PLAYING THE GLOUCESTERSHIRE CASK ALE LOTTERY

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Recently I’ve wondered if this summer might be the summer that kills cask as a mainstream drink. You’ll have seen how resentful I’ve been about cask in Scotland, and eleven pubs over two days around the Brecons this week brought two drinkable pints (both in a Spoons). In Beer Guide pubs.

But then again, last week on the Isle of Man we pretty much had beer served at ideal temperatures throughout.  Reports on Manx cats and woolly sheep to follow.

Sticking in Gloucestershire, I was delighted to find the two new entries in the county town and Cheltenham were both Brewhouse & Kitchens (or whatever the collective noun for hellholes is).  A chance to face my prejudices head on.

Indentikit décor, overpriced food, terrible glassware, an aversion to cash, table reservations for folk who don’t turn up, weird homebrew.  Why do they get in the Guide, I ask rhetorically.  But they’re doing something right.

For a truly excoriating perspective on B&K, read BRAPA in Highbury (and compare to this).  They really are Frankie & Bennys with homebrew (not a recommendation).

Face it, the one below could be anywhere.

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Induhvidual pub

B&K

In fact, it’s in a new “leisure dining” development In Cheltenham that makes Milton Keynes Snowdome look cutting edge.

At the bar, couples and groups fan themselves with menus while I try to choose between weirdly named beers.

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I guess wrong, and present my undrinkable half as “end of the barrel, sorry“.  After a long consultation, I get a different half which isn’t really any better.  They don’t turn the clip round either, but luckily no-one is drinking the cask so it doesn’t really matter.

But I’ll say this.  It’s heaving.  They don’t care what Simon or I think.

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Hell

An hour later,the train pulls into Gloucester, seemingly a poor relation to Chelts.

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But the regeneration of the Docks has saved Gloucester, at least on the evidence of a sunny day in July when the pubs are heaving.

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And, though I can scarcely bring myself to say it, their homebrew is close to nectar (NBSS 3.5), and I enjoy it by the water.  I’d still rather drink keg in the Nelson, mind.

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So.  Same day, same county, same pub chain, same turnover, totally different perspective on cask.  What’s it mean.  IDK*, as the kids say.

 

*I don’t kare

 

50 thoughts on “PLAYING THE GLOUCESTERSHIRE CASK ALE LOTTERY

      1. I assume so, it still seems to be on the go. That would presumably be a period early enough in CAMRA history that quality would have been improving slightly.
        As you were in the neighbourhood you should really have gone to see how well Donnington beers were coping with the weather….

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    1. I don’t remember it causing a problem in ’76. My Dad’s pub had coolers (& heaters) in addition to a very good, classic pub cellar. When it got really hot we used to periodically spray water on everything in the cellar, casks, walls, floor, cases of bottles, the lot.

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      1. Came on the back of a brewery dray, but it only came about 12 miles and it was in the cellar by mid morning on the day it left the brewery. I don’t think anything has changed there though, although man smaller breweries just have a transit sized van as opposed to a dray wagon.

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      2. But surely coolers (& heaters) were a rarity in the mid 1970s and not every pub had a very good, classic pub cellar. I remember being on holiday in Anglesey in the summer of ’76 and much of the beer was terrible, at worst nearly indistinguishable from Sarsons.

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      3. I guess the ‘new build’ pubs didn’t have a cellar, just a ‘could have been a garage’ at the side. The ‘trad’ pubs had proper cellars, but not all were as good as others, dependant on how much they had been ‘improved’.

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    2. Possibly not, as:

      (1) Pubs had proper cellars back then
      (2) They also had licensees who knew how to look after cask properly, and
      (3) They had sufficient turnover to ensure it wasn’t festering in the lines for hours

      Although I did have the occasional drop of cask, I was too young (17) to really say at first hand

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    3. Well there is a school of thought that says ’76 played a big part in lager going from merely “big” to utter domination of UK drinking habits. Some of it is a quality thing, but it’s also people just want to drink something Cold-with-a-capital-C when it’s this hot.

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      1. Pete Brown mentions the hot summers in ’75 and ’76 as factors in his book “Man Walks into a Pub”. He also said advertising played a bit of a role, especially Heineken’s “refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach”. 🙂

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      2. Pete Brown has had some uncomfortable things to say about cash volumes on the slide. What we need is people getting down the pub and drinking cask (preferably from 9am in the morning), but instead they’ll all be in a giant hall in London next week (GBBF) drinking beers they’ll never see again and arguing about the definition of Craft.
        #BeerFestivalsKillPubs

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  1. A couple of weeks away from a trip to the Forgotten Coast in Florida where this time of year it’s always hot and humid.
    I doubt I’ll come across anywhere selling anything but ice cold and fizzy.
    I have already located the nearest place doing beer.Six bucks a US pint.
    http://www.scalloprepublic.com/on-tap
    Thanks goodness the gout has hit me now and not in a fortnight.

