A rare pub visit where there is little exciting to tell you about the surrounding area, so I won’t.  In fact this would have been consigned to the bin if not for the unfortunate mini-trauma of asking for a pint to be changed.

I won’t name the GBG pub, and don’t go looking in the photos for clues.  All I’ll say is it’s close to a Premiership football club in a desperate area for Good Beer Guide pubs, on a busy road near a railway station.  It’s a typical Greene King house, open all hours, and very much the sort of boozer I go for.  Simon Everitt has probably guessed it already.

As is my normal approach when a pub is quiet (1pm), I asked which beer was selling the quickest.  Drawing the blank with that approach,  I went for Batemans XB, a reliable beer. A couple of sips told me it was poor.  Not vinegar, but unplesasant (NBSS 1).

Tandleman wrote here about taking back beer and it’s hard to argue that you should always take a duff pint back.  To be fair, I reckon I take back one pint in a hundred, and most of those are clearly end of the barrel.  Nearly all replaced with good grace, particularly in Wetherspoons (with one famous exception in Ballymena where I really was told “It’s real ale, it’s supposed to taste like that

Not here. I know you love the detail.  This is pretty much verbatim.


Excuse me, this doesn’t taste right, can you replace it please ?”

It’s fine,  it’s not the end of the barrel“.  Walks away.

Sorry, it doesn’t taste right“.

Draws a bit off, looks at it. Didn’t accept my invitation to taste it.

Looks fine to me. Not had anyone else complain about it

Sorry, it’s not right.”

Phones manager.  Awkward wait while other customer stares at me.

The Bateman’s only been on for 3 days, there can’t be anything wrong with it“.

Not quite sure what to say now.

“Give him a different one. Some people just have different palates”

Thanks very much


The replacement (an IPA/Abbot mix) was OK.

Again, to be clear, it’s a proper pub with good banter and I suspect the local branch get a decent pint if they turn up en masse on a Friday night. But the response to an average customer politely noting the beer was off would have dissuaded anyone else from trying real ale, let alone taking their pint back. The cask ale lottery.

And it was £3.95. For Batemans.

Time for a cuddly cat pic.










  1. You always need that extra little bit of gumption to take a pint back that isn’t obviously cloudy or vinegary. And, even if you do get it changed, you end up creating a scene and the whole thing leaves a sour taste in the mouth. I have to say that, if it’s in a pub that I’m never going to be visiting again, I sometimes decide discretion is the better part of valour and just leave it on the table and walk out.

    As Tandleman has said, you’re going out for a drink, not an argument.


      1. Interesting. I know we always are pretty tentative to ask for pints to be replaced. I thought only we felt that way as outsiders. In general, we have had good luck on returns, but we have had similar ones like you describe. It really does leave a bad taste. We were refused once at a pub that is no longer in the GBG.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I get the impression it’s Wetherspoons’ policy not to quibble about people returning pints of real ale. Makes a lot of sense from a customer relations point of view.


      3. I’m sure that’s right. I rate Spoons service higher than some folk do, but guess staff aren’t well trained to judge faults, as well as not wanting a scene. Unless you’ve already drunk the beer, you’re not getting an advantage by getting a replacement.


  2. In my local Spoons a few weeks ago i was with the wife and drinking Nottingham EPA and it was very nice,when i went to get the third round i asked for the same again and did not take much notice of it being poured,when i took it back to our table my wife said straight away has the EPA ran out as that is a different drink,when i looked it was a lot darker,so i took it back and explained that it was not EPA so the barmaid poured an EPA into a half and said yes you are right,she replaced our drinks with the EPA and said take the other two which turned out to be GK Abbot,not a bad outcome pint and half of Nottingham EPA and pint and Half of GK Abbot for £3.23.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. This is a tale of when things go wrong in pubs when taking a drink back to the bar.
        I went in Deacons in the city of London i think EC4 and just after opening time on a warm day,i asked for a half of Adnams Bitter and when i tried it it was warmer than my bath water so i took it back to the barman who could hardly speak English,i said this beer is far too warm,he shrugged his shoulders and then went and put some ice cubes in it,i could not be bothered to ask him to pull some through.


  3. I’ll never understand the attitude of bar staff like that! The pub has so much more to lose by not replacing a dodgy pint than some staff seem to realise. I can’t remember the last time I took a pint back…but then with Carling you get consistency wherever you are!! (Apart from the occasional Indian restaurant!)


