We’ve picked up lots of material on pubs that hasn’t made it into final text of The Big Project but we’re going to share some of it here in the coming months.
Back in 1955 people were really worried about the newly ubiquitous TV set killing off clubs, societies, cinemas, and even threatening the church. Publicans were grumbling, too, as journalist Derrick Boothroyd discovered when researching an article, ‘New Ideas Can Fight TV Competition’, for the Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer. (28/02, p.9.)
He spoke to some who ‘moaned’ that their pubs were deserted, especially when the boxing was on TV, but for balance also found someone who was more upbeat – the landlord of a ‘bright and cheerful’ public house:
TV has affected us undoubtedly… But it’s nothing like as bad as some people make out. I find the only nights that my trade is poor are when there is something really big on. Mind you, I’ve got to set out to attract people now and I think that’s what a lot publicans tend to forget. But provided you offer some incentive I don’t think TV need be feared. The average man — and the average working man in particular — is not the type who wants to stay at home every night. He wants to go out and have yap with his pals at the local — and if he has a decent local to go to, he’ll still go even if he has two TV sets. I should add however that it’s no solution to put TV in your pub. Everyone watches it and no one drinks. I’ve had mine taken out —and so have a lot other landlords.
Sixty-plus years on that still sounds like good advice to us. We hadn’t really considered it but it’s funny how many of the pubs we warm to, from down-home to high-falutin, are TV free.
Celebrity chef and food opiner Anthony Bourdain has given an interview to Thrillist in which he has harsh words to say about craft beer and its culture:
I would say that the angriest critiques I get from people about shows are when I’m drinking whatever convenient cold beer is available in a particular place, and not drinking the best beer out there. You know, I haven’t made the effort to walk down the street 10 blocks to the microbrewery where they’re making some fucking Mumford and Sons IPA…
Now, Thrillist is a frightful den of clickbait, and craft beer types are easily baited, but Mr. Bourdain often has interesting thoughts and in this case, he makes some good points. For example, this…
[The] entire place was filled with people sitting there with five small glasses in front of them, filled with different beers, taking notes. This is not a bar. This is fucking Invasion of the Body Snatchers. This is wrong. This is not what a bar is about.
…is probably fair comment if you accept that the ideal bar or pub is a lively, even raucous place, which we do, on the whole. He probably wouldn’t like us much – we do enjoy over-thinking beer – but some places are too church-like and sterile even for us.
Saturday Kitchen is great and I’m a regular viewer. But I’m getting frustrated because, while wine is discussed every week, it’s very rare to hear anything about beer. There are loads of interesting, complex beers around, that go well with food; and lots of people in the UK prefer beer to wine. Please suggest some beer and food pairings in future.
With hindsight, we don’t think “great” is quite the word we were after, but we always like to start with something positive when we’re writing nutty letters of complaint.
Seriously, though – would it kill them to schedule five minutes every couple of weeks for someone like Pete to talk about beer? We’d much rather have beer treated as part of the mainstream like that than sit through another Oz and James cackfest.
We don’t hate wine or people that drink wine but we are much more interested in beer.
CAMRA guides to pubs often praise the absence of a TV screen, and indeed, a big sign outside a pub boasting Sky / Setanta sports and a big screen is usually synonymous with mediocre beer.
I can see why people hate TVs in pubs, because they can distract people from conversation and detract from the atmosphere.
But occasionally, I do want to watch a football match in the pub, and I always have to compromise on the quality of the beer (and pub) to do so.
Has anyone got any suggestions for places in central London that are really good pubs with nice beer that just happen to have a screen? Or are the two mutually exclusive?
I suppose what you need is a pub that has several sections, where you can keep the football in a discrete area, so everyone’s happy. In Germany, both during the World Cup in 2006 and the European Championships this year, loads of cafes and bars got in screens, but put them outside, helping to create a fantastic street party atmosphere.
Incidentally, Zeitgeist is pretty good for big sporting events, but you have to choose your night carefully, as Bundesliga and Germany qualifiers get priority!
Last Monday’s edition of New Tricks focused on beer and breweries. The story was ludicrous even by the usual standards of this programme (which we kind of like…). It had the team investigating the 10-year-old case of the death of a promising young brewer in a fermentation vessel at a traditional family brewery. However daft the plot, which features a secret beer recipe, arguments over the provenance of the malt, and brewing dynasticism, there’s plenty for the beer geek to enjoy:
trying to guess which brewery they used for filming;
pondering which industrial brewers would really be using open fermentation vessels in this day and age;
product placement for Fullers, Theakstons and possibly Special Brew (although has that become a generic term for super-strength crap lager now?);
wondering whether they filmed the beer festival scene at a real festival or just got CAMRA to help with posters etc;
lazy stereotypes about gastro pubs vs traditional boozers (Eg gastro = female friendly and crap beer); and
old codgers complaining that the beer doesn’t taste as good as it used to.
You can enjoy it for yourself through BBC I‑player. But you’ve only got until 21:00 on Monday 11th.