HEADS IN THE CLOUDS AT HEATHROW

I’ve had a great day in That London. Seven new Guide pubs visited from far West to South-east.

 

Historic documents

 

If you can read that you’re doing well !

I took the Piccadilly line to Zone 6, jumping off just before Heathrow.

The tube was deserted as we approached Hatton Cross, with just an abandoned Carling can for company.

 

Carling

 

How exciting it is to do chicken runs across the Heathrow approach roads while ducking low flying Aerroflots.

 

I presume the Green Man is the closest “real” pub to the Airport, and therefore gets a few visits from curious visitors and folk parking their car in the pub car park. And Bedfont FC fans.

The local wildlife didn’t seem curious about anything.

Not many Guide pubs out here, even Spoons, and this is your standard John Barras diner. But also very Olde English.

I was first in, I’m like that, and had a minute to admire a top-notch unspoilt village diner. Complete with traditional pub games.

Christmas had already started, but most of the tables were set for a 40th party that afternoon.

I loved it. A little bit.

I even loved a beer range without pretension.

The landlady was very chatty, she’ll love Simon.

I congratuated her on their Beer Guide place, and told her the Starry Night (NBSS 3+) was good. Beer Guide standard.

Then she told me she’d had a visit from “one of those CAMRA people with a Beer Guide” last week.

He’d been very upset about the beer range, as one of the three had just gone, and told her she couldn’t be in the Beer Guide with just those beers on.

If we can’t support and encourage suburban dining pubs with good quality beer to keep the appropriate range of beers on, we’re stuffed.

Get your heads out of the clouds.

NB: Just to be clear, no suggestion at all that visitor was from the local branch, which of course has put the pub in the Guide in the first place with a sensible range.  But we are all CAMRA, and do CAMRA no favours telling licensees how to run their pub.

57 thoughts on “HEADS IN THE CLOUDS AT HEATHROW

  1. With regards to that Carling can, I thought Pilsner Urquel was the original lager.

    And with regards to CAMRA and suburban pubs with good quality beer, rather than we’re stuffed CAMRA can get bloody stuffed. 😒

    Cheers

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Polite answer -people are different. I’d be happy to drink good Pedigree every night for the rest of my life, as long as it was a different pub each night ! Others would want a different beer in the same pub.

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      1. Each to their own I guess but if you belong to organisation that promotes cask ale surely you should support pubs in areas with little footfall or interest to ensure at least one or two ales are available….

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  2. That angle you got on the Carling can was remarkable; I’m going to assume you got it in the manner of a committed photographer: belly on the floor. ; )

    Do you think this “the more beers on tap the better” idea is a temporary thing? Or a longterm shift?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Correct, Mark. No-one saw me !

      I think that obssession with pumps/taps has always been there, even back in the 70s if I look at early GBGs. No different in US ,of course, but very different in Germany, where one beer pubs like Uerige are revered.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It was the rise of the multi-beer freehouse that made it more widespread. I’m sure I’ve been grumbling about overlarge beer ranges ever since I started writing my magazine column in 1993. But the problem is that nowadays many CAMRA members turn their noses up if even a suburban dining pub doesn’t have six beers on.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Been in there a few years ago and it was a veritable shithole with chavs in customised, ancient small family salon cars – it must have changed a lot since my visit. There’s a half reasonable pub in the estate on the other side of the main road called the Pheasant or something, does decent food anyhow.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. No we just had a quick drink and did one, it was freezing cold too. That thing about ‘CAMRA says …’ is bollocks. When do you hear me saying ‘I’m from CAMRA’ or whatever? I don’t even ask for the discount, only time I use it is in Templar where they know me. I think that all these ‘CAMRA says’ merchants are random nob heads who are full of their own importance and unrepresentative of the organisation. You get them in all walks of life and as the old adage says – empty vessels make the loudest noise.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. But the strong impression given was that this guy *was* speaking on behalf of the local branch, he was’t just some random individual saying “you don’t wanna do that, mate.” The same is true of the one Martin reported on who told the landlady of the Railway in Newtown that she wouldn’t get in the GBG unless she had three beers on, even though I’d say the pub probably only has enough trade to support two.

        And we know that these attitudes are very widespread in the organisation. The guy from T&H has effectively said on Discourse that if you’re a family brewer pub with no outside guest beers, you don’t stand a cat in hell’s in that branch. Hence why Simon dreads his annual trip to the latest trendy bar in Altrincham. This attitude is also very widespread in Cheshire, making the GBG entries, to my mind, of limited value. As Martin knows, it’s full of dining pubs with 4-6 handpumps where there’s only the trade for 1 or 2.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. That’s exactly right. And if you follow Discourse you’ll know that beer quality is far from the dominant criteria for choosing pubs for the Beer Guide, which is shameful. I still think the Beer Guide gets it right 90% + of the time, most beer is decent, but your chances of getting a GREAT pint are lower than they were 20 years ago.

