This was published in issue 581 of Pubpaper

This weekend saw the re-opening of my local pub, The Cock and Bottle, and its good to have it back, you don’t realise how much you missed it until you have the facilities available to you again. The refurbishment of the place has been done to a fantastic spec and it’s initial batch of real ales shows a lot of promise, mainly from the larger breweries, they had a selection of Bombadier, Deuchers IPA and Thwaites Original on offer. Having sampled a couple of these, I can confirm that the beer is being kept well. Very much a family business with 2 members of the owning family working and running the place, its most welcoming. This can only re-enforce my recommendation to visit from last week. The village already has 2 other good drinking establishments, the Shoulder and Mutton and the local cricket club, but having one on your doorstep makes all the difference.

On the flip side, last week I mentioned the sale of several town centre pubs in Halifax and it appears that we are not isolated in this area. One major auction house reported this week that the number of forced pub sales went up 189% over the last year, that is a big jump in anybody’s book. However this I can believe when seeing the number of To Let / For Sale signs on pubs in our area over the last 12 months. Belts are being tightened across the entire economy and when you are investing £2.50-3.00 per pint, you want a quality beer. This is being borne out in the stable trade at our best local ale houses.

Not a name I mention here often due to the rather bland lagers they produce, Molson Coors have called for more pubs to have beer menus. This I first encountered at a pub in Dublin in 2000 at a bar called Porthouse in the Temple Bar area, and they needed it as they served over 200 different bottled and draft beers. This great idea is embraced by several pubs locally in the form of the blackboard with tasting and ABV information, far more practical with a rotating selection. Last week I was in the Barge and Barrel and they normally have 7-10 ales on at any point. Normally I know and have tasted at least half, but it’s good to have the information about the others, so you have an idea of what will suit your personal taste. The Fox and Goose at Hebden Bridge also have a similar system due to the number of micro and small run brews they stock on a regular basis.

We have wine lists in most pubs which serve food, and why should we not do the same with beer in real ale pubs, they both have the complexity, depth and variety of flavours which could justify them being described in detail. Having such information available would entice more people to try new brews from less well known suppliers, rather than stick with the brands they know, especially if they could see that a new beer was similar in flavours to a beer they already drink. Wine for too long has been seen as a product which is superior to Ale, probably due to its class roots hundreds of years ago, but now they deserve equal footing and respect. There are as many good ales as good wines and probably a lot less poor ones (I’m sure we’ve all tried some cheap wine which does a good impression of vinegar).

It is only over the last 10 years that is becoming the norm. A lot of non real ale pubs now have a coming soon board for their guest ales, and the staff are employed with a knowledge of the ale products they sell. In the chain pubs you can normally ask basic questions about the beers on offer, in real ale pubs now you can ask what beers they have which are pale / heavy / hoppy and be told a definitive list by the person behind the bar. The rise in sales reported in August by CAMRA bear this increased respect to quality beers out in numbers. The key part of the supply of real ales to the customer is that the beers are supplied in good condition and are matched to the customers tastes for new entrants to the product. Staff are key in this, and its good to see they are getting the information and training which enables them to supply us with the product we know and love.