You’ll notice a consistent theme in this blog, along the lines of “More isn’t necessarily better“.  The number of OK but indifferent beers I get when a pump has half a dozen or more handpumps is rising by the day. Having said that, multi-pump pubs like that are still the exception, even in the Beer Guide.

There’s been a lively discussion on Pub Curmudgeon’s blog over the last week, with Mudge’s regular contributor py seeming to suggest that it’s now common to come across pubs with ten beers spanning the spectrum of beer styles in most towns.

I did wonder if, despite my own experience, there might be some truth in that as I walked Sheffield on Sunday. Aside from the obviously beer-driven places, several Greene King and Punch places had endless pumps on display (e.g. the neighbouring Ball and Punchbowl in affluent Crookes).  Very limited takers for the cask in either, mind you.


So on Tuesday, after a random canal walk, in a random town, I popped into a random Beer Guide pub to test the py hypothesis. This was a stereotypical middle-class suburbia, full of Embers, Harvesters and open-plan pubs like this.

There were a lot of bottles on the vast Spoons-like display case. Clearly cutting-edge stuff, and a bottled range running from Thwaites Mild to Porter.


This is an affluent part of the world, and gets plenty of visitors by foot and boat.  That’s reflected in the décor, which is very much not to my taste.

Nor was the beer. Wainwright or Bomber was my choice, the former served in a glass that would work in Cologne but not here (NBSS 2.5). So, a massive two beers on the bar in a pub catering for walkers, boaters and affluent idlers.

Service was sullen and cheerless, and the piped music seemed to be exclusively birdsong.

Which isn’t something you can say about the pub at the end of the walk, a cracking boozer when that orange cider starts flowing on Friday afternoon, if not noon on Tuesday. More importantly, one of the last place in England to advertise “vittels“.



44 thoughts on “TESTING THE py HYPOTHESIS

  1. I know exactly which pub this is, as I know both the pubs and the local canals in the area well, but don’t necessarily want to spoil the fun by giving it away in the first comment. It was my favourite local before I moved away from the area a couple of months ago, because I enjoyed the walk across the fields to reach it, the ambience, the food and the opportunity to lash pint after pint of perfectly kept Lancaster Bomber down my neck so far from traditional Thwaites strongholds. I’d like to point out that only two ales on is unusual in this pub and around five was always typical (have they taken the set of handpulls out at the far end of the bar? Lancaster Bomber always used to be on the far right on those) and I’m not sure what you managed to do to upset the bar staff but they were always cheery and chatty with me. 😉 I certainly rated it higher than the Blue Bell Cider House, whose ale I always found distinctly lacklustre though I did enjoy many a cider there.


    1. Yes, I’ve sailed that particular part of the cut many a time (even filled up with diesel at the pump in the first picture!) and been to the Blue Bell a lot as well. As to the other pub, I’m sure that I know which one it is, but I haven’t been there often, nor for a good number of years (great clue in the 3rd picture – I missed it first time!). But like Vaux Wanderer I’ll leave it open for others to guess!!


      1. It’d probably come as little surprise to anybody to come across Wainwright in far-from-perfect condition, which I think is probably more due to its’ ubiquity, and resulting increased chance of it being dispensed by hands unfamiliar or indifferent to its’ upkeep, than a fault with the ale itself, but the impression I always got from The Bull’s Head (now all has been revealed) was that their line maintenance and cask management were both top notch, so it is a little surprising to find it in sub-standard condition here: Not trying to make excuses here but it could well have something to do with it being early in the week (and quite early in the day at the time of your visit by the sounds of it) and having little turnover in the ales since the weekend.


      2. I rated it average rather than good, and 11am isn’t representative of the average visit. I’d never say local CAMRA branches were wrong in their selection, though I normally agree with them.


      3. Is there supposed to be a picture of this super thin glass, because I can’t see one.

        I always think beers like Wainwright stand up less well to indifferent cellarmanship than more, shall we say, robust ones. If not spot-on they can easily just turn to glop.


  2. A lounge, however modern-looking, with a mural depicting my favourite author (Thomas Hardy) gets my vote any day. The argument about a good spectrum of beers is a somewhat prickly one for me. My experience is mostly of this sort : walk into a new pub in a new town and you see 5 or 6 handpumps, Rub hands together with glee, but then on closer examination the beers are all pale/golden – not a stout or porter in sight, not even a dark bitter. This was examplified recently in The MoCa in Buxton – NINE handpumps and the jamjars showed that not a one was darker than a Wainwrights !