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  5. I only know what goes on in my own branch with regard to GBG selections, and other branches may of course be different. I do know that in West Kent there’s nothing set in stone that candidates should be pubs offering a large range of beers, but these are normally the types of pub which get nominated.

    The branch invites all members to nominate pubs for inclusion in the guide, every year. This is carried out in conjunction with the invitation to attend the AGM. The response from our 600 or so members is underwhelming, to put it mildly. We can therefore only run with those pubs which have been put forward by the members, and if these are multi-beer establishments, rather than single ale pubs, then so be it.

    Having said that, I’m certain that no-one from West Kent CAMRA would go round behaving in the manner described in your post, Martin. Some branches do have the odd loose cannon, and some do have rather different selection criteria to our own, but surely that is what makes the guide so diverse and interesting from all points of view (say he, who hasn’t bought the guide since 2013!).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s my impression from attending branch selection meetings too, Paul. I wasn’t suggesting the visitor to that Heathrow pub was a local member, odd are they weren’t. But we all represent CAMRA and telling licensees how to run their business is wrong.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I think you have upset a few people with this post, Martin.
    Pubcumudgeon as you know did quote from it and the replies implied you were not telling the truth.
    I know you visit lots of pubs and always believe what you say about them.

    Cheers Alan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They can visit the pub and ask her themselves, Alan ! I think what people are challenging is that one person visiting the pub could exclude a pub from the Beer Guide. They shouldn’t/couldn’t , but the landlady wouldn’t know that and it’s the fact CAMRA members are pushing pubs to increase their beer ranges that upset me so much. Not for the first time,

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  7. I am so pleased that i have never been a Camra member.
    Me and the wife love going in pubs and drinking real ales,but do not want to get in all of the hassle that seems to be going on with different Camra members on different pub blogs.
    We rarely complain about beers we drink and my wife is more critical than me,we did have two drinks yesterday that were perfectly drinkable but we both thought tasted of nothing,one from Oldershaws Yuletide at 4.7% and the other Adnams Old Ale,all other beers we had were very nice.

    It is a shame that a group like Camra who have done so much good over the years is getting so much flack and from what i read inside fighting.
    As for Camra members telling people who are running pubs what to do is wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Wow, this has provoked some real debate! I’ve actually given it quite a lot of thought as it concerns me somewhat.

    Firstly – The person who originally said this in the pub, as Martin reports, is ‘out of order’ and any CAMRA branch that operates in this way are not, to my mind, representative of what I see and know. I retain my view that the spokesperson was ‘a loose canon’ and does not speak for CAMRA as a whole. I would also bring into play the ‘Send four and ninepence, we’re going to a dance’ element here. Martin was told this and it is entirely hearsay, it may be exactly correct, but we cannot rely on this and have to be open minded.

    Secondly, and I can only speak about my own area, and although as some of you will be aware, I am an active CAMRA member and on my branch committee, these are my own thoughts and not representative of or endorsed by Leeds CAMRA in any way. However, in the third largest city in the UK we have an awful lot of licensed premises (NB not necessarily pubs) and only allowed thirty GBG entries, hence competition is fierce. So, when faced with a choice in my nomination or vote, of two premises that consistently serve excellent quality beer which one do I go for – the one with a single beer or the one with a choice of several (dark, BBB, light & hoppy, mild, cutting edge). Bear in mind, I am assuming the quality of the beer is exactly the same in both premises. For me it is a simple choice, I go for the one that provides the best and widest all-round experience. Should beer quality in the multi range premises be inferior I would undoubtedly vote for the other one.

    I honestly think, so long as the beer quality is excellent, that we should showcase these premises with a wide range of ales. Thankfully, in Leeds we have an overwhelming choice and as a result the one brewery pub doesn’t really stand a chance these days.

    This sort of leads me into the type of premises debate, it’s the Good Beer Guide and NOT the Good Pub Guide, there is a clear difference (we discussed this in Brewdog a couple of weeks ago Martin). On that basis, theoretically I could nominate Morrisons supermarket cafe in Guiseley, it serves cask Saltaire Blond, if the beer quality is good enough. But what if as a visiting member you had visited the GBG listed supermarket cafe only to find an excellent modern bar serving an equally good quality range of cask, keg and bottled beers just across the road, would you thank me or think, ‘they’re having a laugh.’

