Dump Red Stripe, get Budvar on


Last night, we wanted to go somewhere with a bit of music. A quick search turned up the Carpenter’s Arms, a nice looking pub with a DJ playing “eclectic beats” (eh?) every Saturday night.

As it happened, it was just what we were looking for. We enjoyed the music and the atmosphere and got lightly pissed. Nice.

Even though we weren’t in beer geek mode, we couldn’t help but ponder the selection of beers on offer. We gather that this is one of Mitchells and Butlers undercover chain pubs and the familiar line-up on the pumps confirmed that. There were more than 20 draft beers, some interesting, others less so.

What struck us most was the menu which offered five ‘pilsners’: Carlsberg, Red Stripe, Peroni, Becks Vier and Heineken. Then there were the two very similar wheat beers — Franziskaner and Erdinger.

Why offer five such similar lagers? Couldn’t they spare a pump for something a bit better (Budvar, Urquell) or different (Budvar Dark)? We’re not being weird beer snobs here — those aren’t exactly obscure or hard to get hold of, and would just broaden the range a bit.

This is exactly the kind of pub which should have Brewdog’s beers on offer, too.

And, controversially, we’re going to suggest that they should drop their cask ales altogether, or have a really long hard think about how they’re looking after them.  We tried a pint of London Pride (no-one else was touching it) and it tasted very, very old and stale. Maybe this just isn’t the place for them?

Of course, being part of a chain, even if it’s kept a bit secret, they’re bound by all kinds of contracts and agreements, so this is really feedback for the owners, rather than the cheery bar manager.

All in all, we had a good night, and didn’t struggle to find nice things to drink, with the aforementioned Franziskaner, kegged Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, bottles of Chimay Red,  and bottled Meantime Chocolate and Raspberry. But a few small changes could make this a great pub, rather than just a good one.

12 replies on “Dump Red Stripe, get Budvar on”

Controversially I’m going to agree with you on the cask front. There is only one thing worse than no real ale, and that’s stale, shite real ale. It does no one any favours. Out of the beers on offer I would have gone for Franziskaner. Red Stripe on a hot summer’s day at and outdoors concert, yes. In a pub in March, no.

“There is only one thing worse than no real ale, and that’s stale, shite real ale.”

Agreed. It’s horses for courses. Drop the cask if you can’t keep it or sell it.

I agree that a lot of the Castle estate don’t keep their cask ales properly, but then some do. It would be better if they just made sure the managers all understood how to keep real ale (it isn’t hard and the turnover in all of those places is enough to run at least two if not more). Actually, I find that problem in Castle pubs isn’t lack of quality when they do sell ale – it’s the fact the pumpclips are all turned around half of the time. That suggests they do manage to turn it over, but they don’t plan ahead and tap the beers in advance.

Agreed that all the estate’s pubs should have Pilsner Urquell. Budvar Dark seems a bit hit and miss, though. It seemed popular when they first listed it but then dropped off a bit so many of the pubs took it out.

Brew Dog beers would be able to do well in Castle pubs, yes. James and Martin’s new sales chap should work on that.

PS. Red Stripe still has a certain cachet so it’s I think that’s why they carry it. For similar reasons I’m considering doing San Miguel in summer. I don’t think it’s a particularly good beer, but people seem to enjoy it due to associations with good times.

Speaking of Brew Dog, are there any pubs in London which stock their beers on draft on an even semi-regular basis? None than I can think of.

You can see my office in the background of that picture. The Carps is a strange pub. It often has some good ale on tap, but I try and avoid it nowadays as there are too many people from my industry in there who I don’t particularly want to spend an evening with.

Donnie — hello and welcome! Seemd to be mostly students and Spanish people the other night. Does it get busy on a weeknight?

It does indeed – like most pubs, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday are usually rammed, especially at this time of the year. Before its refurbishment a couple of years ago, there wasn’t even an upstairs (previously accommodation for the landlady) so you only had the two small ones downstairs to choose from.

During the week it is all business / advertising people – it’s generally too expensive for students as all the beer is topping the £3 mark, but seeing as there is so much Uni accommodation around the area (and not too many good pubs unless you wander in to Bloomsbury) it wouldn’t surprise me on a weekend.

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