PUB BITS: Televisions in Pubs, 1955

1950s TV.

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.

QUICK POST: Bourdain Isn’t a Beer Guy

Anthony Bourdain with Nigella Lawson.

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.

Con­tin­ue read­ingQUICK POST: Bour­dain Isn’t a Beer Guy”

Saturday Kitchen – why no beer?

Chef James Mar­tin and his trade­mark lech­er­ous leer.

Inspired by Pete Brown’s excel­lent let­ter to the Inde­pen­dent, we decid­ed to drop the BBC a line and ask why their huge­ly pop­u­lar Sat­ur­day Kitchen cook­ery show hard­ly ever men­tions beer. With the 350 char­ac­ters we were giv­en, we said:

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.

Can a pub with football on the telly be any good?

Portugal warming up at the 2006 World Cup in Germany
Por­tu­gal warm­ing up at the 2006 World Cup in Ger­many

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!


New Tricks: an episode for beer geeks

Amanda Redman and Dennis Waterman in New Tricks
Aman­da Red­man and Den­nis Water­man in New Tricks

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.