It takes a long time for the reputation of a pub to turn around, and that can work both ways. For example, many people still believe Sam Smith pubs are good places for cheap beer in London.
We’ve been aware of their prices creeping up for years.
As we recall, the posh bottles went first. Oatmeal Stout and Taddy Porter were the choice of those in the know, and always cost a bit more.
But when they went up to £6, £7, £8 per bottle, it was clear things were changing.
The bottles eventually shrank, too, changing from famously fat full pints to 330ml tiddlers.
Then, on a recent trip, we paid around £7 for a pint of Pure Brewed Lager, and almost £6 for a pint of Old Brewery Bitter.
Again, we know, that’s sort of what beer costs in London in 2023. Fair enough.
When people on Trip Advisor are still advising tourists to go to Samuel Smith pubs for good value food and beer, however, there’s clearly a mismatch between reality and reputation.
We might also be more relaxed about these prices if we felt they were covering the costs of a good pub experience but…
Dirty glassware. Glum service. Grim atmosphere.
Evidence of a death spiral, perhaps?
We enjoyed one of our several recent visits to Samuel Smith pubs despite all of the above, because the building and location were somewhat magical.
It felt, though, as if the management were doing everything possible to test our goodwill.
At least the beer was good, though, right? Right?
Well, no, not really, even allowing for the fact that it’s always had a mixed reputation.
We used to like Pure Brewed Lager. Now, it seems sweet and (ironically) cheap.
And though we’ve never been huge fans of Old Brewery, its limited charms are even harder to discern without the befuddling glamour of a bargain price.
There are, in theory, cheaper beers available, such as Taddy Lager, but they often seem to be unavailable in practice.
Go to the pubs if you like. Enjoy them, and the beer, if you like. But don’t tell anyone they’re great value in 2023.
Because these days, they’re more like Angus Steak Houses than Merry Olde Inns of England.