I’ll start this week with a quick review of the new bar in town, the Victorian Craft Beer Cafe in Halifax.  Located behind the Victoria Theatre on the site of the former Ricci and Capone restaurant, it is spread over 3 (or 2.5) levels with big open areas and cosy private areas alike.  The beer selection is not short of choice with 10 taps serving a mix of european beers, quality UK keg beers from the likes of Thornbridge and world craft beer.  Added to this is 4 pumps serving regional real ales and a range of boxed ciders.  The beer prices are reasonable for the beers on offer, on par with other pubs of its type in the region.  A pint of real ale coming between £3.00 and £3.20, with the speciality keg lines coming between £3.70 and £4.30, a reasonable price for what it on offer in today’s beer market.   The pub has acres of lovely polished wood and dotted with interesting knick-knacks.  The welcome has been warm in my 3 visits there (both weekend tea times), and it looks to be getting a good reception by the towns drinker later in the evening.

I also popped into the Gun Dog (ex Sportsman) for a quick pint a couple of weeks ago, whilst suffering from the January trading slump, it is obvious the place has been re-opened by people who know what they are doing, original features have been restored and the tradtional multi room layout has been retained, whilst remodelling the bar to give more room in the main serving area.  Normally with 5 pumps, only 3 were on due to quiet trade (so ensuring beer does not go off), but the beers they had on were decent and well kept, the barman obviously having the knowledge and experience judging by our conversation.  Somewhere I’ll visit again when in town, the circuit in Halifax is improving all the time, when you take into account the real ale mile at the bottom of town and the new openings at the top as well as established pubs like Cookies (more from the continental beers here), it’s becoming a place worth visiting for a days drinking again.  We now have a handful of towns around the Calderdale area worth going for a session, something we definitely didn’t have 5-7 years ago.

Whilst just up the road at Wetherspoons, I’m saddened to announce that Heineken and Wetherspoons have settled their dispute over the wholesale price of Heineken and Murphys in it’s new Irish pub and frankly it back to where it was.  Heineken, Fosters, Kronenbourg 1664, Strongbow, John Smith’s Extra Smooth and Amstel all are back in UK pubs with Fosters, Beamish and Symonds Cider in the Irish pubs.   The whole furore turned out to be game of chicken that both backed out of.   It would have been nice to see the stance by the 926 strong pub chain stand strong, but I suspect the cost of moving over contracts and the costs of promoting the new brand as well as some small incentive in price from Heineken changed their mind.  I’m sure there will be plenty of regular drinkers who will not be complaining about this however.

Now onto our favourite pub company Enterprise Inns, a company with 5000 pubs are developing a managed pub estate business so they can “better understand how pubs can be ran”.  As if 25 years and 5000 pubs haven’t honed these skills, or rather it has honed skills in the different area of extracting the most money from tenants.  Managed pubs are staffed by salaried employees, so it is like a regular payrolled company, you have a relatively fixed employee cost and after costs, bills and taxes you take you profit directly back into the parent company.   What can they learn from this venture given the range of products sold are broadly the same as tied leased premises and are being converted from tenanted pubs?  The real truth is that the decision to impose a free of tie rent option and statutory regulation on pub companies makes managed premises the more attractive option in giving them total control of stock, pricing and policy.  As they are technically the landlord and the manager is merely an employee hired to look after the place day to day, the company controlling the beer supply controls the purchasing decisions.  Even though they only plan to convert a small number, don’t be surprised if this project scales up a lot quicker.