The value of the unattainable pint

A full year has now passed since our last pre-lockdown pub trip during which time we’ve developed a little game we play when we’re out walking: how much would you pay for a pint in that pub over there, right now?

A normal pint, that is, under pre-plague circumstances – just one hour of normality, arranged, we assume, by some red-nosed relative of the ghosts from Dickens’s A Christmas Carol.

Back in April 2020, it was The Crafty Cow that first prompted the question. A big Greene King pub on Horfield Common in North Bristol, the Cow isn’t a pub we especially like. But after a month without any pubs, it suddenly began to look quite appealing.

“Twenty quid,” was Ray’s answer.

“Meh… Ten,” said Jess.

Well, what about a pint in The Drapers Arms? Ah, now, that’s different. At least £75, we both agreed. By May, it had crept up to £100 and even the Crafty Cow was looking like a £50-a-pint delight.

Last week, having not drunk in (outside) a pub since early October, we asked ourselves the question again as our constitutional took us past The Oxford in Totterdown and concluded that, Christ, we’d probably pay £200 to be able sit inside and drink a single pint of Bristol Beer Factory Fortitude with a packet of crisps.

Playing this game is almost painful, at times. It also usually leads to the melancholy thought that, actually, if there was a cash-based system for temporarily restoring normality, we’d use it to see our parents in Somerset and London respectively.

But perhaps it also bodes well for the fate of pubs in the long run. Not only are people dreaming about them but they’re also itching to spend. Or maybe that’s just us.


British Beer

The Great British Beer Hunt —
Jester, Ernest, Olicana and Godiva
On a rail replacement bus.

Beer and queuing —
A British thing in a British stadium,
A beer at the British Museum.

There was lots of good beer here before —
Malty British beer, living fossils,
Standard British quaffing beer.

Iconic symbol of all that is great,
What is truly great,
About British beer —
A bottle of mild on the shelf.

British beer is not like its past.
British beer is best,
British beer is too strong —
This is where British beer is and will go,
Or you’ll upset the Queen.

This poem, and we use the word in the loosest sense, was put together from phrases found by searching the Tweets of people we follow for the phrase “British Beer”, and is our small contribution towards marking Beer Day Britain.

beer reviews bottled beer

Schrödinger’s Beer (non) Review: Cloudwater DIPA V3

There are some beers about which it is practically impossible to express an opinion and be believed, one way or the other.

They’re so talked-about, so anticipated, so venerated, or so despised, that nothing we say can add much to the conversation.

The Westvleteren beers from Belgium are one example, Batham’s Best Bitter might be another. But they’re fixed points in the firmament; others blink into existence and generate great heat, perhaps only for a few months or years.

The word we’re avoiding here is hype, perhaps because it gets thrown around too easily — people talking with enthusiasm about a thing you’re not interested in isn’t hype. It might be justifiable in this case, though, which has seen online beer stores issuing would-be-panic-inducing Tweets in anticipation of a consumer frenzy, and launch events. (It is still in stock in many places, by the way.)

"Schrödinger's Cat" by the No Matter Project.
Schrödinger’s Cat” by ‘No Matter’ via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.

If we say that we were anything less than wowed by version 3 of Manchester Cloudwater’s Double IPA, we’re surely just inverted bandwagon jumpers, contrarians and grumps. We’re fighting the hype and thus still failing to judge the beer on its own merits. We’re those people who say with a flourish that they don’t like The Beatles and make you think, ‘Really? Even “It Won’t Be Long”?’ If we say we didn’t especially like this beer not everyone will believe us or will question our motives.

But what happens if we rave about it? If we list this fruit and that. If we say it is like nothing else we’ve ever tasted and that it blows similar beers from other equally hip breweries out of the water, that it finds a truly distinctive flavour profile in a market already crowded with IPAs, that it made us swoon?

Then we’ll be sheep, sycophants, mindless zombie fans.

So, we’re just going to leave the box here, unopened.

Beer history

Instant Guinness, 1971

Instant Guinness advertisement with panel for soaking in water and certification under the 'Alcoholic Newspapers Act 1913'.

The above advertisement appeared in the Daily Mirror, the Sun and the Daily Express 45 years ago today.

Generalisations about beer culture pubs

Modern Pubmanship 6: Jukeboxes

This is the sixth in an occasional series of guest posts by etiquette expert R.M. Banks.

Not all public houses are enhanced by the addition of a jukebox. Some do quite well with the gentle avant-garde percussion provided by a burning log or two in the grate; others lack the acoustic qualities so that the addition of recorded music brings to mind someone falling downstairs while carrying a tin bath full of squeaky dog toys.

On the whole, though, I am personally all for them. Oh, yes, you can count me as a fee-paying member of the Juke Box Appreciation Society. I am always happy to kick in a quid for the pleasure of hearing five of the gramophone industry’s finest efforts, or two quid the dozen for that matter. A well husbanded juke-box, stuffed to the coin-slots with the right stuff, brings joie de vivre where once glum silence lay heavy as suet pudding; it lifts as it brightens as it shines!

Of course there are pitfalls.

First, there is the matter of good taste. If you were to flip through my record cabinet you would likely scoff, perhaps mock, or even come to look up on the very basis of our friendship with jaundiced eye. And the reverse would likely be true. Consider, then, a public bar containing, let us say, 30 people – what are the chances that all will be equally enthused upon hearing, to pick an example quite at random, the surging of the Hammond organ at the commencement of ‘Stop in the Name of Love’? Up to a point, this cannot be helped: a jukebox containing only songs that no one dislikes would be like a hospital meal of steamed fish and boiled potatoes. The soundest advice is to avoid the deep end of the pool – songs containing full-throated Scandinavian metal screaming, dischord intended to evoke mans inhumanity to man, treated piano, laxative basslines, children’s choirs, and so on. Jukebox songs ought to elicit a tapping of the foot, perhaps a gay whistle, but oughtn’t interfere with the conversation.