This week I want to start by making a comment about last weeks column, as you may have seen the editor placed a clarification regarding my visit to the Three Pigeons.  The day after publication, I got an email from Oli, the manager at the pub, expressing disappointment at my experience.  The running down of stock was a natural consequence of preparations for this past weekends’ beer festival.  Oli invited me down to this event, but sadly I was spending the weekend on a course elsewhere.  The beer list he sent me was indeed impressive and featured “Hophead” the beer I raved about last week.  If he is as bothered about the quality of the beer as he was about my negative experience, then the pub is in very safe hands indeed.  On the back of this I’ll be back there soon to what will be an excellent choice of ales.

Talking about an excellent choice of ales, as I write this I have in front of me a bottle of Brewdog 5am Saint, their amber ale, with the same breweries Punk IPA and Hardcore IPA waiting their turn in the fridge.  I have been trying to get this beer for a few weeks now, and it has been worth the wait.  Sitting at 5%, it is the least hoppy of the three, however it is still hoppier than most beers I have tried, and gives a gentler taste overall than its full on brothers, but keeps the long lasting pleasantly bitter aftertaste .  It is not as good as Punk IPA, but remains a beer I could happily drink at any time.

Most towns have a pub which seems to stagger along barely surviving, but managing to do so year after year.  The Packhorse in Southowram was one such pub, changing landlords more often then their ale selection, and spending frequent spells shut for business.  This particular nag finally gave up a couple of weeks ago when it shut for good and the for sale signs went up with planning permission for residential use.   It is not inevitable that the building will be lost as a pub in the current market, but it is hard to see another new pub doing well when the competition from the Shoulder of Mutton and Cock and Bottle locally is of such a high standard.   The last pub in the area that was brought for a non pub use, the Malt Shovel, half way down to Brighouse on Brookfoot, is still a shell with bricked up windows 8 years later.  Given the Packhorses location in the centre of the village, this will not be allowed to happen, but I can see it not being used for a while.

Other villages are not so lucky to have such a stock of local pubs, and when the last one in the area closes then there is not a lot the locals can do short of running the place themselves, but if trading was poor enough to force its closure then it is a very high risk venture, and the money asked for by the current owner to take over the freehold is often extortionate.  The Government’s Community Right to Buy scheme was meant to help avoid loss of such facilites, such as pubs and local shops / post offices.  Community groups would be able to nominate an asset to be listed with the local authority, and would then have a window of opportunity to organise a bid if the asset was to be sold.

It is one thing to have this opportunity, but you then need the funding to purchase and restart the operation.  One pub that re-opened last year cost at least three times the purchase cost of the freehold to renovate to a standard where they could open.  This was done by a private developer with assets to back him.  If this was a community group, then they may be able to raise the money to purchase the freehold, and have some set aside for refurbishment, but any unexpected work would leave the contributors facing more bills or having a half finished development they can do nothing with.  In either case the residents are no better off overall, as they have no pub still or no money left to spend in the newly opened premises, leading to further financial losses and a repeated closure.  Only thing can help this is wrestling control of premises from PubCo’s, something I don’t see happening soon.

On this slightly downtone note, I wish you all happy supping until next week.