Beer Blog

The Rising of the Bar

No, I’m not referring to the legal profession, just normal bars that serve, amongst other things, beer.

I make no apologies for raising this topic again. If I’m honest, I’m not 100% comfortable with ACV’s and I think there needs to be much more debate. Maybe this does refer to lawyers, or at least the combination of inexperienced lawyers and politicians who cobble together something quickly to satisfy some or other section of the voting public.

A good example here is the toothless Dangerous Dog legislation, rushed in at break neck speed to satisfy media fuelled public outcry. If this had been legislation intended to outlaw fast sports cars it would have stipulated Ferraris, Porsches and Maseratis whilst leaving out Bugatti, Noble and many other faster, esoteric species of sports cars.

I think the ACV legislation is the same, rushed, ill considered, driven by pressure from a small minority (there are over 60 million people in the UK who mainly vote with their feet or their money). Lets look a little closer. What is it designed to do? Protect local pubs? Local pubs that no one goes to anymore, dingy places, often uninviting to families and women, especially those alone or in small groups, serving a very limited range of real ales, and if they have any real ale it’s of the mass produced variety from the same size of factory that produces the well known brands of lager.

I recently reviewed the opening of Stew & Oyster in Boston Spa, a place where the last of two village centre pubs closed around two years ago (There are still two others, on the edge of the village, surviving purely due to the benevolence of Humphrey Smith – they’re good traditional pubs too). In little over two weeks S & O served around 2,100 helpings of their delicious stews and gallons of excellent real ales and premium keg beers. You don’t need to be a scientist to see what they are doing? Giving people what they want; coffee and cakes (and complimentary newspapers) in the morning, light meals and a top selection of ales throughout the day.

It’s not a pub though, is it, I hear you say? No it’s not, but it’s what people want and it saves me going into Leeds or Wetherby to get any sort of a taste of the British Beer Revolution. No point in having a revolution and then carrying on with the same old, and in any case we had some pubs, proper pubs, male dominated with boring traditional beers, and no one went to them so they shut. It’s not the first bar in the locality neither, Boston Spa has two other bars. Bars, not pubs, frequented by all sorts of people, including those who would never have dreamed of going into what we had before and they serve cask ales. Same in Wetherby, if you want a revolutionary taste then you have to go to The Muse, a bar rather than a pub, but with a pub feel, if you see what I mean?

It’s just the same in Leeds City centre. There seems to be a bar opening almost every week. Big money flowing in, Osset brewery alone have put around one million quid into their three Granary Wharfe premises. Belgrave have opened another premises, less than six months after the first. Brewdog now have two bars. And what’s the difference between these and the 29 pubs that close every week in the UK? People are going into them.

Yes, I can see the benefits of ACV’s, in the right circumstances, but what’s the point saving the ‘Dog and Lame Duck’ in Upper Walloping (population 25) or the ‘Dingy and Dismal’ (more visits by the police than honest customers) in some dodgy backstreet. Any action has got to be qualitative and not quantitative and in my opinion I think we need to let market forces prevail. Imagine if someone had got a bee in their bonnet about medieval construction techniques. My state of the art wattle and daub residence is currently on the market. Anyone fancy buying it?

We’ve got to move on, the strong will survive, the mediocre will fail and look, something else is coming along. Something which, for many people, is better, it’s called a bar. I’d even go as far to say that I think anyone planning to slap an ACV on an unsuspecting private business man or woman would be better putting their time and money where their mouth is and taking the pub on – go on, I dare you!

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