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It is true. That doyen of the cheap pint, Samuel Smith of Tadcaster has decided to get out of that particular game, with prices rises all round on re-opening. Well as far as we can make out that's the case, but of course, with Sam's, the facts are as murky as a Railway Arch Pint.

So what do we know? Samuel Smith, outside London is pretty cheap for draught beer and lager. In their heartland, pints are often £2 or less. Rumour now has it that mild and bitter will rise by a pound a pint and lager by up to £1.20. An entry on Facebook by one of their landlords, which seems to be a re-hashed version of something sent by the brewery to managers (all Sam's pubs are managed) - justifies the price increase. It reads roughly thus:

"We have had no choice but to raise our prices. For years Sam Smiths pricing has been way below our competitors. Our family run company have been producing excellent value in brewing since 1758. In these uncertain times and let’s face it, no one really knows what the future holds, to open up hundreds of pubs is really risky and costly. We are just raising our prices inline or below of our brewing friends.

Please bear in mind how really low our prices we’re for years and at some point to sustain stability we have no choice but get inline with everyone.

When I made a quick visit to the THT on Sunday, our landlord mentioned he had a Sam's manager in, who had mentioned in conversation, the price increase will be in the range I mention above. Now I can't yet actually confirm it and equally, I have no idea how prices will or won't change in London, or indeed how much we can depend on what we read elsewhere.

Sam's pubs operate without televisions, with no music - recorded or live; no use of phones, laptops or even Kindles, as well as being liberally emblazoned by signs telling you in no uncertain terms what you can or can't do within. It probably isn't unfair to say that part of the quid pro quo for doing what you are told is low prices. Having said all that, the actual sentiment of catching up may have some validity. Outside London, for draught products only, Sam's pubs are cheap as chips. In fact, cheaper than chips if you drink mild - but it is a bit of a gamble to pile it all on at once. Given the odd way Humphrey operates, like an East German holiday camp, he attracts a certain kind of customer.

Now if you are paying bottom dollar for your ale, you may well be minded to put up with all this, but if a price rise take your pint to broadly in line with elsewhere and you realise that five pints cost you a fiver more, I dare say many won't. After all, why pay £3 a pint to put up with Humphrey's lopsided world, when you can go elsewhere and won't have to?

Whichever way you look at it, this is a gamble and it signposts, the end of a unique business model, but if it backfires, it may also be the last blast of Humph's reign.
Wetherspoon's may be the likely beneficiary of any ex Sam's customers. While the Bailiwick of the opinions of another lopsided eccentric, you can at leastphone your pals about it, while gently effing and jeffing. And you can get cask ale, which you can't in almost all the 33 Sam's pubs in my area.
Can't see it helping to re-open the many Sam's pubs which are currently closed. You would have thought that a slow increase might have worked better, rather than a short, sharp shock. Then again, people have short memories.