THOUGHTS ON BEER QUALITY POST-COVID

No-one will be interested in this post because no-one is really interested in beer quality. They want CHOICE, preferably a rotating range of beers made in garden sheds, and they want to see People Like Them.

Not many bloggers write about quality because a) it’s subjective and b) you might upset your local pubs if you say the beer isn’t great (even if the pub is).

But I can say what I like, because all my local pubs serve good to great beer, and they did in Cambridge too. OK, some of it had “onion notes”, but that’s all part of the fun of exploring cask.

And I’m obsessed with quality, almost as much as with Proper Pubs.

Tandleman Speaks His Mind (Channel 5, 7pm, Thursday) and has noted an upturn in London beer quality recently (here).

So have I, with the capital benefitting from tighter beer ranges post-Lockdown (3 ? 4 ?), even if that seems to have been at the expense of the microbrewers presence on the bar.

I took a look at my beer scores for 2022 so far. 125 pub visits, 113 NBSS scores, NONE of which I have posted on What Pub (sorry). By no means all Beer Guide pubs, either.

And an encouraging average score (drum roll) of 3.24, where 3.0 is a minimum for GBG. That’s definitely better than pre-Covid.

Only the single NBSS 1, just three scores of 2, and fifty-eight (58) of 3.5 or 4.

So well over 95% of the beer has been decent, and half of it has been exceptional. Several pints would have prompted me to say those immortal words “The Pride is drinking well. This, this is what cask beer beer is all about“.

Oh, that was keg, but you get the idea.

On the downside, the pubs have been a little quieter than you’d hope, but trade is definitely picking up as I saw in Cambridge tonight and Mudgie noted the other day.

Anyway, get down your pub and keep those pumps moving. That’s the only way to save pubs.

28 thoughts on “THOUGHTS ON BEER QUALITY POST-COVID

  1. I’ve found in my recent travels, often to watch Tranmere (surely everyone knows where that is), that cask beer quality is indeed excellent currently. The situation returned to normal pretty quickly in the north. I’ve noticed that in London, choice of cask has been greatly reduced.

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    1. Everyone knows Tranmere is a posh suburb of Chester. Or is that Wrexham ?

      I trust your judgement. The underrated Wirral would be a good barometer of beer quality, I think. In honesty some of the modern beer bars across “Merseyside” (sorry) can be a bit hit-and-miss depending on when you visit. Never bad, sometimes great. I thought the cask in Stanley’s Cask in Wallasey was superb just before lockdown, helped by brisk trade on live music night.

      As Tandleman also noted, beer ranges are indeed well down in London, particularly in The City. That may be a good thing.

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  2. I’m very interested in quality! I do like to have some choice though as sometimes I feel like a stout, sometimes a hoppy pale and sometimes a “boring brown” 😉. A choice of 3 or 4 is plenty – I’m not particularly interested in pubs with 10 casks on. I’ve found that most GBG pubs in the Bristol area have reduced their cask offerings and in my experience it has led to an improvement in beer quality. Even in non-GBG pubs the quality seems to have improved.

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    1. Thanks for that perspective Martin (?), particularly on Bristol and I agree non-GBG pubs have upped their game, notably in Marston and Wadworth houses on my own travels.

      Three is plenty, particularly when you’ve got several keg taps, flavoured ciders, premium lagers, gins and so on. And you need that variety to attract the range of custom you need to survive.

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      1. Yes it’s Martin! I’ve not been to many (any?) Marston houses in the last year, but the Wadworth pub near me has certainly upped its game and quality has been very good. 3 cask usually – Horizon, 6X and either Swordfish or Old Timer. Reasonable choice there.

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  3. Off to Maidenhead tomorrow, ticking off the World’s [possibly] Oldest Continuously Used by a Single Club Football Ground in its 150th Anniversary Season.(copyright Maidenhead United & the FA) – that’s going to put all your pub optimism to the test 😜.

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      1. Match report: Eek! Had wondered if ‘Maidenhead’ was a bit of a literary device – a carefully cultivated Retired Martin bete noire for dramatic effect 😉. But no… Of four establishments tried, praise where it’s due: the Craufurd Arms had four very traditional cask beers on – three Bitters and an EIPA – and the two tried were in tremendous condition, elevating fairly basic beers. The three other outlets shall remain nameless (though the second, presumably under the two year rule not currently being in the GBG, will be a virtually guaranteed entry with the CAMRA Local Committee totting up ‘number of handpumps stretching down the bar is good’ policy, so another trip to Maidenhead awaits you next edition) managed a: 1 out of 1 not quite unfinished – desperately tired; 1 out of 2 receiving the RM disposal treatment (though I use the toilet rather than killing potted plants method); 1 out of 2 chucked – this time in a convenient bin outside. None were ‘off’ sufficiently to return and suggest they take that barrel off, but life’s too short to drink beer in sub-standard condition.

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  4. I am very concerned about the quality of the beer I drink, Martin, which is why I always mention it. As I am now working behind a bar and have just done a CAMRA course on beer tasting, please rest assured it will be getting more focus!

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  5. I think the poorer pubs have benifited from a reduced range but as I’ve banged on before good pubs serve good beer regardless of numbers of handpumps, these pubs have only reduced their range due to reduced footfall. There are however a number of London pubs who have maintained their range typically about eight beers at a time and quality hasn’t suffered, these are of course pubs I would call “elite pubs”, luckily for you (in fact I’m sure luck has little to do with it) Sheffield has a good number of pubs at that level.

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    1. You have banged that drum very well, Mick. In both the ale specialist and the plainer pub (and the Spoons) there’s been a reduction in range due to reducing footfall. I guess a look at the Harp and the White Swan in Covent Garden would be a good test.

      The Kelham Island pubs seem back to normal, and last Thursday afternoon were as busy as I’ve seen them.

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      1. The Harp is firing on all cylinders albeit very quiet on a Friday lunchtime as I witnessed a couple of weeks ago, The White Horse is Nicholsons and the whole chain seemed to have massively dumbed down their range over the last couple of years, to the extent they no longer interest me.

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      2. Yes, it was the Nicholsons response to falling sales I was thinking of. The White Swan and the Prince of Wales a few minutes away in Charing Cross have both been GBG, and I had good Pride from a reduce range in the PoW, but they’re no longer the flagbearers for choice they used to be (thank goodness).

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  6. Since pubs re-opened (whenever that was officially), I’ve not visited anywhere near the number, as some who are commenting here. What I have found though, backs up other peoples’ observations of a reduced range of beers, but higher quality.

    My observations on quality, have probably been skewed, by me opting for better known beers such as Harvey’s Best, Larkin’s Trad (always a popular, and fast moving beer in these parts), rather than some of the more obscure offerings from breweries that even I, have never heard of. (Beers from “man in a shed breweries,” with twigs and leaves floating in them).

    Customer numbers seem to be increasing slowly too, which is another good sign.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh yes, have been for months, no silly table service and although you’re supposed to wear a mask, you’re allowed to drink at the bar so no-one bothers.

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