We thought we’d covered all the bases when we wrote this piece about how we haven’t taken to Arbor Ales.
We’ve been reading various critics on their approaches to reviewing restaurants and extracted what we think are some principles of ‘good practice’ for writing about beer and pubs:
- Visit more than once at different times of the year and week. While we agree with the thrust of Max’s argument here, it’s as easy to have a one-off great experience as it is a one-off bad ‘un.
- Remain as anonymous as possible to avoid preferential treatment. (Not that we’d expect red carpets…)
- Pay our own way in pubs and bars; disclose relationships and freebies which might be seen to influence our thinking.
- Convey the specific details of each experience — ‘show our working’.
Rule 4 seems to have done its job, however, and we have had some feedback suggesting a fifth rule is required:
- If a beer is bad in a pub orbar, even if it’s not ‘off’, take it back to the bar and give the staff chance to explain why.
We can’t see that doing so would have made much difference in the case of our piece on Arbor — we really don’t think the beer was off, or at the end of barrels, or has any such other excuse, and it tasted consistent with our various experience of their beer in the preceding 13 months — but our failing to do so provides a convenient get-out clause.
So, from now on, we will always steel ourselves and take not very pleasant pints back to the bar for appraisal. (Even though most ‘normal’ consumers wouldn’t bother doing so.)
Thesis: in nine out of ten cases, we’ll get told to piss off, and that the beer tastes fine (assuming rule 2 above has been applied), but we’ll keep a tally and report back with some figures in a few months.