    1. At the recent CAMRA Pub of the Month award night at the Olde Cock in Didsbury, I spotted that they had Camden Hells lager on the bar and thought I would try a half. It came out cloudy, flat and sour, so it went straight back and was changed without demur for a half of cask. I got a lot of coins back as a refund, so I think it may have been over £5 a pint! This goes to show that even keg beers can suffer from lack of turnover.

      I believe Spoons had the same problem with BrewDog’s This.Is.Lager, which was deliberately brewed to have a fresh hop taste and was pretty poor when a bit stale.


      1. This.Is.Lager was an enlightening experience for Brewdog I think. What I find is that Punk IPA throws a lot of gunk and needs more frequent cleaning than other (keg) brands. If this is characteristic of Brewdog in general, your analysis of the Brewdog/Spoons experience sounds spot in.
        We now have Elvis Juice on keg so it will be interesting to see if our experience with that is similar.


      2. Elvis Juice . Where Malcolm ?

        Ms RM and I found This.Is.Lager clean and cool but very dull after Punk, which I confess is a regular treat in places we don’t trust the cask (Greene King pubs, our Picturehouse).


    2. it will be because the pub as a tied pub will have very some pretty stretching targets for the kind of volumes of beer per cask sold they are expected to hit, and its all measured by some fancy tamper proof electrics installed on their beer lines that actually report back in real time and are matched up with the takings. So spillage/spoilage even tasters become a real issue for these pubs, as will clearing the line before the first pint every morning and then it sits there till you unwittingly ask for it. as those pubs wont want to give away or lose any beer because thats coming straight off their income and impacting their targets.

      And of course if the beer has gone totally south, they wont want to take the beer off either if its not anywhere close to finishing, and yes there are still plenty of people who think real ale should taste of vinegar so it will still sell even if we mark it down and eventually unGBG it, I once was served a very rubbish pint in a national pub of the year winner, and the replacement wasnt much better quality, so even the best get it wrong occasionally.

      but yeah it drives that kind of behaviour as the staff will be told not to waste any beer, and must seek manager approval for swaps, and that trumps customer experience in those cases, more so in places like London, or busy places near train stations as they kind of know theres enough constant footfall still not to be too hung up about it.


  4. I’ve never had a member of staff quibble when I’ve taken a pint back in a Spoons. However it does happen quite often, due I’m sure to insufficient cask turnover even in busy (North Staffs) pubs which I visit in the interests of competitor visits. Eight / ten cask brands as well as a host of keg is pretty challenging even with their footfall.


    1. Lower cask turnover is a real issue in Spoons, and not because of craft keg; cider and premium lagers seem to dominate in a falling market Those north Staffs Spoons rarely get in the Beer Guide; CAMRA branches reliable in selecting pubs on beer quality in my experience.


      1. I rarely encounter returnable beer in Spoons, but I have to say I have a lot of beer than seems distinctly past its best. And I don’t think I’ve ever had a pint in Spoons that I’d describe as well-conditioned – it always seems as though it’s been pulled through a *very* long pipe, which indeed it may well have been.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. In my opinion, the acid test of a pub is how they react when a customer complains about a pint. For a number of reasons even the best of pubs can serve a duff pint on occasions, so I won’t hold that against a pub, but if they react badly when the customer brings it back, that really makes me score it down.


      1. Don’t know. If I’m first in a pub I probably see beer pulled through half the time. In a few pubs (Old Vic, Darlington springs to mind) the staff tasted the beer themselves before pouring.


  6. I’d have said the Newcastle Arms (if it’s in the current GBG), but then I realised that’s an area of GBG bars desperate for Premiership football….(OK, it’s not Greene King, but still).


  7. Martin, you need to flag this up on NBSS, and email the branch contact for the local CAMRA branch. It’s not often I put pen to paper over a mediocre pub, there are far too many, you could write a book on Yates’ alone. On this occasion I would undoubtedly name and shame.


  8. Following on from Curmudgeon’s comment above, a lot of conversions of shops and other premises didn’t come with rooms suitable to use as cellars under or at least quite close to the bar and their beer storage area could be some distance away – probably wherever it is possible to get a lorry up close (not easy on a busy High Street). Gas assistance (nitrogen? – not sure) is then often used to get the beer to the bar because of the long pipe runs but this does still mean that a slow selling beer will spend much longer in the pipe than with a traditional pub layout where there is a ‘proper’ cellar under the bar. Pubs where the bar has been moved can suffer from the same problem.

    Liked by 1 person

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