud techno, bored staff, fruit machines or groups of regulars with hostile glances towards strangers is what ruins a pub.

But, surely, all pubs are not suited for all occations, and some have busy and quiet periods which may not fit with you and your company.

Let’s say that there are about a dozen London pubs that mainly cater to beer geeks. Surely some of them are friendly and make anyone welcome?

“Surely, there are worse things than pubs with a good and rotating beer selection? IMHO plasma screens, loud techno, bored staff, fruit machines or groups of regulars with hostile glances towards strangers is what ruins a pub.”

Yes – but that isn’t the choice we have.

Out of the true beer geek pubs in London, there aren’t really any – that I can, hand on heart, sell to friends. The Pembury, maybe, but the likes of the Wenlock are absolute mood killers. The Rake is just too small and barren.

Need to clarify last comment:

When I said “that isn’t the choice we have”, I was pointing out that the nefarious things you describe – plasma screen, techno etc – are not all that common at all in good pubs, and we aren’t therefore presented with a choice between beer geek misery and chain pub hell. There’s loads of places in between, a thousand different experiences to be had.

I’ve had the most luck with the Rake; everyone I’ve ever taken to the Pembury, apart from a teetotaller of my acquaintance, has really hated it.

We liked it , I found it very pleasant a bit weird all the people on thier laptops, but hey what do us Summerzet bumpkins know

For clarification – Bailey’s mum is referring to the Pembury.

To add to what’s been said about the choice on offer – I very rarely go into soulless places where the fruit machine is the main focus of entertainment. These places rarely appeal to my friends either.

But I was in a place last night that highlighted the type of choice we do usually have to make. We have quite a few places in London that look like they’ll be decent beer places. They’ll have a couple of ales on (usually Pride and Landlord), not to mention the occasional interesting bottle. They often meet other beer lovers’ criteria – lack of music, no TV screen etc.

However, it quickly becomes obvious that they don’t really know or care about the beer – the ale is stale, and the good bottles (in this case Aventinus and Sierra Nevada) share a billing with Peroni and Brahma. They’ve clearly asked their beer rep for a selection of interesting international beers, without really knowing enough to be an intelligent customer or to look after the stuff when they have it.

Still, the place was very busy, and I’m sure most people would like it – it was very friendly, and had decent food. I’d take many of my friends there (I’d drink the Hoegaarden), and I felt comfortable there, but I would not recommend it for its beer. Interestingly, this particular place seems to have fooled the Good Beer Guide into including it.

I know quite a few places like this, as it’s the kind of place we tend to end up. It’s not the end of the world. I’ll have a pleasant night – probably better than if I’d insisted on going to my first choice against everyone’s will. But if it was just down to me and Bailey — we’d probably be looking for something a bit more special.

It’s a crying shame to walk into a lovely pub full of lovely people, see a decent ale on handpump, then be handed a dodgy pint. It does happen. It’s very sad.

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