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Thread: Where Has All The Ale Gone?

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    Default Where Has All The Ale Gone?

    Is it just London, or are other areas seeing a big drop in ale choice, that's if real ale hasn't recently been withdrawn altogether.

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    Still about Mobyduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tris39 View Post
    Is it just London, or are other areas seeing a big drop in ale choice, that's if real ale hasn't recently been withdrawn altogether.
    A short trip around Hanwell yesterday found this...
    The Kings Arms
    Two handpumps, no ale on.
    The Fox
    Eight handpumps , five ales on.
    The Green W7,
    Five Handpumps one ale on
    The Dodo Micropub
    No Handpumps but five ales on.
    "Everybody's got to believe in something. I believe I'll have another beer."
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    Between pubs sheffield hatter's Avatar
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    When pubs first reopened I was mostly visiting Sheffield pubs, many of which are associated with or owned by a brewery: Sheffield Tap/Tapped Brewery; Fat Cat/Kelham Island Brewery; Raven Inn/Loxley Brewery; Kelham Island Tavern/Blue Bee Brewery; Blake Hotel & Wellington/Neepsend Brewery. These pubs were mostly selling just their own beers, with maybe one or at the most two guests.

    Partly this is because they could keep control of the supply chain, which was important when business depended on the weather (between 12 April and 17 May) and how their customer base would respond to the relaxation/weakening (depending on your point of view) of the Covid-19 restrictions. Also for the owners it would mean that their breweries were making money as well as their pubs! From conversations I had with some of the managers/licensees, they were wary of putting on two many beers and having to throw them away when they either couldn't sell them through lack of custom or restrictions were reimposed (which didn't happen, of course, but it could have). An exception to this was the Stancill Brewery's Closed Shop, where they had a full range of their beers on in April; I tried three - one had a brewing fault and the other two were dull. (I've not been back.)

    More recently, the Sheffield Tap has had a greater selection of beers, and I think last time I was there they had a beer on every pump (except for the cider!) and only three out of nine were their own beers; this may be the case at the Kelham Island Tavern, but I've not been there recently (also they were closed because of Covid among the staff). The two Neepsend pubs have had fewer guest beers on than they did before March 2020, and there's usually one hand pump unused in each pub. The Fat Cat was celebrating its 40th Anniversary this weekend, and had a mini beer festival. There were (I think) 10 beers on the counter in the pub, and there was another bar in the beer garden (in the small building where the original brew kit was situated) which I didn't check out. Once those have run off, I expect they'll be back to five or six, as before, and mostly their own.

    In Leeds, where I go for the rugby league, I've been going in the Cardigan Arms and the Scarbrough Hotel. The latter is a Nicholsons pub, and they've had three or four beers on mostly, whereas before I think they'd have had five or six. I noticed last Thursday that the Tetleys was doubled up, which I can't remember seeing before. The Cardigan is owned by Kirkstall Brewery and is selling almost exclusively their own beer - but I can't remember seeing many guests there before (a couple of Hawkshead beers one time - but maybe that was a swap). Last week they had one guest keg beer: that was it, all the rest their own.

    Another Sheffield pub: the Queens Ground. Lovely pub, used to have four hand pumps on, built up from nothing only seven or eight years ago when I reviewed it. In May when they reopened they had two beers on - because, as the licensee told me, he didn't know how the trade would be and until football restarted he didn't think he'd be busy enough. Sure enough, first Owls home game I was back there and there were three beers on the bar with one just run off.

    So to answer your question, Tris: I think some of the breweries that don't either own pubs or have a distribution agreement with a pubco or wholesaler may have been struggling for orders. And pubs that have been able to tap into a steady supply from major breweries may have decided that they don't need to bother about some of the smaller breweries any more.

    Another thing that may be coming into play is that it's been noticeable that beer quality has been more reliable. I think I've only had one or two beers since 12 April that were stale or slightly off, and maybe four or five that had brewing faults (plus the three mentioned at the Closed Shop). That's less than a dozen poor beers out of 185 pub visits and just over 300 pints. Other than that it's been perfection, perfection, perfection. So maybe the penny has dropped: fewer beers means better quality means happy customers drinking more beer means less wastage means more profit.

    And maybe those drinkers for whom variety and innovation are the thing should remember Camra's Revitalisation slogan: "Hey, some of this keg beer is actually pretty good, isn't it!"*




    *(c) Sheffield Hatter. (Just kidding, guys. Please don't sue me.)


    Sorry, that was a lot longer than I expected. As the actress said to the bishop. I'll get me hat.
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    No problems around The Dale, all the ale houses have their normal number of ales on the bar.

