Pubs and restaurants live and die by their reputations.  Good word of mouth can change the businesses fortunes and take them to the next level, as can a bad one in ruining them overnight.    However in the real world, it is rarely that drastic, and normally exhibits itself in a gradual increase or decline in popularity over time, normally as people bring others to the premises or take them elsewhere as they drift away themselves.

Last time I visited the Three Pigeons, it had not been been taken over by Ossett Brewery, so held a wider number of brewers beers on the bar.  As you expect when a brewery takes over a pub, a number of their ales will become a permanent fixture on the bar, in this case taking 3 of the pumps, with personal favourites Pale Gold and Silver King holding two of those.  However I found my visit a disappointment this week, as of the 4 non Ossett pumps only 2 were running.

(This section was altered by the editor on publication to clarify the situation at the Three Pigeons on that evening, his text is verbatim here To be fair to the Three Pigeons manager, Oli, he was running down his cellar for maintenance work and preparations for his forthcoming Beer Festival this coming weekend when he will be serving 25 beers from around the UK, cellar cooled and hand pulled.)

Ossett do some good beers and in their other local pub the Travellers Inn, Hipperholme, they have got the balance right between own brewed and guest beers and the pub has never let me down.  I hope that I caught the Pigeon on a bad night, and will give the place a second visit to see how it stacks up.  I used to live 5 minutes from the pub many years ago, and was my local for time I lived there.  It would be a pity to the place to drop down the “league table” of real ale pubs in the face of increased competition from pubs such as the Ring O’Bells.  It will be interesting to see how the Pump Room down the road has aged since I last visited when I am next in the area with some time to kill.

One place that still keeps up its excellent standards is The Works, Sowerby Bridge.  A visit on Sunday afternoon found plenty of room inside, but barely standing room outside as the sun did its job.  Here I tried one of the best beers I had had in the last few months, with Dark Stars’ Hophead really impressing me.  As the name tells you, it is a heavily hopped beer with a citrus / fruity taste, with a long lasting pleasantly bitter aftertaste from the hops.   This was from a selection of 8 hand pumps, so I was spoilt for choice.  The Works has plenty of the best things I look for in a pub, plenty of beer choice, plenty of space while retaining an atmosphere, plenty of free newspapers to read and a good food selection.  What more could you ask for.  This was a place which built up its crowd from word of mouth, in fact that is how I discovered the place, and its good to see that it is still thriving.

I also popped into The Moorings while in the town, and although the pint of Black Sheep was good, the £2.95 price tag was a bit of a shock.  I paid £2.70 (and it was worth every penny) for my Hophead and that is touching my psychological barrier when it comes to beer prices.  Sadly I know it will be in the next few years when £3 will be the norm.  However both of the above prices pale into significance when compared to the £5.95 I paid for a 660ml bottle of Peroni at Pizza Express.  It is a lot of money for a bottle I can buy for £2.30 at a local supermarket, and is nothing special on the drinking.  It is the same mark up they place on wine, so I shouldn’t be surprised really.  The amount spent on that bottle was tempered by the fact that £50 of food was consumed for the total cost of £10 in drinks.

Finally this week, the pub trade seems to have done well out of the royal wedding and gives them a timely double kick start for summer over the 2 long weekends.  All we need now is this sunny weather to last until September, but I expect the flying pigs to head over soon leading the summer rain in.  While the sun is still out, may I wish you happy supping.

  1. sean says:

    Oli from the Three Pigeons sent me this the day after

    My name is Oliver Winterbottom and I am the current manager of The Three Pigeons (Halifax). I was very disappointed to read about your recent negative experience at the pub, but as explained in Stuart’s editorial we were clearing the cellar to make room for the 25 ales (of which only 5 are from the Ossett group) for the beer festival. I had put up notices to explain the situation to infrequent visitors like yourself. At The Three Pigeons I pride myself on striving to have all 8 pumps operational at any one time, however, due to the large turnover of cask ale and limited gantry space sometimes this isn’t always possible. I ask you not to leave giving us a second chance to “see how it stacks up”. Instead, I invite you to come down this weekend while our beer festival is on and enjoy the selection I have picked from all over the UK, along with a few of my personal favorites (including Dark Star – Hop Head)

    In response I sent him this

    I’ll be happy to visit this weekend, but I’ll be spending it stuck in
    a hotel doing a training course, sitting at your pub drinking hophead
    would be much preferable.

    I didn’t mean for it to come across as negative, and I did miss the
    signs, that I apologise for. I’d be happy to come down again as soon
    as is practical on a more typical night.

    Maybe its because what would be a wide range of beers for many pubs is
    a average range for you and I was holding you to the higher standard I
    was used to when I used to visit regularly.

    A short piece will appear at the start of new weeks column regarding this.

  2. sean says:

    This was posted by a reader, but against the wrong entry, I have copied the body of his text here and deleted the original comment.

    Dear Mr Liquorish,
    I must comment on your article in PupPaper issue 605, as I think you have given an unjustly poor report on The Three Pigeons.
    In your opening paragraph you describe how reputations can vary due to various factors, and, although you talk about incease and decline, the general feeling is rather downbeat. This then leads into your comments on The Three Pigeons, giving the general impression that you feel standards there have fallen.
    You say that you haven’t been to The Three Pigeons since Ossett took it over, so you’ve not called in for over six years, as the pub changed hands in March 2005. Rather a long abscence for someone who does so much pub visiting to research your articles. I would have thought that you’d have called in to see what Ossett were doing with the pub before now. Not a valid basis for comparisons to be drawn, I feel.
    The permanent Ossett beers are normally Pale Gold, Big Red & Excelsior (not Silver King as you stated) with another pump dedicated to a rotating Ossett guest beer (where Silver King does make regular appearances.) The other pumps feature a constantly changing range of guest beers, plus a draught cider. You stated that when you visited the pub that only two non-Ossett pumps were “running”. I was in the pub myself around that time and there was a notice on the blackboard clearly stating that there was a reduced range of beers due to the up-coming beer festival. The beer festival subsequently went ahead with a large range of beers and ciders available during that period, with an extra bar installed in the back room providing extra pumps. I called into the pub on each of the four days that the festival was on, and I was more than satisfied with both the range and quality of beverages available.
    Finally, you go on to compare the Pigeons to another Ossett pub, the Travellers Rest, with the Pigeons again being shown as second best. I do not feel that this is a valid comparison. The various Ossett pubs vary in size and the Travellers is considerably bigger than the Pigeons. This obviously gives them bar space for more pumps, so it is inevitalble that it will have a larger range then the Pigeons.
    Hopefully you will re-visit the Pigeons soon and see it in it’s true light.
    It’s a shame your visit wasn’t a few days later, when the beer festival was in full swing, I think your opinion would have been rather different!
    Yours sincerely,
    Jeff Bulmer
    P.S. I have e-mailed copies of this letter to the PupPaper and Ossett Brewery.