The Pub: Where Grown-Ups Make Friends

Last week, we saw something really sweet: two men in their fifties making friends in the pub.

When you’re a kid, making friends is easy — you just run up and say, ‘Can I play?’ and, about an hour later, you might well be BEST FRIENDS FOREVER — but once you’re older than, say, 22, it suddenly becomes a strangely big deal.

The pub is about the only place we can think of where that line can be crossed, albeit with a little residual awkwardness.

In this case, Bloke 1 was sitting in the corner at the bar making conversation with the much younger, bored-looking bar staff, when Bloke 2 entered with his dog.

Bloke 2 ordered a pint and, crucially, stayed at the bar to drink it, rather than scurrying off to a quiet corner with his newspaper. As he took the first sip, Bloke 1 made his move, pointing at the dog. ‘What breed is she?’

They talked dogs for a minute or so until Bloke 2 said, ‘Are you on holiday, then?’

‘No,’ said Bloke 1, before adding, casually but hopefully, ‘My wife and I have been living in the village since before Christmas but I don’t really know anyone.’

‘Oh, right,’ said Bloke 2. He cleared his throat and stuck out a hand, muttering shyly, ‘I’m, er, Dave.’

It was really rather a moving moment.

When we left some time later, they were still talking and seemed to have progressed to buying rounds.

Main image: adapted from ‘Friendship’ by johnthescone from Flickr under Creative Commons.

The balance of power

An only semi-relevant picture of some delicious, delicious Kölsch.

It’s not necessarily the case that people hate big, successful breweries; just that they cut new, small breweries a lot of slack.

It’s hard not to get excited when new breweries open, reading  breathless tweets announcing the arrival of kettles and fermenters, or the success of test batches. We’re illogical, emotional creatures and can’t help feeling a sentimental warmth towards the underdogs.

Sometimes, though, things are bit rocky to start with. As craft beer consumers, do we have a ‘duty’ to turn a blind eye to exploding bottles and off-flavours? No, but we don’t mind doing so for a  while because, in most cases, we understand how hard it is. We want them to succeed and enjoy being along for the ride.

When a brewery gets established, achieving regional, national or even international distribution, we start to feel less sentimental. They’re big boys now and ought to be able to take a bit of constructive public criticism. It’s probably at this point, too, that we stop repeatedly trying their beers hoping to find a good one. Frankly, there are too many good beers out there for us to waste our hard-earned cash on those that have already burned us, and drinking every beer twice is hard work when there are more than 4000** of them in the UK. We’ve done our bit, now we want them to do theirs. (As Pivni Filosof put it rather bluntly, “get your shit together or close down“.)

When a brewery gets really big — i.e. monolothic and powerful — the gloves are off. It’s not personal, it’s just that they’re no longer juveniles, and are subject to the law of the land like any other grown-up. We, the consumers, become the underdogs, the little guys in this relationship, and can surely no longer be expected to make any allowances for bad recipes or quality control problems.

Coincidentally, Alan at A Good Beer Blog has just posted on a related subject. Great minds, &c..

** Estimated figure based on 900+ breweries in the UK each brewing 3-5 beers.