I’ve been commenting on the impact of very large beer ranges on quality since the start of this blog, and this post by Pub Curmudgeon also tackled some of the realities of choice, a thread entertainingly developed in the comments.
My immediate reaction to the assertion that most pubs had a dozen beers of varying styles was to
test ridicule that proposition; most pubs I visit don’t seem to me to have much different a cask range to 20 years ago. The keg and can ranges may be different, but I never go for those and I’m not sure who does.
In contrast, Newcastle (and Sunderland in its Head of Steam outlets) stood out for how many beers they’d squeezed on the bar, in addition to a fair few craft keg taps. Some times I found the beer as good as ever (e.g. the Free Trade), sometimes a little less so (e.g. Bacchus).
Quality concerns apart, the other niggle I have is just how hard it is to pick a beer in a pub now, even when a sympathetic barperson gives you a few seconds to digest a mass of pumps and taps that you’ve probably never seen before. Nearly every pub in Newcastle brought a completely new range (and no well known ones like Workie Ticket either).
That was big-city choice; the choice below was in a small-town backstreet pub, not a big city ale shrine.
Perhaps it’s old age. Presumably younger professional drinkers can survey the dozen casks, assessing reputation/strength/quality in one second, then judging whether the 15 draft ciders or craft keg are a better bet in the next. Before I’d even reached the bar I’d been asked what I wanted, which is no doubt why so many people end up saying “San Miguel“.
On reflection, there’s a few beers the average drinker will have heard of (OK then, Butty Bach). Given six seconds to weight it up, I’d have gone for the Salopian; instead I hurriedly pointed at the Portobello APA. It was a decent beer, GBG quality, and a vast improvement on the pints of it I’ve had in London over the years.
The pub is busy and attracts a varied crowd, but I’d be amazed if it sells enough to present those twelve beers, and those breweries, at their very best. Less is usually more.