Thursday, 28 October 2010


Another article from earlier in the week in the Indescribablyboring discusses the crisis among brewers who are struggling to sell beer and who are seeing pubs closed up and down the country.

I'm a big fan of English beer. I believe it to be a wholesome and good thing which is only abused by a minority and which could do much to address a range of social ills in ways I could go on for at great length - but not now and not here. The problem with the brewing industry appears to me to be two-fold, with a third reason tacked on for a full picture.

1. Pubcos have destroyed the local pub by charging prohibitive rents to tenants and forcing them to purchase overpriced rubbish from them, rather than seeking the long term success of pubs as an investment. That much is known and discussed generally and sadly nothing has been done to stop this ridiculous destruction of a major business and social sector in our country.

2. Pubcos can't have all the blame. The simple, bald truth is that beer is overpriced in many pubs. In my area a pint for £3 is cheap. Any less and it feels like Christmas. Businesses will claim that they have to charge this to make ends meet but they have forgotten an alternative, successful business plan. Sensibly priced products often sell in greater quantities and encourage people to return. I go to the pub once a month (pity me!) for an evening out. I enjoy several pints and have a good time. I go once a month because it costs too much to go more often. If I could buy a pint for, say, £2.50, I would probably think nothing of going to the pub more often. Its pure psychology: if I can have a night out for a tenner I will feel good. Any more and I will consider it expensive.

For those pub owners who decry me, please tell me why I can get a pint in Liverpool for £2 or in Newcastle for £2.40? Sure, these cities are cheaper than the Cotswolds but not that much cheaper.

Beer is not a premium product, despite the recent efforts of some brewers who have started marketing some of their products as drinks to go with food. Beer is a simple pleasure and should be sold and priced as such.

3. The final reason which emerges from point (2) above is that beer is too strong. Most people drive everywhere and most drive to the pub. I like a pint but I live in the middle of nowhere. If I am to be encouraged to go to a pub I want a pint - a nice one, mind, not 0% Eurofizz. Also, weaker beer tends to be cheaper AND it encourages a degree more sobriety.

If you think it can't be done and you live in the south east (and some blessed parts farther afield) try a pint of Fullers Chiswick Bitter. It's great, weaker than the usual pint and usually a bit cheaper - though sadly not always as cheap as it could or should be.

Let me finish by being absolutely clear: I am not encouraging heavy drinking or debauchery as the Tory Daily Mail crowd would have it but I would like to see pubs stay open and thrive. I do stuff in my village and having a local pub to meet in for various events strengthens a community. We lost our pub in January but people are working hard to get it reopened because everyone recognises how important it is to have a good local.

At the moment dozens of pubs close every week so it is as clear as the nose on your visage that the existing model is wrong. Its not quite a crisis on a par with the credit crunch or global warming but it is important to communities - urban and rural - across the country.

Of course now I really fancy a pint...


  1. According to the Lancet "Alcohol is more harmful than heroin or crack" ( so maybe the big pubcos are actually doing society a good turn by pricing themselves into oblivion?

    Anyway why not do what what every half decent meth-head does and start making your own, of course in your case that means brewing beer, not illegal substances, after all you are over 40 and thus it is allowed ...

  2. Dr Zep, it is my dearest wish to brew my own beer but sadly time and space in my little house preclude this.

    As for alcohol being more dangerous than other substances, I agree that it can be dangerous but properly brewed beer also contains many nutrients and it is far less dangerous than, say, mass produced cider or spirits. Remember that 200 years ago everyone drank beer because it was healthy and the water was foul. 200-odd years ago our forebears seem to have achieved rather a lot despite this habit.

    The essence of my argument is that alcohol can be dangerous but, as with anything, moderation reduces risk.

    I remember Viz once had a top tip which warned people to keep teabags out of the reach of children because several dry teabags stuffed down an infant's throat could kill them. It's an absurd example but it shows that using just an iota of common sense solves a number of problems.

    A pint will invariably do me less harm than a crack pipe...