    There is a GBG listed bar across the road from Morrisons Guiseley (Coopers), but what if Morrison’s was actually a pub, traditional small/medium sized local brewery with one bitter and a mlld. Again assume beer quality in the two premises is equal, which one should go in GBG, the old pub or the modern bar serving a wide and interesting range of excellent ales? I know which one I would choose, nothing to do with any unwritten policy neither. Personally, I believe there is a real distinction between premises which should be in The Good Beer Guide and Good Pubs, there is scope for two different sections to the GBG; traditional Good Pubs and places selling Good Beer. Should we do this?

    What about you? You make your own mind up. You can do that by being a CAMRA member and getting involved in the running of your local branch, nominating and voting for which pubs go in the GBG. I would contend that until you have done that you haven’t got the right to criticise. Okay, maybe you can grumble a bit, but if you feel so strongly and you are not an active member then you need to either join or stop referring to GBG and instead refer to one of the many pub guides who’s listings depend solely on payment.

    That’s all for now Folks!

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    1. Who is you,is that me or anybody who is not a Camra member.
      I will never join Camra but do drink real ale,am i now not allowed to say GBG in replies on blogs,i do not really understand the last sentence.
      I honestly do not know if i am going in a GBG pub or not,we both went in a good few pubs in Nottingham on Saturday but i do not know if they are in or out of the GBG and dont give a toss anyway.
      I have typed GBG four times now does that mean i get a slapped wrist.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No. It means you can’t vote which pubs go in the Beer Guide for Nottingham, But, like 99% of the population, that won’t bother you, Alan.

        Richard is saying that rather than grumbling about what’s in the Guide (a lot do) CAMRA members should get involved – score beers on WhatPub and vote.

        You do more for the cause of pubs than any actual CAMRA member, Alan.

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      2. Hi Alan, I never take issue with individuals and the ‘you’ is the metaphorical ‘you’. However, there seems to be far too many ‘knockers’ around, in all areas of society. CAMRA is a good organisation, but it has it’s faults, it has something like 160,000 members, but I doubt whether the active members comprise even one percent of this number.

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  9. Lets apply a bit of common sense here.

    I think most people would expect that if a pub was in a the “good beer guide”, then they should be able to find an enjoyable beer. Otherwise the name of the guide is a lie and CAMRA are liable to legal action.

    Given that even the best cask beer in the country is unlikely to suit more than 50% of palates, any selection of less than at least 3 beers is almost certain to leave a significant proportion of customers unhappy and dissatisfied. There is a direct causation between the size of the beer range and the probability of a satisfied customer. There is a reason the vast, vast majority of pubs that have gone bust over the past decade have overwhelmingly been 1-2 cask ale pubs. Its because no sensible person drinks cask ale in such rubbish pubs. They stick to the pubs that treat their customers with enough respect to offer them a decent choice. Any CAMRA member who takes it upon themselves to advise pubs to only sell 1-2 cask beers is partly responsible when that pub subsequently goes bankrupt. Its selfish and short-sighted advice.

    No pub with less than 3 cask ales should be allowed in the “good beer” guide, because it almost certainly doesn’t provide a wide enough range of cask ale to provide the majority of its clientele with an enjoyable beer. Which is the entire point, right? What’s the point of a guide that doesn’t actually tell you where you will be able to find a beer you will enjoy? No point at all. Its a waste of paper.

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  10. Would it be boring to say that I think that both sides have got a point here?

    If my local only has the turnover to keep one cask beer in consistently good nick then I’d rather they did that than have four that aren’t. On the other hand, if there’s another pub next door that can keep four beers in good condition then all else being equal, I’d probably rather go there. There’s a weird whiff of Calvinism to the attitude that preferring to have more than one beer available in case you don’t like the first one or fancy a change somehow demonstrates poor moral fibre; I wonder how some proponents of “one beer perfectly kept” would react if they planned an evening in a GBG pub only to find that through some freak of demographics, the one perfectly kept beer was a murky 9% ABV double IPA or a barrel-aged rhubarb gose?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good points Dave.

      This Heathrow locals pub keeps three beers from GK. The Landlady said one of them had gone off, so the visitor had a choice of two (or multiple lagers/ciders etc etc).

      Yes, I’d prefer a choice of 2 or 3 from the Harveys or Punch range, but it’s a GK range. Their customers are happy with Speckled Hen, Abbot and a GK seasonal. Why would anyone tell them “it’s not enough”.

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      1. What on earth makes you think that the customers of a GK pub are even remotely happy with the GK range. Surely coming from Cambridge you would see the obvious flaws in that argument? Most people begrudgingly stick the GK because there is nothing better on and they are in the pub for reasons other than the beer choice.

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    2. That’s what I meant by it being a selfish and shortsighted stance. The argument in favour of one beer pubs is inevitably that they sell a beer that I like, so why would they need to sell anything else?