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  2. Only been in a couple of B & K’s. I quite like the idea, although they all seem to be identikit bars, some of the beers were quite nice and some were not. It’s the ‘not’ ones that put folk off cask beer, ‘once bitten and all that’. There’s an awful lot of poorly kept, mediocre cask ale out there, so potentially a lot of people to be put off. That’s why I’m a beer snob.

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      1. It’s bit like OBB (or the new improved OBB Sams are knocking out at the minute). I’ll drink it till the cows come home in my local, but won’t touch it anywhere else because it is often really bad. OBB is one of those brews that is superb when spot on, but if it isn’t properly kept and fresh it tastes slightly sour. There really isn’t any in-between ground for me.

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    1. I’m often struck reading young Martin’s prose how much undrinkable cask he comes across.
      Taking into account the fact that he’s often the first person through the door at lunchtime the descriptions of great cask read like oases in a desert of dross.
      Worrying for its future I’d say.

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      1. I think the undrinkable sticks in the mind more that the OK (NBSS 2.5-3) or the odd exceptional. Simon BRAPA has said the same thing recently. More to the point, I can go a whole pub visit (typically 20 minutes) without seeing a pump pulled.

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      2. On a recent visit to London on a scorchio day the best pint I had was a very cool,chewy pint of London Pride In the Spoons by departures at LHR Terminal Two.
        The worst was a lifeless,flat London Pride in a busy pub just off Tottenham Court Road with a lot of it being poured.
        It was absolute kack and about the same temperature I used to microwave my kids’ bottles of formula when they were tiny.

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      3. Could have guessed it would be that way round, Of course, there are some beer bloggers who would go in Pub 2 and declare the beer not as good as it used to be, then in Pub 1 and tell us the brewery must have changed the ingredients. I’ve had sublime Pride this year, but not very often.

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      4. We had a cask of Pride on last week, I had both the first and last pint out of it (no, not *all* of the ones in between, but I had a good go!!) and it had definitely deteriorated in the 2.5 days it was on sale, going from an NBSS 4.9999…. (if such things were allowed, obviously I don’t score my own pub) down to something just above 3.0. But boy what a spureb beer it is when fresh and cool! If every pint of cask was that good then there would be no need for Craft. Sadly most pints I’ve had in London are less than NBSS 3.0…

        Never been to a BH&K, they look nice but I suspect I’d leave feeling miserable.

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  3. “They really are Frankie & Bennys with homebrew”

    Yes, I lost my B&K virginity in Dorchester last month, and have to say that was my impression – essentially a brewpub-themed chain restaurant. Their own craft lager was very nice on a boiling day, though 😛

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    1. Cheshire could well feature in the bottom 5. Beer in general not bad, it’s just the GBG selections of weird micros or dining pubs with far too many pumps 😦

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  4. Pubmeister has done more than me over the years, welcome his view. Have six.

    I’d say Essex is the county where you’ll struggle to get a duff pint (the new towns like Basildon are a bit of a cask desert). Then Cambridgeshire, urban Yorkshire, Gtr Manchester + Stockport, Worcestershire (especially urban area like Kiddy & Bewdley), and Staffs.

    Bottom 5 – West London, Channel Islands, Lincolnshire, plus much of Scotland (again, largely a cask desert). Norfolk (particularly rural) and Durham. Best beer nearly always in busy towns.

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  5. “Face it, the one below could be anywhere.”

    So basically they’re the UK pub version of any major hotel chain’s bar/lounge anywhere in the world. 🤔

    At least each Spoons pub is slightly different from the others, yes?

    “They don’t turn the clip round either,”

    Ugh. 😒

    “I’d still rather drink keg in the Nelson, mind.”

    Better atmosphere. 😎

    “*I don’t kare”

    Pfft. Everyone knows it stands for I dinnae ken. 😉

    Cheers

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Sadly couldn’t agree more about County Durham… 😦 There is good beer to be had, but you’ve got to seek it out – and even I think the GBG allocation is too high in our branch for the number of pubs that ought to be in it.

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    1. As I’ve said before, great pubs, inconsistent cask (where you find it). And of course, there’s a few classics. One in Durham City, forget the name, Railway Home I think (;-))

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