    However when I deal with Brewers Wholesale I now have a choice of 50 - 65 beers not the 100 - 120 I had before Covid.
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    Pub researcher (unpaid) rpadam's Avatar
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    For those registered with Camra's Discourse forum, there is a self-explanatory thread entitled Catastrophe for real ale - Central London post-lockdown which has (as usual) drifted off topic, but this certainly appears to be a particular problem in the capital.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpadam View Post
    For those registered with Camra's Discourse forum, there is a self-explanatory thread entitled Catastrophe for real ale - Central London post-lockdown which has (as usual) drifted off topic, but this certainly appears to be a particular problem in the capital.
    Thanks for linking to the thread - I really mean that. I noticed that a few posters came to a similar conclusion to mine (above) about the gradual reintroduction of real ales and the consequent emphasis on quality rather than choice.

    What a surprise to see denigration of keg beer and the whole revitalisation argument gone over yet again in a thread with the title Catastrophe for real ale - Central London post-lockdown. I suppose moderating such a thread would be a full time job, but they did at least siphon off a putative discussion about the allocation of (yawn!) membership numbers.
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    Out in more leafy parts where more people are working from home things do not seem quite as bad. Initially there was a surfeit of Doom Bar only pubs but that seems to have eased with some decent beers in most pubs, although I suspect overall volumes are still down so a pub with 3 ales may only have 2 on etc. Having said that there is still the general lack of HGV drivers apparently hitting distribution and industrial unrest at GXO Logistics who claim to ship up to 40% of UK beer from Heineken and others, so deliveries might be a problem.
    On leaving the bar, I felt a strong blow to the back of my head. Turning round, I discovered it was the pavement

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    My view is that this is a London issue and COVID has accelerated a trend that was already evident beforehand..............much less real ale availability in general in the capital..

    Maybe not surprising given the advantages that keg holds

    Higher price point
    Longer shelf life
    Less cellaring skill needed to produce a consistent,good product.
    Easier for inexperienced bar staff to dispence.
    Hand pump image of old man's drink among younger drinkers.

    The sight of 5 handpumps but just a single clipped with Doom Bar or London Pride does also drive drinkers (and I am as guilty as anybody) into the keg options for something interesting which will only compound the lack of demand for real ale.A lot of publicans also view real ale as having to be low ABV to appeal to what they think the older drinker wants,further reducing choice.

    This reduction in real ale options is also impacting some former shining beacons on the London real ale scene,with the Euston Tap and Cask Pimlico both light on recent trips.

    However the search will go on for London pubs serving excellent real ale.That task is becoming more tricky.
    "Good people drink good beer" Hunter S Thompson

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    Between pubs sheffield hatter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sheffield hatter View Post
    ...this may be the case at the Kelham Island Tavern, but I've not been there recently (also they were closed because of Covid among the staff).
    Slightly off-topic, but I was there tonight and everyone is healthy and back at work, so the pub is open again.

    There were 10 beers on 12 hand pumps, which I thought was pushing it a bit on a quiet Monday, but the Pictish Brewers Gold and Blue Bee Five Hop Pale (Amarillo, Columbus, Centennial, Cascade and Mosaic, since you ask) were both superb, and I had two pints of the latter as well as the initial halves of each. If it had said Amarillo, Columbus, Centennial, Cascade and Mosaic on the pump clip I might well have gone for something else, but I trusted the brewer. This was the bitterest finish of any beer I can recall from recent years, but beautifully balanced. It's so refreshing (in more than one sense) to find American hops used in this way, rather than to replicate the flavours of tropical fruits. Hope you can find some where you're drinking.
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    Quote Originally Posted by sheffield hatter View Post
    Slightly off-topic, but I was there tonight and everyone is healthy and back at work, so the pub is open again.

    There were 10 beers on 12 hand pumps, which I thought was pushing it a bit on a quiet Monday, but the Pictish Brewers Gold and Blue Bee Five Hop Pale (Amarillo, Columbus, Centennial, Cascade and Mosaic, since you ask) were both superb, and I had two pints of the latter as well as the initial halves of each. If it had said Amarillo, Columbus, Centennial, Cascade and Mosaic on the pump clip I might well have gone for something else, but I trusted the brewer. This was the bitterest finish of any beer I can recall from recent years, but beautifully balanced. It's so refreshing (in more than one sense) to find American hops used in this way, rather than to replicate the flavours of tropical fruits. Hope you can find some where you're drinking.
    Continuing the slightly off topic theme.
    A lot is made of too many beers lead to poor quality by certain factions of the real ale drinking community (and I don't mean you Will), which in many cases can be true, but certain "elite" (for want of a better word) seem to manage this with ease so not a problem in my book. I've not been to the KIT before but will remedy this next month, but nearer my neck of the woods Thje Nags Head in Reading on Quinnos manor manage 12 beers with no apparent problem and many other pubs manage it so to me it's not so much the number of beers but the competence of the keeper.
    "Everybody's got to believe in something. I believe I'll have another beer."
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