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      1. You also said that craft beer would never catch on outside the “London Bubble” Mudgie, so you don’t exactly have a great track record in identifying even the most obvious of trends.

        There is nothing “specialist” about a multi-cask-beer pub. A decent choice of cask ale is a basic requirement if you want to attract anyone other than old men and groups of youngsters looking to get drunk as quickly as possible.

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    3. I don’t think it is Calvinism, and realistically I know that the days of the mild-and-bitter pub aren’t coming back. If pubs can keep a large range of beers in good condition, then good luck to them – the Magnet in Stockport certainly succeeds on that score. But many don’t, and I firmly believe there needs to be much more recognition of the downside of having too many beers for the level of trade. I encounter many pints that, while not “off” as such, are just a bit dull, flat and tired. It’s a rarity, even in good pubs, to get a pint that really is sparklingly fresh and bursting with condition.

      And “murky 9% ABV double IPA or a barrel-aged rhubarb gose” is a straw man, really, because if a pub just had the one quick-selling beer, it would be something more mainstream that lots of people wanted to drink. But, if it was shifting three kils a week of barrel-aged rhubard gose, that would be a wonder to behold 😮

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Spot on. Pubs can sell what they like. Increasingly that’s not real ale at all, so this is a pointless spat.

        But taking Mudgies example, I wouldn’t pop in the two pubs closest to the famed Magnet and advise them to up their range of beers to maintain CAMRA support, and know the local branch doesn’t.

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    4. We were in an excellent pub a few months ago. One of my favorites. However, they had five beers on all of which were pale ales. I can’t stand pale ales. Multiple beers does not guarantee variety. I would still prefer one well kept beer to four poorly kept. Better a well conditioned pale ale I don’t like than a bad stout which disappoints.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ye Olde Vic, perchance? I’d like to see more stylistic variety too, but the trouble is that, very often, pale’n’hopy is what sells. The same is true of the Magnet – 14 cask lines, 10 pale’n’hoppy.

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      2. Exactly. Great pub, but all the beers fairly similar in style. You are correct in that the selection is a bit market driven. Always odd to me since the range of taste in the six or ten we refer to is so limited. You would hope three distinct styles would sell better. But it is much easier to talk about what hop variety is evident in a pale ale…

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      3. OTOH there is a national trend towards pale n hoppy, and in the Manchester suburbs you have the lingering influence of Boddies whose tied houses have shaped local tastes in beer just as surely as M&B or Banks have shaped their local customers. Across the border in Cheshire proper (sic) I’ve seen a cask-led pub with 6 pumps of mostly brown/red/black beers on – but 5 pints out of 6 being sold were the sole pale session beer.. That’s maybe an exception, but in my regular haunts I’d guess that the cask drinkers’ first choice splits maybe 65% pale session, 25% brown best (mostly 50+ year olds) and 10% dark.

        So py is wrong with “the best cask beer in the country is unlikely to suit more than 50% of palates” – in my neck of the woods a decentish-but-not-amazing session pale will suit two-thirds of them, or more, and a session pale and brown best, kept well, will keep 90% of people happy. Yes it’s great if a pub has the turnover to justify more lines, starting with say a hoppy pale and a dark, but so many don’t.

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      4. Session pales are not indistinguishable. Even people (like me) who mostly drink session pales, still have beers and breweries they aren’t keen on. Even if 65% of customers are looking for a session pale ale, then a beer would have to appeal to 80% of them to fulfill the criteria of 50% of total customers. I don’t think such a beer exists.

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      5. I did not say they were indistinguishable. It is almost the exclusive beer style these days on a lot of taps in the US. And it is at the exclusion of almost every other style of beer. (American brewers are at the same time boring and quite experimental. An odd contradiction.) I quote a famous beer writer a lot: “you can only be so experimental by throwing in more hops.” I think that is where the American IPA\Pale Ale brewing market has landed. At it is at the expense of a lot of more interesting beers. I just returned from Bamberg. I can tell you the range in that town makes the head spin. We miss a lot when one style is all that is on offer.

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      6. I was replying to qq. Two different pale ales, a malty bitter and a dark beer will probably offer something to 90% of punters

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  11. If anyone is interested in some stats from a real pub…

    36% – 4% or less & pale
    28% – 4.1% + above pale
    19% – brown/trad
    17% – dark

    In terms of casks sold – which as each of the 4 beers on at any one time are from one each of those categories, I think it reasonably reflects the customers’ drinking preferences!

    Unless the business model is to chuck beer away (I overheard someone ask that in the Crown in Stockport the other week after they’d taken something back, as it happens…) I’d still rather have fewer beers turning over quickly than an ‘optimistic’ (as Martin might say) range with each cask on for 6 days.

    Liked by 1 person

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