    1. Sorry, that was Matlock, not Buxton. The mists of time and all that……Buxton was the Buxton Tap House – two pumps in use and two more golden ales. Think I`ll move to Masham and live near the Theakston tap and sup Old Peculiar all day long…


  3. So how many different beers in total were there? If all those bottles were representative of what was on sale, it looks like a hell of a lot.


      1. I’m not sure if you are referring to a specific Ember Inn, but the two I used to frequent around that neck of the woods (and others in similar suburbs on the South/East side of Birmingham) could usually field 5 or 6 different ales. I feel that Ember Inns offer a notably high number of cask ales for a typical suburban pub chain, though.


  4. “affluent Crookes” rather sums up the flaw in py’s argument. Would the pubs in Brightside or Darnall have had a similar range? Would there even have been any open pubs left?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Although to be fair it says a lot that over the last few years, the set of places that “don’t prove anything because they aren’t representative of the UK as a whole” has shifted from hipster enclaves in East London and Manchester to include middle-class suburbs of Sheffield and Nottingham plus anywhere with a Spoons. Some of Py’s assertions in the original comments thread were well overblown, but there’s the core of a point there.


      1. I’m not sure things have changed *that* much, as I remember grumbling about pubco outlets offering more guest beers than the turnover justified twenty years ago. The main difference is probably more “craft kegs”.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. If 13 Guns is a craft keg, you’re probably right. Can’t say I much else outside the specialist beer pubs (which is 1% at most). Do any of the Manc/Cheshire family brewers have craft keg on ?


      3. There was some kind of craft on in the Blossoms last night. I’d never heard of it and can’t remember the name. I also didn’t see anyone ordering it.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. There are plenty of pubs in Nottingham that had 2 bitter pumps + 2 lager fonts when I started going in them 10-15 years ago that now have 8 cask ales plus craft keg as standard. Both in the city centre and the suburbs. Places with 8 handpumps, like the Vic, used to be famous for their unusually large beer choice. Now half the pubs in Beeston have 8 handpumps, its run of the mill.

      There are also plenty of pubs that had 2 bitter pumps + lager that are now Tesco petrol stations.

      That pretty much sums up the choice nowadays for pubs. Either move with the times or get left behind. Hasn’t it always been thus.

      Anyone remember BZR, and their hordes or underage drinkers triples for singles deal? That’s now a craft beer bar full of blokes in their 30s. How times have changed.


      1. Beeston is one of our top towns for real ale choice; Victoria, Star and Crown all with 10+ beers; that’s 3 out of 16 on What Pub, ignoring the pub and recent closures. Plus the Spoons possibly.

        It is noticeable how the various Greene King outlets have upped their cask offer in recent years, though sometimes that just seems to be adding 4 or 5 Cottage beers to their own list !


      2. You are talking complete bollocks yet again PY now saying half of Beestons pubs have 8 handpumps on the bar,so does the Commercial,Nurseryman,Chequers,Rye,Durham Ox,Cricketers,White Lion,Boat and Horses,plus many more i can not be bothered to name have 8 handpumps on the bar,i agree the Crown,Victoria,Last Post,Star and maybe Hop Pole have that amount on.
        So Beeston has about 22 pubs you seem to be well short of half of Beestons pubs having 8 hand pumps on.

        I fear you may being trolled by PY on your blog Martin.


  5. I went to a roadside “eating inn” for lunch today, on a main road between two bog standard villages, exactly the kind of place you wouldn’t expect much in the way of beers. I had never been in there before and was curious to see what they had.

    I found a pretty standard range: 5 cask ales – including 2 bitters, a best bitter a strong ale and a golden ale, 7 different keg beers, including 4 different lagers, smoothflow, guinness, and a west coast IPA, and 10 bottled beers, including standard lager, premium “craft lager”, two flavoured lagers, brown ale, bottled bitter and punk IPA (are there any pubs in the UK that don’t sell punk IPA? nowadays).

    So a choice of 22 different beers, covering about 9-10 different styles.

    I’d probably describe this range as poorer than average if I’m honest. This pub is not going to get into the good beer guide any time soon. Its also the kind of range that several of the more dinosaurish CAMRA hardliners swear blind don’t exist outside of pretentious hipster enclaves like… the South and the Midlands and most of the North.


    1. It’s a good point you make about bottled ranges. I never look in fridges standing at the bar but it is a major change.

      Unfortunately I don’t see Punk on tap as often as I’d like, though am drinking that now in the Picturehouse.


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